When you’re in an argument with a narcissist, it can be a little like navigating through a labyrinth as they change directions and say sometimes outrageous things to misdirect and distract you. They will use various manipulation techniques as well to discourage you from pursuing a subject they don’t want to discuss. They also will say things just to get a rise out of you or trigger you into reacting emotionally. It’s all designed to make them feel powerful.
Narcissists will say the most frustrating things to make you lose control so they can gain the upper hand in an argument. Here are 13 of the most infuriating things a narcissist will say in an argument:
- You don’t know what you’re talking about;
- You’re insane, you need help;
- You’re way too sensitive;
- I understand now why no one likes you;
- My friends think you’re a terrible person, but I always defend you;
- There’s something wrong with you;
- You’re so insecure; it’s not very attractive;
- Choose between me and your friends;
- Don’t cry, you’re just trying to manipulate me;
- It’s always all about you;
- You’ll never find someone else like me;
- You started this argument;
- I didn’t do anything wrong.
When you argue with a narcissist, they will do anything to deflect blame for any of their actions. They will often also try to devalue you and use projection to put the blame on you. It’s vital to understand the narcissist’s strategy when they argue and what’s behind these kinds of statements so you know how to respond.
The Narcissist’s Strategy
Arguing is not something that is unhealthy in a relationship. It gives each person the opportunity to state their opinion, clear the air, find solutions or compromises, or even just disagree. With a narcissist, however, nothing about their strategy is healthy.
Narcissists will use many unhealthy manipulation techniques during an argument. Among these is gaslighting where they will basically deny your version of events. They will tell you that what you’re saying happened didn’t happen or that you’re too sensitive, you’re making too much out of it.
It’s a way for them to deflect from the topic at hand and get you talking about something else. This is an extremely frustrating manipulation tactic because it can make you feel like you’re crazy, and that’s the narcissist’s goal.
When healthy people argue, one or both will take responsibility for what they did, but the narcissist will never take responsibility. Instead, narcissists will do everything they can to shift the blame onto someone else. Their extremely fragile self-esteem and externally validated false self can’t withstand the pain of accepting blame.
Another factor in the narcissist’s strategy is that they are obsessed with winning. The only way they can do that is if someone else loses. Again, when healthy people argue, the goal is to communicate each other’s position, not to win. That’s not what the narcissist is looking for, and to confuse and exhaust you, they will often start screaming a stream of unrelated statements that is called a ‘word salad.’
13 Most Common Things That Narcissists Say In An Argument
If the narcissist fears they are losing, they will often simply storm off in a rage or refuse to talk anymore. In fact, their silent treatment may even last days or weeks. With this strategy in mind, let’s look at the common things narcissists say in an argument.
1. You don’t know what you’re talking about
This statement achieves two goals for the narcissist: it invalidates your position in the argument and it makes them feel superior by comparison. By claiming you don’t know what you’re talking about, they are basically saying you don’t have a right to discuss it.
They then assume the role of an expert in the argument, and they seek to show that you cannot add to the discussion. Additionally, they think that it makes them seem superior in comparison to you if they point out they have a better grasp of the issue at hand.
This is a common way to devalue you and make you feel as though you need to just be quiet. It’s a very demeaning power play and one the narcissist uses frequently to feel good about themselves.
2. You’re insane, you need help
This is another devaluation tactic narcissists use all the time. It’s called gaslighting. Claiming you’re insane or crazy or any version of that implies your perceptions of reality are flawed. While you think this might not be very effective, you might find that you’re actually questioning whether you did misjudge the situation.
Over time, this kind of manipulation tactic can really affect your self-esteem and confidence. Other versions of gaslighting include simply denying that what you say happened didn’t happen and saying that you need help.
Narcissists also often use this technique in combination with a confusing, illogical string of ‘word salad’ statements to make you wonder about your own perceptions and even your sanity. The reality is that it’s not you, it’s them, and they are trying to purposely get you to question reality.
3. You’re way too sensitive
This is another gaslighting technique that the narcissist employs when they can’t simply deny your version of events. Another version of this s when they try to say that they were just joking or you took their statement or actions in the wrong way.
If the narcissist can get you to question your own interpretations, they can then divert you onto another topic. They can also claim that you’re misinterpreting the situation every time going forward into the future.
This statement also makes it seem as though you’re the one who’s flawed. You’re the one with the flaw, not the narcissist. In that way, they can also feel superior to you, and they can shift the blame for the argument onto you.
4. I understand now why no one likes you
This is another statement that accomplishes multiple goals for the narcissist. First, it lays the blame squarely on you. They are saying it is your temperament, your character that has caused the situation at hand.
The other thing it does is to make the narcissist feel superior by comparison. In essence, they are saying that no matter who is right or wrong in the argument, they are much more likable than you.
Finally, this statement seeks to isolate you from the other people in your life. They are saying that no one in your life likes you. That makes you feel alone and betrayed by the mutual friends you have. They ultimately want to make you feel like you can’t trust the other people in your life.
