It appears that narcissists are everywhere and this epidemic is on the rise.
Narcissists are people with an inflated perception of themselves that defies reality. They may crave importance, admiration, and acceptance. They may also tend to boast and bring every conversation and experience back to themselves. (1)
According to a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, people with narcissistic traits are aware of the fact that they leave a first good impression on others which eventually fades away over the time. Hence, their overall impact on people is not as good & positive as they believe it to be. (2)
Narcissism may be confused with ego, but there is more to narcissism than ego. Some find narcissistic people low on empathy as well.
In reality, narcissists are people who definitely have a back story of their unique behavior. People with this personality disorder suffer from insecurities that may be because of childhood trauma like abuse, neglect, injury or anything that made the child feel less than worthy.
They try to compensate for their lack of self-esteem by their firm belief that they are good, perfect, and the best.
It is when someone threatens their perception of being the best that it brings forth the feeling of worthlessness and shame. If you try to criticize, confront or even argue with them, they typically either shut down completely or become distant, critical, and hostile.
It can be quite tricky to associate with them. Their lack of empathy for others and their belief in being perfect makes it difficult to deal with them.
Often their need for admiration makes them manipulative. Since it’s challenging to deal with them, we have rounded up some simple strategies to help you deal with a narcissist the right way. However, we do not recommend you to stereotype them or be afraid of them. Just a little bit of patience and you can deal with anyone around with care.
1. Stay away. Narcissists often lack empathy, and they usually make people around them feel miserable. The best thing you can do is stay away from them if you cannot handle them. They tend to make you think you’re the “crazy one.” If you can’t avoid them, then learn to accept that they are not likely to change either.
2. It’s better to stay quiet. If you are in a less dominant position than a narcissist, you may not really have a choice. It’s better to keep quiet to avoid getting in an argument. Agree to disagree and move on. No amount of arguing will help. On the contrary, it may make things worse for you.
3. Pitch your ideas to a group. If the narcissist is your boss, try to pitch a new idea in a group setting, rather than to the boss alone. This will make it difficult for them if they attempt to take credit for your idea.
4. When you are blamed, resist the urge to pass it on. If your boss blames you for a problem, resist the urge to pass it on to a subordinate. By doing so, you are passing it down the organizational hierarchy. It’s better to explain things if it’s not your fault and make sure to do it on email or something storable or traceable. Remember the old saying “If it is not documented, then it did not happen.”
5. Don’t emulate. If you are not careful, narcissistic traits can rub off on you, and you may start to emulate their actions. This is even truer if you are dealing with a narcissist on a day-to-day basis. Be self-aware of your thoughts and behaviors. Make sure to be your true self as much as you possibly can.
6. Avoid reasoning with them. Don’t try to reason with a narcissistic person. It is typically useless because they believe they are right. So, don’t waste your time and energy trying to reason with them. In case of confrontations, stop arguing, and end the conversation there. When you don’t react to their antics, they realize that you will not change your ways because of what they are doing. It takes away their power over you.
7. Ignore their tantrums. It’s important for a narcissist to show a peculiar behavior to get things done. Ignore it and walk away. Don’t give it any priority. Eventually, you will notice that soon they will resort to some other method to get their needs met.
8. Avoid being aggressive. Resist the temptation to become aggressive when speaking to a narcissistic person. For narcissists, every argument is a battle, and they have to win it at any cost. So try to stay calm and try to control your anger in the face of confrontation. Use firm boundaries and avoid yelling. Stand upright and keep quiet until they are done talking. Use this time to calm down and think of an appropriate response and just let them finish. When talking to narcissistic individuals, there is usually no point in yelling or arguing, instead, just stick to your point.
9. Stop looking for logic. There is usually a distorted logic or reason in a narcissistic person’s world. They are concerned about being right and perfect most of the time. They can twist facts to suit their needs and beliefs because it makes sense to them. So, instead of thinking about how or why something happened, try to look for what might have prompted them to do it.
10. Don’t let the narcissist bully you. Don’t let them bully you either verbally or physically. Document every incident of the abuse and report it to the proper channel. If there have been people who have witnessed the abuse, ask them to back you up.
11. Don’t be afraid of them. Although they might believe that they are always correct, deep down they are usually insecure and suffer from inferiority complex. Therefore, stop being afraid of them and learn to deal with them patiently.
12. Stand up to them confidently. If you know anything about narcissism, you must be aware that narcissist people will go to any extent to prove themselves right and win over. Being confident will help you from future attacks and taking it personally. You just have to play along into the narcissism.
