How To Deal With A Narcissist: 5 Guaranteed Tactics

Dealing with the narcissist in your life is difficult for many reasons – but the most difficult is not one that you would expect.

Most of us simply don’t know when we’re faced with a narcissist or when people we know intimately display signs of narcissism. We want to think that our close circle has our best intentions at heart, but unfortunately, that’s a false assumption.

In order to deal with narcissists, it’s of utmost importance to understand them so you can confiscate their ammunition and beat them.

What is a narcissist?

The most common definition of a narcissist is someone who is extremely self-absorbed and selfish.

However, that definition is the source of many misunderstandings that prevent us from seeing the emotional manipulator before us.

The more pertinent definition is the characterization of narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) offered by the Mayo Clinic:

Narcissistic personality disorder is a mental disorder in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for admiration and a lack of empathy for others. But behind this mask of ultra-confidence lies a fragile self-esteem that's vulnerable to the slightest criticism.

This description might hit a little closer to home.

The narcissist puts their need for validation and protection of their ego above all else – including their significant other. They’ll do anything to feel good about themselves.

In fact, for most narcissists, feeling good about themselves is the actual purpose of having a relationship. They use their partner to boost their own self-esteem and confidence through whatever means possible – with little regard for how their partner feels about it.

Frequently, this means controlling or using you in whatever way they can, and manipulating your emotions to make them feel superior and intelligent.

It’s important to remember all of their acts are a result of how negatively they feel about themselves, although they might not understand that on a conscious level.

They will take advantage of you, manipulate you, and show extreme arrogance in an attempt to prove to themselves and others that they are who they believe themselves to be.

They are like bullies who protect themselves through aggression, power, and control.

If the narcissist had to choose between averting a small threat to them and inflicting massive pain to you, they would choose the latter without even thinking.

Narcissists view the world through a “me first, me second, you never” lens, and to view them otherwise will just create more heartache for you.

  • You will never be seen as a priority or equal to them.
  • You will never feel in control with them or like you matter.
  • You will never feel like they understand you because they simply don’t care to.

You will never win because the narcissist has been defending himself (or herself) for years and is an expert at using defense mechanisms and rationalizations.

Their power comes from the fact that you are a normal person with normal feelings, while they are trying to compensate for one major shortcoming, imaginary or not.

They do not understand how normal and healthy human relationships function, and they are not with you for normal reasons.

How do you deal with a narcissist

1. You have to disarm them.

Remember that the narcissist is driven by one selfish need.

All they care about, even when being charming and sweet to you, is making themselves feel more secure, powerful, and superior.

They are deeply insecure and therefore need to control their surroundings and the people around them to compensate for that negative feeling.

That’s why they insult you, criticize you, and emotionally manipulate you in dark ways. You exist as a tool to make them feel positive, validated, and praised.

Any positive feedback you receive from them is to further this feeling.

The first way to disarm a narcissist begins with you.  You must adjust your expectations.

You’re only useful to them when you can make them feel good. Keep this in mind, because it should influence how you approach them.

If you can give them something positive or make them feel superior and intelligent, you will see a positive behavior change with your narcissistic partner.

In other words, if you can tell them how smart and great they are, you will condition them to treat you better because you’ve given them exactly what they are seeking.

However, you must recognize that the relationship isn’t about support, emotional intimacy, or sharing. It’s about you making them feel good about themselves. Change your expectations and adjust accordingly.

How to Deal with a Narcissist

2. Reframe your needs.

Frame anything that you want in terms of how the narcissist would benefit from it, and how it would make people like them more.

Remember, narcissists just want what they want. If what you want conflicts directly or indirectly with that, it’s going to be an easy choice because they don’t want to compromise or humor you. Therefore, you must be able to spin and sell things to them in a way that makes them feel good about it.

Essentially, you have to make them feel like it would be a win for them too. You can do this with your needs as well – instead of making it about you, make it about them and how fulfilling or satisfying a need of yours would be for him or her.

How to Deal with a Narcissist

Stating your needs clearly won’t work, and getting angry or hurt definitely won’t either.

