How To Deal With A Narcissist Effectively

By JH Simon

How To Deal With A Narcissist

Table of Contents

To deal with a narcissist is a battle only the initiated can win.

You think you have a narcissist in your life. This person is entitled, rigid, obnoxious and has a constant need to be superior. Or perhaps you are dealing with a covert narcissist, and the signs are more murky. Often it is not easy to tell.

Learning to deal with a narcissist requires a strategy. You need to know the signs and understand the field of play. Without having the necessary counter-moves, you remain vulnerable. Finally, you need to know how to protect and care for yourself when targeted by narcissistic abuse.

Get The Knowledge and Support You Need To Recover From Narcissistic Abuse

Shame: The Narcissist’s Bread And Butter

Nobody chooses narcissistic abuse. It slowly takes hold only if you are unaware of what is happening. Before the more overt abuse takes over, a shame imbalance is the best way to measure whether you are dealing with a narcissist.

You can usually tell through the narcissist’s everyday interactions, which come in the form of:

  • A snide remark.
  • A put down.
  • A back-handed compliment.
  • A snicker.
  • An ‘observation’ about you which causes you to question yourself.
  • One-upping you every time you speak.

These are all tiny nudges to push you more and more into shame. This is how narcissistic abuse begins. Never admitting to faults, blaming others for what goes wrong, inflating themselves through story; the narcissist is creating an aura of ‘superiority’. In doing so, they force you to feel inferior in comparison.

This apparent ‘superiority’ is shamelessness. It creates the illusion that the narcissist is ‘higher.’

By being consistently shameless while shaming you in the process, all without your awareness, the narcissist gradually grinds you down. This makes you psychologically malleable enough to control and manipulate.

Signs that you are experiencing shame from narcissistic abuse are:

  • You start to feel heavy in the mind.
  • Your mind goes blank.
  • Your posture collapses.
  • You begin questioning yourself.
  • You find yourself on the back foot all the time, needing to defend or explain yourself.
Narcissism, Codependency & Sex

Explore a world of unbridled hedonism. Join Jasmin in her quest to find herself and break free of her dysfunction.

When The Heat Turns Up

When you deal with a narcissist, observe this pattern of shaming and practice sensing it when it begins. It can come from anywhere; a friend, a relative, a colleague or boss at work, a romantic partner.

If this pattern takes hold without your awareness, narcissistic abuse will follow. Only by picking up on it and disengaging can you protect yourself.

An excellent analogy for shame is the frog happily swimming in a pot of slowly boiling water. By the time the frog knows what is happening, it’s too late.

By shaming you more and more within the flow of the relationship, the narcissist is effectively ‘turning up the heat’.

Shame weighs you down, causes you to question yourself, and puts a dampener on your willpower and pride. You lose sight of your potential. The hotter the water, so to speak, the less able you will be to act against the narcissist.

So how do you know if you are being shamed? Check the water temperature.

Are you constantly questioning yourself? Do you feel heavy, like a dark cloud has descended on your mind? Do you feel inferior and hopeless? Then you are likely dealing with a narcissist.

How To Deal With A Narcissist’s Game

In learning to deal with a narcissist, you will need to defend against a shame imbalance. That is where the game is played.

The narcissist gains power over you by infiltrating your mind and changing how you perceive reality.

They make shaming comments so that you question yourself. They act shamelessly so that you see them as perfect and can’t pin anything on them. They ridicule you so that your self-esteem drops.

With a constant barrage, you eventually come to believe that they are superior, and that you are beneath them in every conceivable way. To change this distorted reality field, you need to see it for what it is: an elaborate lie.

Connecting The Dots

The emotions you feel might be real, yet the fiction which triggers them is not. Whenever the narcissist speaks, you can begin to dissect the game.

Pay attention to what they say, and then to how you feel. As you do, simply look on with a bird’s-eye view. Connect with the watcher inside you, which activates when you practice mindfulness.

Write down afterwards what the narcissist says, and share those words with a close friend or your therapist. Really get analytical. What purpose do the words hold? Are they intended to support the relationship, or do they have a darker purpose? How much truth do the words hold? Is that truth subjective? How would a loving, supporting person approach that same situation?

After a while, you will pick up the pattern. They say something, you get emotionally triggered, you respond predictably and sink deeper into their madness.

How to deal with the narcissist's game

To drive this point home, think of a live sports game. The crowd is enraptured, the tension is high, emotions are running wild, and the game can go anywhere. Now take those same people, and have them view the replay of the game where they already know the score. Would they be as invested?

You deal with a narcissist by exposing their shaming tactics. As the madness of it all reveals itself to you, you will feel like you are watching the replay of a sick, never-ending game.

How To Deal With What The Narcissist Says

Narcissistic abuse always begins with the mind. The narcissist aims to infiltrate your thoughts, turn your perspective up-side down, and then re-program you from the inside.

Luckily, you have many deflection tools at your disposal. The key is to redirect or disengage energy from the narcissist’s attempts at shaming you.

The following tricks should be useful when you deal with a narcissist:

Change The Topic

The narcissist is judging you, ridiculing you, or directing focus on you and your ‘hopelessness’.

Halfway through the narcissist’s monologue or rant, simply change the topic to something completely mundane. Do it shamelessly and without warning. The weather. Which colour shirt would look better, black or white? When do the shops close? What was the score from last night’s game?

The key here is to de-personalise the conversation, short-circuit the narcissist’s stream of shaming, and bring your interaction back to the surface. The narcissist will sense the shift, but will likely not say anything, because that would disrupt the ‘game.’


