Toxic people are difficult to deal with. We all know that.
They are downright dangerous!
If you spend too long with them, they can easily break you without you knowing, so be careful.
If you are unfortunate enough to have to live or work with a narcissist, it is important that you know how to protect yourself.
So how do you actually do that?
Let’s turn to psychology.
Here are psychology-backed techniques for dealing with a narcissist.
1) Change how you see them
Dr. Ramani Durvasula, a clinical psychologist who specializes in narcissism, suggests a technique that could protect you from the destructive behavior of narcissists.
It’s called the technical firewall.
She encourages you to do more than just gray rocking the person in question. Because unfortunately there are times when we MUST tolerate and deal with narcissists – we can’t just cut them off!
What she proposes is to treat the narcissists as if they were MALWARE. That’s right, a virus.
That means you:
- Don’t try to give them the benefit of the doubt: it’s malware!
- Don’t try to be their hero. You can’t ‘fix’ them or ‘change them for the better’.
- Stop making them a priority in your life.
- Start to imagine a future without them.
- Don’t invest in a relationship with them hoping they will get better. Stop spending time with them.
- Protect yourself from them. Don’t trust them with your secrets.
This won’t be easy, especially if it’s someone important to you.
And there’s nothing wrong with hoping that they will eventually change at some point.
But stay on the safe side. Keep your expectations realistic. If they haven’t done anything to get better in years, they’re not likely to change in a month or two.
And once you distance yourself from them, you will find that your inner peace will improve dramatically.
2) Don’t argue, defend, or take their words personally
Narcs thrive on conflict and drama.
That’s why Dr. Ramani Durvasula suggests that we should do our best not to get involved, defend, or take things personally.
Always remember that narcissists love to trigger others so they can use manipulative techniques like guilt-tripping and love bombing to get what they want.
So if they say something triggering, don’t respond.
- If they try to blame you for something, just say, “I understand how you feel” instead of “How dare you?” Why do you say that?!”
- Keep negative interactions short and sweet.
- Don’t explain yourself.
- Don’t play their game.
Remember, if you allow their taunting to get the better of you—if you lose your cool and start to get angry or defensive about the things they say—then they are winning.
As tempting as it may be to debate them because of how blatantly wrong or mean they are, you would only be wasting your time and energy.
Your best move is to simply step away and refuse to interact with them until you have calmed down and are in a better state to ignore their attempts to trigger you.
3) Be firm in your decisions before they approach
Narcs are very good at manipulating people.
If you’re not completely sure of your decisions, they can easily convince you to change your mind and give them what they want, if you let them talk long enough.
One solid piece of advice I came across comes from Suraji Wagage, PhD, JDa licensed clinical psychologist and co-founder and director of the Center for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Mindfulness.
He suggested that if you are going to negotiate or make decisions with someone who is narcissistic, make sure you have your mind made up before you even approach him.
- Think about what you want and stick to it.
- Write them down so you don’t forget them.
- It helps to practice what you want to say in front of the mirror.
- Be mentally prepared for their emotional manipulation – harden yourself.
By doing these things, you can guarantee that you will not be easily influenced by their manipulative statements and emotional breakdowns.
4) Stop being their source of “narcissistic supply”
Narcs will draw their narcissistic supply from their codependents – those who love them and those they can control or abuse.
And it’s not just a simple “Do I look good?” or “Am I good enough?”, they would go so far as to hurt others to make them feel superior and needed.
So what can you do?
- Identify the things they say when they want you to feel bad about them.
- Don’t be afraid to back off if they try to drag you into their personal drama.
- Learn how to turn them off when they prompt you to praise or comfort them.
- If they really push, just give them the bare minimum. Say “it’s cool” instead of “I really like how it makes you look like Angelina Jolie.”
5) Use reverse psychology to shock them
Certified trauma recovery coach and author Dana Arcuri has one clever way to disarm a narcissist: by doing the opposite of what they expect!
In the second half of this video, she explains how shockingly the narcissist always works.
Her narcissistic mom fat-shamed her by saying her butt and thighs look huge.
How did she handle it?
With humor. Instead of being dramatic about it, like giving her a lecture on how not to shame people or storm out of her house, she just laughed about it.
She said, “Oh mom, but the boys love it!” and giggled like a teenager.
Her mother doesn’t like the fact that her comment didn’t affect her, but she can’t say anything about it! After all, having a sense of humor isn’t a bad thing.
And if narcs don’t get what they want from you, they lose interest and (generally) leave you alone.
6) Let them “have their way”
Narcissists thrive on the idea of a hard-won victory.
It makes them feel like they deserve their ‘win’.
The best way to address this is to simply let them achieve their victory effortlessly.
If they decide to “debate” with you about something, just say, “I don’t have time to debate” or “agree to disagree,” even if you know they are wrong or being mean.
They will most likely try to get you to hire them anyway, but ignore that.
What you want is to deny them the satisfaction of winning a ‘hard-fought’ debate.
It will leave them dissatisfied.
7) Set Boundaries (and Make Sure You Follow Them)
And you have to mean it!
You can’t just set boundaries, but give them the consequences you set. That will make them think you’re just making empty threats.
So think about what consequences you want to impose.
Are you going to block them on social media if they continue to post passive-aggressive messages that are clearly aimed at you? Then make sure that you actually CAN do that.
Will you leave your narcissistic parents’ home if they continue to control your life? Then make sure that you actually CAN do that.
Make sure the consequences match the boundaries you set, and follow through.
In a way, dealing with a narcissist is almost like dealing with a child. You have to keep your word because if you don’t, they would abuse you even more.
8) Heal yourself
Even if you know what narcissists are like and what they do to those around them, living for too long can take a toll on you.
You start to doubt yourself and become convinced that they are always right, for example.
It’s even worse if you’ve spent all that time together and only recently learned what narcissism is – or worse, they raised you.
So think about it.
- Remind yourself that not everything is your fault.
- Remind yourself that you have value.
- Remind yourself that it’s okay for YOU to be “selfish” every now and then.
- Listen to other people who have had experiences with narcissists and try to understand what you have in common.
You need to heal, even if you think there is nothing to heal, because being with a narcissist has deep, long-lasting effects.
9) Take back your personal power
Narcissists are all about control.
And it should come as no surprise that they go after those who seem “easy” to control – like abuse survivors, people with low self-esteem, the poor, and people struggling with emotional baggage.
Take back your personal power.
Deny them control over you!
This is what you need to do:
- Determine where and how you depend on them, and work to become more independent there.
- Be emotionally and mentally prepared to eliminate them from your life, even if they are still there.
- Remind yourself of the things you are good at.
- Pursue your dreams and interests.
By doing these things, the narcissist will see that YOU are the center of your life, and that you are not afraid to shut them down if they continue to pull you down.
Narcissists are not necessarily bad – and it would be wrong to treat them that way. NDP is, after all, a disorder.
They can’t help it; their minds are just wired that way, and it takes a LOT of effort for them to do anything about it.
But at the same time, that doesn’t mean you just let them sabotage your life and damage your self-esteem.
So don’t feel guilty.
The best way to deal with a narcissist is to cut them off without antagonizing them.
The second best way is to be aware of what they are doing and then take steps to make it as annoying as possible for them to manipulate you.
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