7 smart and simple ways to deal with a narcissist

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At any given time and on any given day, you may encounter a narcissist. He or she can be a partner, a parent, a sibling, a boss, or a friend.

If you have a narcissist in your life, then you know how difficult it is to reason with them.

It’s an emotional rollercoaster that drains your energy, time, and morale. 

Learning how to deal with a narcissist is no easy feat. It takes a lot of focus, courage, practice, skill, and perhaps even therapy.

Before anything else, I want you to know this: you are not alone.

I’m here to help you with smart and simple steps you can take to handle a narcissist and protect your peace of mind.

Let’s jump in!

1) Don’t give them your attention

Better yet, ignore their bad behavior.

Ok, I know what you’re thinking: it’s not that easy to keep a distance from a narcissist, especially when the person has his or her way of pushing your buttons.

But consider this: any engagement with a narcissist leads to a power struggle. 

You see, narcissists thrive on attention and reactions. They like to manipulate and dominate a conversation and gain power over you when you get triggered

In other words: they want you to engage with them and lose your temper.

So instead of reacting to a narcissist’s manipulative tactics, try to keep your cool and disengage. 

One easy way to do this is to keep your conversations brief and objective.

For example, you can simply reply with “yes” or “no” answers. Focus on the facts and redirect the conversation as much as possible.

If the narcissist tries to control the conversation and attempts to get a heated reaction from you, don’t think twice about ending the talk.

At the end of the day, remember that there’s no point in talking if the conversation is one-sided. 

2) Set and maintain clear boundaries

Here’s the deal: boundaries are incredibly important when interacting with narcissists.

That’s because they don’t often realize how damaging their behavior is. They can be overly demanding of your time.

Worse, they treat you with disrespect.

How do you stop getting caught up in this cycle of abuse?

Set limits and be clear about them. 

Let them know what you expect from a relationship or at least a conversation. Learn to say “no” when the narcissist is being intrusive.

You may be wondering: how does that work?

Here are some ways to create a healthy space between you and a narcissist:

  • Tell them that you won’t put up with their lies, insults, and ridicule.
  • If you need to, say “You need to stop treating me this way. If you do, I’ll have to take a step back.”
  • Limit the time you spend talking with them. For example, if you have a narcissistic colleague, simply tell them: “I need to spend time with my family after work. Please, do not contact me after office hours.”
  • Tell them that you won’t talk to them if they yell at you, swear at you, insult you, or criticize you. Tell them that you won’t tolerate it when they demean you with words. If this happens, walk away.

Be kind but firm. Stick to your boundaries and don’t let someone’s narcissistic behavior steal your peace and hurt your mental health.

But here’s the kicker: more often than not, narcissists will overstep boundaries. 

Trust will always be an issue when you’re dealing with narcissists because they have no problem violating rules.

So if a narcissist keeps disrespecting your boundaries, it’s okay to cut off ties for your well-being. 

3) Don’t think you can change them

A common mistake that anyone engaging with a narcissist can make is this: expecting that the person is going to change.

Think about this: have you ever tried to reason with a narcissist, change his or her mind, and even challenge them in hopes that they will snap out of their irrational behavior?

Or maybe you’ve told yourself a couple of times: “Maybe this time it will be different. If I try harder and explain it this way, maybe he (or she) will get it.”

Next thing you know, the narcissist becomes colder and more manipulative.

It gets worse: the narcissist lashes out at you, blames you, and criticizes everything you do.

If this is you, that’s okay. Many people fall into a narcissist’s trap.

Save yourself all the heartaches of anger and disappointment by accepting that change likely won’t happen.

Ok, I know what you’re thinking: it’s hard to believe that someone can be so cold and calculating. There must be a path forward.

The truth is: there’s no simple way to determine whether a narcissist can change. 

Many studies have shown that therapy can help, and research also suggests that some narcissists can develop empathy when they practice taking on someone else’s perspective.

But that’s the thing: it’s difficult — even impossible — to kill a narcissist’s ego.