Once you speak to what benefits them, you’re speaking their language. You can even remove yourself from your request and make it about all the ways that they will benefit in the present and future.

You are stroking their ego, shifting your needs so they seem to be a priority and a win for the narcissist.

Third, get what you want upfront and don’t rely on promises.

Related: 10 Ways To Establish Personal Boundaries

Don’t give narcissists credit, the benefit of the doubt, or your trust. Why?

Because they will violate it and never come through for you. Once they get what they want, it’s on to the next thing, leaving you holding the short end of the stick.

It’s the ultimate one-sided deal – they will promise you the world in return for something, and once they receive it, they’ll go into hiding and refuse or neglect to follow through on their end of the deal.

They will make promises and bargains they don’t ever intend to keep. Sometimes they simply forget to uphold their end because they place so little priority on you.

Whatever the situation, do not bargain with a narcissist without getting something immediately in return, and even then, don't rely on them to come through for you.

3. Expose their insecurities.

Narcissists are deathly afraid of being exposed or that other people will confirm their worst fears.

They have a deep fear of shame and embarrassment. They need to look good in front of others, they can never be wrong, and they need to be seen as superlative in everything.

They might be willing to expose their dark side to you, but if the circle extends beyond you, that’s when they start to get uncomfortable and filter their actions and words.

If you want to disarm them, simply ask them what other people would think about their actions, and allude to the fact that you might talk to a host of other people about this situation, including people that they know or mutual friends. This will spark some action from them.

They will frantically tell you to keep matters private and between just the two of you so their true nature won't be revealed. But you absolutely have the right to discuss your issues and life with your family and friends.

You are not prohibited from airing your dirty laundry with others as long as it isn’t a falsehood – and it certainly isn’t.

Your narcissistic partner knows it’s not false, and that’s why they try to prohibit you from discussing the situation with others. They are acutely aware of what they are doing to you, and they worry about others might judge them if you share the truth.

Read Related Post: The Narcissistic Personality

The narcissist wants to control the spin entirely. They need to control the narrative and what the future holds. But when they lose control of the spin and narrative, they fear their entire world might crash down on them because people will think poorly of them.

4. Don't be reactive.

Narcissists sometimes just want an emotional reaction.

They are okay with hurting you because it allows them to exert their power and feel superior to someone.

The best way to disarm your narcissist is to be non-reactive. He or she will try to push your buttons and will grow frantic and frustrated when you don’t react.

Some people might view this as a healthy challenge, but it’s not. They’re just provoking you versus helping you grow.

Remember, if you ever take the bait, they have you right where they want you.

How to Deal with a Narcissist

5. Establish your boundaries.

Ironclad boundaries need to be drawn with a narcissistic partner.

It's possible that your lack of personal boundaries is the reason you’re in such close proximity to a narcissist.

Logically, we understand that we shouldn’t allow others to take advantage of us. We know we need boundaries that help prioritize our own needs over those of others.

So how do we end up in an unhealthy relationship with a narcissist, no matter how hard you try to communicate and enforce boundaries?

The simple answer is fear. It's hard to stick to your boundaries when you feel deep-seated, soul-wrenching fear.

You fear that you aren’t good enough for your narcissistic partner. You fear they will abandon you and withdraw their love if you enforce your boundaries.

You fear backlash and punishment if you don’t bend to your partner's will. You fear rejection on a massive scale, afraid of being alone and abandoned, never good enough to deserve love and affection.

You’ll do anything to prevent those fears from coming true. You prioritize easing those fears by placing your partner's demands over your own needs, self-worth, personal rights, and happiness.

Once you adopt this mindset, your narcissist has you exactly where he wants you. He or she will use your sense of guilt and fear against you to get exactly what he wants.

If you say “yes” to others asking for your time and energy, and you haven't filled yourself up first, you are giving from a place of lack and fear that undermines the relationship further.

Please don’t try to rationalize why you break your boundaries for your narcissistic partner. Your situation is not different or unique. It is exactly as your friends tell you it is, and you are not the exception to the rule.

