When you’re in a relationship with a narcissist, you are accustomed to contradictory and unpredictable behavior. You’ve been exposed to their tendency to manipulate you using narcissistic rage, gaslighting, lying, projection, and many other techniques. You’ve also likely felt so frustrated because everything you’ve tried never seems to work to get them to back off.
If you’re wondering what you can do that will work, there are some effective techniques you can use in different situations. Here are 13 that can be very effective if you use them appropriately:
- Express Your Truth Calmly;
- Don’t Explain;
- Don’t Defend;
- Don’t Justify;
- Agree with the Narcissist;
- Get the Narcissist on Your Team;
- Make a Joke;
- Ask Their Advice;
- Train the Narcissist like a Dog;
- Take Control of the Narrative;
- Grey Rock Them;
- Walk Away.
On the whole, narcissists are very predictable, but you have to know what to look for when you’re having a conversation with them so that you can determine how to respond. Let’s explore the narcissist’s strategy as well as when and how to apply each of these tactics.
What is the Narcissist’s Goal?
The narcissist’s goal is, in a word, attention. They need the attention and adulation of other people in order to prop up their fragile self-esteem. They have a damaged identity, and as a result, they need other people to praise them almost constantly.
This adulation is referred to as narcissistic supply, and it is the narcissist’s lifeblood. To get their supply, narcissists will use a variety of manipulation techniques to draw attention to themselves. Like anyone, they prefer positive attention, but if they can’t get that, negative attention will do as well.
To draw people in, narcissists use their considerable charm – a skill they have honed over the course of many years. When you first met the narcissist in your life, you likely felt they were a kind of soulmate. It probably seemed as though they knew you better than anyone else you’ve ever known.
That’s typical of relationships that involve a narcissist, and it’s why so many people get caught in their web of drama. They are supportive, loving, and intensely interested in your life, but that’s only until they get you hooked. During this initial phase, they learn all about you so they know exactly which buttons to push when they need to get something from you.
The narcissist has high expectations of everyone in their life, and after a while, they begin to see you’re not living up to their expectations. Don’t feel bad because no one could live up to them. When you begin to fall short, that’s when the problems begin.
What are Interactions with a Narcissist Typically Like?
Most conversations with a narcissist are unpredictable, to say the least. They jump from topic to topic, and if you’re in an argument with a narcissist, they will often say things that seem incoherent to you. This can be due to the tendency of narcissists to dissociate which means they erase memories.
The nature of their personality disorder is such that they dissociate when triggered, and so, they genuinely don’t remember what they have said or done. They have to rely on the people around them to fill in the blanks, and of course, they also will fill in the blanks with lies.
This can easily create an incomplete or incoherent history, and that’s part of why what they say to you during an argument may not make sense. When you add to this their tendency to try to manipulate everyone around them, any conversation you have with them can easily become quite confusing.
They will try to gaslight you and even lie outright. They will accuse you of the very thing they’re doing – something called projection – and use any tactic they can to manipulate and control you. Their ultimate goal is to either get you to praise them or get others to praise them when compared to you.
If they can’t get what they need from you in a positive way, they devalue you, criticize you, and demean you in front of your friends and family. They will try to make it seem as though they are the victim of your bad behavior. What’s more, they’re very good at it, so what can you do? Let’s take a look.
13 Ways to Stop a Narcissist in Their Tracks
There are several strategies you can use to stop a narcissist from their manipulative behavior. They are always trying to control you, so it’s important to keep that in mind as you employ these 13 techniques.
1. Express Your Truth Calmly
Whenever you’re dealing with a narcissist, getting upset or becoming emotional will always work against you. You have every right to state your truth and have it respected, but if the narcissist knows they can get an emotional reaction out of you, they will push your buttons again and again.
Instead of taking their bait, you want to respond in a calm manner, and simply state your own viewpoint. If they can’t get you to become emotional, they will quickly get bored and move on. They will also stop using that particular subject to try to get you to react to them.
This is difficult to do, of course, but you need to remember that an emotional reaction is exactly what the narcissist is looking for. If you give in, they will have you right where they want you, and they won’t stop until you’re in a full-blown rage. This is nothing more than a tactic to control you, so don’t let them.
