Have A Narcissist In Your Life? Here's How To Actually Deal With Them (2023)

Personal Growth


June 27, 2023

By Krati Mehra

mbg Contributor

Krati Mehra is an empowerment coach, host of Experible podcast, speaker, and writer. She has a Masters from University College London and a Bachelors in Psychology from Panjab University.

What is narcissistic personality disorder?How narcissism impacts relationshipsHow to deal with a narcissistFAQs


Have A Narcissist In Your Life? Here's How To Actually Deal With Them (3)

Image by Sergey Filimonov / Stocksy

June 27, 2023

From your toxic boss to your emotionally unavailable ex, the term "narcissist" is thrown around a lot. While we all have the capacity to display some narcissistic traits, true pathological narcissism goes beyond that and is identified as narcissistic personality disorder (NPD).

Here's how to spot a narcissist, plus expert-backed tips for dealing with them, so you can reclaim some peace.


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What is narcissistic personality disorder?

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Narcissistic personality disorder is characterized by grandiosity, entitlement, rage, and a lack of empathy.As psychologistKetan Parmar, M.D., MBBS tells mindbodygreen, “Narcissism is a personality trait that exists on a spectrum, ranging from healthy to pathological."

Parmar also notes that healthy narcissism is normal and can even create a balanced sense of self-worth and confidence—but pathological narcissism refers to an excessive and distorted sense of self-importance and entitlement which can veer into abusive toxicity.

Here are some common signs of narcissism:

  • An exaggerated sense of self-importance
  • An overestimation of talents, skills, and abilities
  • A constant desire for praise, adoration, attention, and external validation
  • A sense of entitlement for special privileges and exceptions
  • Pretentious, arrogant, disdainful, vain attitude
  • Willingness to exploit, control, and manipulate others for personal gain
  • Grandiose fantasies of unlimited success, power, and beauty
  • Idealised self-image characterized by perfection, superiority, and ego
  • Strong feelings of envy and competition
  • A desire to make certain connections with the sole purpose of advancing one's own interests
  • Refusal to take responsibility and a tendency to shift blame onto others
  • A lack of healthy boundaries and no regard for boundaries set by others
  • A lack of self-awareness
  • When criticized, an outsized angry and sometimes, violent reaction

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It is crucial to point out that an individual can have some of these traits to varying degrees, but to meet the criteria for NPD, these symptoms should be severe enough to impair their functioning and interpersonal relationships.

How narcissistic personality disorder shows up in relationships

According to existing research1 on narcissism, self-esteem, and love, while narcissists enjoy the attention and satisfaction provided by a romantic relationship, they are unable to truly care for another human being and don’t appreciate the emotional demands of a relationship.

Their inflated sense of self needs constant validation from romantic alternatives, making them resistant to commitment and in some cases, prone to playing games as a tactic to create emotional distance.

Another study2 exploring the lives of women in a long-term, intimate relationship with a narcissistic male partner revealed physical and psychological abuse, social isolation, and financial exploitation. The abuse had a deeply negative effect on their independence, sense of self, and mental and emotional wellbeing.

Any challenge to the narcissistic partner’s superiority, sense of control, or their distorted perception of reality could lead to a violent response2. To avoid conflict, you may feel like you have to walk on eggshells and constantly subvert your own needs to accommodate their volatile nature.

This pattern may lead to hyper-vigilance and lasting emotional trauma. Despite the abuse, the complete loss of agency over time is why you may continue to stay in a relationship long past its expiration date.

According to Parmar, narcissists also gaslight their partners, and while the relationship may begin with love bombing, it will eventually move onto devaluation. The narcissist repeats the cycle of rejecting and discarding, then love bombing again.

“Narcissists may initially shower their partner with praise, attention, and affection, making them feel special and loved. However, this phase does not last long,” Parmar says, adding, “Once [the narcissist] feels bored or threatened by their partner's independence or achievements, they may switch to criticizing, ignoring, or demeaning them.”