Related: 29 Devastating Ways Narcissists Suck At Relationships

The narcissist did not violate your boundaries accidentally. They are not ignorant or innocent. There is no valid reason for violating your boundaries. Your partner simply doesn't care or respect you enough to honor your requests.

Because of your partner's lack of concern for your needs, you must learn how to say,“No” in response to a boundary violation. You don’t have to provide a reason or justification for why you don’t want to do something. If your partner respected you and cared about your needs, he or she would accept that answer.

But they don’t. So they keep pushing back and reinforcing your position, even though you've already given them your answer.

Create a list of true boundaries – non-negotiables, deal breakers, unacceptables. Essentially, spell out exactly what you will never tolerate or be subject to.

Make sure to create this list while you’re away from your partner and can think with a clear, logical mind so you're not emotionally affected or manipulated by them.

We teach others how to treat us, and these boundaries must become your ironclad rules for how people can treat you.

On a final note, realize that a relationship with a narcissist can't be a real relationship. It will always be one-sided, and more than likely you will always feel compromised in some way.

A healthy, loving relationship requires emotional intimacy, mutual respect, empathy, trust, and compassion. These are qualities that are difficult for a narcissist to embrace.

Ultimately you will have to make a difficult choice. You can stay in the relationship and continue to try to deal with your partner's selfish behaviors, or you can leave the relationship and seek out a more health-minded, loving partner.

Whatever you decide, it's important to be armed with information and a realistic view of how to manage your situation as long as you are in it.

Author Bio: Pamela Kole fought her way out of an abusive relationship and knows firsthand how destructive they can be. She used to be a lawyer but now spends her time trying to inform as many people as possible that they do indeed have the choice to be happy, loved, and valued.

12 thoughts on “How To Deal With A Narcissist: 5 Guaranteed Tactics”

  1. This article is spot on. But even if you decide to cater to your narcissist and manipulate him/her to maintain the relationship for whatever reason, you will never give enough, be enough or provide enough positive feedback. It’s a consistent cycle that reinforces the false belief that you are not enough. If you entered the relationship with your own self doubt, an attitude of perseverance and keeping your word and/or human compassion you are a narcissist’s play thing and it’s really hard to understand your person is a narcissist. Once you do, you’ll be free but be patient with yourself. You love him/her and that’s no small thing to rid of. You aren’t wrong to love this person this just means you are okay; the narcissist is the mess.

  2. For more than five years I was involved with a narcissistic sociopath. I’ve always had my own self-esteem issues. But I tend to wear my heart on my sleeve, am too trusting too soon, and am too generous where my generosity is unwarranted.

    This person saw me coming. He was younger than me, extremely nice looking, and can be very charming when it suits his needs.

    At first this person warned me not to get too close or read too much into our new friendship. Not long after, during a passionate moment, he told me he loved me.

    It wasn’t long after that I fell hard for this person. I put his wants and needs before that of my own, not to mention my family and other friends. Over time, he began to turn on me. He became emotionally, verbally, and sometimes physically abusive toward me. Particularly so when I’d try to set and adhere to healthy boundaries for myself.

    I became isolated. He’d take my vehicle and leave me stranded at home.., sometimes for more than one day. He caused me to miss work and other important appointments. He would turn his phone off or just ignore my requests for the return of my vehicle.

    I soon realized how important it was for him to feel superior to and in control of me. I am a degreed, accomplished, once successful business professional. I hold two professional designations which I worked extremely hard for. At times, for no apparent reason, he’d become threatened by this. He would make threats to ruin my life. Make it so I ended up broke, old, alone, and homeless. And I believed him. He sent an anonymous e-mail to my employer containing serious and false allegations about me. I was investigated by the governing arm of my agency.

    Eventually, I nearly lost my mind over this “one-sided relationship”. My career came to a brief halt and I am now living on significantly less income, have only one or two persons I can truly consider to be friends, am estranged from my family, and have no significant other.

    I never hear from this guy. I allowed him to accomplish what he wanted with me. Last I heard, he moved on to his next victim. Someone who I introduced him to.

