Narcissists cannot accept any kind of criticism. They often perceive even the most gentle feedback as negative. This can cause them to fly into what is called a narcissistic rage, and it can be quite frightening.
When a narcissist gets fired up, they can be very cruel, intense, and even vengeful. All they can feel in that moment is anger, and all they want to do is lash out at the cause of their negative feelings. If that’s you, you’ll want to put a stop to this abusive treatment.
You might not even have thought of what you said or did as being something important or negative, but they see it that way. They will frequently blow up the most insignificant comment or action into something that threatens your entire relationship.
What’s more, they will do everything they can to make you feel small and powerless. If the narcissist in your life is also physically abusive, you could easily end up with some bruises or worse.
At a minimum, they will call you selfish and disrespectful even as you struggle to understand what has upset them. Focusing on something or someone other than the narcissist can spark a rageful retaliation.
How Should You Respond?
The first thing to understand is that you might be in for the fight of your life. Fighting with a narcissist is not like fighting with other people. They are hypersensitive and have no empathy, so they are basically hard-wired to be abusive.
They won’t be able to understand your point of view or your needs. Their response might include name-calling, angry slurs, and passive-aggressive treatment at a minimum. So, what can you do if you find yourself in the uncomfortable position of being the recipient of narcissistic rage? Here are five tips.
1. There’s No ‘I’ or ‘You’ in Team
By including yourself in the behavior in question, you can help de-escalate the situation. Part of what makes the narcissist so angry is when they feel you are blaming them as you defend yourself. That’s why it can help to avoid using words like ‘I’ or ‘you’ since it makes it seem like you’re blaming them and absolving yourself of any responsibility.
Reminding them that you are both in the situation together can help to calm them down. It will make them feel like you’re acknowledging your role in whatever happened. It will also reinforce the idea that the two of you are a team. You’re working together to make the relationship better.
2. Don’t Use Judgmental Words
Narcissists simply won’t admit any fault, and they will direct all blame outward, usually at you. They feel hurt, and their aim is to make you feel that same kind of hurt.
When you criticize a narcissist — or perhaps it’s more accurate to say when a narcissist perceives they’ve been criticized by you — it’s a direct threat to their sense of self. They are dependent on external validation, and thus, any perceived negative feedback is seen as something that threatens their self-esteem directly.
That’s why you shouldn’t waste your time trying to assign blame. You’ll only be wasting your breath, and it will increase their rage. Don’t tell them they are wrong; rather, emphasize the results of their behavior and focus on positive ways the two of you can improve your discourse.
3. Use Empathy
Narcissists lack empathy, and thus, if you’re around them, you’ll likely need empathy for the both of you. That gets old after a while; if you find yourself the target of their rage, empathizing with them can help calm things down.
You might try saying something like, “I am sure you felt hurt by what I said, and I can understand why you would feel that way.” By letting them know you understand their reaction, they will feel like they are being heard.
4. Distract Them with Their Own Self-Interest
There’s nothing a narcissist likes more than talking about themselves or being given the opportunity to show off their superior knowledge or skills. That’s something you can use to distract them from their rage.
Asking them about something that interests them or for advice is a great way to distract them and direct the conversation away from the conflict. While this technique might not work when you’re in the middle of an angry confrontation, if you wait for a bit, they’ll likely take the bait.
5. Don’t Fall for It
When a narcissist feels hurt, they will want to strike back and make you feel the same way. To make you feel the pain they’re feeling, they’ll use anything they can to hurt you.
They will frequently bring up things from long ago as well as more recent perceived slights. Their goal is to get the maximum reaction out of you, but if you can ignore whatever it is they’re saying, you can avoid becoming involved in a fight you’ll never win.
If you take the bait, you’re giving the narcissist what they want, and that will show them that they can get under your skin whenever they want. Stay cool and don’t respond to their accusations. That way you can help to calm things down and avoid the rage.
Arguing with a narcissist is like trying to hold onto a tiger by the tail. You can’t win. They will blame you, shame you, and never accept responsibility for their actions.
The most you can hope to do is avoid their rage. You can distract them, empathize with them or join them, but you can’t get them to apologize and telling them their wrong will only fuel their anger.
It’s important to quell the rage since it is an abusive manipulation tactic, and you must be sure to protect yourself from this kind of treatment. If it happens consistently, it might be best to break off your relationship with the narcissist, and you’ll want to know exactly how to do that.
The reason for their rage is due to the fact that they require external validation to boost their sense of self-worth. Any perceived criticism — real or imagined — can cause them to fly into an uncontrolled rage. Their very sense of self is at risk, and that’s why they respond with such vigor.
Regardless of why they fly into a rage, it is abusive and you should take steps to ensure you don’t have to endure it anymore.
It can be particularly difficult to deal with narcissistic rage when the narcissist is your boss. Learn more in the blog article, “Top 5 Signs You Are Dealing with a Narcissistic Boss.”
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