Nine Unexpected Ways to Shut Down a Narcissist

The best advice is to avoid people with narcissist tendencies whenever you spot them, but this isn’t always possible or practical. Maybe you have a co-worker, family member, or neighbor you can’t easily avoid. In these situations, you’ll need a few practical skills to help you manage those moments when you need to interact. You need to know how to have a conversation when you are forced to and how to discourage them from engaging with you any more than necessary.

Take a look at the following nine unexpected ways to shut down a narcissist. You won’t see anything resembling a “killer comeback” or a “drop the mic” type of comment. To win against a narcissist, you need to think differently. Find out what it takes to shut down a narcissist by taking a more unconventional route.

Know Your Boundaries

Know your boundaries, disengage from the conversation, and literally walk away from the other person. Don’t bother arguing or trying to convince them of your point of view. Simply drop it and step back. It’s almost a guarantee that they have a stronger desire to win than you do, and it almost certainly won’t be worth it go to battle against them. Be ready for them to taunt you and try to hook you back in. Show your determination by sticking to your plan and stepping away. You won’t be much fun to pick on in the future when you refuse to play the game for long.

Keep Calm and Carry on

Keep your calm and stay unemotional when your buttons are being pushed. This can be really tough, so if you feel yourself starting to crack, go back to the first recommendation on this list and walk away. Keep in mind that you can’t make them change who they are. What you see is what you get. Stay focused on controlling your own thoughts and behaviors, and you’ll have an easier time disengaging when necessary. You may need to practice building up a tough skin around this person. Over time, it can get easier to withstand their insults and overblown ego. And when you don’t look like such a juicy target anymore, you might get passed over from time to time.

Be a Boring Conversationalist – Part 1

Create a handful of canned phrases that say something but aren’t too strong. They can give you a way to reply or comment if needed. A lot of what a narcissist says can get pretty predictable once you know them. So a lot of your comments can be easily reused. If you feel you need to reply, make a comment like “That must be tough for you,” or, “That’s the way it goes, isn’t it?.” Even “Mmhmm…” works here. You appear to participate but you aren’t playing along with the game. You don’t feed the narcissist much emotion or drama. It helps them become bored with you and disengage more quickly.

Be a Boring Conversationalist – Part 2

Make comments about surface-level topics like the weather or what you ate for lunch. Remember, you don’t have to take any conversational bait they offer. As a reasonable person, you may be tempted to follow societal norms and go with the topic at hand for a while. Since a narcissist isn’t a reasonable person,  you don’t have to follow the rules that closely. No matter what they say, make your comments mundane and uninspiring. Change the topic if needed and don’t worry if it doesn’t make sense. Your goal is to make small talk to drain the energy away from your interaction.

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Show Compassion

Show honest acknowledgment of their feelings and even a bit of compassion. If you do this with a topic that means a lot to them, you can really strike a chord. This will surprise them s much, and it may not be obvious to you at first. They’ll do anything to save face in front of you, so even if you genuinely disarmed them you may only see a flash of vulnerability. They are so accustomed to lashing out or defending themselves, they won’t know what to do with a calm empathetic response.

Keep Your Expectations Low

Narcissists tend to promise the moon and skip out on the delivery. If you keep your expectations very modest, you won’t be surprised when they dump you because you don’t have a purpose in their life anymore. All of this is predictable with a narcissist, so expect practically nothing and you won’t be disappointed much  This will also help you keep your general emotional involvement at a lower level to avoid reacting to every let-down.

Decline Their Generosity

Politely refuse a generous offer that seems too good to be true. They may hardly believe it when you won’t accept an invitation to a crazy fabulous restaurant or to a popular event in town. A narcissist doesn’t just give you the best they have to offer without expecting something in return. They’ll sweeten the pot and suck you in, and then they’ll use you. This is their end game, not genuine friendship or the joy of generosity. Since narcissists are predictable in this way, you can get a step ahead of them. Use this moment of surprise to your advantage instead.  Narcissists don’t recognize their own bad behavior, so they’d be in disbelief if someone turned down their amazing offer. They won’t see it coming, leaving them shocked and off-center.

Push Their Happy Buttons

Find creative ways of pushing a narcissist happy buttons. Even when you have a legitimate beef with them, you will never succeed if you try to point fingers at them. They will be immediately defensive and have nothing but horrible things to say back to you. Instead, invite them to be the hero and ask them to help you out. Word your comments in a way that strokes their ego just enough that you can get past their defensiveness. Then you can to ask for their help with something that you need to get done. While it might feel better to dump this person altogether, you may have reasons you need to stay involved. Perhaps the narcissist in your life is your former spouse, or your direct supervisor, or a roommate. In this case, knowing how to sweeten your conversation and appeal to them can make your daily life go more smoothly.

Agree and Validate

Find something they say that you can agree with and validate them. Think about it, everyone wants to feel like they are worth something and that they know something about themselves. And when someone agrees with you and supports what you say, you feel good. There’s nothing wrong with that, and chances are if you listen very closely, you can find something to validate what the narcissist in your life is saying. You aren’t lying or exaggerating. It may be cherry-picking, but you’re trying to catch them being good at something and highlighting it. Agreeing is also a fantastic way to shut down any kind of argument. 

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