16 clever ways to handle a conversation with a narcissist (useful tips)

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Narcissists are emotional and sensitive people who refuse to own up to their actions. Instead, they blame others for the things that happen in their life.

These characteristics make their conversations one-sided, manipulative, and judgmental, among many other things.

Since conversing with them can be pretty tricky, it’s best if you follow these 16 clever ways of handling a conversation with a narcissist.

Let’s get started!

1) Get their attention

Narcissists like to keep on talking about themselves. So if you want to get their attention, you need to praise, compliment, or flatter them. Only then will you be able to reel them into the conversation.

Once you’ve had the narcissist’s attention on you, you’ll be able to apply the tips I have below easily.

2) Listen actively

It’s hard to listen to a narcissist, for they’re very arrogant and self-centered. But instead of flat-out dismissing them, it’s best to open your ears to what they have to say.

See, listening to narcissists actively will help you filter out all the condescending things they’re saying. Maybe they have something important to say, but it only ends up caught in their theatrical ways.

Remember: listening to a narcissist will help you frame a response that won’t lead to a heated argument.

Additionally, listening to them – just like flattering them – will help you capture their utmost attention.

3) Do some breathwork

I know how stressful and exhausting it is to talk to a narcissist. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

When I felt judged and manipulated, I decided to try the unusual free breathwork video created by the shaman, Rudá Iandê. Perfectly enough, it focuses on dissolving stress and boosting inner peace.

My conversations with a narcissist always ended up in disaster, and unsurprisingly, I felt tense all the time. My self-esteem and confidence hit rock bottom. I’m sure you can relate – these people do little to nourish the heart and soul.

I had nothing to lose, so I tried this free breathwork video, and the results were incredible.

But before we go any further, why am I telling you about this?

I’m a big believer in sharing – I want others to feel as empowered as I do. And, if it worked for me, it could help you too.

Rudá hasn’t just created a bog-standard breathing exercise – he’s cleverly combined his many years of breathwork practice and shamanism to create this incredible flow – and it’s free to take part in.

If you feel a disconnect with yourself due to your conversations with a narcissist, I’d recommend checking out Rudá’s free breathwork video.

Click here to watch the video.

4) Keep it short

Narcissists love to yammer on about their lives. And, if you don’t want to get stuck in their conversational trap, it’s best to keep your talks to a minimum.

You see, narcissists have a problem with interpersonal functioning. As a result, they find it hard to develop empathy and intimacy.

Prolonging conversations with them will just make these deficiencies pour out, that’s why it’s always best to keep your talks short and sweet. A ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer to their questions should suffice.

5) Use the word “I”

Using “I” statements is one of the best ways to talk with a conversational narcissist. It shows accountability, as well as ownership.

An “I” statement will not only prevent you from criticizing them unintentionally, but it can also help you showcase your thoughts, feelings, and needs throughout.

That’s because, according to the Gordon model, “I” statements contain:

  • A brief, non-blameful description of the behavior you find unacceptable.
  • Your feelings.
  • The tangible and concrete effect of the behavior on you.

Taking these into account, instead of saying “You don’t listen to what I have to say,” the better alternative is to say, “I think you didn’t hear what I told you before.”

Here are some other key examples of “I” statements:

  • I feel…
  • I see…
  • I hear…
  • I want…
  • I wish…

6) Avoid some statements

When talking to a narcissist, you need to do more than just use the right words (like the “I” statements I’ve just discussed.)

You will need to avoid some words and phrases as well, especially those starting with “You.”  In other words, stop saying “You never…” or “you always…”

If you don’t, the narcissist you’re talking to will just shut down and refuse to listen to you. Worse, they may try to engage in a full-blown argument with you.

As psychologists put it: “You-Statements are phrases that begin with the pronoun “you” and imply that the listener is personally responsible for something.”

7) Stay neutral

Narcissists love forcing an issue. They always think they’re right, and they want you to agree with them.

See, you don’t necessarily have to agree (or disagree) with them, for that matter. If you want to keep the conversation peaceful, then the best thing you could do is stay neutral.

This doesn’t necessarily mean keeping mum to everything they say. You can enforce your neutrality by saying any of these:

  • “Thank you for telling me that.”
  • “I still have to think about what you had to say.”
  • “What I think you’re saying is…”

8) Remain respectful

Narcissists can make you feel judged, invalidated, and manipulated every time they talk to you. And while it’s easy to lose your cool during such conversations, it’s best if you don’t.

As they always say, keep calm and carry on.

See, if you decide to do the same thing to them (e.g., talk down or belittle them), you’ll just experience some pushback. It can also lead to arguments, which is something you wouldn’t want!

No matter how offensive they may be, it’s good to remain respectful whenever you talk to them. Remember: respect is all about “valuing their feelings and views, even if you don’t necessarily agree with them.”

9) Be your own advocate

I know I said that it’s best to remain respectful to a narcissist. But this doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to act like a doormat for them to step over (which is often the case if you’re dealing with the malignant kind.)

