This Is How You Should Talk To A Narcissistic Parent

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Talking to a narcissist is always an exhausting endeavor that’s full of numerous possible pitfalls. Their distorted view of the world causes them to misinterpret and twist almost everything you have to say. When that narcissist is your parent, however, their distortion and manipulation take everything to the next level. You’ve been dealing with it all your life, so it can be difficult to see their emotional abuse. Additionally, your parents are the first authority figures in your life. You’re used to listening to them and doing what they tell you. When you realize one or both of your parents are narcissistic, it can really change everything, including how you talk to them. 

When you’re talking with a narcissistic parent, it’s critical to stay calm and respectful, but it’s also vital to speak your truth. You should be honest and speak without fear of their silent treatment. Don’t expect an apology, don’t defend or justify yourself, and be inclusive with your language.

Those are some of the tactics I have used in transforming my conversations with my narcissistic mother. They can work for you too, but you have to stay grounded in your reality and firm in your boundaries. Narcissistic parents will employ numerous manipulation techniques, even on their own children. You have to stay constantly vigilant to avoid falling prey to their emotional abuse. Here are several ways you can do that. 

1. Be Respectful but Honest

Victims of narcissistic abuse often bury their truth in hopes of keeping the peace with the narcissist in their life. They don’t challenge the narcissist for fear of an eruption of narcissistic rage. 

They may even feel as though their narcissistic parent doesn’t love them, and it’s true that a narcissist’s emotions are complicated, as shown in this video. You can, however, stay grounded in your truth even though you present it in a respectful way. 

For example, you might say something like, “I understand why you would say that, but I remember it differently.” You don’t need to argue with them, especially since that doesn’t work. 

Arguing with a narcissist is a great example of butting your head against a brick wall. You won’t get anywhere. Additionally, you’re giving them information they will then use against you later on. 

When you react with intense emotions about any subject, the narcissist realizes that’s important to you. They also know how to push your buttons. 

If you just present your honest views in a respectful manner, you project self-confidence. You also avoid giving them too much information. Essentially, you’re like a grey rock to them – firm but not very interesting. 

This is a famous technique for dealing with toxic people of any kind. Be like the grey rock, and the narcissist won’t have any interest in trying to get a reaction out of you. 

That can be difficult with your parents, but if you can pull it off, it can fundamentally change the way you interact with them. They will have no choice but to develop a new-found respect for you. 

It will likely take some time because your parents have known you so well your entire life. It’s worthwhile, though, if you’re unwilling to cut off all contact with them. 

2. Limit Conversation Time and Topic

Limit Conversation Time and Topic

Another good idea when talking to your narcissistic parents is to limit the conversation time and topic. You should take control of how much time you have to spend with them so that you don’t have to be exposed to their toxicity for long periods of time. 

If you’re timid about that, you can arrive to visit them with an excuse for why you have to leave after a certain amount of time. That lets them know up front that you’ll only be staying for a while. 

You can also set a boundary regarding the topics you’re willing to discuss. This can be good practice for setting other boundaries. If your narcissistic parents bring up something you don’t want to talk about, simply say, “I’m not going to discuss that.” 

After setting that boundary, be sure to enforce it. Narcissists will always push boundaries. It makes them feel powerful, and once you’ve said you don’t want to talk about it, they will try to bring it up in more subtle ways. 

Don’t fall for it. If they try that, just say again, “I’m not willing to discuss that.” I had to do that several times with my mother before she finally learned that I meant what I said. 

Once she did, however, she ultimately stopped trying to trick me into talking about what I didn’t want to. If you don’t maintain the boundary, the narcissist will believe they don’t have to listen to anything you say. 

They will know that if they keep trying, they can eventually wear you out and get what they want. It’s up to you to maintain that boundary. 

3. Don’t Fear Their Silence

Don’t Fear Their Silence

Many narcissistic parents will use the silent treatment to punish their children for perceived infractions. This is really scary for young children, and it’s likely your narcissistic parents used the tactic to control you. 

But there’s no need to fear the silent treatment from a narcissist. It won’t last forever because they can’t stand the silence themselves. What they’re hoping is that you’ll ask them what’s wrong, but if you just let them continue in their silence, they will break before you do.

