6 clever ways to put a high-level narcissist in their place, according to psychology

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Do you know someone with a grandiose complex?

Chances are they lack empathy, constantly need attention, and can get somewhat aggressive when challenged.

In other words, they’re full of themselves (and hard to deal with).

Unfortunately, these characters are more common than you might think.

But here’s the good news.

By looking at scientific studies and research papers, we can find highly effective techniques for dealing with these unsavory characters.

With that being said, let’s dive in.

Here are six clever tricks to put a narcissist in their place, based on actual psychology.

1) Be assertive

This is an important one.

Narcissists are constantly attempting to gain (and maintain) control. Whether it’s over you, a situation, or a storyline, they’ll try to dominate to serve their own needs.

Don’t let them!

Licensed mental health counselor Bisma Anwar says: “When dealing with a narcissist, you should be assertive with your boundaries…”

This part is so true.

Setting boundaries demonstrates power and resistance which helps you assert some control over the interaction.

Put it this way, if you don’t set boundaries, they’ll walk all over you.

But think about your tone and choose your words carefully because deep down, narcissists can have low self-esteem. This means they often get defensive and lash out if they feel threatened.

According to psychology, a calm and detached approach works best.

Boundary-setting statements like: “I’m happy to continue this conversation as long as we keep it respectful.” sends a powerful signal.

You’re taking charge and making it clear that you won’t stand for their BS.

Remember, narcissists are usually trying to get a reaction. Don’t waste your time trying to reason with them or argue your case. A petty emotional conflict is exactly what they want.

2) Use humor

I know what you’re thinking.

This might not come naturally (it certainly doesn’t for me), but humor can be an incredibly powerful tool for disarming an obnoxious narcissist.

Here’s the thing.

Charm, wit, or a well-timed punchline that gently highlights their grandiose behavior can lighten the mood and make your feedback heard.

Trust me, there’s science behind it.

Not only does humor help us feel safe in social situations but it also instills trust and bonds us together.

We can’t help but form a connection with someone genuinely funny and relatable.

So, it should come as no surprise that if you can make a narcissist laugh they’ll be more receptive to your opinion.

But don’t be too aggressive with your stand-up routine.

Psychological studies show that people with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) don’t enjoy laughing at themselves.

Especially if they’re a vulnerable narcissist. This is associated with paranoia, rejection, and fragile self-esteem.

Keep it light. 

Make sure you’re laughing WITH them rather than laughing AT (attacking) them.

3) Switch off your emotions (don’t argue)

Narcissists use insults and criticism to provoke you.

It’s called projecting.

The underlying cause is to mask or distract from their insecurities.

It therefore makes absolutely no sense to take things personally. Instead, hear them out but take what they say with a pinch of salt.

It’s a case of if you get mad, you lose.

According to psychology, people on the narcissism spectrum have an intense desire to win arguments. They sometimes don’t even realize what they’re doing and love to play the victim (by blaming you).

Whatever you do, don’t apologize.

This validates their feelings and hands them control.

Simply put, don’t fall for it. It’s emotional blackmail and a form of manipulation.

You could even try the Gray Rock method.

This involves acting as uninterested as possible so they lose interest. It’s particularly effective against attention-seekers.

4) Don’t feed the monster

I’m talking about giving them ammo.

Stuff like personal information or private stories from your past. Anything they can use against you.

It can be tough. Maybe even awkward.

Narcissists are experts at getting you to open up. They might start by confiding in you or sharing their own secrets.

But if you suspect they’re a narcissist with bad intentions, keep it light.

Research shows narcissists love secrets.

Why? Think about it.

If they know your secrets they have power. They can use this information as leverage to assert control over you.

So don’t feed them!

5) Get help

It might not be available in the heat of battle but try to find others that can back you up in the future. Because something narcissists love to do is isolate you or make you doubt yourself.

It’s called gaslighting and psychology suggests it’s a narcissist’s favorite weapon.

Any third-party support will validate your perspective and counter this nasty form of psychological manipulation.

It could be something relatively minor.

Maybe they’re just trying to convince you of their version of events (to protect their ego). It can sometimes have an element of sadistic pleasure. Narcissists often find satisfaction in confusing people.

Or it could be something more serious.

Maybe a work colleague is proactively spreading rumors, damaging your professional reputation, and instigating a cancellation campaign.

Worse still, if you’re romantically involved with a toxic egomaniac, the more support you have from others, the better.

This leads to our final (and ultimate) way to deal with a high-level narcissist.

6) Walk away

In extreme cases, the most effective way to deal with a narcissist is to completely remove yourself from the situation.

Especially if you feel like it’s affecting your well-being.

But be warned.

This is easier said than done (especially if you’re romantically involved).

And psychology agrees this isn’t an easy option.

Here’s why.

Narcissists can be super charming and ‘turn it on’ just as you’re threatening to leave. They may adopt a love-bombing strategy to win you back.

In other words, confess their undying love for you and beg for forgiveness. Showering you with love and affection.

This will invariably lead to confusion and hesitation on your part.

But stay strong.

Ultimately, if all else has failed and they’ve shown no sign of change, you probably just need to rip the band-aid off and move on with your life.

Leila El-Dean

Leila is a passionate writer with a background in photography and art. She has over ten years of experience in branding, marketing, and building websites. She loves travelling and has lived in several countries, including Thailand, Malaysia, Spain, and Malta. When she’s not writing (or ogling cats), Leila loves trying new food and drinking copious amounts of Earl Grey tea.

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