You’ll need to assert yourself and stand up to them, especially as they try to blame (or shame) you.

In other words, when speaking to a narcissist, it’s crucial you:

  • Repeat your points
  • Remain true to your position
  • Set boundaries

Speaking of bounds…

10) Establish boundaries

A narcissist will try to manipulate and even love bomb you as long as you let them. So for the sake of your mental health, you need to establish boundaries whenever you talk with them.

According to a WebMD article:

Establishing boundaries is good for you and the people around you. When you’re clear about your boundaries, people will understand your limits and know what you are and aren’t OK with, and they’ll adjust their behavior.”

To frame these boundaries, you could use these choice statements when talking to them:

  • “I won’t allow you to speak to me with condescension.”
  • “I will walk away if you continue to insult me.”
  • “I won’t talk to you if you continue yelling.”

Remember: when voicing these statements, always keep your tone calm and respectful.  You’d want to set boundaries, not get into a full-blown dialogue with them.

11) Tap into your personal power

So how can you overcome the difficulty of talking to a narcissist?

Well, one of the best ways to do so is to tap into your personal power.

You see, we all have an incredible amount of power and potential within us, but most of us never tap into it. We become bogged down in self-doubt and limiting beliefs. We stop doing what brings us true happiness.

I learned this from the shaman Rudá Iandê. He’s helped thousands of people align work, family, spirituality, and love so they can unlock the door to their personal power.

He has a unique approach that combines traditional ancient shamanic techniques with a modern-day twist. It’s an approach that uses nothing but your own inner strength – no gimmicks or fake claims of empowerment.

Because true empowerment needs to come from within.

In his excellent free video, Rudá explains how you can create the life you’ve always dreamed of and increase attraction in your partners, and it’s easier than you might think.

So if you’re tired of living in frustration and self-doubt, you need to check out his life-changing advice.
Click here to watch the free video.

12) Don’t hesitate to approach your support system

It can be truly draining to converse with a narcissist. It’s as if no matter what you do, you just can’t seem to get through them.

So whenever you feel this way, it’s best to turn to a reliable support system. It could be your family, friends, or a professional, for that matter.


“A strong support system has psychological and emotional benefits, from increased self-esteem to lowered blood pressure. Support systems also help alleviate mental distress and increase their ability to cope with stressful situations. Strong support or social network has an impact on your overall health — those with good friends tend to live longer and generally boast stronger immune systems.”

13) Always remember that it’s not your fault!

Narcissists are skilled in making other people feel like it’s their fault. So if you start feeling this, then it’s time to shut that voice inside your head.

Remember: it’s not your fault!

See, self-blame is terrible, especially since you’re dealing with a narcissist. As author Peg Streep puts it:

“The habit of self-blame also facilitates ongoing relationships that are controlling or abusive, since your focus on being at fault is likely to blind you to how your friend, partner, or spouse is treating you.”

14) You can’t change them, no matter how hard you try

You might think that by following the tips I’d given up, you’d be able to change one’s narcissistic way (covert or not.)

Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. You can try to devote all your time, energy, and effort to trying to change them. But if they aren’t interested in making a change, all of this will be for naught.

That being said, don’t beat yourself down if they continue to be the narcissistic person they are. You didn’t fail, it’s just that it’s their way.

15) If all else fails, step away

You could follow all these tips above and still find it hard to converse with a narcissist. And, for your sake, I suggest stepping away.

Sure, it can be hard to back down – especially if you’re at the pinnacle of a conversation-turned-debate.

But as we all know, you shouldn’t argue when you’re angry.

Take a step back and compose your thoughts. Once you’re calmer, you’ll find it easier to talk to them.

Note: if their argumentative ways continue to the point of threatening, disrespecting, abusing, and controlling you, you may want to step away from good. I know it’s hard to let go of a narcissistic partner, family, or friend, but it’s not worth the mental anguish they make you feel.

Echoing the WebMD article cited above:

“The people who don’t respect your boundaries are ones you may not want in your life.”

16) Seek professional help

If dealing with a narcissistic proves to be too much of a burden on your mental health, you can always turn to professionals.

You see, you don’t need to suffer in silence.

For one, they can help you deal with a narcissist. They can also help you develop some coping techniques – so that you’re better equipped to handle your conversation (and overall relationship) with the narcissist in your life.

Final thoughts

Talking to narcissistic people – like your husband’s ex-wife – is indeed challenging. You will need to avoid certain statements – and inject a choice few ones.

You may also need to do some breathwork, especially when they become argumentative and manipulative!

As I’ve mentioned, what they do is not your fault. Narcissists are mostly hardwired to be that way.

As for your part, following these tips should help you deal with narcissists easier.

Raychel Ria Agramon

I'm Raye, a nurse licensed in both the Philippines and the US. I also have a Master's degree in Public Management.

Just like helping my patients, I like to empower & motivate readers with research-backed articles.

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