They want to tell you what’s on their mind, but they want you to feel bad and ask them all about it. They want you to show how much you care about them by asking them why they’re not talking to you. 

As an adult, you can stop being afraid. Their silence can’t harm you, and it won’t last. Just ignore them and wait, and they’ll come around and start talking again. You might regret that more than their silence.

I remember the first time I discovered this could work on my narcissistic mother. She had been really unfair about allowing me to do something with a friend of mine. It was a parent-supervised event at my best friend’s house. She knew the parents and had allowed me to do things with them before. 

On this occasion, she refused to allow me to go this time, and I felt she was being unfair. She refused to talk about it and was giving me the silent treatment. I ignored her for almost two weeks. 

Finally, she broke down, and we talked about it. She changed her mind and let me go. I was amazed. It was the first time in my childhood that I felt like I did have a little bit of power in the relationship. 

4. Don’t Use Binary Terms

Binary thinking means you divide the world into one of two categories. Something is either good or bad, friend or foe, or black or white. There are no grey areas, no middle ground. Narcissists think in very binary terms. 

That, in combination with the fact that they lack object constancy, means they see you as either on their side or as an enemy. If they come to see even their own child as an enemy, they cannot hold a positive thought about you. 

They see you as evil rather than good, and they will try to crush you to prove they are on the right side of things. That’s why you want to avoid putting things in binary terms. 

Don’t make something either good or bad. Don’t even use those words. If the narcissist believes you’re putting them on the opposite side from where you are, they will see you as an enemy. 

If that happens, they will never see your point of view. They won’t even consider it. Additionally, they will become very aggressive in opposing you. 

Always clarify that there are grey areas and nuanced positions on everything. Leave them room to maneuver, and you’ll likely have a more enjoyable conversation with them. If you box them in, however, they will fight back with unexpected vigor. 

When you express your opinions, leave room for nuance. That way, when your narcissistic parents disagree with you, as inevitably happens, you can give them the space to do so without being categorized as bad or evil or an enemy in their mind. 

5. Model Empathy

Model Empathy

Narcissists famously lack empathy. They don’t understand how their actions affect other people, but it can help reduce their narcissistic tendencies if you can show them how to be empathetic. 

Because the narcissist has to remain obsessively focused on protecting the false image they created to replace their true self-image, they simply can’t put themselves in someone else’s place. This is the reason they don’t experience empathy in the same way as a healthy person. 

But they are capable of learning from the people around them. If you can show them how to behave empathetically, they can often at least mimic empathy. That can help with interpersonal communication attempts. 

While they might not really feel emotional empathy, they can learn to understand intellectually how someone else might feel as a result of their behavior. It’s not the kind of emotional empathy that you might be accustomed to, but it is at least progress for a narcissist in understanding other people. 

It can help them to grow and even reduce their narcissistic tendencies. I have used this tactic with my mother for many years, and she is now able to even predict how someone might feel as a result of other people’s behavior. It’s not perfect, but it’s progress. 

6. “We” Language can Help

This is a good tip for all kinds of communication. Rather than creating divisions by making ‘I’ and ‘you’ statements, you can acknowledge that it’s a two-way street with ‘we’ language. For example, you can say something like, “We are closer than this, and it seems we should be able to communicate better.”

When you do that, you’re creating a collaboration between you and the narcissist. You’re acknowledging that you know you have a role in the relationship as much as they do. You’re letting them know that you’re willing to work on it if they are. 

That makes them much more likely to cooperate with you. It gives them room to soothe themselves with the idea that it’s mostly you, even though it’s not. The biggest part of a good communication style is giving people the room to both express themselves and save face. 

When you do that, you don’t box them into a corner. By using ‘we’ language, you’re expressing the realization that you can always improve your communication style too. 

It helps them be more willing to make changes that will facilitate better communication. It’s a particularly helpful technique with narcissistic parents. 

They’re used to being the ones who teach you how to behave. They won’t accept the role reversal readily, but by forming a collaboration, they don’t have to. They can satisfy themselves with the idea that the problem mostly lies with you, but they’re willing to work with you so everything can improve. 

