How to Talk to a Narcissist (Other-blamers)

  1. The first rule with Other-blamers is: Don’t talk to them if you don’t have to. Disconnect from the relationship physically if possible. If you must deal with a narcissist…
  2. Don’t start a conversation with a narcissist without a specific goal. What do you SPECIFICALLY want to achieve? What boundaries do you want to set? What do you plan to do/refuse to do? What do you want the narcissist to do/stop doing? What consequences will you enforce if the narcissist does not conform? If you don’t plan the conversation, the Other-blamer will blame-shift, distract, zig-zag away from the topic and you will end up with no resolution. Write down your points and refer to them if it helps you stay on topic.
  3. Realize Other-blamers operate from a very different set of morals and values from yours. Don’t expect mutual, reciprocal, kind, generous or compassionate responses. Lower your standards and expectations. For an Other-Blamer, the goal a conversation is not mutual understanding or compromise — it is to humiliate you so you do not “win” and make them look “bad” and so that you are disempowered and afraid to challenge the narcissist in future conflicts.
  4. Learn the tactics of Other-blamers and be ready to spot them in the conversation and call them out: “I notice that you changed the subject.” “I noticed that you are blaming me for your problems.” “I notice that you are acting like the victim here.” “I notice that you don’t seem to be able to apologize for your mistake.” “I notice that you are getting very angry for no reason.” This is called Process versus Content communication. You are taking about the process or HOW the conversation is proceeding, not the content (Content is the subject of the argument: That the narcissist failed to pay a bill or stayed out all night, etc.)
  5. Beware “the firehose.” Most Other-Blamers spew out a wide range of topics from past and present at their victims, hoping to distract and destabilize their partner. Don’t fall for this trap. Keep them on the subject and do not try to defend yourself from an onslaught of irrelevant accusations.
  6. Manage the conversational topic and tone. Initiate the subject, redirect if they change the subject, end the conversation on your terms. Speak slowly if they are speaking quickly, take a pause if they are trying to rush you, and do not be bullied into a decision that you are not ready to make. Take your power back!
  7. Remember that narcissists are emotionally stunted: Imagine they are a small child throwing a tantrum. 
  8. Choose your own mood and don’t get swept away by the narcissist’s mood. Don’t get drawn into the drama and blame shifting of the Other-blamer.
  9. Breathe! Stay present.
  10. Respond, don’t react. If you get angry, they will just throw this back on you and make you feel to blame.
  11. Maintain eye contact. 
  12. Stand with your feet firmly on the ground, have erect posture, relax your face, don’t be submissive.
  13. Speak confidently and firmly. Speak calmly and evenly. 
  14. Speak clearly, unambiguously, directly. 
  15. Practice speaking concisely, with minimal content. Say only the very minimum you need to. The more information you give a narcissist, the more he has to use against you. 
  16. Don’t justify or defend your behaviors. Narcissists want you to take their attacks personally and shift the conversation to your faults. Don’t get sucked into this manipulation. 
  17. Pause the conversation if you need to get a grip on the situation and your nerves. Lie if you must: “I have to go to the bathroom.”
  18. Remember narcissists are very insecure, scared and fearful of truth and vulnerability. Remember that you hold the power if you speak truth to their power. You can unmask their vulnerabilities and weaknesses. 
  19. Be matter-of-fact. Don’t give them any emotion, because it will be used to manipulate you. Your indifference will upset them. 
  20. Disconnect from the narcissist’s emotional energy. 
  21. Be vague and don’t argue back: “That’s interesting.” “I understand how you feel.” Sometimes no response is very powerful and will upset them.
  22. Insist on calm, respectful tone and words. Leave if they become angry. 
  23. Appeal to their self-interest in a solution.
  24. Notice changes of subject and return to the subject at hand: “I hear you complaining that I bought a new dress for the anniversary party, but we are actually talking about you going to the casino and blowing $5,000 without discussing it with me.”
  25. If they can’t be accountable and compromise or apologize, end the conversation and agree to disagree.
  26. Be prepared to walk away. Consider it is like buying a car: If you are desperate to own the car, the salesman will know this and jack up the price. You must be willing to walk away to maintain power in the negotiation. Same with a narcissist. Perhaps this is literally disengaging from the relationship permanently. Maybe it is putting a pause on the conversation. Maybe it is caring a bit less about what he thinks! 

These are just a few of the ways you can use to talk to an Other-Blamer, but know that you have power!

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