Communication technology in our modern world is a narcissist’s dream! They can get more people to focus on them more easily than ever before in history. For you, the recipient of their communication efforts, replying is a minefield. You need to know what to say and how to say as well as how often to respond or whether to block them. It’s not like communicating with a healthy person, so what should you do?
There are several things to consider when responding to a narcissist’s text messages. Here are 11 tips and tricks to make your life easier when you need to communicate with a narcissist:
- Why is the Narcissist Messaging You?
- Do You Need to Reply?
- What is the Narcissist’s Hidden Agenda?
- Keep Your Reply Simple (Grey Rock It)
- Stay on Topic
- Be Concise
- Stay Positive
- Respond, Don’t React
- Don’t Show Emotion
- Stay Conscious
- Don’t Explain or Defend Yourself
Communicating with a narcissist is always a dicey proposition. Everything you say can and will be used against you, so choose your words carefully. Texting can be particularly complicated because it’s difficult to convey humor or sarcasm. Read on to discover what you need to know about responding to a narcissist’s text messages.
1. Why is the Narcissist Messaging You?
This is critical to understand because narcissists always have an agenda. They want to get you to focus solely on them, and they want to get their narcissistic supply from you. Though they may seem to be interested in you, it’s important to understand that a narcissist’s text message is never about you.
Narcissists are always playing a game of manipulation, and to manipulate you, they may first build you up and then knock you right back down again. That’s to make sure you’re off balance when you’re communicating with them. In their mind, it gives them the upper hand.
To get you to focus on them, they will often use a few different techniques:
- Overload: This is where they send you a barrage of messages that may require a quick response. In this way, they can keep you thinking about them.
- Inconsistency: They run hot and cold on purpose so they can keep you guessing. They don’t want you to know what to expect from them.
- Ghosting: They may tell you they require an urgent response, but then, they don’t reply back to you. Once again, that keeps you off balance and thinking about why they’re not answering.
- Insincere messages: These are the messages they send to lure you back into their drama. They may ghost you for a while and then suddenly reappear in your messages. When they do, they may act as though it is you who has been out of touch.
- Word salad: This is another technique designed to confuse you. It’s a rambling message filled with incomplete sentences and incoherent thoughts.
All of these are techniques to keep you off balance and thinking about the narcissist and to keep you guessing about their next move.
2. Do You Need to Reply?
When you have a narcissist who is sending you text messages, a major consideration is whether or not you have to reply at all. If possible, you want to avoid getting into a long, rambling text conversation with them as this is usually unproductive.
You might not have that choice, however, so you want to consider carefully if you really need to reply at all. It’s tricky because ignoring them can cause a big headache. If you’ve gone no contact with them, then as retired psychologist Edward Tierney writes, “Ignore, ignore, ignore. And block so he can’t do it again.”
If, however, you must remain in contact with them, it’s usually safer to at least send an acknowledgment that you received their message. Narcissists hate being ignored, but you can feel free to set boundaries when you do reply.
This may be necessary if the narcissist is texting you multiple messages or if they’re sending inappropriate messages. You can tell them that you don’t have enough time to have a respectful conversation and that they should text you at another time when you can really communicate with them.
For example, you might say, “I don’t have time right now to really consider your message, but it’s important to me, so can you text me after work, around 7 pm tonight?” The more specific you are, the better the response will be.
You can also feel free to set boundaries with respect to what you’re willing to talk about. You might say, for example, that you’re happy to talk with them as long as the subject is about your children or a specific work project. Again, be specific to ensure they understand the limits.
3. What is the Narcissist’s Hidden Agenda?
Another important consideration is any hidden agenda the narcissist might have, and they usually have at least one. Narcissists are master manipulators, and they will use every trick in the book to get control of you.
For that reason, you want to be very careful about what you text to a narcissist. They might be texting you with gossip about a work colleague, for example, but their real agenda is to get you to praise them in comparison to that person.
They might need a self-esteem boost because the boss chastised their performance, and they might text you about how unfair their supervisor is. They want you to tell them you agree, and they want you to tell them how great they are and that it’s an outrage that anyone would criticize them.
It’s important to remember that you’re sending a text message, and that means your words are in a format that can be shown to others. If you text something negative about the boss to support the narcissist, that could come back to bite you in the future.
A narcissist has no ethics when it comes to using your own words against you if it suits their purpose. If they need to, they will show your text message to the boss to get ahead themselves. They will show what you said about their work colleague to that person in order to manipulate them.
They don’t care what the consequences might be for you. That’s why you have to consider carefully a narcissist’s hidden agenda before you send any kind of reply. It’s better to stay neutral in text, and if you want to say something negative about another person, wait until you’re talking with the narcissist instead of texting.
4. Keep Your Reply Simple (Grey Rock It)
Another key tip when texting with a narcissist is to make sure your reply is unremarkable. Use yes or no if it’s possible to reply in that way, and if you have to say more, don’t express any emotion.
It’s also a good idea to stick to the facts rather than express an opinion. Again, you need to remember that anything you text can easily be used against you in the future. Narcissists feel very little loyalty even to close family members.
If they’re asking for your opinion on something, stick to noncommittal phrases like, “Well, I can certainly understand why you’re upset. I’m sure it made you feel insecure.” This way, you’re not saying anything bad about the person they’re talking about; you’re just supporting your friend emotionally.
When you stay noncommittal and don’t express any emotion, you quickly become boring to the narcissist – like a grey rock. They’re looking to get a reaction out of you, and when that fails, they’ll likely move on to other targets.