Of course, the problem mostly lies with them, but when you don’t box them in, you give them space to accept changes. It works wonders in all kinds of situations where you need to work with people to improve communication problems.

7. Don’t Be Attached to a Specific Outcome

Don’t Be Attached to a Specific Outcome

Whenever you’re talking to your narcissistic parents, don’t expect that somehow your words will convince them to change. It would be wonderful if they did, but you shouldn’t expect that. 

Don’t go into a confrontation expecting an apology, and don’t think that if you can just be a little bit more eloquent, they’ll see your side of the problem. They are not likely to ever understand your side. 

You have a right to express your truth, and you should do so even to narcissistic parents. But don’t think that they will suddenly see the error of their ways. That only happens in the movies. 

Narcissists are particularly resilient to anything that would lay the blame at their feet for any kind of problem. If they accept that they made a mistake, that means they aren’t the perfect, superior person they’ve convinced themselves they are since childhood. That would cause a devastating emotional collapse. 

They simply wouldn’t be able to withstand it and could end up institutionalized as a result. That’s why they’re so protective of what they believe to be a flawed true self. It’s also why they will readily lie and use other manipulation tactics to protect that false self-image. 

As pointed out by researchers in the Departments of Behavioral Sciences and Criminology at the Ariel University in Israel, “narcissists score low on the honesty–humility dimension, reflecting low levels of sincerity, fairness, greed avoidance, and modesty.” They will quite simply do whatever it takes to protect their false self-image, so you shouldn’t expect to change that anytime soon. 

Don’t be afraid to express your opinion and your truth, but don’t expect that it will have a lasting impact on your narcissistic parents. 

8. Talk About Topics that Interest Them

Talk About Topics that Interest Them

When talking with narcissists, it can also help to talk about topics that you know interest them. They will talk more openly and honestly when you do. 

This is also a good technique you can use as a diversion tactic to get them out of their rage and/or obsessive thinking. They are flattered when you show an interest in something that interests them. 

That puts you in a good light with them, too, which makes them much more likely to treat you respectfully and in a loving manner. It also often puts them in a good mood too. 

It’s important to remember that narcissists are human too, and they have interests they enjoy talking about just like anyone else. If you want to maintain a relationship with your narcissistic parents, showing interest in what interests them can strengthen your relationship. 

I have used this tactic many times with my own mother. I remember when I discovered how well it could work to distract her when she was in a rage. I could often get her off the topic very effectively. 

I started using it as much as I could get away with, and she was never the wiser. Of course, it didn’t always work, but it was, overall, very effective. 

9. Don’t Take Their Bait

Don’t Take Their Bait

Narcissists love to bait you into an emotional reaction. It serves several purposes for them. It makes them feel powerful, and it allows them to more easily manipulate and control you. 

They will push your buttons as much as they can to get a rise out of you. It teaches them exactly what triggers you and how they can use that to get what they want. 

My friend’s narcissistic husband does this all the time. She tells me they will be having a nice conversation about something, and she can see a shift on his face. When this happens, he starts to talk about something that he knows bothers her. 

He proceeds to goad her until he gets her to react emotionally. If she responds emotionally, he often gets a slight, sly smile on his face. He knows he has accomplished what he set out to do. He wanted to get a reaction, and he did. 

Once that happens, narcissists know they can use that topic anytime they want to distract you or just push your buttons. They can divert the conversation from the topic at hand by bringing up this kind of topic. 

What’s more, your parents have been doing this all your life, so they already know too much about you. Don’t let them continue by taking their bait when they push those buttons. 

There are several things you can do to prevent this from happening, but the most important is to learn how to recognize and defuse your emotional triggers. Check out the section on Final Thoughts for a method to help you do that.

10. Remember Your Truth

It’s also important to always remember your truth when you’re communicating with narcissistic parents. Narcissists are famous for gaslighting. This is where they will try to cause you to doubt your own interpretation of reality itself. 

Like my mother always did, I’m betting your narcissistic parents have told you time and again how you’re too sensitive or that you’re imagining things. They might have told you that something you know happened never did or that they were only joking when they said that cruel thing. 

