Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Be Mindful When Interacting with Narcissists

Most of the situations that we are in are due to our own choices.  However, there are also situations in which others will try to force us to choose and if we play along and make a choice, they will use that decision to try to manipulate the situation to their advantage.  Always keep this in mind when dealing with someone who only views relationships as hierarchies and power struggles.  I started to think more about this behavior, after reading the book, Nasty People: How to Stop Being Hurt by Them Without Stooping to Their Level by Jay Carter.  It is an advice book that offers different strategies for how to recognize and constructively deal with people who have nasty attitudes. I started thinking about how Ns who think strategically and aren't very impulsive, are probably more likely to try to force a person's hand by making that person choose and then holding that person responsible for the decision, while the N gets to maintain his or her "innocence" all at the same time. I believe the key to handling a person who uses this tactic is to STOP AND THINK about what is actually going on - be mindful about the situation and what the other person is trying to accomplish. And realize that you don't have to engage narcissists on their terms.

In my last entry, I talked about "S", my former coworker from "07" whom I believe is highly narcissistic.  S didn't play this "Choose" game all the time but there were times when she would use it to try to gain the upper hand.  This was her tactic when she felt an ego threat coming on and she wanted to halt it.  In the example I gave of the conversation that S and I had about the coworker who confronted her about her bossiness, S also told me that while talking to that coworker, S asked her if she would like for the both of them to go to management and talk about the problem.  Well, S told me that the coworker didn't want to do that, since they were already discussing the matter anyway.  S saw this as the "wrong" choice for that coworker to make, telling me that the coworker "chose not to do that" in a contemptuous, self-righteous tone.  S never took any responsibility for being bossy.  Never once while talking to me did S say anything such as "I may have been somewhat bossy to her" or "I didn't agree with her complaint, but I did try to understand her perspective." The only thing that mattered to S was that the coworker had confronted her and chosen not to go to management with the problem.  I didn't realize that this was a tactic on S's part to deny herself of any responsibility whenever confronted, until she tried that same tactic on me a few months later, when I had the same issue with her as this other coworker did.  That's when I realized that the only thing that mattered to S was that she was able to dominate an interaction by either saying very little when being confronted or attacking the other person's choices during/after the confrontation so that she could feel better about herself.  At that point, I didn't have the ability to argue my points skillfully, so when S started in on me, I wasn't able to counter her the way I wanted too and could now.

Narcissists who operate like S look down on other peoples thoughts, feelings, and choices. They also wait and watch for people to make choices that go against their better interests, so that they can then use those decisions to browbeat and psychologically torment the people who have finally seen through their facade. They want people to flub up and continuously make mistakes so that they can devalue them and dominate interactions.

The only thing to do is to NOT play the game the way these Ns want to play it.  When an N gives you an ultimatum or tries to put you into a situation in which you feel like you are forced to make a choice, sometimes the best way to counteract this set up is to NOT make a choice between whatever options the N has offered.  Put the responsibility back on the N to do/not do something instead.   This role reversal may also be done with non-Ns as well, because Ns aren't the only ones who will try this "Choose" tactic to try to turn situations in their favor.  By using role reversal in situations that call for it, Ns and non-Ns who are trying to dominate an interaction are forced to deal with the fact that they are not going to be able to control all interactions and that they also have to take on some of the responsibility for what they do/don't do when engaging with other people.


  1. Hi BC,
    It is a lot of games. It is often hard to see the manipulation. It does require a moment to stop and think if doing this is what I value or want to do. One can fall into the game without even realizing one is in it. I've been there and I couldn't see it. My SiL is like this and man, the amount of control and lack of responsibility is difficult to deal with. xxTR

  2. Hi, TR, thanks for following my blog. I have visited your site as well, and I think that you're entries are very informative. I especially liked the entries in which you talked about the N friends that you have had and how you started to respond to their manipulative tactics. I read those entries when I was starting to realize the value of responding differently to Ns, and other difficult people.

    After experiencing S's behaviors and tactics, I definitely realized that a lot of these people see most interactions as a game/competition, and as such, there is a winner and a loser. Of course the N craves being the winner.

    1. I still have a hard time with SiL's tactics and what you say about they have to win is what I see with her. I struggle very much with handling the situation. What you write here is a very telling example of how it works and plays out. xx