If you’ve ever argued with a narcissist you know how maddening it can be. Every logical or factual approach seems to go nowhere and, in fact, seems to make them more angry and defensive.
In contrast, explaining your point of view a relationship with an emotionally healthy person would be a reasonable approach. You would both approach the other person with good intentions and negotiate with reasonable efforts to compromise. You would both provide facts, context and background. You would both try to remain calm and understanding.
With narcissists, or Other-Blamers as I call them, this civil, decent, reciprocal model of communication and relationships goes out the window. You will get into big trouble if you keep approaching Other-Blamers expecting that they will engage in normal ways.
What usually happens is that the victim of the narc spends a lot of time explaining herself and justifying her position. While this may seem like a good strategy, it may not be so wise with a narc.
Arguments with toxic people often devolve into you explaining a reasonable position and them discounting or even completely dismissing your point of view based on no facts or rationale. The Other-Blamer may gaslight you to make you feel unstable, detached from reality or even crazy. Basically, narcissists and sociopaths do not engage in good faith in relationships or arguments.
One of the signs that you are in a relationship with a narcissist is if you feel you are rationally explaining things over and over, yet not being heard. Many say they over-explain because the Other-blamer says he doesn’t “understand” the abuse victim. This is, of course, a clever ploy by the Other-blamer to avoid accountability. If he claims not to “understand” his partner, then he gets to be off the hook for his bad behavior.
Other-blamers have poor shame tolerance, so they have difficulty admitting your position might be right. They do not want to be held accountable and cannot be wrong or admit fault, so they have to argue back, forcing you to also respond. Your responses will likely be ignored or dismissed or used against you. A favorite trick of Other-blamers is to drag up some past fault of yours and try to blame-shift to you. You may then start explaining and justifying your behavior on this new topic, and suddenly the Other-blamer is off the hook for the original bad behavior.
When people come to me for therapy to recover from what is called post-narcissistic abuse, they are often confused, because they feel (rightfully so) that they have tried to rationally explain their positions to their partner and the partner has failed to understand. The victim often ends up riddled with self-doubt, unable to trust her own sense of facts, morals and principles. The Other-blamer has led her around in so many circles in arguments, that she no longer knows what to believe.
Generally, people who are in relationships with Other-blamers are Self-Blamers to begin with. Sadly, they often become more self-blaming because of the narcissistic abuse.
Working with these people, I often point out their tendency to over-explain their viewpoint. While this may have been exacerbated due to the relationship, because they repeatedly tried and failed to hold the slippery Other-blamer accountable, the behavior likely existed prior to the relationship.
Most Self-blamers are not confident enough to assert their own viewpoint succinctly, so they repeat their points as a way to validate their own sense of being right. Yet, if you are correct in your view, why should you need to repeat it? Does that make it more correct?
Instead, what I counsel is that the Self-blamer start to believe that her views are probably quite accurate and reasonable. She needs to stop trying to make him “understand” her. First, because narcissists lack empathy and really don’t want to understand because then they would have to be accountable for their behavior. Your explanations are really a big waste of time! Second, you need to adopt the attitude that you does not need him to understand. YOU needs to understand and firmly believe your point of view, then you will cease needing to desperately need HIS approval for your viewpoint. Most Self-blamers are very submissive and lack self-trust and good intuition. Your need for his approval instantly puts you in a weak and disempowered position in any argument you has with him.
In negotiations, whether with your husband or a car salesman, the ability to walk away from the deal is essential in maintaining the upper hand. Again, with a respectful and reciprocal relationship, this would be considered an extreme solution to a conflict. But with a narcissist, throw out the normal social rules, because they just don’t play by the same rules. By over-explaining, you are not gaining power or respect, but losing it, because the narcissist only sees this as weakness.
As many have said: “‘No’ is a complete sentence.” No further explanation is needed.
In parenting and relationships I’ve often given this advice: See how few words you can use to talk to the other person. Endless explaining is a power giveaway. If your narcissistic partner is not negotiating in good faith and seeking to understand your position, it really won’t matter how much you explain. Your attempts to make him understand you will never overcome his need to NOT understand you.