Narcissists believe themselves to be entitled to what they want when they want it, and they see other people in their lives as extensions of themselves. That’s why they’re always willing to cross boundaries to get what they want. They don’t believe that other people are entitled to boundaries, not from them anyway.
If you’re going to live with a narcissist in your life, you’ll need to set firm boundaries so that you can maintain a healthy sense of self as you work toward achieving your goals. To set firm boundaries, you’ll have to confront them and make it clear what you will and will not accept from them.
That can be difficult to do given their penchant for misdirection and outright deception. That’s why it will be important for you to have a clear indication of your own goals. The narcissist in your life doesn’t have healthy boundaries and they don’t expect others to have them, either. You’ll have to demonstrate what healthy boundaries look like for them and for your own sanity. Discover how you can set and maintain firm boundaries with the narcissist in your life.
Setting Strong Boundaries
It will be useful to have your boundaries written down when you confront the narcissist. That way you won’t forget anything you want to say. Remember that it’s a one-time opportunity, and you’ll want to cover everything important to you. With that in mind, here are several tips for setting firm boundaries with a narcissist.
Figure Out Your Limits
The first step in the process is to identify what you will and will not tolerate. You’ll need to state clearly what is not acceptable and it will be good to also identify the consequences of crossing that boundary.
For example, you might tell your narcissist that you will not tolerate name-calling, and that if he or she starts calling you names, you will end the conversation. There is no reason to give any more of an explanation than that.
If they call you a name, simply say that you told them what you would do if they engaged in that tactic, and then do it. Don’t wait for them to respond, simply hang up the phone or leave the room. Act decisively and quickly.
Set Your Own Agenda
Just like a politician dodges an uncomfortable question, you can also feel free to dodge uncomfortable comments from a narcissist. Those questions are usually designed to get information from you that they can then use against you later on. You can set the agenda rather than letting them do that.
For example, if they have a tendency of prying into your personal relationships and they ask you how your marriage is, just say, “Great,” and then steer the conversation in a different direction by changing the subject.
This is a really effective tactic if you choose something you know they love to talk about, but if they persist, you can also feel free to say, “I really don’t have any news to tell you about that.” Then, you can introduce the topic you would like to talk about.
Simply Walk Away
You do not need someone else’s permission to end an unhealthy interaction. It’s helpful, though, to have a plan for exiting any conversation you find problematic.
There are a number of techniques you might employ like claiming you’re running late and then leaving or glancing at your phone and stating that you have to take an incoming call (whether there really is a call or not).
You might even set an alarm for the amount of time that you’ve pre-decided you will spend talking to the narcissist, and once the alarm goes off, excuse yourself. You don’t have to give an excuse or a reason. You can just leave.
No Shame, No Justification, and Share Just Enough
While talking with a narcissist might feel like an interrogation, you don’t deserve that. Since they will use anything they can against you, it’s usually a good idea not to share too much of a personal nature. The less information they have, the better.
If they do criticize something you say or are doing, simply say, “I feel confident in what I’m doing,” or, “I will keep your opinion in mind, thanks.” Then, move the conversation in another direction without further explanation. Remember, if they think they are getting under your skin, they’ll keep pressing the issue.
Name It and Always Implement Consequences
Narcissists will always push the limits of any relationship they’re in. They like to see what they can get away with, and they like to feel like they’ve won. You rob them of that pleasure every time you name what they’re doing and always implement the consequences you’ve already determined for that kind of action.
Naming their actions is basically calling them out on what they’re doing. For example, you might say something like, “I notice you tend to put me down whenever we talk about my parenting style,” or, “I see that you always interrupt me and start talking about yourself whenever I start to tell you about myself.”
When you call them out, remember that their response is irrelevant because this is your truth and you’re setting a boundary within the conversation. If the narcissist has crossed one of your previously set boundaries — like, if they’ve insulted you, for example — then immediately implement the consequences you said you would do in that scenario. Act on these consequences immediately every time the narcissist crosses that boundary. If you said you would leave if they insulted you, then get up and leave as soon as they do. No explanation is required.
When you set boundaries and implement immediate consequences, you can expect the narcissist in your life to escalate their own responses. They might threaten to leave you or spread rumors about you or never talk to you again.
You should be aware of possible consequences for you when you actually set your boundaries since interacting with a narcissist always comes at a price. Keep in mind that you, too, deserve to be treated in a respectful manner.
If they are not treating you with respect, it’s worth incurring their wrath to set your boundaries. You can use intelligent tactics to deal with them so they will change the way they treat you. You have value, and everyone in your life needs to recognize that and respect you as a person.
As you set boundaries with a narcissist, you’ll also want to know what might happen when they are confronted with the ugly truth about themselves. Check out this post, “What Happens When Confronting A Narcissist With The Truth?” to learn more.