Narcissism is more common than we think. Millions of people in the world show patterns of narcissism—demanding admiration, passing arrogant and disparaging remarks, constantly criticising, and preoccupation with themselves. And there’s a good chance you might know some narcissist people as well. They could be your partner, parent, sibling, cousin, child, or a dear friend.
And if so, you already know how tiresome it can get! Being around a narcissist can also wear down your self-esteem, eat up a huge chunk of your time, and give you nothing beneficial in return. So, here are a few ways you can deal with them while still maintaining your mental peace.
1. Don’t Call Them Narcissist.
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While it is something you’d be tempted to do quite a lot of times, calling them a narcissist will only make it worse. In other situations, calling out a person for their actions intends to make them pause and think about the harm they’re causing. But when it comes to people with a narcissist personality or disorder, they are unable to reflect on their own behaviour. Instead, they will now obsessively focus on proving you’re wrong. It isn’t about giving them constructive feedback or a well-defined, intense one. They just cannot self reflect and you cannot change it by calling it out. So, for your own mental peace, understand that there are things beyond your control and no matter how nicely you try to make them understand, it still won’t make any difference!
2. Avoid Arguing With Them.
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Arguments will lead to nothing but more damage to your relationship with them. They are not going to understand your feedback, even if it’s apt. And if you find yourself in an argument with them, you don’t actually need to defend yourself. You see, it’s not about you, it’s about them and their issue with interpersonal skills. They tend to see themselves as victims all the time and you cannot change that. They see themselves being treated poorly and unfairly in life by everyone around them, without ever acknowledging their contribution to the problems, even if it might have been the root of the whole issue in the first place. During an argument, they shift to their emotional side of the brain and instantly become super defensive.
3. Remember You Have A Choice, And So Do They.
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One of the most prominent traits of people with narcissistic personalities is that they’re frequently complaining. They believe they are mistreated and not given their great due respect. And this results in them turning blind about why or how people criticise them or even avoid them. So when they complain to you about things, it can be tricky to deal with—to agree or not to agree with them? At such times, the best way is to remind them and yourself that you have a choice. You could say, “I understand that must feel bad. And it sounds like you might want to shift your focus and energy somewhere else. Since (the issue) isn’t really going to give you what you expect it to. You do have a choice on what action to take or who to share your surrounding with. Good luck with that.”
And at the same time, remind yourself that you too have choices. You can choose how much time you want to spend around them and set limits. Just knowing and reminding yourself that you too have choices can help reduce the stress.
4. Set Limits On What You’d Do For Them.
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You cannot change a narcissist’s behaviour, but you can change your own. There are right and wrong ways of tolerating their behaviour, sometimes even supporting it. Narcissists in the family tend to manipulate the decision-making of the house, insult their family members, and take over by demanding constant loyalty and attention. But that doesn’t mean you have to agree to it and cooperate.
Know when to step out of this toxic cycle and withdraw your participation in it. You can simply say, “I am going to have to end this conversation here if you’re going to speak to me that way.” “I apologise, but I cannot go with you to confront so and so person. I do not agree with your idea that they have done anything wrong.” Supporting their behaviour just so they don’t get angry can turn their narcissism more intense, and there are calm ways to step out of it. Agreeing with them won’t result in any better outcome either. And so, it is better to set limits sooner than later.
5. Reach Out For Help And Support.
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Living with a narcissist can wear down your self-esteem—as a result of all the public humiliation, criticisms, and insults. You might also feel alone at times and ashamed to share your problems with others. But reaching out to your friends and/or seeking professional help is nothing to be ashamed about. There are so many people who are either narcissists or living with one. And so, you’re not alone. Your family member, who is a narcissist, may be suffering from a disorder that neither they nor the family might understand and never asked to have. But supporting or tolerating their behaviour will also do no good.
So, set limits and focus on your mental health as well. It’s not necessary to cut all ties with them completely. Just letting go of certain discussions, interactions can be helpful too.