If the narcissist is poking fun at the book you’re reading, or how you’ve arranged your room, or how you styled or cut your hair, ask them calmly what they mean. Ask them how they would do things or what they would choose, and why exactly that would be better?

Finally, ask them what truth their perspective is based on. Would others agree? If so, who exactly? Have any studies been done on the best choice of book to read, or how to arrange a room? What were the parameters of that study? Would it be possible, just maybe, that different people require different solutions, and that such solutions might not be so clear until you’ve been in another person’s shoes?

The possibilities to such a line of questioning are endless, but the effect is powerful: either you will take the wind out of the narcissist’s sail, or you will force them into a dead-end. If you remain totally calm, the narcissist will find it hard to rage, since they appear to be the crazy one, not you.

Hold The Line

When the narcissist says it’s all your fault, or accusses you, or pokes fun at you, create space for it. Pay attention to the narcissist’s facial expression, look into their eyes, remain silent and pay conscious attention to their grotesque creation. Study it like a scientist, see how it sits between you both, how it penetrates you, and just let it linger there for a moment.

Be conscious and mindful, and if you feel yourself being sucked in, breathe deeply and focus on a specific facial feature of the narcissist. Ground yourself in the moment, and no matter how awkward things start to feel, hold the line.

This technique is powerful when you deal with a narcissist because it puts the onus on the narcissist to carry the emotional weight of the exchange, not you. As a result, a mirror is slowly turned toward the narcissist, and their attempt falls flat.

The narcissist is a master of creating form, namely psychological and emotional form, and using it to manipulate others into feeding them attention and narcissistic supply.

The ‘trick’ for dealing with a narcissist is to see their creation for what it is, and to find creative ways to expose it. The narcissist is playing a game. Your job is to either disengage, or to change the rules of the game in real-time.

Just tread carefully to avoid narcissistic rage.

How To Deal With The Narcissist’s Abuse

When you deal with a narcissist, the most powerful thing you can do is develop and strengthen your sense of Self. Your authentic Self is your inner fortress, so therefore you need to fortify it.

Some steps to fortify your authentic Self are:

Find Your Centre

The essence of spirituality is to be grounded in something beyond your mind. This starts with being mindful in general, and really begins when you allow space for your centre to emerge.

If you can successfully ground yourself and establish consciousness of your centre, you will gain a point of reference when narcissists try to manipulate you.

When a narcissist ridicules you, shames you or tries to manipulate and control you with their words and behaviour, you will feel a subtle nudge away from this centre. This uncomfortable tugging feeling is your compass and greatest ally.

The process of grounding is explored in detail in my book How To Bury A Narcissist.


Each day, you should allocate some time to being alone.

A narcissist will do everything in their power to consume your mind and throw you off centre by muddling up your thoughts and emotions. Time alone, in total mindfulness, will clearly reveal your inner state to you, so you can understand it while giving it air to breathe.

When you emerge from solitude in a re-centred state, you can use this clean slate to help you better deal with the narcissist.

Get Angry

Repressed rage is like undiscovered oil — it lies beneath the surface, it’s black, and it burns easily.

Therefore, anger is the perfect fuel for boundary setting. You only need a little bit of it for the narcissist to sense that you mean business. On the outside, it will seem like you’re just being firm, but the narcissist will sense the tiny hint of rage behind your boundary.

How to deal with a narcissist - Rage

So get curious about anger. Be conscious of it in your body, and let yourself feel it. Explore it, and give it space to roam in a context which you can manage, i.e. in solitude or in therapy.

Recite This Mantra

Narcissism is a lie. It is a psychological game which convinces you that you are inferior and worthless by turning your shame against you. It can be unlearned and healed, and you can break the cycle.

Facing Doubt When You Deal With A Narcissist

We are taught to forgive and forget. Yet when we deal with a narcissist who does not play by the same rules, then forgiving and forgetting will only open us to further abuse.

If a narcissist hurts you, you may rightfully get upset. They might then explain to you why they did so, explain that terrible thing which happened to them, or that they had to do so because of such and such. They will throw explanations at you, many of which trigger your guilt and empathy.

Eventually, this barrage of ‘remorse’ will wear you down, and you decide that maybe they messed up. Clearly they see the error of their ways. Perhaps I’m being too harsh, you say to yourself. Maybe I brought this on myself. Plus it’s too tiring being stand-offish all the time. I’ll just let it slide this time. It surely won’t happen again.

Never Give The Narcissist The Benefit Of The Doubt

When the narcissist sees your doubt, they get a rush. Your ‘weakness’ has been revealed, the limits of your resolve made obvious. Next time, it will be easier to break you, because the precedent has been set. How annoying that you even put up this much resistance.

In most cases, the benefit of the doubt is necessary for the health of the relationship. For example, a good friend or lover, who has been with you through thick and thin, slips up. They mistreat you.

However, when you weigh up all the good and all the bad, you find far more good, and realise that losing the relationship would be too high a price to pay. You accept the apology, they make the necessary corrections, and you hope for the best.

Taking what the narcissist says at face value while giving them the benefit of the doubt is a recipe for disaster. In doing so, you show them that if they say the right thing, you can be manipulated and controlled. The benefit of the doubt is only suitable for the battle-tested relationship, and only as an exception. Never offer it to the narcissist.

Want to learn more about narcissism? Check out How To Bury A Narcissist for the definitive resource on overcoming narcissistic abuse.

Otherwise drop your email here to sign up for the weekly narcissism newsletter, which includes articles, videos and exercises to support you with narcissistic abuse recovery.

Further Reading