If you’ve been in a relationship with one, you know it’s not exactly hard to trigger a narcissist to lash out.
After all, when a narcissist feels defeated, their first line of defense is to punish you.
So, our goal here isn’t to show you how to piss off a narcissist for no reason other than revenge but to highlight the actions that trigger their worst behavior.
You have a right to live your own life as you see fit.
And if doing so will make a narcissist miserable, that’s not on you.
What Do Narcissists Hate the Most?
Spend enough time with a narcissist, and you become familiar with all the things they hate. It’s a long list, but you can generally boil down the worst offenses to the following:
- When attention is focused on someone other than themselves;
- When they don’t get their way or when others don’t defer to or obey them;
- When they see you happy, successful, and thriving without them (how dare you?);
- When they’re proven wrong (not that they’ll acknowledge it);
- When they’re called out for toxic behavior (which they’ll blame on someone else);
- Any expectation of responsibility or commitment;
- Vulnerability and anyone’s expectation of empathy;
- Clear-eyed appraisals of their character (by others);
- Changes to the status quo (if it suited them);
- People the narcissist can’t control or bully into submission.
How to Make a Narcissist Miserable: 19 No-Fail Tactics
We’re not saying this should be your ultimate goal in life. But it’s good to know what tactics and behaviors scare a narcissist and are likely to get them riled up or ruin their day (and maybe yours).
1. Ignore their petty comments.
The narcissist will say whatever they consider necessary to get the reaction they want from you. Don’t take the bait. When you react with anger or remorse, they can use those emotions against you, even if their only goal is to make you feel small or stupid.
If they can destroy your peace, they’ve won that battle.
2. Tell them you’ll be consulting an expert.
You want to see a narcissist turn every known shade of red, tell them you’ve decided to consult a real expert rather than rely on their “expert” assumption.
If they don’t have real expertise in a particular area, and you need real answers, you have a right to consult sources with real authority. Just don’t expect a narcissist to put their ego aside and support your search for knowledge.
3. Rely on factual information.
The narcissist is so confident they know better about most things, and they want you to believe that as firmly as they do. If you counter their declarations with objective, factual information that contradicts them, you can expect them to be displeased.
According to a narcissist, their “expert opinion” should be enough for you. That you would question it and even offer evidence to prove them wrong is an egregious offense.
4. Make decisions without asking for their advice.
Even if the decision is yours to make — and even if it doesn’t affect them — the narcissist expects you to want their advice or their approval before making it. And they’ll want your decision to match their idea of what you should do (whatever the cost).
If it shows evidence you’ve relied on a contradictory source of information or advice, they’ll find a way to punish you for it.
5. Tell them “No.”
Sometimes, the best response to a narcissist is a simple “No.” You don’t have to explain yourself or justify that “No” if you know it’s the right call. The narcissist may demand an explanation, but they’re not entitled to one.
Keep calm, give a clear and firm “No,” and stand your ground. They’ll be angry, and they may try to argue the point and exhaust your resolve.
You’re within your rights to walk away.
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6. Set boundaries and enforce them.
Narcissists don’t empathize with others, and any boundaries you set with them feel like an insult.
So, they’ll either disregard the boundaries, threaten you with consequences of their own if you try to enforce them, or pretend to recognize their transgression and promise to change — which they then won’t bother to do.
Find a way to attach consequences to those boundaries. Or do what you can to get away from them for good.
7. Implement real consequences for violating those boundaries.
Decide on real consequences for those who violate your personal boundaries. And don’t let the narcissist get away with it — even if they swear up and down they simply “forgot.”
No one who loves and respects you will forget your boundaries. Because, with someone who loves you, your trust matters more than what you can do for them. With the narcissist, your trust takes a back seat to their control over you.
Spell out the consequences. Then, at the first violation, put them into effect.
8. Keep your own company.
Narcissists can’t understand why you wouldn’t prefer their company to everyone else’s — including your own. Plan a relaxing day for yourself, and (if they know about it) they’ll try to convince you to spend that time with them instead — doing what they want to do.
Stand your ground and do your own thing, alone or with someone else. Even politely declining their invitation will probably offend them. But that’s not on you.
9. Make the changes you need (without consulting them).
It’s one thing to decide without their “expert advice.” It’s a whole other thing to make changes to your life (changes they can see) that don’t meet with their approval.
So, find a way to shake things up. Do something unexpected — or, at least, something they don’t expect from you. Go outside your comfort zone and try something new and scary.
Whether it’s a significant change like a new job or a new place of residence or a minor change like a new haircut or a different look, the narcissist is likely to feel hurt if you didn’t consult them beforehand.
Then pay attention to the way they react. But don’t let them bait you into an apology. Don’t let their decision to take offense limit your freedom to make changes you consider necessary or worth making.
10. Save your energy for your own pursuits.
Don’t give them a chance to sap your energy to feed their own. The narcissist will try to engage you in battles over how you spend your time (or money) and with whom, as well as what decisions and changes you make.
Your energy is your own to spend. Don’t let the narcissist spend it for you on pointless arguments and power plays. Decline their invitation to debate, and walk away.
