7 little-known psychological tricks to disarm a narcissist

Do you have someone with narcissistic tendencies in your life? 

If you’re interested in learning how to disarm them, then you probably do. And it can be tricky, right? 

In theory we probably all know that narcissists have a reputation for being nasty and hurtful, it’s best to avoid them at all costs. In reality, though, it’s not always realistic to simply cut someone out of your life completely.

Whether it’s a family member, a work colleague, a neighbor, or even a close friend or partner, if you can’t cut them out, then you’ll need to learn how to handle them. 

With that in mind, today we’re sharing 7 little-known psychological tricks that’ll help you to disarm a narcissist.

Have you tried any of these before? 

Let’s get started. 

1) Understand their tactics

So you want to disarm a narcissist? Well, the first thing you’ve got to do is understand their tactics. 

Don’t forget that narcissists behave in the way that they do because it serves them, they get what they want. By understanding what they’re doing and why, you can start to take their power away. 

Do your research. Learn about the mind of a narcissist. It’s like knowing the playbook of your rival team. Then you can start developing countertactics that’ll actually work. 

Consider this: to the untrained eye narcissists can come across as self-centered and arrogant attention seekers. The truth is, many people with narcissistic tendencies lack self-esteem, struggle with insecurities, and have an intense fear of being vulnerable. 

The reality is very different from the perception. Truly understanding narcissists and their tactics improves your chances of dealing with them successfully. 

2) Don’t try to fix them

Whenever my old neighbor saw a girl dating a guy who was difficult to be with, he’d say “Well, she sure does love a project.” I later found out what he meant. 

The expression refers to a woman who enters a relationship to fix her partner as opposed to accepting them for who they are. 

And that takes us to our next lesson in disarming a narcissist. You’ve got to realize that “narcissism is a complex personality construct that, most scholars believe, has a number of different dimensions” as noted by Psychology Today

It’s not something that can be fixed. Nothing that you can do will “cure” this person of their narcissistic tendencies. 

Instead of trying to change them, focus on the things that you can do to handle them and reduce their negative impact on you. 

3) Take action when boundaries are broken

If you’re dealing with a narcissist you’ve probably already noticed that they regularly disregard boundaries, right? I’ve recently realized that a friend I had back in college had some narcissistic tendencies. 

Let me explain: she was in the habit of showing up late, I mean close to an hour or more late.  

On winter mornings, she’d offer to drive me to college and I’d gladly accept. She was going in anyway and it saved me walking in the rain. But a pattern emerged, she’d show up 45 minutes late or more, and I’d miss my class as a result. 

When I told her that if she wasn’t leaving by 9 am, I’d just walk so I wouldn’t miss my class, she said I was ungrateful for the lift. But she’d promise to be on time, next time. 

But she never was. The mistake I made was although I tried to set a boundary, I never followed through and maintained it. And I didn’t take any action when she disregarded it.  

Everyone knows about setting boundaries with narcissists but one of the hallmarks of narcissism is the lack of respect for others’ boundaries so it’s likely they’ll overstep them. In this case, you need to maintain that boundary and take action if it’s crossed. This is key to disarming a narcissist. 

It’s only when they realize that their actions will have consequences, that you’ll see any behavior change. 

4) Limit personal information sharing

Most of us remember how it felt when our best friend in high school, betrayed us by telling everyone a secret we shared with them in confidence, right? 

We end up feeling vulnerable, exposed, and isolated. And this is what a narcissist will do to you if you share anything personal with them. It’ll feel like they’re a trustworthy friend at the time but later they’ll use it against you

Sharing personal information can make us feel vulnerable. And manipulation requires vulnerability to work well so they’ll use this to draw you in and build trust with you. Then later, they’ll use what they know about you, to manipulate you. 

Keep your personal stuff to yourself. The less they know about you, the less they can mess with you. 

And it makes it a lot easier to stay emotionally detached, which leads us to our next trick.  

5) Stay emotionally detached

Have you ever wondered how narcissists are so good at manipulating people around them

They have a knack for drawing people in by playing on their emotions. Once they can provoke an emotional reaction from you, they’re able to control the situation and they have you right where they want you. 

As soon as you feel yourself justifying, arguing, defending, or explaining yourself to a narcissist you’ve already lost.  

The best way to combat this is to stay emotionally detached. Don’t allow yourself to get drawn into this emotional cycle. If you can do this, a narcissist will struggle to control the situation and they’ll lose their power. 

This is easier said than done and you may need to work on developing your emotional intelligence to be able to carry this one out. 

6) Use the ‘gray rock’ method

A guy I worked with a few years back, made me the butt of every joke. At first, I laughed along but the more I did that, the more cruel his jokes became. 

I could tell that despite his arrogant front, he had no self-esteem so instead of cutting him down in front of everyone, I decided to simply starve him of any ammunition to use against me. 

I appeared as boring as possible to him. I didn’t share anything about my personal life, my weekend activities, or my past experiences. Whenever he talked to me, even when he was being nice, I gave him as little as possible. 

And it worked. It wasn’t long before he lost interest in me and moved on. I later found out this is known as the ‘gray rock’ method. 

Unfortunately, narcissists sometimes put others down just to make themselves feel better. And whilst it’s not your fault, if this is happening to you, you’ve got to take action to stop it. And the ‘gray rock’ method is a simple but effective way to handle a narcissist.   

7) Be crystal clear and focus on facts, not emotions

We’ve already touched on the fact that narcissists use manipulation as one of their dominant tactics to gain control and get what they want. 

The thing is: manipulation is highly reliant on the presence of emotions to be effective. If you can remove the emotion, it makes it incredibly difficult for a narcissist to successfully manipulate you.

But how? 

Focus on the facts, not on how you feel. Think of yourself as a detective collecting evidence, the only thing that counts are the cold hard facts. 

Here’s the deal: by being crystal clear and focusing only on facts, it’s much more difficult for a narcissist to twist your words and gain the upper hand. 

It’s a little-known trick to disarm a narcissist because as human beings most of us are driven by emotion, sometimes even at odds with rational behavior. It’s not easy but if you can do it, it’s a game changer. 

The bottom line

Chances are all of us will encounter some people with narcissistic tendencies in our lives, but knowing these tricks will help you to minimize their negative impact on you. 

A word of caution: it’s not easy to gain the upper hand with a narcissist. It’ll take persistence and practice but get good at these 7 tricks and narcissists won’t affect you.

Cat Harper

Cat is an experienced Sales and Enablement professional turned writer whose passions span from psychology and relationships to continuous self-improvement, lifelong learning and pushing back on societal expectations to forge a life she loves. An avid traveler and adventure sports enthusiast, in her downtime you'll find Cat snowboarding, motorcycling or working on her latest self-development project.

10 phrases manipulators use to blame others for their own mistakes

11 signs a man is secretly attracted to you, according to psychology