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Published on October 7, 2020

How to Deal With a Narcissist (And When You Should Move On)

How to Deal With a Narcissist (And When You Should Move On)

They seem charming. They seem too good to be true. They are complimentary and loving, and they will do anything for you.

That doesn’t sound like a description of a narcissist, does it? But it can be. Well, at least at the beginning when you first meet them, and that’s the problem. Many times, a narcissist will fool other people into thinking they are a great person when in reality, it is all just an act.

But they can’t hide their true selves forever. Eventually, their nasty side will come out, and it usually leaves other people confused.

What happened to that charming person you met? Why did they change?

They didn’t change. They were just suppressing who they really are.

What do you do if you find yourself in a relationship with a narcissist? How do you even deal with a narcissist? Or should you even bother at all? Should you just cut them out of your life and move on?

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These are all important questions to consider. But first, let’s talk about some communication strategies you can use when you are talking to a narcissist.

How Do You Communicate With a Narcissist?

So, you think you are involved in a narcissist. They are not easy to deal with, so how exactly do you deal with a narcissist in terms of communication? There’s not an exact science to it, but here are some tips.

1. Don’t Expect Much From Them

Narcissists never give you much. They are too concerned with what they are “getting” from other people to be thinking about what they can do for you. The world revolves around them—not anyone else. So, you can’t expect them to do much for you. I mean, you can, but you will be highly disappointed.

2. Don’t Engage in the Negativity

Negativity is a primary tool that is used by a narcissist. After the “honeymoon” phase I described in the opening of this article, there is not much warm-and-fuzzy talk or action. There is very little positivity that happens with them. But don’t give in to it. Refuse to play that game with them. Avoiding negativity is the first step to learning how to deal with a narcissist.

3. Use Simple Replies Like “Yes” or “No”

You can never really win an argument with a narcissist. Even if you are obviously right and they are obviously wrong, they will never let you “win.” They can never admit when they are wrong. So, don’t try to convince them. Instead, just use simple answers, such as “yes” or “no.” That way, they cannot escalate the conversation to their favor.

4. Ask Clarifying Questions

If you find a situation where you cannot avoid a conversation with the narcissist, if they continually force you to engage with them, just ask a lot of questions. Ask them why they think the way they do. Ask them what they are feeling at any given moment. Most likely, they will not be able to answer you because they do not do any self-examination at all. But at least you can try to point out the flaws in their arguments.

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5. Use Humor

Humor is a good way to diffuse almost any situation. When people are angry or are arguing, they are just exuding negativity. When this happens, it becomes like a downward spiral that is difficult to recover from. So instead, try to inject some humor in there to try to diffuse the negativity in your conversations. If you don’t know how to deal with a narcissist, you can always make use of humor.

6. Separate Their Behavior From Their Character

Many times, narcissists will engage in name-calling and character attacks against you. Instead of firing back insults to the narcissist, you should separate their behavior (what they are doing or saying) from their character (who they are as a person). This strategy works well because it makes them less defensive. When you call them a horrible person (character), they will fire right back at you. But commenting on their words and actions will help them see how what they are doing is wrong.

What Does a Narcissist Want in a Relationship?

Why would a narcissist even want to be in a relationship? Relationships are about compromise and give-and-take, right? So, how could they possibly want to do that?

Well, here are some things that a narcissist might want out of being in a relationship.

1. A Sense of Entitlement

Because they think they are the center of the universe (or at least want to be), they think they deserve to have everything they want. But life doesn’t work that way. So, narcissists are looking for someone who will give them their way all the time. Their sense of entitlement is a way of life for them, and so they look for someone who will overlook this character flaw.

2. Flattery

Narcissists also have big egos, even though this ego is false. In other words, they try to make other people think that they think they are better than them. However, many times the opposite is true. They don’t really think they are better than other people, so they need flattery to make themselves feel better. They need others to tell them how good they are.

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3. Admiration

Going hand in hand with flattery, narcissists also crave admiration. They want people to love them because they don’t love themselves. Sure, it sounds like they love themselves, but they don’t. Therefore, they need to surround themselves with people who will “look up to them” because they don’t even look up to themselves.

4. Power and Control

Narcissists love to have power and control. They like to think they are superior to other people and therefore, they need to have power over them. They need to control as much of their world as they possibly can—and that includes controlling other people. That’s why they prefer to be around the kind of people who can be easily controlled.

How Do You Stop a Narcissist From Hurting You?

Being in any kind of relationship with a narcissist isn’t easy, and they will inevitably try to hurt you by getting the upper hand. They don’t care about your feelings. They only care about themselves.

So, how do you deal with a narcissist? How can you possibly stop a narcissist from hurting you? Believe it or not, there are some ways.

1. Set Boundaries

Narcissists will take advantage of you and walk all over you—but only if you let them. Remember, they want an easy prey—someone who acts like a victim. So, don’t do that! Set firm boundaries and let them know when their behavior is unacceptable. Be consistent and stick to your guns.

2. Mindset/Attitude

Everything in life is about mindset and attitude. These are important if you want to learn how to deal with a narcissist. I love the saying, “It’s only a problem if you think it’s a problem.” That’s not to say that being in a relationship with a narcissist isn’t a problem—because it is. But keep your mind in a positive place. Don’t give them the power to bring you down.

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3. Don’t Take It Personally

If you remember nothing else, remember this—their selfish behavior is all about THEM, not YOU. It has nothing to do with you. They would act the same way with absolutely anyone who allows them to. So, don’t take it personally and think there is something wrong with you because there is not.

4. Don’t Let Them See You Hurt

Okay, so maybe they did hurt you. Don’t let them see you cry! They love weakness in other people—they thrive on it. When they see weakness in you, it will just encourage them to keep doing what they’re doing to you. So, don’t show them your feelings. Act courageously even if you have to fake it because it will disarm them. They want to break you down, so when you act strong, it takes the “fun” out of it for them.

5. Leave/Stop Spending Time With Them

You don’t always have the option to cut ties with a narcissist, but many times, you do. If you’ve tried all you can to get along with them and you are still miserable, then get away from them. There is no reason you have to allow them to suck the life out of you. Love yourself enough to walk away.

Final Thoughts

Even though narcissists can make your life difficult, you should actually feel sorry for them. Why? Because “hurt people hurt people.” They wouldn’t be a narcissist if something unloving hadn’t happened to them at some point in their lives.

They probably just became narcissists to survive. But while it’s okay to feel sorry for them, that doesn’t mean you should put their needs above your own. Love yourself first. Keep in mind these tips on how to deal with a narcissist. Don’t take any abuse. Stand up for yourself—because you deserve it!

More Tips on How to Deal With a Narcissist

Featured photo credit: DANNY G via unsplash.com

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Carol Morgan

Dr. Carol Morgan is the owner of HerSideHisSide.com, a communication professor, dating & relationship coach, TV personality, speaker, and author.

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Last Updated on January 15, 2021

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

Posture

First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

  • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
  • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
  • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
  • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

Facial Expressions

Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

  • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
  • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
  • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

2. Relax Your Face

New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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3. Improve Your Eye Contact

Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

3. Smile More

There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

4. Hand Gestures

Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

5. Enhance Your Handshake

In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

“Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

Final Takeaways

Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

Reference

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