    Yet, to this day, I still sometimes feel a loss where this guy is concerned. I know intellectually that I’m much better off being totally away from him. But I still get the knots in my stomach and feel the heartbreak in missing him.

    Yes, my narcissist is good at what he does. I don’t think I will ever be the same or love again. Too bad because I think, given the right situation, I have alot to offer. I just want to receive something back next go ’round.

    • Yes, yes and yes. This could have been written by me. It took me years to fully realize what I was up against and that it was not me who had a problem. He would always try and put me down in front of other people and I felt I couldn”t
      say anything because I didn”t want to embarrass others and he would have come up with something worse.
      I was a professional career woman with a good education.
      I always felt he was playing a game and when I got close to the goal post he changed the rules.
      Once I realized this he got very upset because I was unpredictable. I wanted to leave but could not because of income.
      I am now 73, have a disability, a mortgage on my house and not much money so I feel stuck. Not much fun.

    • Barbara, it sounds like the same situation I am in.
      If I may, are you still with him because of the lack of finances?
      That is my predicament as well..

    • Anonymous in SATX,

      I am a lot like you and your ex is a lot like my current husband. I mentioned marriage counseling which replied the counselors only say or do whatever necessary to make lots of money… among many other reasons we shouldn’t go. I started going by myself without letting him know (I had to sneak there in my work truck, because he pretty-much owned my truck so I had no transportation).
      I finally attempted to admit that I’ve gone to counceling three times, but I could never get it out of my mouth. He talked over me repeatedly to shut me up and tried to explain to me what I need to do if I’m going to start going to counseling and what it’s like.
      I was finally able to get my two-sense in and say I’ve already been there and asked him to go with me on the next appointment. But he said we are suppose to do counseling separately, that it’s confidential, and that it’s the counselor’s decision if we do counseling together.
      So he went one Thursday by himself and when he came home he said it was great and the counselor requested that we both go two weeks later. Well that was our appointment last Thursday which was a total waste of time for me. My husband spoke over me like he does at home, but he was actually controlling himself better and of course he spoke like a professional. The counselor eventually interrupted him and said to me that my husband has an aggressive nature like she does… interrupting her husband at times and telling him how to drive. She said there’s nothing wrong with that and that I need to see it as normal… UGH!!
      He’s totally got the counselor fooled or she’s okaying it to cover herself.
      My truck is close to falling apart, I have so much debt in my name because of his bright ideas that if he kicks me out of the house I’ll have to sleep in the truck.. and he’s threatened to divorce me twice since Thanksgiving.
      I had been recently offered a better paying job, but he insisted I turn it down for multiple reasons he came up with. So I’ve secretly accepted the job and I’ll be starting there in two weeks. I feel like I have no choice.
      I am SO GLAD you was able to break away from the crazy mess. <3

  3. Thanks for this article Barrie. Sometimes partners have narcissistic tendencies that don’t even surface until they are in relationships, and we who are in the habit of seeking validation from others can unknowingly bring out these tendencies. One of the best defenses against a narcissistic person (partner or friend) is to learn to truly love yourself… feel that you are worthy of love. Although you are right, we will never have a truly perfect relationship with a narcissist, it is possible over time to teach them to love and appreciate the qualities you bring to a relationship……but only if you learn to love yourself first.

  4. I don’t think that if you exhibit some of these characteristics that you ARE a Narcissist. A person can be withdrawn from a traumatic event in their lives and not want to engage you emotionally because they have been hurt and they can’t deal with being hurt at that level again. A narcissist, a TRUE narcissist, has a mental condition and simply because he’s functional he is not in a mental institution. I don’t believe that it is hopeless to be in a relationship even with a person who exhibits most of these qualities. Hopelessness belongs to only one of you, so as long as one of you holds hope, there is hope! Can you guarantee that your spouse won’t ever cheat on you? NO Can you guarantee that they won’t turn gay or go straight? No. You can’t guarantee that you’ll be alive tomorrow simply because God didn’t promise it. It’s just not possible. So, if we can’t guarantee something as simple as tomorrow, how can we guarantee that this relationship, ANY relationship, is hopeless? I’m not saying you’re going to win, or succeed or whatever it is you’re after in this relationship where you’re constantly self-diagnosing yourself, or worse yet others, but if it’s an absolute that someone is trying to get you to believe, then you can pretty much know and understand that when dealing with the human mind, an absolute is almost the only thing that is absolute.