Due to the unpredictability and controlling nature of the narcissist, and the lack of any real emotional intimacy in the relationship, you may feel anxious and depressed as the relationship goes on.


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How to deal with a narcissist


Educate yourself on the subject

Narcissists, with their surface charm and smooth confidence, often make a great first impression. Coupled with gaslighting and manipulation, when the connection turns toxic, you may find yourself confused and doubting your own judgment. For you to deal with a narcissist, it is vital that you understand the behavior and patterns they exemplify.

Take the time to learn the signs of narcissism and the manipulation tactics employed by a narcissist. Understand the cycles of abuse you may get snared into—familiarity with how narcissism works may also help you get out of a situation before it’s too late.

Something else that can also be immensely helpful is understanding what quality in your own character attracts narcissists and how to stop it from happening again.


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Stock up on your mental and physical reserves

Dealing with a narcissist can take a physical, mental, emotional, and psychological toll. So, before you wade into battle, make sure that your armory is fully stocked up.

That means take care of your physical, mental, and emotional health and wellbeing. Get plenty of exercise and journal for self-reflection and to unpack your emotions.

Grounding exercises can also help soothe and manage anxiety. You can also counter the emotional impact of a narcissist by shifting the focus onto your own dreams and ambitions. Actively nourishing yourself will keep you mentally healthy and emotionally engaged with something positive.


Strengthen your sense of self

Narcissists project their guilt onto others, manipulate, and gaslight—and when faced with criticism, they even resort to physical and mental intimidation. While engaging with a narcissist, it is essential for you to maintain a clear and strong sense of self.

A clear self-identity will help you effectively deal with the narcissist's methods of persuasion and do so without losing your own self in the process. High self-esteem will also push you to stand up for yourself and confidently prioritize your own wellbeing, whatever that may mean for you.


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Seek community and support

Even with a healthy sense of self, dealing with the abuse of a narcissist may leave you overwhelmed and exhausted. Creating a network of support (whether that’s seeking therapy, joining a support group, or simply confiding in friends and family) can help you cope better. Your loved ones can be your safe space and it can also be a reminder of what it feels like when you are around people who truly care.


Create and enforce boundaries

Boundaries are important in every relationship, but when dealing with a narcissist, they can be the guardrails of your sanity.

“Establish clear boundaries and communicate them assertively. Clearly define what behavior is acceptable and what is not,” suggests licensed marriage and family therapist, Marty Hosier LMFT. “Stick to your boundaries and be prepared to enforce consequences if they are crossed," he adds.

And as psychoanalyst, Lauri Hollman Ph.D., tells mindbodygreen, whentalking to a narcissist, be a good listener and open potentially difficult conversations with compliments. When communicating your boundaries, do so calmly and with a gentle approach and be willing to listen.

Narcissists cannot stand to be criticized, so when they violate your boundaries, explain to them how your health and emotions have been impacted, but aim your words at their actions and not at their character.


Don’t take their criticisms personally

As aforementioned, narcissists have little to no insight into their own personality and how they are perceived by others. So, the negativity experienced in a relationship with a narcissist is really about them—not you. Their responses are about their skewed worldview.

They have a tendency to project their guilt onto others and deny accountability when confronted with the consequences of their words and actions.

As painful as it may be when you’re on the receiving end of blame and baseless accusations, try to remain emotionally detached. When you know their projections come from an unhealthy place, it’ll be easier not to let such interactions impact your self-image.

Remind yourself what ahealthy, reciprocal relationship feels like as well—this can be the incentive you need to take appropriate action in your dealings with the narcissist.


Use the grey rock method

According to Parmar, “Grey rocking is a technique that involves becoming as dull and uninteresting as possible to the narcissist. Avoid giving them any positive or negative reactions that they can feed on.” He further explains that responding with short, neutral and factual statements will help you avoid unnecessary drama and conflict with them.

If grey rocking fails to have the desired effect, don’t lapse into an emotional response. Licensed marriage and family therapist, Sara Sloan, says this will be par for the course with narcissists who will often try to change the narrative, which may create a feeling of emotional vertigo.