Another effective technique is to distract the narcissist by asking them about something you know they like to talk about, for example, or changing the subject. It’s relatively easy to distract them if you’re just aware enough of what they’re doing so you can respond quickly.
Narcissists love nothing better than to show off their knowledge, and so, if you ask them about something you know they love to talk about or feel particularly knowledgeable about, it usually works to get them off the subject you’re currently talking about.
Distraction is a great way to de-escalate a conversation or argument that seems to be going around in circles. When you see the narcissist becoming obsessed with a topic, that’s a great time to get them onto another topic that is less likely to evolve into an argument.
3. Don’t Explain
Sometimes what not to do is as important as what you do. When you’re in an argument or intense conversation with a narcissist, whatever you do, don’t explain yourself. If you do that, the narcissist has taken control.
You don’t have to explain your preferences, boundaries, needs, or desires. You get to be who you are, and when you feel the need to explain why you feel the way you do, it indicates you’re on the defensive. That’s where the narcissist wants you to be.
When you’re explaining yourself, it’s as if you’re expressing doubt about your perspective. Narcissists will take advantage of that every time, so by not explaining why you feel the way you do, you can shut down their manipulation.
4. Don’t Defend
Not defending your position goes along with not explaining yourself in the previous point. You don’t have to defend your truth to anyone. You have every right to have your own opinion. While there are many cases where you might choose to defend yourself, when you’re talking with a narcissist, stand strong and don’t defend your position.
Just like with the situation where you’re explaining yourself, when you’re defending yourself, it suggests there is weakness in your ideas or perspective. There may be people in your life where you feel safe enough to discuss possible weaknesses, but the narcissist is not one of them.
If you’re defending your words or actions to a narcissist, they see weakness and will escalate their attack. They will also know this is a button they can push in the future. You don’t want to give them that kind of power over you. Stand strong and don’t defend your position.
5. Don’t Justify
If you are arguing with a narcissist over a decision you made, don’t bother trying to justify your actions. The narcissist will never see your point of view because they don’t experience empathy in the same way a healthy person does.
The narcissist won’t be able to understand any justification you use, and what’s more, they will use what they see as uncertainty that you feel in your own decision against you. To the narcissist, if you’re justifying your actions, you feel uncertain about your choices.
Once again, that spells weakness in their eyes, and they will use it to pressure you even more about what happened. They will also use it against you in the future. Remember, any time you show a narcissist something you’re uncertain about or fearful about, even if they don’t use that knowledge in the moment, they will use it against you eventually.
6. Agree with the Narcissist
There are many times when a narcissist is just looking for a fight, and you can shut that down if you simply agree with whatever they are saying. You’ll be able to recognize that they’re spoiling for a fight by the fact that nothing you say is correct.
They seem to change their position and attack again and again, no matter what, but if you just agree with them, there’s nothing to attack. It often also surprises them and shuts down their argumentative mood.
Sometimes, shocking the narcissist into silence is just what you need to do, and this is one way you can accomplish that. It doesn’t always work, but if you don’t give them anything to argue against, it can de-escalate the conversation.
7. Get the Narcissist on Your Team
You’ve probably heard the saying, “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em,” and that’s exactly what getting the narcissist on your side does. If they are becoming agitated, it can help to get them on your team. If they feel like they are helping you and that you need them, it will feed into their need for narcissistic supply.
A narcissist loves nothing more than to feel as though you can’t do without them. It makes them feel empowered and superior when someone wants them to be on their side. Feeling needed makes them feel even more superior, and it will shut down any aggression they’re displaying.
When you understand their goal to get that narcissistic supply, you can easily understand how this tactic can defuse their more negative manipulation tactics. They also now want the same thing you want, and so, instead of working against you, they’re working with you.
8. Make a Joke
Humor is a great way to defuse many situations. If you can find something humorous about the interaction and make a joke about it, you can break the tension and de-escalate the situation. It takes a certain touch to pull this off successfully and you have to pay attention to what’s going on, but if you can do it, it can be very effective at shutting the narcissist down.
