Surviving Conflict With a Narcissist. Six Tips on Staying Sane and Keeping Your Cool

A person with a narcissistic personality disorder tends to display certain traits. There are several types of narcissist, however, they have a few characteristics in common to varying degrees such as a lack of empathy, an over-inflated view of themselves and a need to be admired. If you have any kind of relationship with a narcissist, you know that your needs are unimportant to them and that your sole purpose is to serve their needs and interests, to plump up their grandiose ego and make sure that they are the centre of your universe.

It’s exhausting and draining being around them. I had a short friendship with a woman who constantly called me for attention, especially when she was feeling insecure. She wanted to be with me all the time and showered me with compliments and gifts. It’s hard to admit this now but even though I found this a little bit strange for a woman in her late thirties, I did enjoy how special this made me feel. Until of course, she found a new focus for her attention and just like that, I was ditched for somebody else. It coincided with her complaints that I was getting “too much attention” from other people and that I wasn’t happy with some of her very subtle put downs. The intense rejection I felt seems silly now but I did notice how manipulative this lady was. She worked out my insecurities early on and used them to undermine me, taking pleasure in my failings and disappointments.

Here’s what you can expect from a narcissist in any relationship!

Conflict With A Narcissist

In a more extreme diagnosis of narcissism, sadistic and violent traits are commonplace. In all forms, however, narcissists are unable to comprehend that although you might argue with somebody and feel angry and hurt, you may also have tender feelings towards them and want to resolve conflict so that the relationship will continue.  They certainly cannot understand that you may also be hurt.

You may not even know what you have done wrong but your action, inaction, words, silence, fulfilment of your own needs or anything else, will have mortally wounded the narcissist to the point where all they can think about is causing you even more harm in retaliation.

Take the friend of mine who recently divorced her narcissistic husband. He had deprived her of financial freedom, treated her like a slave, destroyed her self-confidence and had been having an affair with a much younger woman at a time when a dear relative was dying of cancer. He made her life hell, with no regard for their two young children, despite his own actions which led to the breakdown in the relationship. He was a fantasist who lied about his behaviour and his ex-wife’s to anyone and everyone.

If you slight a narcissist, you can expect:

  • Insults, aggresion, threats, shouting lie, gaslighting and sometimes violence. The intention is to degrade, humiliate, hurt and undermine you and they are common narcissistic argument tactics;
  • The silent treatment. This is another way to control you with confusion;
  • Blaming you and failing to take responsibility;
  • Using your insecurities and vulnerability against you, despite you confiding this to them to build intimacy;
  • No empathy, no recognition that you may be hurt too or have needs;
  • No self-awareness. This is just too painful for a narcissist and so trying to get them to negotiate, cooperate, or back down gracefully is extremely unlikely.
  • Conflict considerations will not include the value of the relationship unless it serves their interests only. This makes it difficult to reason with them as the needs of their ego will be more important than legal costs or mental health.

Before you despair, here are 6 tips to help you deal with it:

  1. Don’t ask for an apology. In fact, don’t ask for any acknowledgment of fault on the narcissist’s part. They will expect you to apologise because whatever has happened, it’s your fault.
  2. Recognise that your needs are not important. Yes, that’s right. There is no point whatsoever in trying to get the message across that you are also hurt or have certain needs that the narcissist is not fulfilling.
  3. Pay attention solely to the narcissist’s feelings. Lavish them with acknowledgement of the pain they are feeling because of your actions. Phrases like “I know what I did really hurt you and I am so sorry” will help a little but expect to grovel and beg for forgiveness.
  4. Ignore the silent treatment. It’s just about making you suffer.
  5. Distract them with compliments, praise and assurances that they are the most important person in your life. This may help to calm them down.
  6. End your relationship with them. If you have to go through tips 1 to 5 every time you are in conflict with a narcissist, you’ll destroy your own self-esteem and self-worth. It is best to take away their power and stop the narcissist from hurting you.

