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How to Negotiate with a Narcissist

You’d better prepare carefully.

Key points

  • In a negotation, all parties are expected to give and take in order to reach a mutually acceptable outcome.
  • Negotiating with narcissistic people can be challenging as they may lack empathy, be focused on winning, and be unprepared to change.
  • Tips for negotiating with a narcissist include listing triggers and preparing responses, setting a time frame and being clear about one's goals.
Photo by Sora Shimazaki from Pexels
Source: Photo by Sora Shimazaki from Pexels

A negotiation is a discussion aimed at reaching a mutual agreement. What is expected of all parties during this process is some give and take that will lead to an outcome that is acceptable for everyone involved.

People with strong narcissistic traits, however, may be convinced they are always right, unprepared to change, lack empathy, be good at manipulation, and want to win. Put yourself in a situation where you have to negotiate with a narcissist and you know you are in for a battle.

Children of narcissistic parents may have to negotiate boundaries, possible monetary arrangements when they are financially dependent, and their "exit" strategy when leaving the family.

Friends of a narcissist may need to bargain over how to spend time together, monetary issues, and dealing with other people as narcissists are great at alienating people from each other.

And the soon-to-be-ex may have to negotiate the full divorce elements, where shared responsibilities for children, living accommodation, and financial arrangements could cause rifts and arguments.

Steps to prepare a successful negotiation:

  • List your triggers and prepare your response. How does the narcissist trigger you? Talking about your weight, mother, or career? Mentioning the moment you lost it and behaved uncharacteristically? Be aware of those triggers and make sure you have a deflection ready in the forefront of your mind. "Did I tell you about Duncan and his holiday disaster?"
  • List the "safe" subjects to revert to whenever the conversation moves in the wrong direction. You know when a narcissist is leading the conversation to the "wrong" areas. When you feel it coming, move to your safe subject. Maybe the upcoming sales or the weather.
  • List what they might say to undermine you: "Oh Charlie, this is so not you. You have changed so much. Where is the lovely Charlie gone? Who taught you to speak like this, it can’t come from you?" and the like. Prepare what you will say when a remark like this comes up.
  • Be clear about what you want to achieve.
  • Get yourself in the right frame of mind. Don’t let fear get the upper hand and keep thinking and saying to yourself: "I can manage."
  • Set a time frame for the meeting and use a timer.
  • Be as emotionally disengaging as you can be. This is called grey rocking: pretending to not take any interest and becoming unresponsive. Literally letting it all go over your head and not reaching your heart.
  • Don’t justify what you are saying or asking. Just be clear, concise, and short.
  • Have a notepad in front of you and write down what has been agreed.
  • If you haven’t achieved what you aimed for, make another appointment for the next round.

The aftermath

After you have had your negotiations, make sure you put everything down and share it with others. That way your narcissist can’t deny what was agreed.

Also, let steam off by talking to some friends, where it is safe to let emotions run. Congratulate yourself — if not for the outcomes, then for the courage to face a narcissist.


Learn more about narcissism and how you are affected via Dr Mariette Jansen's bestselling and award-winning book 'From Victim to Victor' - Narcissism Survival Guide. Available via Amazon in paperback, Kindle and audible.

Find out if you have a narcissist in your life via this brief quiz.

Read about Mariette’s Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Coaching.

More from Mariette Jansen Ph.D.
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