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How to Bypass a Narcissist

The way a person responds to a narcissist can seal their fate or free them.

“Tell me exactly how to respond,” my client pleaded. She pulled her chair closer to mine, asked for a piece of paper and earnestly scribbled down notes as I was talking. Although I hadn't seen her in a few weeks, catching up was not on her agenda. She needed immediate direction.

Two people with strong narcissistic tendencies were orbiting her planet and there was no escape. One was a family member and the other was a co-worker. At work, she was gruffly commanded to do things that were not entirely appropriate. The co-worker’s pervasive attitude seemed to be, “I'm right. You are wrong, and you will do what I say without question.” A similar attitude seemed to exist with a family member, as well.

My client explained she had politely confronted her co-worker, attempting to share her feelings. Yet, her perspective fell on “deaf ears,” which heightened the tension. “Please tell me exactly what to say, Erin. I dread going to work when I know this person is around.”

“There are three rules of thumb when interacting with an individual with strong narcissistic tendencies,” I explained. "The first is to avoid showing emotion.” Typically, my client is someone who is able to appropriately convey how she feels in most of her relationships, thus easily resolving conflicts and miscommunications. However, when a person is dealing with someone with toxic tendencies, explaining how they feel makes things worse. Instead of understanding an alternate perspective, the narcissist distorts information about the person’s feelings and uses this against the person, claiming they are “irrational, too sensitive, or overly emotional.”

1) Do not disclose anything personal, including feelings, when interacting with a narcissist. They will distort this information and use it against you in the future.

"Erin, I get so flustered around this person. I have a difficult time holding back my anger. What do I do?” She asked.

“Yes,” I empathized. “A person with personality issues is fueled and empowered when they are able to make another feel anxious and emotional,” I explained. “Whatever you do, do not appear flustered or emotional when the person attempts to push your buttons.”

The central goal of a narcissist Is to evoke emotion by stating back-handed comments, highly critical statements, or commands and demands, instead of communicating respectfully. Do not take the bait. Although it is impossible to avoid feeling emotional in this situation, do not show it. Appear indifferent and unaffected. Fake it until you make it.

Two things are likely to happen when the toxic individual is unable to get a rise out of the person they are targeting. They will either up the ante or quit because they aren't able to “get”’to the person. If they up the ante, it is probable they will cross a line. Capturing this and calmly bringing it to a superior is essential.

2) Appear indifferent and unemotional when interacting with a narcissist.

“That's all well and good, Erin, and it makes sense, but what do I say to them in the moment?”

It's essential to appear unemotional and to make a general statement about their behavior. Do not refer to a personal experience with them because it becomes one person’s word against another. Instead, generally reflect their negative behavior. Say something like, “You seem to communicate unprofessionally.” Or “There are items stocked. Please go check.” Or “This conversation is becoming inappropriate. We will have to talk about this later.” Or “If you don't have anything nice to say, please do not say anything at all.”

3) Assertive, non-emotional, and general reflections about a narcissist ’s lack of professionalism or bad behavior are effective. Again, if this sets the narcissist off, great. Rage usually gets people fired or in trouble.

Remember, a person with tact, sensitivity, and conscientiousness is usually the healthy person in the relationship. A person who feels entitled to treat another person disrespectfully because they feel it is their right, for some reason, is usually emotionally unhealthy. Stay calm, remain impersonal, and generally reflect a narcissist’s bad behavior. Zap the narcissist’s power and surpass them.