“Narcissists will use emotional manipulations, such as gaslighting, to try to confuse what really happened in order to escape responsibility,” Sloan says. “So, the best thing to do in an argument with a narcissist is to continue circling back to the facts, over and over again.”


Make a clear plan of action

One of the ways narcissists like to bolster their self-esteem3 is by controlling others. It gives them a sense of superiority. They will try to provoke strong emotional responses, and as you feel less and less in control, the narcissist will use the situation to further manipulate you.

They may use the moment to shift blame, invalidate you, or to draw you into a long-drawn out fight that feeds their need for attention.

So, don’t impulsively react to a narcissist. Instead, devise a clear plan of action, keeping in mind your expectations from the relationship. Pick strategies that will be best suited to your situation, the narcissist you are dealing with, and their chosen methods of attack. Develop skills that will help you assert yourself and engage in confrontation without spiraling.


Consider terminating contact

Even with all your care, compassion, and support, you may not be able to heal a narcissist. Staying in such a relationship can break your spirit, which will serve no benefit to you.

If you find yourself feeling drained and exhausted—and if it’s a viable option—consider walking away from the relationship and terminate all contact. If leaving is not an option, establish boundaries that limit contact.

(Psst: Here’s an article that will help you do just that.)


Seek professional help

It’s highly recommended that you involve a mental health expert when dealing with a narcissist. According to Hosier, “A mental health professional can provide guidance, support, and strategies tailored to your specific situation."

If possible, persuade the narcissist to see a professional too, but don't get hung up on it if they refuse. Devoid of empathy, narcissists don’t much care about how their behavior may be affecting others. They are also very resistant to any kind of self-reflection, and refuse to see themselves as someone less than perfect. All of this will make it very difficult for you to get them to seek help.

You, however, can use therapy as a tool to help you move forward even if they won't.


What is a narcissist’s weakness?

Narcissists blame others for their suffering and don’t accept responsibility for the state of their life or relationships. When someone suffers fromgrandiose or vulnerable narcissism, their inability to look inward becomes their greatest weakness.

How do you shut down a narcissist?

The best way to shut down a narcissist is through emotional detachment and unresponsiveness. If you do find yourself having to deal with a narcissist, adopt an indifferent attitude to their provocations. If caught in an argument with a narcissist, stick to facts.

What should you never do to a narcissist?

It is best to avoid behavior that feeds the narcissist and exacerbates the situation. Avoid emotionally fraught arguments and don’t challenge their self-concept or their beliefs about the world. Deny them the attention and admiration they constantly seek.

How do you mentally beat a narcissist?

Fighting will only feed the narcissist’s desire for attention. To mentally beat a narcissist, stay disengaged, prioritize your own wellbeing, and maintain your boundaries.

The takeaway

It can be difficult to even comprehend just how a narcissist’s mind works, let alone predict their actions with any accuracy. If you do find yourself having to deal with a narcissist, it’s best to manage your expectations and prioritize what truly matters, your growth and wellbeing.

It will also be helpful to further understand a narcissistic relationship pattern, how to talk to a narcissist, and in the event of abuse, how best to break away from a narcissist.


What words can destroy a narcissist? ›

Phrases and Words That Destroy Narcissists
  • 'I know the truth about you' or 'I see right through you' ...
  • 'I don't remember that' ...
  • 'I'm busy and don't have time for you right now' ...
  • 'You are a failure' or 'I am so disappointed in you' ...
  • 'It's your fault' ...
  • 'I Don't Believe You' ...
  • 'Goodbye'

How do you deal with a narcissistic person in your life? ›

If you are dealing with a narcissist, try the following tips:
  1. Try To Avoid Direct Confrontation. ...
  2. Reiterate Your Need For Action Over Promises. ...
  3. Maintain Boundaries. ...
  4. Remind Yourself That You Are Not To Blame. ...
  5. Don't Accept Their Behavior. ...
  6. Acknowledge When You Need Professional Help. ...
  7. Know When You Need To Leave A Relationship.
Dec 8, 2021

What is a narcissist's weakness? ›

A monumental weakness in the narcissist is the failure to look internally and flesh out what needs to be worked on. Then, of course, the next step is to spend time improving. The narcissist sabotages any possibility of looking deep within.

