Once you realize that a narcissist is pushing you around, you need to learn how to defend yourself.
You don’t have to put up with the manipulation, gaslighting, embellished half-truths, and outright lies.
With the right approach, you can frighten a narcissist and enforce boundaries.
Although they always seem to have a comeback that makes you look unreasonable, they are not invulnerable.
You probably can’t improve them as human beings, but you might succeed in getting a narcissist to do what you want — which can range from pulling their weight to leaving you alone.
- What Makes a Narcissist Panic?
- How to Make a Narcissist Fear You: 11 Actions to Have a Narcissist Running Scared
- 1. Withhold Emotional Reactions
- 2. Criticize Publicly
- 3. Use Reality as a Weapon
- 4. Seek Supportive Allies
- 5. Exploit Ego Vulnerabilities
- 6. Do Not Argue After Saying “No”
- 7. Leverage Their Fears Against Them
- 8. Impose Accountability
- 9. Imagine Them as Upset Toddlers
- 10. Never Let the Narcissist Change the Subject
- 11. Make the Narcissist Wait for Your Answer
- Final thoughts
What Makes a Narcissist Panic?
Making a narcissist fear you is about getting that person to respect your boundaries. If you can turn the tables and compel the narcissist to feel afraid, then your tormentor will cease to see you as someone they can control.
With the right tactics, you can provoke panic in a narcissistic person. The panic arises from narcissist injury, the term for psychological distress caused by information that conflicts with a narcissist’s self-image.
So what do narcissists fear? The answer depends on the type of narcissist that you’re dealing with. Psychologists label narcissists as either grandiose or vulnerable.
Grandiose narcissists view themselves as extraordinary, highly competent, and superior. Vulnerable narcissists are riddled with insecurities.
Researchers have identified different triggers for narcissistic injury between grandiose and vulnerable narcissists. A study determined attacks on self-esteem enraged grandiose narcissists, but vulnerable narcissists became agitated when threatened with abandonment.
The results show that the narcissist’s fear of exposure hurts the grandiose type because they don’t want anyone to see their flaws.
The narcissist fear of abandonment had a more significant impact on the vulnerable type because those people need the reassurance of a relationship to soothe their insecurity.
How to Make a Narcissist Fear You: 11 Actions to Have a Narcissist Running Scared
You’ll have to judge how you handle a narcissist based on the closeness of your relationship and the degree of control that person is used to having over you.
An angered or distressed narcissist can react with anger and hostility.
1. Withhold Emotional Reactions
Your emotions are oxygen to the narcissist’s fire. You should try to keep yourself neutral and avoid descending into a loud and dramatic dispute. The narcissist often wants to provoke your emotions because you’re more vulnerable to manipulation when you’re upset.
2. Criticize Publicly
A narcissist fears that other people see the flaws and shortcomings that the narcissist hides behind a facade of all-knowing competency and supremacy.
People with an intensely narcissistic personality hate criticism passionately.
In the workplace, this can take the form of denying the person the opportunity to take credit for your accomplishments or highlighting their lack of knowledge. In family relationships, it might mean calling someone out on their lies at a family gathering or blasting them with evidence of their misdeeds in family court during a custody hearing.
3. Use Reality as a Weapon
Narcissists want to twist reality and you to their purposes. Try to slap them out of their delusions with cold, hard facts whenever possible. Remind them of how their actions produced bad results or document their failure to keep promises.
As long as you can keep conversations reality-based, the narcissist could back off because you have become someone who won’t go along with the lies and other nonsense.
4. Seek Supportive Allies
When a narcissist targets you for control, isolating you from other people becomes increasingly important. They need to remove you from points of view that might undermine how the narcissist wants you to see things.
By maintaining relationships with friends, family, and co-workers, you weaken the narcissist’s ability to mold your reality.
5. Exploit Ego Vulnerabilities
Narcissists have a reduced emotional ability to cope with words or actions that hurt their egos. A narcissistic person treasures an exaggerated version of identity and self-worth that has been carefully nurtured within the ego.
When necessary, you might choose to toss out some facts that demolish the fiction in the narcissist’s head. As an alternative to attacking the ego, you might appeal to ego vulnerabilities to get the desired behavior. In effect, you could manipulate the manipulator by stroking the ego.
6. Do Not Argue After Saying “No”
“No” is not a word that a narcissist can accept. Indeed, the person will consider this the first word of a long argument meant to wear you down into compliance. To stick to your guns after refusing a command, you should revisit #1 Withhold Emotional Reactions. You’ve given your answer and now must refuse to engage further. You might have to stare silently at the person or walk away.
7. Leverage Their Fears Against Them
Want to know how to make a narcissist feel bad? Pull the chain connected to the person’s worst inner fears and insecurities.
You’ll never make these kinds of people feel bad for hurting you, but they will feel bad when you stop doing what they say, end the relationship, or expose lies. Damaging a narcissist’s reputation attacks the core of the person.
Narcissists want to avoid this scenario at all costs. People of this nature may try to badmouth you to your peers, physically attack you, or lash out in any way that might punish you. Your support group, fact-based reality, and unwillingness to argue will help you weather this storm.
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8. Impose Accountability
Narcissists despise being held accountable for their actions. Everything is always someone else’s responsibility unless there is praise to be had for a job well done.
A narcissist will fear you if you gain the ability to impose consequences for unwanted behavior. You are NOT responsible for the other person’s choices, and you will NOT place any trust in the person.
9. Imagine Them as Upset Toddlers
Although toddlers can be infuriating, people can generally manage their tempers around a toddler’s tantrum. You recognize that the little one lacks the brain development and emotional maturity to cope at the moment.
By viewing an upset narcissist as a toddler, you can gain mental clarity to keep your own emotions in check. You can’t put the person in a time-out, but you can hopefully remove yourself from the situation.
Do not allow the person’s anger, fake tears, or other manipulation attempts to force you to change emotional diapers. If possible, walk away, or, at a minimum, do not talk because your words will not matter.
10. Never Let the Narcissist Change the Subject
At times, talking to a narcissist is necessary, such as when you are confronting the person with reality. A narcissist will work hard to dodge the facts of the situation.
Never allow the person to control the subject of the conversation. Ignore all attempts to change the subject while you continue to hammer home with the facts. When you maintain control of discussions, the narcissist will fear you and steer clear in the future.
11. Make the Narcissist Wait for Your Answer
Narcissists want instant gratification. It assures them that they are in control. A good way to cause the narcissist in your life discomfort is to employ delay tactics.
When the narcissist comes at you with a request, say something like “I’ll let you know tomorrow,” or “I’m not sure. I’ll have to get back to you with an answer later.”
This tactic lets you keep the ball in your court. The narcissist is left in a state of fear, wondering what you’ll do. Of course, they will pressure you to respond immediately, but you must calmly disengage until you choose to supply an answer.
Narcissists will never empathize with your point of view or personal needs.
Teaching a narcissist to fear you will be difficult if you are in a romantic relationship, live together, or have been under the person’s control for a long time.
You may need to appeal to the narcissist’s ego to control angry outbursts while you plot an escape.
For people coping with less intense relationships with narcissists, the actions outlined above will allow you to build boundaries and enforce them. Once you establish boundaries, the narcissist should mercifully retreat from your life, but you should always be on guard against revenge.