13. Enforce boundaries. Narcissistic people typically have a lack of respect for other people’s boundaries. First, if you find someone is aggressive or extremely selfish, make sure you are not being taken advantage of by enforcing boundaries. Evaluate your boundaries first, such as what you like, what you don’t like, what you will allow and what you will not tolerate, etc. Once you are clear about your boundaries, it will be easier for you to put your foot down when things don’t suit you. When you say no, say it with conviction.
14. Beware of their manipulations. Narcissists can be major manipulators. Look out for their manipulations and don’t give them a chance to play games with you. They will try to make you feel guilty for their mistakes, make you feel wrong and belittle you. This could be a tactic of “guilt-tripping” you to agree to things.
15. Keep track of their contribution. If the narcissist you are dealing with is your co-worker, keep track of his/her contribution. Narcissists crave recognition. When working in a group, the narcissist will not fall behind when it comes to taking the spotlight. When it comes to doing work that has no audience, such as accounting, meeting deadlines, etc. the narcissist will tend to slack off. Don’t let it happen. Assign the group to have a way of tracking each member’s contribution. Keep track of how much a person is working, hours logged, and tasks completed.
16. Know what you want from them. While dealing with a narcissist, know what you want and get them to give it to you before they get what they want form you. Never expect any promises from a narcissist. Once they get what they want, they will probably forget about all the promises they made to you. Sometimes they make promises they don’t intend to keep. Always make sure first to get what you want from them.
17. Keep your expectations lower. Don’t expect a narcissistic person to meet your standards. They will keep you around because you serve a purpose in their life. When you no longer serve any purpose, they will weed you out of their life. Don’t expect them to follow through with promises.
18. Know that they will never like you or care about you. When a narcissist is befriending you, know that they are probably trying to use you their needs. Don’t always believe that a narcissistic person enjoys your company or even likes you. It is more than likely that the person is being nice to you and making you feel good about yourself so that whenever they need you, they know you will rush to their side.
19. Narcissists are always concerned about their appearance and reputation. If they think something will harm their reputation, they will always reconsider it. Instead of showing anger, show disappointment to keep them in line. Ask them what people would think of their behavior.
20. Respond with empathy instead of anger. If your spouse is a narcissist and you feel he or she is not all ears when you talk, tell them, ‘I care about you, and when you don’t listen to me I feel as if I am not important to you.’ Try this instead of saying, ‘Why don’t you bother to listen to me?’
21. Give them constructive feedback in the form of mild praise. Avoid criticizing a narcissist. Instead, calmly carve your words and tell them you need their help to understand things better.
22. Be honest and sincere in your approach. Identify all of the narcissist’s traits and achievements that you genuinely admire. Use them to acknowledge them. They may tolerate insincere flattery sometimes, but it would be better for you to be more credible as narcissists lack well-grounded self-esteem.
23. Avoid challenging their wishes or desires. If you are caught in a life situation where you have to encounter a narcissist person daily, try not to challenge them with their wishes and demands.
24. Lay down the consequences of their actions. If you are dating a narcissist, consider how much will it matter to them if you walked away from the relationship. Tell them that if they don't mend their ways and becomes responsible for their behavior, they might lose you. Don’t threaten them but instead express the stakes calmly and rationally. This might motivate them to change.
25. Don’t go after every little thing. Narcissists are bound to behave in a certain way that attracts attention and importance. They are probably trying to get on your nerves to evoke a reaction from you. Pick your battles with sanity. Don’t try to go after every little thing.
26. Consider getting out of the relationship if nothing works. If you are married to a narcissist or are in a relationship with one, when the situation worsens, insist on counseling or therapy. Your partner may resist because this may be uncomfortable for them. Also, narcissists don’t see anything wrong with their behavior or thoughts but make sure to stand your ground. If things don’t improve, consider walking away.
27. Don’t feel sorry for them. It is natural to feel sorry for people. Do not go above and beyond by feeling “extra” sorry for them. Many times, a narcissist will not change, and they do not believe anything is wrong with them. They are manipulative, and they know what they are doing.
28. Learn not to take it personally. Whether the narcissistic person is your family member, your boss, your romantic partner, or a person you have to deal with every day, don’t take it personally. They may belittle you, pass judgment or disregard your efforts or contributions, but don’t let them bring you down. Don’t believe their criticisms. They make you feel bad so they can feel superior. Find what you love about yourself and be self-assured and feel good about yourself. Don’t allow your mind to dwell on their criticisms. Avoid wasting time and energy on negative thoughts.
Note: The content has been edited and reviewed by Angela Webb, Licensed Psychologist.
- Gabbard GO, Crisp‐Han H. The many faces of narcissism - PubMed Central (PMC). World Psychiatry. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4911756/. Published June 2016.
- Carlson EN, Vazire S, Oltmanns TF. You Probably Think this Paper’s About You: Narcissists. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3119754/. Published July 2011.