How do you finally outsmart a narcissist? ›

How to Outsmart a Narcissist
  1. Separate yourself to cut off their narcissistic supply.
  2. Take time to heal.
  3. Take responsibility for your part in a conflict.
  4. React with empathy and respect.
  5. Act unresponsive around them.
  6. Disengage from their conversations.
  7. Set and enforce clear boundaries.

What are the four words you should never say to a narcissist? ›

8 Things You Should Never Say to a Narcissist
  • Don't say, "It's not about you." ...
  • Don't say, "You're not listening." ...
  • Don't say, "Ina Garten did not get her lasagna recipe from you." ...
  • Don't say, "Do you think it might be your fault?" ...
  • Don't say, "You're being a bully." ...
  • Don't say, "Stop playing the victim."
Dec 15, 2017

What are the 5 main habits of a narcissist? ›

Common Narcissist Characteristics
  • Inflated Ego.
  • Lack of Empathy.
  • Need for Attention.
  • Repressed Insecurities.
  • Few Boundaries.

What is the one question to identify a narcissist? ›

“To what extent do you agree with this statement: 'I am a narcissist.'” Scientists believe that this question could be all researchers need to make a quick and easy diagnosis of narcissism.

What is one thing narcissist fears most? ›

Although narcissists act superior, entitled and boastful, underneath their larger-than-life facade lies their greatest fear: That they are ordinary. For narcissists, attention is like oxygen. Narcissists believe only special people get attention.

Does anything scare a narcissist? ›

Narcissists are frightened, fragile people.

Rejection, humiliation, and even the tiniest of defeats can shake them to their core. This leaves narcissists wholly focused on their image.

What is the best way to destroy a narcissist? ›

12 Ways to Break a Narcissist's Heart
  1. 1 Ignore their forms of manipulation.
  2. 2 Flaunt how happy you are without them.
  3. 3 Set boundaries to protect yourself.
  4. 4 Deny them what they want.
  5. 5 Stay calm when they try to upset you.
  6. 6 Cut off all contact with them if you can.
  7. 7 Be leery of future love bombing.

How do you damage a narcissist? ›

How to Take Back Control
  1. No Contact. As long as you have contact with the narcissist, they will attempt to manipulate and abuse you. ...
  2. Question Their Superior and Grandiose Self-Image. ...
  3. Challenge Their Dominance. ...
  4. Establish and Enforce Boundaries. ...
  5. Love Yourself. ...
  6. Spend Time With Loved Ones.
Jun 14, 2023

How to drive a narcissist crazy? ›

11 Ways to Drive a Narcissist Nuts
  1. Ignore them.
  2. Offer constructive criticism.
  3. Set and enforce your boundaries.
  4. Call them out in public.
  5. Compare them negatively to others.
  6. Show up late.
  7. Stay calm when they try to rile you up.
  8. Bring up hard facts.

What is the #1 word a narcissist Cannot stand? ›

It comes hand-in-hand with this that narcissists hate being criticised or called out. Which is exactly why there's one word in particular narcissistic people cannot stand: "no".

How do you take power away from a narcissist? ›

  1. Educate yourself about NPD. ...
  2. Build your self-esteem. ...
  3. Speak up for yourself. ...
  4. Set clear boundaries. ...
  5. Practice skills to keep calm. ...
  6. Find a support system. ...
  7. Insist on immediate action, not promises. ...
  8. Understand that a narcissistic person may need professional help.
Aug 18, 2022

What phrases would a narcissist use? ›

There is no grand list of specific phrases narcissists use, but there are common phrases to look out for like, “My exes are all crazy,” and, “You're too sensitive,” as well as a host of manipulation tactics to try to control you.