5. My friends think you’re a terrible person, but I always defend you
This statement also does several things for the narcissist. First, it isolates you from the narcissist’s friends. The narcissist wants you to feel as though their friends all think you’re terrible, and so, you can’t feel comfortable around them.
Another thing it does is to once again lay the blame for the situation on you. You being a terrible person means anything that goes wrong in the relationship is your fault, and it’s a flaw in your character. It’s not just a one-time argument, you’re not a good person.
Finally, the narcissist wants you to think that they are the only one who has your back. They want you to feel like you have no other true friends on your side.
6. There’s something wrong with you
This is another jab at your self-esteem. If the narcissist can get you to question your own mental health, they will have you right where they want you. They will often use this as a gaslighting tactic and to make you feel flawed.
The more they can convince you that you’re at fault, the more they can distract you from anything they are doing wrong. They can also feel superior to you since you’re flawed and they’re perfect.
7. You’re so insecure; it’s not very attractive
This is another way the narcissist seeks to undermine both your self-confidence and your self-esteem. They want you to feel unattractive and flawed. They also want you to stop bringing up the topic you’re arguing about.
It’s a way to distract you from the topic at hand and discourage you from bringing it up again. They are hoping that if you start thinking about what they are doing again, you’ll stop yourself from bringing it up to them because you don’t want to feel insecure or unattractive.
They can also feel superior to you because they are implying that they are secure by comparison. This is usually not true at all. In fact, they are often very insecure, jealous, and frightened you’ll abandon them.
8. Choose between me and your friends
This is a tactic the narcissist uses to isolate you from your friends. They usually start by accusing you of spending more time with your friends or caring more about your friends than you do about them. They often move on from there to making unkind statements about your friends and exploiting any flaws you might share with them.
Eventually, it will come down to insisting that you make a choice. The hope is you will choose them over your friends, and then, they will have you isolated from a support network that can help you process what the narcissist is trying to do to you.
It won’t stop with your friends either. If the narcissist is successful in getting you to stop seeing your friends, they will usually move on to your family. They want to be your only source of support.
9. Don’t cry, you’re just trying to manipulate me
This is another statement that accomplishes multiple goals for the narcissist. It makes it seem as though you’re weak, i.e., there’s something wrong with you, and it’s a form of projection.
Projection is when the narcissist accuses you of doing something they are doing. In this case, they are accusing you of trying to manipulate them. The truth is that they are always trying to manipulate you.
Finally, it’s a statement about your ability to express your feelings. The narcissist is basically telling you that they don’t really want to know your feelings. They don’t want you to express them.
10. It’s always all about you
This is another form of projection. For the narcissist, it really is all about them, not you. They lack the ability to empathize with what you might be feeling, and they want you to focus on them and only them.
By claiming that you make everything about yourself, they are projecting onto you exactly what they do to you. There’s little you can say in response to this because you’ll never convince them of the truth.
In that way, this statement also shuts down the conversation. You can respond with any kind of statement about what you’re feeling, and this statement indicates the narcissist is not willing to listen in any case.
11. You’ll never find someone else like me
The narcissist frequently says this when they fear you might abandon them. The truth is that they fear you might leave them, and they want to convince you to stay. It’s also a way they can feel superior and make you seem small.
It’s a way they can also externally validate themselves. The truth is that the narcissist will have difficulty finding anyone else to put up with their abusive treatment.
12. You started this argument
This is yet another form of blaming the narcissist typically employs in many different ways. It’s also a type of projection since it is not uncommon that the narcissist actually started the argument.
They want to confuse you and make you feel like you’re a little crazy. You’ll often find that the narcissist starts arguments either because they think you did something they don’t like or because they are just in a bad mood that day. They want to take it out on someone, and you’re there.
You’ll find yourself scratching your head and trying to think back to exactly how the argument started. That’s the narcissist’s goal — to create confusion and self-doubt.
13. I didn’t do anything wrong
Here, the narcissist is trying to absolve themself of any and all blame and project it onto you. The implication is that they didn’t do anything wrong, so if you’re starting an argument with them, you’re doing something unfair and wrong.
Narcissists are experts at starting arguments and then turning it around to make it seem like you started it. It can leave you confused and frustrated. Most of the time, however, you can rest assured that you didn’t do anything wrong, they did.
How Do You Argue With a Narcissist?
Now that you know the strategy a narcissist employs when they argue, you might be wondering just how you should argue with a narcissist. It’s a tricky situation because narcissists are always looking for an opportunity to use anything you say against you. You’re a reasonable person, you likely will admit when you make a mistake, but that won’t get you anywhere with a narcissist.
Let’s explore several strategies you can use when you’re in the unfortunate circumstance of having to argue with a narcissist. As psychologist Dr Ramani Durvasula explains, you can use these techniques to “avoid getting stuck in an exhausting loop.”
