Is narcissism on the rise? While researchers continue to investigate, you might answer the question with a resounding yes if you’ve ever had to deal with someone who exhibited these personality traits.
Not everyone who behaves narcissistically has a narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), and unless you’re a clinician, your job isn’t to diagnose — merely survive the onslaught on your psyche. Here are eight strategies for dealing with someone who exhibits these frustrating traits.
Unless you have a Ph.D. in counseling, you can’t psychoanalyze another person. Don’t bother to try — you’ll only end up frustrated.
If the narcissist in your life is a romantic partner or family member, you can gently encourage them to seek help. However, you can’t force someone else to change — they have to want it for themselves. Instead, spend some meditation time contemplating what the individual’s behavior triggers in you, and alter your reactions.
While you may not be a mental health professional, you can educate yourself about narcissism. YouTube features channels by licensed providers to give you valuable insights into what behavior to expect and how to react.
You can also find multiple books on narcissistic personality disorder. Check your local library — the staff might be able to recommend quality ones.
Even though narcissists drive you mad with their exaggerated sense of self-importance, try to understand that underneath, these are wounded hearts. They may never admit their vulnerability — but their behavior can still wreak havoc on your personal and professional life.
There’s no need to go overboard with empathy, but realize that all the narcissist’s braggadocio and bluster serve to protect the insecure person they are inside. Knowing this doesn’t make their actions less harmful, but it does help you understand how someone could behave so selfishly.
Establishing firm boundaries is a must when dealing with narcissists. You need to draw a line in the sand, but where you place it may depend on your relationship with the person in question.
If you have a narcissistic boss who blames you for their errors, you could feel trapped. You might think: “They’ll never give me a decent reference, and besides, where can I find another job offering livable wages?”
Here’s where you need to practice intense self-awareness to remain steadfast. Are you coming home and hitting the bottle every night to bury unpleasant feelings? Do you waste every Sunday bending over the toilet, dealing with the pit of dread in your stomach at the thought of Monday morning? If so, you may owe it to yourself to dust off your resume before their misbehavior causes you to self-sabotage and develop psychological problems yourself.
The more emotionally enmeshed you become with the narcissist’s behavior, the more power you give them to ruin your whole day. Learning how to detach yourself is a necessary survival skill.
If you can’t realistically end the relationship due to financial factors, you may need to detach emotionally while remaining in your home or job. Instead of watching TV together every night, you might have dinner while discussing superficial things, then go your separate ways.
In a work situation, keep your nose to the grindstone. While your morale may be low, slacking in your duties will only damage your career prospects. Keep your job search quiet, lest the narcissist finds out and tells your supervisor.
If the idea of complimenting the narcissist in your life turns your stomach, you’re human — and honest. It feels disingenuous to act falsely.
However, indulging the narcissist’s ego can sometimes make them more bearable temporarily. Would it kill you to say, “You figured out how to do that in no time. You have a knack for figuring out software,” if they show you a groovy Excel trick? Remember, inside, the other person’s level of insecurity drops a notch at the praise, which can lead to less aggressive behavior. You get bonus points for noting their “humility.”
Keeping a “scorecard” rarely works in romantic relationships. Every partnership involves give-and-take, and while you may win one battle, you best believe that the narcissist will declare all-out war.
Prepare to have every misstep you ever took thrown back in your face with such fury that you’ll start to wonder if maybe you are the nasty one, after all. For example, if you skipped out on their work award dinner because a migraine left you a vomity mess, they’ll claim you faked being sick because you’re the one who doesn’t care about them.
In the career world, document everything. You might not want to speak out every time the narcissist undermines you — doing so could add fuel to the fire, making them step up their sabotage. No one is perfect, and they will report every future mistake you make to management. If they threaten your tenure or advancement opportunities, though, you have a record to show your side.
Sometimes, the only way to deal is to walk away. Understand that doing so may cause significant distress — one of the reasons narcissism is so insidious is that it rarely rears its ugly head until you become enmeshed in the relationship.
However, if you find yourself exhibiting symptoms of depression or substance abuse, you owe it to yourself to break free. While the leaving may cause temporary discomfort, remaining in a toxic situation long term will only destroy your physical and mental health.
Dealing with a narcissist can leave you frazzled. However, using the eight strategies above can help you to deal with the situation calmly.