What makes a narcissist shut down? ›

A narcissistic collapse happens when a narcissist believes that someone (or something) is threatening their ability to maintain their superficial inflated ego. People with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) often look down on others to maintain the positive images they hold about themselves.

What happens when a narcissist runs out of money? ›

When deprived of Narcissistic Supply - both primary AND secondary - the narcissist feels annulled, hollowed out, or mentally disembowelled. This is an overpowering sense of evaporation, disintegration into molecules of terrified anguish, helplessly and inexorably.

What is silent treatment against narcissist? ›

What Is Silent Treatment? The silent treatment can be defined as the following: a passive-aggressive form of emotional abuse in which displeasure, disapproval, and contempt is exhibited through nonverbal gestures while maintaining verbal silence.

How narcissists use money to manipulate? ›

Narcissists often use money as a tool for punishment. They may reward you financially when you do what they want, and then withhold money when they feel vindictive. This can feel unsafe, degrading and confusing.

How do you turn the tables on a narcissist? ›

One very effective tactic is to beat them at their own game. Anticipate their irrational reactions before they happen and call them out on it ahead of time. Use their own desire to always be right and to always prove you wrong against them.

What are narcissist red flags? ›

Red Flags When You're In a Relationship With a Narcissist

Downplays your emotions. Uses manipulative tactics to “win” arguments. Love bombing, especially after a fight. Makes you second-guess yourself constantly.

What are the three things narcissists do? ›

In general, a narcissist has an outsized need to be admired, a sense of entitlement, and constant thoughts about being better than others, whether that means being more successful or more loved.

What are the biggest signs that someone has narcissistic personality disorder? ›

Signs of Narcissism
  • Sense of Entitlement. A common sign of people with narcissism is the belief that they are superior to others and deserve special treatment. ...
  • Manipulative Behavior. Another common trait of narcissism is manipulative or controlling behavior. ...
  • Need for Admiration. ...
  • Lack of Empathy.
Mar 30, 2023

What is the root cause of narcissism? ›

It's not known what causes narcissistic personality disorder. The cause is likely complex. Narcissistic personality disorder may be linked to: Environment — parent-child relationships with either too much adoration or too much criticism that don't match the child's actual experiences and achievements.

How do narcissists test you? ›

One of the most common ways a narcissist, especially the covert types, will try to test you is through the silent treatment. They will simply stay silent and ignore you because they want to get a rise out of you. They want you to go back to them and grovel for their forgiveness and validation.

What do narcissists enjoy the most? ›

Most narcissists enjoy an irrational and brief burst of relief after having suffered emotionally ("narcissistic injury") or after having sustained a loss. It is a sense of freedom, which comes with being unshackled.

What are narcissists good at? ›

Self-respect and self-love. Courage to abide criticism from others while maintaining positive self-regard. Confidence to set and pursue goals and realize one's hopes and dreams. Emotional resilience.

What calms a narcissist down? ›

Empathize with Their Feelings

It is extremely soothing to Narcissists when you demonstrate that you understand and empathize with how they feel. But..do not insert anything about how the situation makes you feel, or anything about you at all unless it is an apology.

What are some phrases that trigger narcissists? ›

"You're a bad person." "Nobody else will ever love you." "I'm the best you'll ever have." "Have fun being alone for the rest of your life."

What personality type do narcissists hate? ›

Type As can also be dangerous to narcissists

Although they can be targeted, type A people can also become a narcissist's worst nightmare. One of the most important defenses against dark personalities is having strong boundaries yourself, and type A people are usually aware they have the right to build them.

What really bothers a narcissist? ›

If there's one thing narcissists hate, it's being told what to do. When you push them into a situation where they have to answer to someone else, it's like their own personal hell. Figure out a way where you can get the narcissist in your life to be underneath an authority figure to really watch them squirm.

