Narcissists know how to push every button you have & many you weren’t even aware of having. They do this in order to provoke an emotional reaction from you. Whether you’re angry or hurting, your reaction makes them feel powerful, which in turn provides narcissistic supply, & makes them feel good. That is why they often act much like a machine gun with their cruelty- quickly pumping out verbally abusive comments one right after another. The more they can hurt or anger you, the better they feel. When you have pretty much fallen apart, they are deliriously happy.
If you want to put a stop to this behavior, join the club! We all do. There isn’t any way I know of to stop it entirely. But, there are some ways to slow this down. One very effective way is to learn to respond, not react.
Reaction is done immediately, often without thinking. If a doctor uses that little hammer & taps your knee is a certain spot, your reaction is for your leg to kick. That is the type of response narcissists want from you- immediate anger or hurt without thinking as soon as they have said or done something hateful.
Responding however is different. It’s slower & more deliberate. You take time to think, possibly even putting your emotions aside before you give any sort of response. This is not what narcissists want, & that, Dear Reader is a good thing!
The more you react emotionally to a narcissist, the more buttons they will push to get you to react more. It’s a vicious cycle. However, the less reaction you give them, the less interest they will have in hurting you.
Responding can seem impossible to do at first, but it really does get easier & easier with practice. The best way I personally learned to do this is a technique common to caregivers of those with Alzheimer’s or other types of dementia. When something is said or done, stop for a second. Take a deep breath in & out, then speak. That brief moment of the deep breath helps you to think, & also to remind yourself why you must stay calm & focused. Plus the deep breath relaxes you. This technique enables you to stay calm & focused in the face of sheer madness.
I urge you to give this a try the next time you must deal with the narcissist in your life. It really does help you. I have done this when speaking with my narcissistic father. Now that he has Alzheimer’s, the narcissism has gotten worse than ever. I don’t feel right about being too harsh with him since it’s the Alzheimer’s making it worse rather than him deliberately trying harder to get attention or hurt me. (Dementia & Alzheimer’s can make someone with NPD act worse) But, at the same time, I need to protect myself. Stopping long enough to take in & release that deep breath helps me to maintain my composure & give a decent response rather than an angry reaction. It may help you as well! Try it- what do you have to lose?
7 responses to “Respond, Don’t React, To Narcissists”
This is good advice when you’re dealing with someone who will stop screaming long enough for you to get a word in edgewise. But one of my narcissists will simply start screaming again if I say anything at all. It seems that they can’t tolerate hearing my voice.
Geez, that is the truth… my parents are the same way with acting like they can’t tolerate hearing my voice. The only difference is they no longer scream to keep me quiet, they just talk non stop. It’s simply maddening. They do have to take a breath at some point though, & eventually you can sneak in a couple of words (if you’re lucky..).
I found that stopping for a minute to think, allowed me to realize what i was dealing with and that he was just pushing those buttons to make me angry and confused. If I waited about answering, I didn’t tend to get caught in the web so easily.
Yes! If you take a moment, you can collect your thoughts & yourself so you don’t get so emotional or caught up in the games so easily.
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I find that pausing, making direct eye contact and staying as calm as possible works, even though my natural instinct is to totally protect myself from being verbally attacked and shout back. It’s hard but it’s possible. Thanks for posting this. There is hope.
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It is very hard but also very possible indeed. Those things are extremely helpful. So long as you can maintain your calm demeanor in their presence, that is the main thing.
You’re very welcome! Yes, there is hope. It’s not a perfect solution- there isn’t one with narcissists- but it is helpful at least.
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