This is gaslighting. They are attempting to undermine your trust in your own intuition so they can better manipulate and control you. But you’re not imagining things, you’re not too sensitive, and they’re weren’t joking. 

Most of the time, you can trust your gut when you perceive abusive treatment. Though it can often be very subtle, and you might miss it, when you do perceive it, you’re usually not wrong. 

That’s why it’s important to stay grounded in your truth. It can help to journal events as they happen, so you have something to look back on if someone questions your memory. You’ll soon find that your original interpretation of the events was usually correct. 

Occasionally, you might misinterpret something, but you don’t misinterpret the repeated abusive behavior of toxic people. If it feels hurtful, it usually is. Remember that when you’re talking to your narcissistic parents. 

11. Don’t Defend or Justify Yourself

Don’t Defend or Justify Yourself

When you’re communicating with your narcissistic parents, don’t defend or justify yourself. If you have to tell them about a decision you’ve made, simply state your decision and stand firm. 

They may try to change your mind or get you to reconsider, but you don’t have to justify your decision to them. When you do that, narcissists perceive it as an expression of weakness

They see it as uncertainty and will try to manipulate you into making a different decision. Unless you feel uncertain about your choice, don’t let this convince you to reconsider. 

You can respectfully tell your parents, “I’m afraid my mind’s made up. I’m sorry you don’t agree, but I feel this is the right choice for me.” 

This is also a tactic that works when you’re in an argument with them. If they’re angry with you about something, you shouldn’t defend your choice or justify it to them. Simply let them know this is the choice you’ve made. You can even say, “We’ll just have to agree to disagree.” 

They won’t see justification or defending yourself as a thoughtful consideration of their opinion or even as an explanation of why you did or said what you did. They will interpret it as weakness and insecurity. If you let them believe that, they will increase their manipulative attempts to control you.

12. Maintain Your Composure

Remain Calm

Above all else, it’s vital to stay calm whenever you’re talking to your narcissistic parents. When you react emotionally, they can see what pushes your buttons and use it against you. 

My mother did this all the time. She would say something that she knew bothered me, and then when I responded emotionally, she would say, “Why are you so emotional about this? Could it be you’re uncertain of your choices?” 

That would usually send me into a rage because I knew she had purposefully pushed my buttons. The more you react emotionally, the more information you’re giving to the narcissist, and make no mistake about it, they will use it against you when they have a chance. 

Narcissists are already adept at spotting vulnerabilities, and your narcissistic parents have been looking for those in you all of your life. Don’t give them any more information than they already have. 

Use meditation, take 10 deep breaths, excuse yourself for a few moments, or simply end the conversation to avoid reacting emotionally. If you don’t do that, they will know exactly what they need to do to manipulate you. They will use that information every chance they get. 

If you remember nothing else from this information, remember to stay calm during all of your actions with a narcissist. They will keep pushing, so you’ll have to be persistent in maintaining your composure. It can be hard, but the following video has some other ideas on how to live with narcissistic parents. 

Final Thoughts

Narcissistic parents are among the most abusive people you’ll ever know. They have known you all of your life, and they have learned what bothers you and how they can use that. Talking to them is a minefield of emotional traps and manipulative tactics. They know more than anyone else on the planet exactly what they need to do to get a rise out of you. Worst of all, they create emotional wounds with their abuse, and then they use those very wounds to manipulate you even more as an adult. It’s vicious, and it’s the furthest thing from the unconditional love parents are supposed to give their children. 

You can stop them, however, by defusing your emotional triggers and healing those old wounds. I have created a 5-Step Roadmap to Heal Emotional Triggers to help you do just that. This free guide will teach you how to recognize, defuse, and heal emotional triggers so that no one can use them to manipulate you ever again. Just click here, and I’ll send this handy guide directly to your inbox. 


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Narcissistic abuse takes a terrible toll on your life. I’m Patricia, and my mother is a narcissist, so I know what you’re going through. These blog posts will help you understand narcissism better and give you tips for dealing with the narcissists in your life. Healing starts here!

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