Do narcissists end up alone? ›

Narcissists Will Eventually End Up Friendless and Unpopular, Study Confirms.

How to mess with a narcissist head? ›

Simply put, anything that jeopardizes their basic needs for superiority can quickly irritate them. If you want to know how to infuriate a narcissist, you can look no further than giving them nothing. But you can also stand up for yourself, set boundaries, and refuse their gaslighting strategies.

What is the best revenge against a narcissist? ›

How to Get Revenge on a Narcissist
  • Criticize them.
  • Take authority away from them.
  • Say “no.”
  • Go “no contact.”
  • Expose their behavior in public.
  • Succeed in areas they want to dominate.
  • Make them jealous.
  • Trick them into doing you a favor.

How do I stop a narcissist from ruining my life? ›

Clearly communicate your needs and set boundaries – in writing if possible. Take some quiet time by yourself to figure out what you will accept and won't accept from your narcissist. Become clear about the boundaries you need to set to shut them down.

What does narcissistic abuse do to your brain? ›

Signs and symptoms of narcissistic abuse syndrome

Long-term abuse can change a victim's brain, resulting in cognitive decline and memory loss. In turn, the changes in the brain can increase the risk for chronic stress, PTSD, and symptoms of self-sabotage.

Do narcissists get heartbroken? ›

While people with narcissism aren't devoid of emotions, their motivations may be self-focused. They can know they're hurting your feelings, but as long as it elevates their status, they may not care. Someone living with narcissism does cry. They can feel regret, remorse, and sadness.

How do you humiliate a narcissist? ›

Tease, ridicule, and shame them mercilessly for not trying to figure out right from wrong, instead, pretending to have it all figured out. Stay calm, even friendly, to the person cowering inside their absolute narcissistic fake infallibility cloak. Stay light, even humorous. It's nothing personal.

What is the hamburger method for narcissists? ›

The hamburger method is a way of communicating that makes receiving criticism easier. The ingredients are compliment, confront, and compliment. Think of as a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down. Because the narcissistic ego needs regular stroking, this works nearly every time.

What is most hurtful to a narcissist? ›

Narcissists are hurt by challenges or threats to their superior and grandiose self-image (also known as narcissistic injury). Their sense of entitlement and lack of empathy means they will attempt to destroy the culprit by any means necessary.

How do you permanently shut down a narcissist? ›

How to Get Rid of a Narcissist
  1. 1 Go no contact if you can.
  2. 2 Refuse to explain yourself.
  3. 3 Decline every opportunity to see them in person.
  4. 4 Set extremely firm boundaries.
  5. 5 Ignore them.
  6. 6 Become extremely boring and distant.
  7. 7 Be kind and friendly if they push you.
  8. 8 Drive the narcissist away with radical self-love.

What eventually happens to narcissists? ›

According to Julie L. Hall, author of “The Narcissist in Your Life: Recognizing the Patterns and Learning to Break Free,” narcissists become more extreme versions of their worst selves as they age, which includes becoming more desperate, deluded, paranoid, angry, abusive, and isolated.

Who is worse than a narcissist? ›

Psychopathic individuals are really, really, really good at lying—way better than narcissists. The shame makes a narcissist a little twitchy when they lie. Psychopaths are so cold, so calculating, so cunning... It's scary."

What shuts down a narcissist? ›

The best way to shut down a narcissist is to walk away from them. If all else fails, you can physically remove yourself from the conversation. Even if they keep talking, simply turn around and walk away. If they follow you, close the door.

How a narcissist can destroy you? ›

Grooming a person, manipulating her into doubting her feelings, generating shame regarding her best qualities, and manipulatively creating dependency are four ways a narcissist destroys a person from the inside out.

How do you embarrass a narcissist? ›

Tease, ridicule, and shame them mercilessly for not trying to figure out right from wrong, instead, pretending to have it all figured out. Stay calm, even friendly, to the person cowering inside their absolute narcissistic fake infallibility cloak. Stay light, even humorous. It's nothing personal.


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