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How to Communicate With a Narcissist

1. Self-insulate.

Key points

  • Not responding is the best communication with narcissists, but it's often unrealistic or impossible.
  • It's important to recognize that most of a narcissist's communication is deceptive.
  • Dropping the expectation that narcissistic patterns and manipulation can be solved is freeing for the victim.

Narcissism is a trending topic in contemporary literature, and its popularity can obscure our grasp of just how harmful it is in real life. Narcissistic abuse is pervasive, with far-reaching effects that are devastating to its victims. In fact, chronic exposure to this type of manipulation and victimization can be a form of trauma.

When narcissistic relationships can't be escaped

A narcissist aims to control every aspect of their victim, be that their actions, feelings, or thoughts, and the longer the abuse continues, the more ingrained that control becomes. For those who are trapped in narcissistic relationships with no easy way out, learning effective ways to communicate with a narcissist can be lifesaving, in addition to helping victims gain back some control and work towards empowerment (instead of persecution).

The safest method of communicating with a narcissist is to cut off any form of correspondence. Because true narcissism is a lifelong issue and often cannot be “cured,” avoiding all interactions is the most genuine safeguard victims can employ. However, for many individuals, this is unrealistic at bestand impossible in many cases.

Communication techniques for narcissistic relationships

Narcissism thrives on intimacy, making it challenging to truly walk away from it once it’s recognized and understood. In situations where communication cannot be completely discontinued, victims can practice several techniques that may make the circumstances more bearable.

Self-Insulation. Because narcissists thrive on pushing buttons and using “insider knowledge” to gain a foothold in controlling others, learning how to insulate yourself from their attacks is crucial. Growing a thick emotional shield is a protective factor that can eventually take some power away from the arrows narcissists may let loose in your direction.

Spend time analyzing your inner thoughts, focusing on and working through your misgivings and anxieties. Be fearless with yourselfself-exploration is a safe place to dig into your triggers and fully understand them.

Arm yourself with insight on what makes you tickand what buttons, when pushed, really seem to hit home. By increasing awareness of your potential weak spots, you can make the attacks hurt less when they come.

Learn How to Not Respond. Narcissists need a reaction to get the satisfaction and control they crave. By learning what situations require a response, and which can be safely ignored, you will buy yourself valuable peace.

This technique requires some trial and error to explore and understand the circumstances that will resolve without direct intervention from you. Test out not responding in different situations and pay close attention to the outcomes, carefully tracking the conditions that can be handled by sitting back and waiting.

Give yourself permission to not answer every text, phone call, challenge, or plea. Recognize that boundaries are reasonable, regardless of how your narcissist has trained you to think otherwise. Mastering the art of not responding will remove much of the emotional upheaval that comes when engaging with a narcissist.

Don’t Believe Most of What You Hear. Narcissists are expert manipulators, able to win just about anyone over to their causein the short term. Once others become familiar with their methods, however, their influence starts to wane. Chances are, if you are stuck in a narcissistic relationship that seemingly has no end, you are able to discern their truths from the lies.

Trust is a narcissist’s currency, and they spend it with little thought as to the potential consequences of losing it all. Victims must learn to safeguard their trust at all costs, and a starting point is to stop believing most of what they hear from a narcissist.

Don’t fall prey to the flattery, threats, and tricks that will be used to gain your trust. Be wary from the start, teasing out the threads of truth from the unnecessary information they will feed you. Recognizing that most of their communication is deceptive will be an invaluable tool to protect your trust from being violated.

Always Get a Second Opinion. Because of the intimate nature that characterizes narcissistic abuse, victims should always seek a second opinion when forming a response to their abuser. Narcissists will push you to respond immediately, hoping to catch you off balance and increase the odds that you’ll give them the impulsive response they are after. From threats to cajoling, to love bombing, they will use a wide range of tactics designed to instigate hastiness on your part.

Learning to stop and explore potential responses (and their outcomes) with a trusted mentor or friend will almost always improve your resultsand it will help you decrease those knee-jerk responses that only bring more conflict and trouble.

Stop Trying to Change Them. Genuine narcissism is a long-lasting condition with the potential to destroy relationships. Because it’s formed in the context of relationships, many individuals will feel an urge to positively influence and change their abuser, in order to save the relationship.

Unfortunately, narcissism often can’t be cured, and efforts to “fix” it in intimate relationships are usually a waste of time and energy. Dropping the expectation that narcissistic patterns and manipulation can be solved is freeingand will empower victims to take back some of the control that has been used against them.

Narcissism is not a short-term issue, and its victims may suffer significant damage after chronic exposure to it. However, the effect of the abuse can be somewhat mitigated by making a few minor adjustmentsand learning how to navigate manipulative interactions without falling prey to an abuser’s tricks. In narcissistic relationships that cannot be escaped, victims must use whatever tools are at their disposal.

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