It’s almost like breaking the spell they’re under, and it eases the tension for everyone involved. When you can laugh at yourself and the situation, you’ll feel better too. Just a word of caution – you don’t want to seem to be mocking the narcissist.
You don’t want to make them the butt of the joke or anything they have done. Direct the humor at the situation or even something you did instead, because if you mock the narcissist, they will quickly see you as the enemy.
9. Ask Their Advice
This is akin to getting them on your team. A narcissist likes nothing better than to feel as though you need them and their expertise. When you ask for their advice, they will likely change their tune almost immediately.
Suddenly, they become the knowledgeable, talented, and superior person that you need rather than someone you’re fighting against. This works wonders if you can pull it off smoothly.
You do have to be aware, however, that if you don’t take their advice, they can become agitated all over again. Use this one carefully, but it is a great way to almost instantly defuse a negative interaction with a narcissist.
10. Train the Narcissist like a Dog
Positive reinforcement for ‘good’ behaviors works wonders when you’re training a dog, and it works with narcissists too. If you reward them with narcissistic supply in the form of glowing praise when they’ve done something good, they’ll keep doing it.
You can use this technique to improve the way the narcissist treats you. When they respect your boundaries and treat you nicely, if you give the loving praise they so desire, they will continue to do what you want them to do.
You’re not only helping to improve their behavior, but you’re also making yourself a valuable asset in their life. They fear nothing more than losing that narcissistic supply, and if they see they’re getting consistently by behaving how you want them to behave, they will keep it up. It works for your dog, and it can work for your narcissist too!
11. Take Control of the Narrative
Narcissists basically have two narratives that involve other people in their life: either you’re the victim in need of their heroism or you’re the oppressor and they are the innocent victim. What’s more, you might be the victim one minute and instantly turn into the oppressor the next.
Once you understand which of those two roles they have cast you in, you can stop them in their tracks by directly addressing that. You can say, for example, “You’re not the hero in this,” or “I’m not victimizing you.”
When you address the situation in such blunt terms, it can stop them where they are. Once they know that their intentions are exposed, they will often take another tack. Sometimes, honesty really is the best policy.
12. Grey Rock Them
Grey rock is a technique that refers to making yourself as boring as possible to the narcissist. When they start an argument, they are looking to get an emotional reaction out of you, and when you not only don’t respond the way they want but actually are boring in how you respond, that can cause them to give up.
Narcissists love drama, and if you’re not giving it to them, you become like a grey rock – boring and commonplace. They want something that excites their interest, and when you don’t do that, they move on.
Using this technique can work wonders, particularly for getting a narcissist at work off your back. When they see they are not going to get anything interesting from you, they move on to someone else.
13. Walk Away
You have to always keep this option on the table. You don’t necessarily have to walk away forever, but if they are crossing your boundaries or emotionally abusing you in the conversation, you can walk away from that interaction.
Walking away until they can interact with you in a more respectful manner can also help to ‘train’ them to treat you better. If they know you can and will simply leave, they will be more likely to treat you well.
You also have to carefully consider whether it would be best for you to walk away altogether. A relationship with a narcissist is a one-sided deal. You will have to give, but they will never return the favor.
Interactions with narcissists are usually unproductive, at least for you. The trauma that created their personality disorder has crippled them emotionally. They lack the ability to empathize with you, and they need you to be constantly focused on their needs. They won’t do the same for you.
Using these techniques, you can stop their emotional abuse and manipulation attempts, but it’s a constant battle. Stopping them once doesn’t mean they will stop forever. To achieve that goal, you have to constantly be aware of their motives and respond with the appropriate tactic to ensure they will behave nicely. Mess up just once, and they will take advantage of you again and again.
To be successful at employing these strategies, you need to be aware of just how persistent the narcissist is. You need to read this article for more insight into whether or not they will ever give up. Once you understand their nature, you can better stop their manipulation and resist their efforts to control you.
If you want more tips for dealing with narcissists, setting boundaries, and managing emotional triggers, make sure you subscribe to my youtube channel