*Author’s note: I am a psychologist but this is in no way meant to be diagnostic. Please keep in mind that narcissism has become somewhat of a buzzword lately and that narcissism, like all human behavior, is on a continuum. Not every person who exhibits traits has a diagnosable disorder. If you need support, contact a licensed professional.
Just f*cking don’t.
Seriously—if you can—avoid it. Dealing with a narcissist is one of the craziest things you’ll ever experience, so don’t willingly put yourself through it.
In those cases where you can’t avoid dealing with them, when you share children, or they are your parent, here are some ways to deal with them that will help you thrive:
Don’t appeal to their humanity.
One of the consistent mistakes people make when dealing with those with narcissistic traits, is the tendency to appeal to their humanity. They will beg and plead with the narcissist to do the right thing and they are baffled because the narcissist never does.
The narcissistic person doesn’t experience life the way non-narcissists do. They don’t look at things through the lens of what is right and wrong, but rather who will win or lose. They always want to win, even if winning comes at the cost of being right.
Avoid engaging with them.
Narcissists are masters at word-play. They are quick to change stories and their version of events to make events more favorable to their self-image.
I’ve seen narcissists subtly change a word in a conversation that resultingly changes the entire meaning of what is said. Of course, the victims are then confused, questioning themselves and their perception, while the narcissist comes out of the situation seeminlgy spotless.
They can only gaslight you when you participate. Limit your participation.
Remember, the game for them is to throw you off balance. They will try to confuse you, anger you, and in any way, engage you. Most often, simple yes and no responses are the best.
Beware of getting sucked in.
When you have to talk to the narcissist, if you’re co-parenting or they are your boss, even simple discussions, such as time spent with children, can become a circular argument wherein they are the victim/martyr and you are the aggressor. Recognize the game they are playing and don’t give in.
The narcissistic person loves to get you riled up. They love seeing you enraged and flying off the handle, or crying, while they remain stoic. It helps them with their story of being superior.
They will do things to get that response from you and when you give in, they win. They will take unnecessary digs at you whenever they have the opportunity—so be prepared for it. Create a plan for how to deal with it.
Have rock-solid boundaries.
If you’re co-parenting with a narcissist, this means following the parenting plan to a tee. Avoid asking for changes or anything beyond what is in the court order because they will use that as an opportunity to make you look bad.
They also use emotional blackmail to get what they want in order to give you what you want or need, yes, even when what you’re asking for is in the best interests of the children.
Do not give favors or bend over backwards to please them because they will take advantage of you if given the chance. Don’t do favors for them and expect for them to be repaid.
In situations such as work and parenting, this means setting solid boundaries about how and when you’ll have contact, and under what circumstances.
It’s a lot of work to build your personal boundaries, but it’s in your best interests to do so. Once you have them in place, keep them solid.
Beat them at their own game.
This one is hard for most people because we don’t look at life the way narcissists do. However, in order to thrive and prevail in this circumstance, you have to be able to see things through their eyes and even play their game sometimes.
This may mean that you may have to occasionally stroke their ego if you need something from them. It will feel gross and uncomfortable for most people, but it may be the only way to get them to cooperate.
Overall, dealing with a narcissistic person is challenging and it takes a particular set of skills to manage it effectively. However, it is possible to not only manage it, but to create a thriving, engaging life, despite the presence of a narcissistic person in it.
Implement these tips and you will immediately see your life begin to change for the better as you become less burdened, grounded, and more liberated.
Author: Lisa Vallejos
Editor: Lieselle Davidson
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