You see, narcissists have this false sense of self — they think that they’re better than anyone. They can’t see that they have a problem or they simply just don’t care.

Ultimately, the greatest obstacle to a narcissist’s capacity for change is their own narcissism.

What does that mean for you?

It means that the best way to move forward is to always expect the worst and prepare for it as much as you can. 

4) Don’t take it personally 

Repeat after me: “This isn’t my fault. There’s nothing wrong with me.”

These self-affirmations are important because it can be tough to not take the verbal attacks of a narcissist personally. 

Have you been blamed by your boss for a problem that’s actually his or her responsibility? Have you been bullied — verbally or physically — by a family member, friend, or partner?

Trust me, I know how you feel. I’ve experienced what it’s like to be criticized and humiliated by a narcissist. Many times, I doubted myself. 

Here’s what I’ve learned: it truly isn’t about you or anything that you’ve done.

You see, narcissists behave the way they do because they need constant validation.

In other words: their selfish tendencies are rooted in their insecurities.

So the next time a narcissist puts you down, try to take the higher road. Don’t fire back with insults of your own.

Look at the situation objectively and ask yourself: What part of this did I do wrong? Is this person trying to manipulate me?

5) Stay kind and respectful

This is connected to sign #4. 

If you’ve been with a narcissist long enough, you’ll know that they love to pick a fight.

And if you don’t resist the urge to fight back, it’s a recipe for disaster — they won’t take it well, and they’ll punish you for challenging them. 

Instead of contradicting a narcissist, try to stay calm. Listen to what they think and feel while also reiterating your boundaries.

Here are some examples of how you can respond with empathy and respect. Try to use these phrases to your advantage when you’re talking with a narcissist.

  • “We have different perspectives on this, so we’ll have to agree to disagree.”
  • “I can understand why you felt that way, but I can’t control how you feel about me.”
  • “Can we try to be more respectful in how we communicate with each other?”
  • “We won’t be able to understand each other if you keep yelling at me.”
  • “Please don’t cut me short when I’m trying to explain my side.”
  • “I would like to work out how we can maintain a respectful relationship.”

6) Lean on your support system

I cannot overemphasize this: you do not have to go through this alone.

Dealing with a narcissist can be very exhausting — emotionally, mentally, and physically — so you must surround yourself with a strong support system.

Make sure you have healthy relationships with family members and close friends. It’s important to have people with whom you can share everything. 

This inner circle will be your safe space for sharing the truth about your experiences. It will give you the confidence, love, and kindness you need when the going gets tough. 

And if you’re experiencing anxiety, loneliness, depression, and self-doubt, don’t be afraid to get professional help. 

Speak to a counselor or a therapist who can guide you and help you make sense of what you’re going through.

They can lead you to the right perspective and help you decide on the best approach to dealing with the narcissist in your life.

Most importantly, they will help you see that nothing is wrong with you. 

7) Love yourself

What’s the smartest way to deal with a narcissist? 

Build your self-esteem and prioritize your overall health and well-being.

Here’s the deal: no matter how low a narcissist may make you feel, you have the power to maintain your sanity. You’re in control of how you respond to them.

In other words: yes, you can show them some compassion and empathy. But nothing is worth risking your peace of mind.

At the end of the day, loving yourself is what matters most. 

I know this is easier said than done, but self-care strategies like practicing gratitude, mindfulness, and positive affirmations can help you move forward in your healing journey.

Last words

Remember this: loving yourself also means respecting yourself enough to know when it’s time to leave. 

Think about that for a minute.

The truth is: not all battles in life can be won. If you feel that dealing with the narcissist in your life is causing you too much distress, consider ending your relationship with the person.

When push comes to shove, getting as far away from the narcissist as possible is the best thing you can do for yourself. 

Maria Fatima Reyes

Fat Niebres is a freelance writer who loves to chase stories that matter. She finds meaning and inspiration in the mundane. When she's not writing, she's probably reading, eating, traveling, or having deep conversations with her husband. She brings her experience in broadcast, print, and NGO communications, and has been published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer and Inquirer.net.

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