5. Stay on Topic
Narcissists are experts at distraction to get you off-topic. Usually, they do this because something you’re saying or asking about is making them uncomfortable. They also like to wander into the weeds just to keep you off balance.
It’s better when texting a narcissist to just stay on topic and not talk about other things. If you let yourself be pulled off-topic, you may never get the answers or information you need or you might be prompted into making comments you don’t want to make.
If the narcissist tries to draw you off-topic, you might say something like, “Oh really? Well, we can talk about that later, but about this other topic…” You might have to set a firm boundary because narcissists will throw a number of different topics at you as a distraction technique and to confuse the issue.
6. Be Concise
The more concise you can be with a narcissist, the better. If you go on and on about something, the narcissist will perceive they’ve gotten a reaction out of you. Better to keep it to either a yes/no answer or to a one or two-word answer.
Additionally, if you run on about something, that gives the narcissist permission to do the same. Trust me, that’s the last thing you want. Being concise is, basically, another form of becoming like a grey rock, boring.
If you’re giving one or two-word answers, the narcissist will soon grow bored with you and move on.
7. Stay Positive
This is another recommendation that’s helpful so that the narcissist can’t use anything you text against you at a later time. They will save your texts, particularly if you say something negative about someone, and they will use them to their benefit.
If you stay positive and avoid any negative comments, you won’t give the narcissist anything they can use against you. Additionally, you’re showing them that you’re not reacting in an emotional way, and that’s unsatisfying to them.
The narcissist wants to get a rise out of you, both because they can manipulate you if you’re in an emotional state and they are learning what buttons to push to get your goat. By refraining from an emotional response, you deny the narcissist something they can use to manipulate and control you.
You also have to realize that the narcissist has no ability to empathize with you. They don’t care about the consequences of their actions on your life, and so, they don’t care if they upset you or if by revealing something you texted to another person, that eventually comes back to bite you. Don’t give them any added ammunition than they already might have.
8. Respond, Don’t React
This is one of the most important points to understand – the difference between responding and reacting. If you react emotionally to something the narcissist texts to you, you’re likely lashing out without thinking. That never turns out well.
Responding is when you take the emotion out of it. It allows you to respond logically and in a calm manner. To avoid reacting emotionally, pause before replying to the narcissist’s text. You can count to 10 or take ten breaths to expand both your stomach and your chest to help calm yourself.
Different techniques work for different people, but take a pause before responding. Then, ask yourself what is the narcissist’s goal so that you can understand their hidden agenda. Once you know what they’re up to, you can craft a cool, calm response that won’t come back to haunt you.
When you are ready to respond, make sure you use the other tips we’ve discussed – stay on topic, be concise, and keep it positive, to name a few. That way you can respond without providing the narcissist with ammunition they can use against you in the future.
9. Don’t Show Emotion
A good rule when formulating any kind of text message response to a narcissist is don’t show any emotion whatsoever. That means positive emotions as well as negative. The narcissist will use anything they can against you.
If they see you responding positively to something, they will keep that information close to the vest until they need it. They may do or say the opposite of what made you have a positive reaction because they know it will irritate you.
That’s why even positive emotions are something you don’t want to show to a narcissist. Negative emotions are even worse because they will know exactly how they can get a reaction out of you, manipulate you, and gain more control over you.
10. Stay Conscious
This means to stay in the moment and on topic. Narcissists will use various tactics to try to get you off-topic. They will bring up old arguments or turn to accusing you of something you’re claiming they did.
Stay conscious so you can derail these attempts at distraction. Even if they bring up something legitimate that you did in the past, respond to their text with something like, “We’re not talking about that right now. Right now, we’re talking about this topic.”
By staying conscious about what exactly they’re trying to accomplish, you can keep from buying into their manipulation.
11. Don’t Explain or Defend Yourself
When you explain or defend yourself, it’s as if you’re admitting guilt in the narcissist’s eyes. Your self-defense tells them you are guilty, and they will use that against you for the rest of your relationship with them.
In a healthy relationship, you might want the other person to know why you reacted in a certain way, but the narcissist will use that knowledge to manipulate you in the future. Once they know your weaknesses, they use them again and again to gain the upper hand.
It’s difficult to understand, but the narcissist has no compassion for you. It’s not personal, it’s just that they must stay constantly focused on their own need for narcissistic supply. If they focus on your needs and consider what you want, they risk losing out on the narcissistic supply they desperately need.
The problem is with their inability to prop up their own ego. They see other people as an extension of themselves, and thus, they don’t see you as having independent needs and desires. That’s why there’s no reason to explain or defend yourself; they won’t understand and they don’t want to.
Communicating with a narcissist in any way is never easy, but text messages present their own unique challenge because it can be difficult to effectively communicate in such short, written messages. Narcissists do the same thing when they text that they do when they’re talking to you – they look for ways to manipulate and control you.
To avoid having that happen, you have to avoid giving them any information they can use against you. You can’t show emotion because they will know what matters to you, and they will use that against you. Often, logic is lost on the narcissist, and that’s why you want to be concise, clear, and focus exclusively on the topic at hand.
If you deviate from what you’re talking about, the narcissist will use it to confuse you. Remember, they always have a hidden agenda, and be firm in your text message replies to them. It’s best to ignore texts if possible or go no contact, but if not, be very careful how you reply to a narcissist.
If you must remain in contact with a narcissist, but you would prefer to ignore their texts, you need to read this post about how much they hate being ignored. It will give you more insight into how they think and what you should do to respond effectively to their messages.
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