12 little-known psychological tricks to disarm a narcissist

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Dealing with a narcissist, whether in your personal life or at work, can feel like tiptoeing through a psychological minefield.

It’s tricky, to say the least. 

But what if I told you there are some clever strategies to disarm a narcissist without causing more conflict?

These tricks are grounded in understanding the psychological makeup of a narcissist and using it to your advantage. 

If you’re at your wits’ end and would like to know how to disarm a narcissist, here are 12 little-known but effective ways to do that: 

1) Practice empathy

Empathy, as a psychological tactic, can often feel counterintuitive when dealing with a narcissist.

I hear you when you say that that’s the last thing you want to do. 

After all, they are known for their lack of empathy, and it may seem like a futile effort to extend what they seldom return.

However, empathy isn’t about getting something in return.

It’s about understanding another person’s feelings and perspective. 

When you approach a narcissist with genuine empathy, you’re not excusing their behavior or allowing them to manipulate you further.

Instead, you’re acknowledging their emotions without becoming emotionally entangled yourself.

This creates a neutral ground where the narcissist’s usual tactics for control and manipulation are less effective.

By practicing empathy, you position yourself in a place of understanding without compromising your own emotional well-being. 

2) Set clear boundaries

The second trick in our arsenal is the establishment of clear boundaries.

In my experience, setting boundaries with a narcissist can be challenging.

Narcissists are experts at pushing limits.

But that’s why it’s even more crucial to define and enforce your personal boundaries.

You see, boundaries serve as your personal guidelines for how you want to be treated.

They are your defense against the narcissist’s attempts to manipulate or control you.

When setting boundaries with a narcissist, remember:

  • Be clear about your needs and limits.
  • Communicate your boundaries assertively but respectfully.
  • Stay consistent in enforcing your boundaries.

Establishing firm boundaries protects your emotional health and gives you back control of the interaction. 

It’s a subtle yet powerful way of standing your ground without escalating conflicts.

3) Maintain emotional distance

Following on from setting clear boundaries, the third psychological trick is maintaining emotional distance.

Now, this might seem counterproductive.

After all, isn’t empathy all about understanding and sharing another’s feelings? Well, yes, but there’s a crucial distinction to be made.

As you interact with a narcissist, it’s imperative to understand their emotions without letting them influence your own.

This is what maintaining emotional distance is all about.

It’s a delicate balancing act.

You need to empathize with their feelings, yet maintain your emotional stability.

You don’t have to absorb their negativity or let their behavior dictate your emotional state.

Just remember, you’re in control of your emotions.

Stay calm and composed.

Don’t let the narcissist’s actions sway your emotional equilibrium.

You don’t want to give them any ammunition to create drama. 

This brings me to the next point…

4) Redirect the conversation to neutral topics

When dealing with a narcissist, steering the conversation away from contentious or personal topics to something more neutral can prevent the situation from escalating. 

For example, if the discussion begins to veer into criticism or personal jabs, you might shift the focus to a general interest, like an upcoming holiday or a popular movie. 

This tactic not only keeps the peace but also gives you control over the conversation’s direction. 

I’ve used this method during family dinners when topics start to heat up; switching to discussing a new restaurant or TV show often cools things down and keeps the evening enjoyable for everyone.

In professional settings, I’ve often redirected discussions with a narcissistic colleague by bringing up a work-related project that requires collaboration. 

This not only keeps the conversation productive but also minimizes the opportunity for personal attacks or domineering behavior.

Now, what if disagreement can’t be helped? Well, you can do this next trick…

5) Agree to disagree without being confrontational

Agreeing to disagree with a narcissist is a delicate maneuver that involves acknowledging their perspective without necessarily conceding to it. 

Express your differing viewpoint in a way that is assertive yet not antagonistic – this helps in keeping the interaction respectful and civil. 

For instance, you might say, “I see where you’re coming from, but I think we might just have different views on this.”

This language validates their opinion without compromising your own stance.

From a personal standpoint, I’ve found that using phrases like “Let’s agree to see things differently” can defuse potential conflicts before they escalate. 

This approach was particularly effective during a debate with a colleague who tends to take any disagreement as a personal affront. 

By closing the conversation amiably, we both left the discussion without resentment, preserving a necessary professional relationship.

6) Avoid providing personal information or vulnerabilities

Speaking of professionalism and emotional distance, this tactic also helps with that. 

When interacting with a narcissist, it’s wise to guard your personal information and emotional vulnerabilities.

