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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Ignore the silent treatment. It’s just about making you suffer.
- Distract them with compliments, praise and assurances that they are the most important person in your life. This may help to calm them down.
- 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 !