Dealing with a Narcissist is Hard
Clinically reviewed by Evelyn Hunter, LCSW
Narcissism is an umbrella term for personality qualities and behaviors, including:
- Thinking overly highly of oneself
- Needing continual praise and admiration
- Being manipulative
- Seeing others as inferior
- Being unapologetic
- Lacking empathy for others
You can encounter narcissists anywhere, including in your personal life, at work, etc.
Someone’s behavior can range from occasionally demonstrating these traits to having a narcissistic personality disorder. But wherever a person falls on that spectrum, their behavior can be frustrating, stressful, and exhausting. Consequently, friends and family members may wonder about the best ways to deal with a narcissist.
That depends on several factors, including their personality, your relationship with them, and others. But below are general tips on how to deal with a narcissist.
Establish and enforce boundaries
Setting and explaining limits for your interactions with a narcissistic person is essential. For example, at home, you might state that you won’t tolerate being insulted or demeaned by them. If they cross that line, the conversation is over. At the office, you might make it clear that you won’t allow a narcissist to interrupt you when you’re speaking.
You don’t set boundaries to change the person’s behavior. Instead, you lay them out so you don’t have to change your behavior by giving in to theirs.
Don’t get gaslighted
Gaslighting is when someone attempts to undermine your perception of events or reality itself. For example, at the office, a person might insist they never said something when you know they did. Or they might characterize you as being overly sensitive when, in fact, your response is appropriate. At home, gaslighting could involve someone shifting the blame for their bad behavior (“I cheated on you because you were ignoring me.”).
You can push back against gaslighting by making notes about events, keeping documents or photos confirming your experience, etc., and producing those materials to help prove your assertions.
Strengthen your self-esteem and feelings of self-worth
Narcissistic people often actively work to undermine the confidence of others. You can protect yourself from that behavior by taking actions to boost your self-esteem.
In particular, it’s helpful to be aware of yourself becoming defensive and then intentionally remaining assertive. This doesn’t mean becoming argumentative — just standing firm regarding your well-supported beliefs and opinions. You might also use positive affirmations or actively avoid self-criticism to improve your self-esteem.
Narcissistic people tend to persist in their behaviors despite the efforts of those around them to encourage self-reflection and change. Consequently, it’s vital to connect with others who understand what you’re going through.
This may be family members, friends, coworkers, a support group, or a therapist. Having someone to confide in can help you let off steam and deal with the narcissistic person in a healthier way.
Learn About the Best Ways to Deal With a Narcissist
Learning how to deal with narcissistic people is essential to getting along with them. Our behavioral health experts can advise you on how to handle a narcissist in your life in the most beneficial way for you and them.