Narcissists are like a broken record. Everything has to be about them and relate back to them at all times.
They will go to great lengths to twist you to focus on them and give them their way, and when that happens it can be very hard to know what to do.
Do you ignore them and end up having a tense standoff?
Do you try to make friends with them and somehow defuse the situation?
The best way to deal with a narcissist is to give them a pearl of wisdom and then refuse to engage further in their games.
Here are some of my favorite phrases to put a narcissist back in their place and a list of quotations I like.
1) “I hear you”
The narcissist often has a victim complex in addition to self-love.
They don’t feel sufficiently seen or respected and they demand that others give them the love and admiration they covet.
When you tell them you hear them you give them a feeling of temporary relief:
They understand that you are not their enemy and that if they chill out a bit maybe they could even have a pleasant interaction with you.
This helps shut down the narcissist down who’s not completely stuck in their ways and is open to seeing their interaction with you as two-sided instead of just an ego-worship session.
2) “You’re right, and…”
Narcissists also love being told they’re right. In fact, being told they’re right, beautiful, handsome or admirable is what they feed on.
Hearing these words is a balm to their self-obsessed soul.
Adding that all-important “and” opens up a world of possibilities.
You can then put in your own opinion and say what you want to say, along with anything else you want to add.
3) “We each have our own perspective, and that’s OK”
When you don’t agree or the narcissist is on a real tear, you can let them know that you don’t want to pursue it any further.
It’s fine to disagree!
In fact, far more was likely achieved by disagreement than agreement in terms of human progress.
You have your views, experiences and truths, and they have theirs.
4) “What’s bothering you so much right now?”
This can be a way to cut through all the white noise and let a narcissist know that you see through their smokescreen.
As I wrote, narcissists often have a deeper insecurity or abandonment issues that fuel their constant need for attention and praise.
It’s sad, really.
Ask them what’s wrong. They’ll usually deny it or push back, but you never know.
Now and then they just might open up.
5) “I’m on your side”
Letting a narcissist know that you’re not against them can be extremely effective.
This is the last thing they expect.
When you want the best for them, why not say it?
Narcissists need compassion, too.
“If you really are on the narcissist’s side and genuinely want good things for them, say it.
At the very least, a hint of kindness will catch the narcissist off-guard.”
6) “OK, thanks for telling me how you feel”
This is a very neutral type of thing to say.
It lets a narcissist know that you’ve heard them but you’re really not riled up either way.
You’re just sort of done with the interaction or at least good with what’s been understood so far.
You don’t feel a need to take it further.
Now we get to the more confrontational options…
7) “Your feelings aren’t my problem”
Let’s be honest:
Not all narcissists are going to respond well to you being understanding and disarming.
Some are just on a path to confrontation and want to capture you in a cycle of toxic argument and resentment.
Sometimes you just have to lay it out there:
You have no obligation to take on the burden for how somebody else feels.
If you did something wrong you can apologize, but if a narcissist is claiming that you’re causing their emotional state you can let them know that you aren’t the proprietor of their feelings.
8) “Stop talking that way or I’m gone”
You can’t get more direct than this:
You threaten to remove the narcissist’s source of his or her drug (your attention) if they don’t change their behavior.
They are likely to argue back and tell you that you’re the actual aggressor or unreasonable one.
They’re talking about their problems because their problems are worse than yours…
They’re just asking for you to do more for them because they know you would if you really cared about them…
But you let this person know: I see through you and I won’t be dangled along as an accessory.
9) “Who told you it’s OK to talk to someone this way?”
By saying this you inject a note of necessary doubt into the behavior and words of the narcissist.
This calls out the enablers who told them it’s OK to speak to people disrespectfully or in a demanding, self-centered way.
You take away the main focus from them and put it on “whoever” may have enabled this behavior.
To be fair, the narcissist is still likely to be very defensive, but you will have given them a potential out by letting them say that they aren’t aware they’re doing anything wrong.
You can then correct that misapprehension.
10) “You have a lot of potential, but you need to learn to be humble”
This is a nice way to tell a narcissist that you see their potential but that you also want them to be much more humble.
If delivered in the right way, firm but kind, this can be highly motivational to the narcissist.
That’s because it still appeals to their high self-regard while also encouraging them to come at it in a different way.
This is essentially a way of saying:
“You’re a great person with enormous capabilities, just try to chill a bit more.”
11) “This isn’t the way to get my attention”
This is an effective way to let the narcissist know that they are losing your attention.
This is like telling a movie star that people aren’t watching their films anymore:
It sets off alarms in their head and gets them to stop for a second and reconsider.
If their behavior and comments aren’t getting your attention, then what will?
Even if they’re set on being an implacable narcissist, this will get them to slow down for a moment and potentially approach the interaction in a new way.
They say silence is golden, and whoever “they” are, they’re right.
Sometimes a narcissist just needs to hear nothing at all.
When their words and antics fall on deaf ears, they’re more likely to think a bit more or even reflect about how they’re behaving.
Narcissists can change, I truly believe that.
But it requires them realizing their behavior and slowly changing it bit by bit and with intention.
Quotations to set a narcissist straight
- “The infinitely small have an infinitely great pride.” -Voltaire
- “Narcissism makes people unable to look beyond themselves, their wants and needs. But those who use others, sooner or later, end up being used, manipulated and abandoned with the same logic.” -Pope Francis
- “The pride of the little ones consists in always talking about themselves; that of the great ones in never talking about themselves.” -Voltaire
- “The narcissism of small differences is the obsession with differentiating oneself from what is most familiar and similar.” -Sigmund Freud
- “Vanity should be left to those who have nothing else to show off.” -Honoré de Balzac
- “Flattery is the counterfeit currency that only circulates because of human vanity.” -François de la Rochefoucauld
- “The jealous person does not love the other, he loves himself.” -François de La Rochefoucauld
- “The value of man is determined, in the first place, by the degree and sense in which he has freed himself from his ego.” -Albert Einstein
- “Be modest! It’s the kind of pride that displeases you the least.” -Jules Renard
- “Narcissism is the open door for the individual to enter the most serious disease, because he loses any and all contact with reality.
That’s because the characteristic of narcissistic behavior is in the total closure of oneself, avoiding any relationship with the outside world, where evidently resides all the wisdom and scalar energy that gives us life.” -Norberto Keppe
11. “It’s just that Narcissus finds ugly anything that isn’t a mirror.” -Caetano Veloso