The narcissist has been wounded so profoundly at a young age that they are unable to relate to other people in an emotionally intimate manner. It saddens me that they cannot feel intense, unconditional love, the joy that relationships bring or the happiness and harmony of two people connecting peacefully. The shame that they feel prevents them from examining their own flaws which are laid bare when we are in conflict. We can learn and grow when we can communicate more constructively and we can experience more honest relationships with ourselves and others. That’s the true lesson of conflict.

You deserve more. You deserve empathy, support and understanding when you make a mistake. You also deserve to be treated as an equal, no matter what your relationship is to the other person. Sometimes, the best thing you can do to resolve conflict is to end the relationship.

What are your experiences? Let me know !

36 comments

  • Great insight. Wish I had been made aware of these years ago!

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  • This is super interesting. I think we’ve all known someone who is just exhausting to be around. I love the way you match head-to-head tips to traits, though I suspect step #6 is the end result more often than not.

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    • The Conflict Expert

      Thank you ! It’s so important to recognise what type of personality you’re dealing with in conflict and I hope this information helps you!

      Like

  • This is such an important topic for people to know. Sometimes, we don’t realise whether there’s a narcissist in our lives, whether it’s a relative or a romantic relationship. I’ll be sure to share this with others.

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    • The Conflict Expert

      Thank you Lisa ! You’re right, sometimes we don’t know whether there is a narcissist in our lives as it’s also a difficult personality disorder to diagnose . Hopefully, the key traits will help ! Please do share, I appreciate it and your insightful comment !

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  • I can easily relate with this topic because I have come across a lot of Narcissists and it baffles me how they keep finding fault in me and turn blind eyes to their own fault too. Not until I ignore the hell out of them, they will just keep making me ask for forgiveness unnecessarily.

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  • Oh wow what a interesting take!

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  • This is a tough subject, but great information.

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  • I dated a narcissist one. I hope that I never have to deal with one again.

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  • I am the type of person who will just avoid conflict and if I see a narcissist, I will just leave him/her be and ignore that person. I don’t know if that is really healthy.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The Conflict Expert

      Thanks for your comment😀 sometimes you have to avoid conflict . I personally think that if it is possible , you should avoid conflict with a narcissistic person because they can be particularly insensitive and not see their own part or responsibility . I am, however a firm believer that you shouldn’t avoid conflict if it means sacrificing your needs and emotions to benefit the other person . Sometimes that too is desirable but in most circumstances, you’ll only end up bottling up your emotions (usually anger or resentment) . If you look at conflict as a way of satisfying your needs and interests as well as the other person’s this may help 🙂

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  • Looks like it needs a lot of will power. It’s always to better stay away from the danger.

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    • The Conflict Expert

      It definitely does take a lot of will power and self awareness . It’s really about knowing your own needs and desires and making sure they are satisfied , as well as the other person’s. Thank you for commenting!

      Like

  • Not gonna lie , I can be a bit of narcissist ! i always have to remind myself to be humble. i would hate to drive someone crazy.

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  • Great writing!
    Sometimes we don’t understand people behavior towards a specific incident in day-to-day life. But you point out important traits which help us to understand them.
    Thanks for sharing 👍

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    • The Conflict Expert

      Very true. I think that’s how we get sucked in! They’re pretty good at gaining your trust in the initial stages of your relationship which can be deceptive . Thanks for your comment !

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  • Blairvillanueva

    That’s true, it is exhausting and draining. And I learned to spot one like a distance away, and let myself go to the other way and not engaged with them

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  • For me “keeping your cool” is the key thing! Great post!

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  • Great points overall! I think all of us in one way or another have some of these because people can be selfish overall but the combination of all should be a red flag

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    • The Conflict Expert

      I totally agree! It’s the combination of traits that is a red flag and it’s the change in behaviour from putting you on a a pedestal and gaining your trust to chipping away at your self-esteem and self-worth so that your needs and wants are secondary to the narcissist’s. That can be really subtle at first. Thank you for commenting!

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  • This almost made me scared but being informed is the step in right direction if you are dealing with someone like this.

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  • It’s tough enough being in any relationship and then you add the component described above and that takes it to a whole new level. These are excellent tips to keep in mind.

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