Does your narcissistic mother always dominate your conversations? Of course she does. She’s a narcissist. If you feel like you can let her go, check out this post for some tips on how to do that, but sometimes that’s not an option.
If you’re comfortable keeping in touch with your narcissistic mother or there’s no other choice, then you are aware of the many pitfalls in trying to communicate effectively with her. Even just having a quick phone conversation with her can be psychologically disconcerting and emotionally exhausting.
This means that you have to take charge, set boundaries, and know your limits. You must control the means and the methods of the communication. These phrases can help you disarm your narcissistic mother’s communication style, but there are other tactics as well.
To understand the narcissist’s dysfunctional systems of communication and to learn more about how to communicate more effectively with your mother, read on.
How Your Mom Communicates
Narcissists develop their own highly dysfunctional means of communication within relationships. As the child of a narcissistic mother, you are well aware of the ways in which she is able to dominate and derail any kind of communication.
First, she doesn’t really know how to have a conversation. Talking with her is essentially just listening to her. Most people understand that a conversation is a back and forth exchange, but the narcissist often sticks to her own script, choosing the topics (often herself) and dominating the discussion.
Second, if you do try to interject or shift away from her chosen topic, then she will get impatient or irritated. She interrupts frequently, rarely allowing you to finish a thought, and she doesn’t really listen very carefully. When she does listen, she might respond without much compassion. Telling her about your problems only elicits a nonchalant or combative response, either a “who cares?” or a “but my stuff is worse!”
Some Other Annoying Habits
Narcissistic moms also tend to do a lot of boasting when you communicate with them. They’ll talk about what amazing accomplishments they’ve racked up since you last spoke, or they might keep a particular achievement handy for repeat visits. If your mom mentions her triumph at that one office party that one evening every time you speak, then you know you’re trying to communicate with a narcissist.
She’ll also be sure to sprinkle in some unsolicited advice, of course, about your dating situation or your marriage or your career or your children. She always knows what’s best and must make sure you know it, too. In the service of this belief, she will also put you down so that she looks even better in the process of telling you how to live your life.
She likes to manipulate you, as well, either lavishing excessive praise on you because she wants something or criticizing you vehemently because you didn’t give her what she wants. Often, narcissistic mothers are covert or vulnerable narcissists, so they will also play the victim or feign helplessness to get what they want.
Frequency and Duration of Communication
So, what are you to do about this disturbing pattern of dysfunctional communication? Actually, there are several steps that you can take to turn the tide in your favor. Taking back control of the communication with your narcissistic mother can feel wholly liberating.
First, you set the terms of the communication. You decide how often you call or drop by, and you don’t always (or ever, really) have to pick up the phone when she calls or answer the door if she comes over unannounced. She doesn’t know how to set or respect boundaries, so you must be vigilant in doing so. It may take effort at first, but the reward will be worth it.
Second, you get to choose how long any conversation or visit is. Establish the expectations up front, letting her know that you only have X amount of minutes to talk on the phone or that you’re coming by her house for exactly X minutes or hours. If she violates these set limits, then you are free to hang up on her or walk out the door.
Timing of Communication
The other action you are absolutely allowed to take is to determine when you communicate. As mentioned above, you should never feel obligated to pick up the phone or answer the door when she decides she needs you. This is a boundary that if she is allowed to cross, she will fully take advantage of it.
Set some specific ground rules about when you talk or visit, and stick to them. Whatever is appropriate for you and your lifestyle should be acceptable to her. If you want to speak every week, pick a day and time (and time limit). If it’s only once a month, pick a date. Should you decide only to visit once a month or at particular holidays, let her know and make sure you stand firm.
Topics of Communication
Finally, you have also earned the right to determine the topics of conversation—and what’s off limits, too. The latter can be especially important in keeping the peace. If you’ve had your fill of career or parenting advice, then you should feel comfortable letting her know that those topics are currently off the table.
When determining what to talk about, be aware of your mother’s limitations. That is, remember that her narcissism didn’t disappear when you decided to take control of the communication. She has little ability to show compassion and too few filters between her manipulative thoughts and her verbal expressions. Stick to safer subjects, especially at first, if you want to maintain peace.
It’s always going to be difficult to communicate with a narcissistic mother. Her narcissistic tendencies extend to how and what she communicates, and her lack of boundaries can interfere with your ability to maintain a peaceful relationship. Still, with some determination and consistency, you can take back control of the conversation.
When you set clear boundaries and maintain consistent limitations, then you can potentially enjoy—or at least tolerate—regular communication with your mom. This allows you to continue to show love for your mom, while also taking care of your own personal space. This post gives you some more tips on dealing with your narcissistic mother as an adult.
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