    One thing that frightens me greatly, is (and I’m not harping on the author – NO! This is a great read and very informative – like for the reals!)that weapons like these in the hands of let’s say, a narcissist, will create an even bigger monster. Instead of you being able to “deal” with them, no YOU become the Narcissist and now YOU have to defend yourself from the attacks from the other side of blame now. You become the liar, you become the manipulator, you become the (LOL) narcissist!

    On this boundaries thing, isn’t the relationship supposed to be bigger than both you put together? Isn’t the purpose of a relationship to procreate and then raise your children? If you believe in the classical Christian sense, then the answers to these are simple. if you don’t and are self-aware, you may also believe in the answers to these questions as “YES”. So if you are now part of a relationship that is bigger than the both of you put together then it goes to prove that you have made a commitment to one and other. if that commitment is true and safe from harm, then you can stand your ground and disarm them with knowledge, not the truth. Truth is relative at best, but knowledge cannot be disputed. You face them daily with a pen and paper, because they will try and say that they don’t remember saying whatever it is you’re saying they said, and you simply write down what they agree to. Why will they do what they said they’re going to do? Because you challenge their integrity. It’s what makes them IMPORTANT!! There is one thing that a person like this will NOT be caught dead doing, and that’s being the bad guy in the relationship. You’re not going to break up and have them be the reason for the breakup. Thus, when you write things down, have it with you whenever you speak to them, NEVER give up on them, slowly remove every corner they can hide behind and communicate in simple sentences and don’t allow them to move forward until they answer very simple yes or no questions

    “Will you ever lie to me?
    Can and will you forgive me for anything?
    Will you allow yourself to be loved?” VLG 2015

    “Did you not agree to this yesterday?” OK, so if you did agree to it yesterday that means that your integrity will supercede any other conditions and or acts of nature that will allow you to cancel our occasion right?

    If they chose to leave the relationship, then let them go, but at least YOU didn’t end it and THAT is a huge relief.

    Don’t keep secrets. “Secrets seduce your integrity.” VLG 2014

    My point is the exit strategy that is being planned out. Most of the time when we’re looking in to these articles, it’s 4 am and we’ve been up all night so we’re VERY emotional and a little companionship will go looooong way into MAKING us see what we want to see. Now who’s judging? We are. Now who just became the bad person? We did.

    I live and love one of these people, and yes they’re hard to live with, but that’s WHY God gave me the capacity and level of empathy that I have. So that I could take care of this person until they decide to leave or they die. Physical abuse is one thing that should never be tolerated, but when we say abuse of ANY kind should not be tolerated, then we dive into speculative diagnosis and all that is me doing what she’s doing – pointing the finger at those I love which allows me to get more mad at them which justifies me getting further away from them which demands me leave the relationship. THAT is the result we DON’T want! We want to fix that which is ours.

    Sorry!! Vee

  5. I always believed that my sister’s boyfriend suffered from an anti-social personality disorder. It was helpful when you indicated that a narcissist doesn’t feel the need for compromise. I will advise my sister to seek counseling before accepting any decisions.

  6. I love my Dad and I miss him and I wish I could have him back, which is really messed up because he is a narcissist. I’m not going back but it doesn’t take away that longing in my heart for a relationship with a father, to be loved by my Dad. I have Daddy issues. Big time. Thankfully I married a good man who loves me without condition and is a good father to our children.

  7. Great article, filled with alot of information. I have been in a marriage for 21 years to a woman who has most not all of the signs talked about. She has just recently changed for the worse, infidelity, lies, self interest, me first on everything. Hurtful things to our teens.


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