11. Detach from the trauma bond.
Even negative attention from you is more to their liking than no attention at all. They can use negative emotions like anger, guilt, or fear to strengthen the trauma bond and keep you under their control. If you walk away, they get nothing.
Talk to someone who can help you disengage the narcissist’s hold on you and break free from the trauma bond. Then take action to reclaim your identity and enjoy it.
12. Refuse to accept blame for their words and actions.
If you allow them, the narcissist will blame their negative emotions on you. And if you’ve crossed them in some way, any bad things that happen are most likely your fault, too.
Call them out for this, and they’ll try to blame you for that, too. But their inability to accept responsibility doesn’t obligate you to accept their blame, nor does it make you responsible for the way they’re feeling.
Like you, they can choose how to behave—and how to react to others. If you don’t blame them for your choices, don’t take the blame for theirs.
13. Disregard their attempt to get a reaction from you.
The narcissist will always try to get an emotional reaction from you. Once they know your triggers, they won’t hesitate to use them. Once you lose your temper, they can play the victim and get people to turn against you.
Don’t let them. The calmer you are and the less you react, the less control they have. Narcissists cannot stand being ignored or invisible to the people they want to control.
Keep that in mind when they up the ante and do something extreme (even for them).
14. Celebrate someone else’s success.
Whether you’re celebrating a win of your own or sharing in someone else’s triumph, narcissists generally won’t share your enthusiasm because they prefer that your attention be fixed on them — their wins or their sufferings or their perspective.
To them, you’re in the wrong if you’re celebrating a win they can’t claim as their own.
That shouldn’t stop you, though, from doing exactly that. Enjoy your own successes and be quick to offer your congratulations when someone you know (other than the narcissist) has exciting news to share.
15. Choose more supportive people to hang with.
Maybe you already know some people like this. Or maybe it’s time you made some new friends. Think about what these friends might do with their free time, and make a point of visiting those places or adding those activities to your weekly schedule.
At the very least, you’re likely to meet more people who are not narcissistic. And that alone could help you see the narcissist in your life more clearly.
You have a right to want more than what they’re capable of giving you.
16. Find new and better ways to spend your time.
Explore a new hobby. Sign up for a class that interests you (ideally something the narcissist would avoid). Or join a book club or other group activity that could lead to new, healthier friendships.
Volunteer work is another option, especially if the narcissist in your life finds the particular type of volunteer service repellant.
Don’t allow the narcissist to pester you out of spending your time as you would like–even if they pull out all the usual tactics: guilt, threats, gaslighting, and temper tantrums.
17. Find your sense of humor.
Sometimes a narcissist’s behavior is so petty, childish, and boorish that it’s almost funny. Almost. But try to keep your sense of humor when this person acts out.
Smile and chuckle when they behave badly or say something like, “That’s so funny,” when they make a ridiculous comment or criticism.
By doing this, you’ll throw them off balance because humor is the last thing they want to provoke in you. Keep smiling, and it will drive them crazy.
18. Make yourself less available to the narcissist.
The narcissist doesn’t have an inviolable right to reach you and drag you into their personal hell whenever it suits them. And you’re not obligated to answer every text within seconds (or at all).
You have a right to block their continual verbal assault however you can—on your phone, on social media, and, as much as possible, in person.
If they start calling you at all hours trying to get a hold of you and leaving frantic voice mails desperate to “know you’re okay,” you can send them a brief text to let them know you’re alive and well. But you’re not obligated to do so.
19. Cut them off.
In extreme cases, cut ties and make it impossible for the narcissist to reach you. You may have to move, leaving them no clue of your whereabouts.
Do what you have to do to get them (and keep them) out of your life. Don’t waste your energy trying to change them into empathetic and respectful human beings. They might put on an act to let you think you’re making progress — even when you’re not.
You deserve better than to be a narcissist’s plaything.
FAQ About Making a Narcissist Miserable
Now you probably have a better understanding of why a narcissist reacts the way they do when you act like an independent person (they hate that). Let’s wrap this up with some frequently asked questions, some of which might be lingering at the back of your mind.
What makes a narcissist unhappy?
Pretty much anything that doesn’t give a narcissist what they feel entitled to will make them angry. If you ignore them, disregard their advice, or make decisions without getting their input, they will make their disapproval known to you.
How do you humiliate a narcissist?
Call them out for offering advice or opinions that conflict with real factual information, and they’re likely to get furious, especially if they can’t either discredit those facts or convince everyone their opinion wasn’t actually in disagreement with them.
No one wants to see their beliefs publicly exposed as factually incorrect; to a narcissist, exposing them to ridicule is an act of war.
What are the weaknesses of a narcissist?
A narcissist’s biggest weaknesses are their inability to see their own behavior for what it is and their apparent disregard for how that behavior affects others. They either don’t realize or don’t care if their actions hurt others; their own ego is priority number one.
Does silence hurt a narcissist?
Context is everything. Silence that implies submission or agreement is fine with narcissists (even preferable, sometimes). Silence that means they’ve failed to scare you into apologizing or letting them have their way is anathema.
Now that you know 19 ways to make a narcissist miserable, which of them stood out for you? And what will you do differently today to protect yourself and your sanity from a narcissist you know?