Tempting as it may be, it is almost never a good idea to stand up to a narcissist. It often triggers their narcissistic rage.
You may want to shout his sins to the rooftops, lay bare his manipulations to the world, but he will almost certainly retaliate with an escalating arsenal of emotional weapons. You are likely no match.
However, if you strive to understand the narcissist’s typical responses and patterns, then you are able to devise your own set of strategies for how to respond—to your benefit. To give you some good examples, check out these ways intelligent people deal with narcissists.
One thing you want to do is to endeavor to deflate their narcissistic egos with your own more civilized arsenal. After all, if the narcissist is never confronted for their behavior, they will merely turn their weapons on someone else.
Read on for some advice on what to expect and how to confront a narcissist when you stand up to them.
Counter Their Charm
An initial confrontation with a narcissist will likely elicit their trademark charm. They ooze with confidence and, early in the relationship, will probably try to charm and cajole their way out of whatever they’ve been accused of. This is especially true of the narcissistic dynamic in a love relationship, as I’m well aware.
The narcissist will deflect your accusation, making elaborate declarations of love and showering you with affection. There may be bribes in the form of gifts and compliments, and you will feel the full force of their attention—at least for a while. Should you continue to call the narcissist out on their behavior, they will change tack.
In this phase, your best recourse is to maintain a clear head. This affectionate, charming, overly romantic behavior will surely come to an end, especially if you continue to insist that some of his actions are inappropriate. Try to stay objective and use your actions—polite detachment—to signal to the narcissist that you are onto them, that you have seen their manipulative patterns.
You are not obligated to respond with kindness or gratitude to their attempts to win back your affections with gifts and compliments and attentiveness. You are obligated to care for yourself. Let the narcissist know that the rules have changed and that they are no longer in control.
Reject Their Volatility
If you continue to press the narcissist on their behavior, then they will at some point react with defensive anger. The narcissist doesn’t want to be challenged regarding their behavior, which, after all, marks a carefully curated self-image of superiority and impunity from consequence. When they are confronted, the narcissist’s façade starts to crumble.
Since the narcissist has no true self-esteem, no stable sense of self, that façade is the most important armor they possess. If it is threatened, the narcissist will lash out, using intimidation and interruption to exert their fading control over you. Be careful if the narcissist reaches this stage; certain types of narcissists can be literally dangerous at this point.
How you respond to this anger depends very much on how volatile your narcissistic partner or friend might be. If you feel you are safe from physical harm, then you may simply stand your ground and refuse to allow the narcissist to defend themselves. Repeat your claims each time they try to deflect, calmly and clearly. The trick is to remain calm in the face of their frantic behavior. You get to retain the moral high ground.
If you sense that the narcissist is harboring a potentially dangerous amount of anger, then your best recourse is to walk away. Don’t ever remain in harm’s way. This advice stands regardless of whether the narcissist you are dealing with is male or female, big or small, family or friend or lover. A narcissist’s volatility when confronted should not be underestimated.
Protect Yourself from Ridicule
Some narcissists take a different tack than volatility. Instead, they rely on their intimate knowledge of your weaknesses in order to exploit them. This may begin with some pointed jabs here and there, a nasty comment over the dinner table or a backhanded compliment as you get ready for work. The aim is to undermine your confidence and throw you off the scent.
This usually escalates, particularly if you are unwilling to back down from your assessment of the narcissist’s behavior. It will culminate in the narcissist making sure that you look ridiculous in front of friends, family, coworkers, and anyone else meaningful in your life. Your confidences will be revealed, and the narcissist will work very hard to humiliate you.
Unfortunately, if you have already confided in the narcissist, then you are left with few options when the narcissist decides to take advantage of that knowledge. However, once you recognize the narcissist’s pattern, you can pull back and quit confiding in them. After a while, the narcissist will run out of information with which they can exploit and embarrass you.
Some damage may be done to your reputation or to your relationships with others, but don’t despair. The narcissist will inevitably implode at some point, and you will be vindicated in the end.
Evade Their Pretense of Ignorance
Sometimes the narcissist will respond to confrontation simply by pretending that they have no idea what you are talking about. This feigned obliviousness is a simple defense mechanism that fits neatly into the narcissist’s worldview. They rarely think they’ve done anything wrong, so evading your accusations comes naturally to them.
Beyond faking ignorance, the narcissist will often try to make you believe that what you witnessed and experienced simply wasn’t real. They will make you doubt yourself and try to confuse you. This is called gaslighting, and the narcissist employs it to great effect.
Once you know that you are dealing with a narcissist, you will start to recognize their attempts to gaslight you. Repeat your claims and be clear-eyed and straightforward anytime the narcissist tries to be evasive. Let them know that you won’t be swayed by their denials.
This tactic by the narcissist is often used in family dynamics. It’s a favorite of mothers who are trying to exert emotional control over their daughters. My mom is fond of misremembering certain events when it serves her. I just stick to the version of the truth that I know to be true.
When the narcissist is confronted, they will employ any number of strategies in order to turn the tables back on you and let themselves off the hook. They cannot allow their mask to drop, as it will reveal that, far from being the aggressively self-confident person they project, really they are insecure and uncertain, weak and jumbled up inside.
Remember that their pain is real, that their struggle is real. But also keep in mind that you will never be able to have a meaningful relationship with a narcissist who is still deeply invested in their narcissistic behavior. Sometimes a confrontation is the only way to protect yourself.
Now that you know what happens when you confront a narcissist, you might be interested in a free copy of my “Narcissistic Rejection Guide.” You will learn how to say no and even push back against narcissistic manipulation. Just click here and I’ll send it directly to your inbox for free!
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