Sharing too much can give them material to manipulate or criticize you later. 

For instance, revealing that you’re going through a tough time personally might lead to them using this information to undermine your confidence at a later point. 

I learned this the hard way when a former friend used my family issues as a topic during a group discussion to shift attention to themselves.

Keeping conversations surface-level and focusing on non-personal topics can help protect your emotional well-being. 

In practice, whenever I sense the conversation is dipping into personal territory, I tactfully steer it back to more impersonal topics, like news events or mutual acquaintances, thus keeping my private life just that—private.

7) Use delaying tactics when responding to demands or criticisms

Delaying tactics can be incredibly effective when dealing with the unreasonable demands or harsh criticisms of a narcissist. 

By asking for time to think things over or requesting further information, you buy yourself time to formulate a response or even diffuse the immediacy of the situation. 

For example, if a narcissistic boss demands a complex task with an unrealistic deadline, responding with, “I’ll need to check my current workload and get back to you on the timing” can temper their expectations.

This strategy also helps in reducing the pressure to comply or react instantly, which is often what a narcissist seeks to achieve. 

8) Use the Gray Rock Method

Have you ever heard of the Gray Rock Method?

It’s a powerful strategy for dealing with individuals who have narcissistic tendencies or those who thrive on creating drama and seeking attention. 

Essentially, the goal of this method is to make yourself as uninteresting, unresponsive, and emotionally flat as a gray rock to discourage further engagement from the narcissist.

You interact with them in a way that’s politely non-engaging.

You keep your responses to their attempts at provocation brief, boring, and neutral. 

This might involve answering questions with simple, one-word answers or mundane statements that don’t invite further conversation. 

For example, if a narcissist is trying to bait you into an argument or provoke a reaction, you might simply say, “Okay,” “I see,” or “That’s interesting,” without adding any emotional fuel to the fire.

Is it effective? You bet! It really starves the narcissist of the fuel they need. 

Over time, they will likely find that their usual tactics don’t work on you and turn their attention elsewhere to someone who will react more visibly.

9) Avoid the blame game

Accepting blame is another thing that narcissists struggle to do.

They are experts at deflecting blame and manipulating situations to their advantage. 

It’s a form of emotional manipulation that can leave you feeling confused and guilty.

So, how do you avoid this trap?

The key is to recognize this behavior for what it is – a tactic to control and manipulate. 

Don’t internalize the blame they’re trying to place on you.

Understand that their behavior reflects their own insecurities, not your shortcomings.

10) Don’t feed their ego

Obviously, narcissists thrive on attention and admiration.

It fuels their inflated self-perception and gives them a sense of superiority.

Even negative attention can serve to validate their importance in their eyes. 

So, how do you avoid feeding their ego?

  • Don’t engage in arguments or confrontations.
  • Avoid excessive compliments or admiration.
  • Don’t respond to provocations aimed at drawing you in.

Simply put, disengage from behaviors that inflate their ego.

It’s all about taking control, setting the tone of the interaction, and maintaining your emotional balance

That said, this next trick does work in disarming them as well…

11) Use positive reinforcement for desirable behaviors

Like I said, it’s all about balance. You don’t want to feed their ego, but you do want to let them know when they’re doing something right. 

For instance, if a narcissistic coworker contributes positively in a meeting, acknowledge their good idea or effort specifically.

This approach encourages more of such behavior without overly praising traits that simply inflate their ego.

In my experience, I’ve found that being specific with my compliments helps keep the focus on the action rather than the person. 

Once, when a particularly self-centered friend helped me move, I made it a point to thank them explicitly for their generosity with their time and strength, rather than just their presence. 

It seemed to resonate well, reinforcing the helpful behavior without making it all about them.

12) Choose your battles wisely

The final psychological trick for disarming a narcissist is perhaps the most crucial – choose your battles wisely.

Engaging in every argument or trying to correct every misrepresentation can be exhausting. 

Look, not every battle is worth fighting, especially with a narcissist who thrives on confrontation and conflict.

Instead, focus on situations that directly impact you or are of utmost importance.

Let the minor disagreements slide. 

This approach not only preserves your energy but also prevents the narcissist from drawing you into unnecessary drama.

It’s about standing your ground where it matters most while avoiding unnecessary stress and conflict.

Mia Zhang

Mia Zhang blends Eastern and Western perspectives in her approach to self-improvement. Her writing explores the intersection of cultural identity and personal growth. Mia encourages readers to embrace their unique backgrounds as a source of strength and inspiration in their life journeys.

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