- Choose Your Battles Wisely
Your best strategy is to try and avoid arguing with a narcissist at all, but that won’t always work. When you do have to argue, make sure you only do so when the topic is something that’s very important, something you can’t avoid.
Arguments you may want to take on include such topics as the well-being of your children, your integrity in a professional matter, or your finances. If you’re going to endure the kinds of insults and insinuations made by a narcissist, you want to make sure the battle is worthwhile.
- Stay Cool, Calm, and Collected
You won’t get anywhere with a narcissist if you yell at them even when they’re yelling at you. Stay calm at all times and keep your tone steady. If you feel as though you’re getting increasingly frustrated to the point of yelling, it might be better to walk away until you can calm down.
If you do yell at them, you’ll often find they will suddenly become calm and act like you’re the crazy one who’s losing their temper. You’ll feel even more frustrated if that happens, and it will also put you on the defensive. That’s not a position you want to be in with a narcissist.
- Don’t Bother Defending or Explaining Yourself
To try and explain yourself or defend your actions or words is a waste of time. They will not listen, and they don’t have an interest in your side of the argument. They are only interested in making their point from their distorted reality.
Trying to defend or explain yourself will only leave you frustrated and confused. They will argue with you without any mercy or consideration for how their words affect you. They don’t experience empathy in the same way you do, and they won’t care if they hurt you.
Moreover, they won’t accept your side of the argument, ever. They won’t take responsibility for any faults they have or any mistakes they made. They won’t agree to do what you want them to do. They just need to win the argument, and they will do anything they can toward that end.
It will help if you detach yourself emotionally from the argument. That’s difficult to do, but if you can think of it in almost a clinical, observer kind of way, you will be better able to keep the argument on topic and not take anything they say too personally.
- Maintain Your Reality
The narcissist will try relentlessly to gaslight you, but that will only work if you let it. Don’t second-guess yourself, but don’t attempt to correct them either. They will never accept what you’re trying to say. Just recognize that they are trying to gaslight you and avoid being sucked into their distorted version of reality.
- Stay on Topic
The narcissist will do everything they can to get you off topic. They will use ‘word salads’ and deflection every time they can. They try to shift blame and they will project their flaws onto you. They will try to get you to focus on some accusation they make so that you will stop focusing on their flaws or what they did.
You have to stay on topic no matter what. If they get off topic, try saying something like, “That’s not what we’re talking about right now,” and then steer the conversation back to the topic at hand. The narcissist will fight you on this, but insist on it or the argument will go wildly off-topic.
- Avoid Airing Old Grievances
The narcissist will often bring up old grievances as a method of getting you off the current topic. You may be tempted to do the same thing, but if you succumb to this, the argument at hand will veer hopelessly off-course. It will also go on for much longer than it otherwise might have done.
When the narcissist brings up something from the past, just firmly state, “That was then, this is now. Let’s stay on topic.” Then redirect the conversation back to the discussion you’re currently having.
- Don’t Feel Afraid to Leave
If things get too heated and you feel as though you might lose control, just calmly excuse yourself and go someplace where you can calm down. You don’t need to storm off, and that will only make things worse anyway, but you can just calmly stop talking and leave.
You can tell the narcissist that you’re getting nowhere and that you need to take a moment. If you do this, it can help to de-escalate the situation and help prevent that exhausting circular argument that narcissists are famous for making.
- Simply Don’t Argue
Since narcissists love an argument, if you simply refuse to argue with them, they will often stop making such irritating statements and insults. If you can not take the bait they’re putting out there, you can avoid a frustrating argument.
The narcissist may at first become increasingly enraged when you won’t argue with them, and they’ll likely make ever more provocative statements, but if you just refuse to engage with them, they will then become bored. That’s when they will let it go with you and look for a new target.
- Stick the Landing
When you’re trying to end the argument with a narcissist, disengagement is what usually works best. Avoid making statements about being unwilling to discuss the topic further since that will likely only antagonize them and cause them to bring the topic up later. Instead, simply say that you are no longer willing to talk with the narcissist about the topic and stop doing so.
You won’t get much satisfaction out of ending the argument that way, but it will bring it to an end. You’ll need to avoid taking any bait the narcissist throws out later on, however, since that will only result in renewing the argument. Then, the narcissist will never let it go.
Arguing with a narcissist is probably one of the most frustrating things you can do. They will never accept responsibility for anything they have done wrong, and they will use all kinds of manipulative tactics to throw you off topic and shift the blame to you.
That’s why it’s important to understand their strategy and what you can do to avoid a frustrating and exhausting discussion. You won’t get any satisfaction out of any argument you have with a narcissist, but you can arrive at a decision to agree to disagree. That’s probably the best you can hope for.
One technique that can really affect a narcissist is if you ignore them. It can be something you can use effectively to make them treat you with more respect. You’ll definitely want to read this article to learn more about why a narcissist hates and fears being ignored.
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