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Sometimes You Just Have To Argue With A Narcissist

Posted on: September 9, 2021

Marriage Counseling Insights brought to you by California Psychotherapeutic Resources, Inc.

We all have to deal with some very annoying people. But people with narcissistic tendencies can be especially annoying. First off, it’s good to have an idea about narcissistic traits. In a previous blog, How To Spot A Narcissist, I pointed out that narcissists typically have absolute clarity about a situation, and an undying commitment to his or her opinion. Writing for Vice.com, Ramani Durvasula, PhD, adds to the description of a narcissist by saying, “it’s a pattern characterized by entitlement, arrogance, lack of empathy, validation and admiration seeking, sensitivity to criticism, grandiosity, poor insight, and difficulty controlling emotions, especially when frustrated or disappointed.”

A man ready to argue

If that sounds like anyone you know, then you’re probably acquainted with a narcissist, whether or not you’ve used that label. If the person is an acquaintance or maybe a colleague, you might get away with simply minimizing contact with the person. But if they’re a family member or, worst of all, your partner, then you are virtually destined to have to confront them on occasion. That’s when it helps to keep some basic rules in mind. Durvasula offers these tips for arguing with a narcissist.

“Choose Your Battles.” Forget the small stuff — only argue when the issue involves your well-being or that of your children, professional integrity or finances.

“Keep Your Voice Calm And Stay Composed.” Narcissists are often adept at turning the table. If you yell in response to their rage, they might suddenly and calmly say to you, “you need to calm down.”

“Don’t Defend Or Explain Yourself.” Remember this basic point: a narcissist will not listen to you. Your explanations will fall on deaf ears.

“Hold On To Your Reality.” One aspect of “gaslighting” is a dismissal of another person’s reality. Narcissists are expert at gaslighting. They can deny your feelings with something as subtle as “you’re being too sensitive.” Trust yourself.

“Keep Bringing It Back To The Original Thread.” Narcissists deflect by bringing in unrelated issues. Politely listen and then return to the original issue.

“Don’t Bring Up Old Grievances (Even When They Do).” Better yet, if you can bring yourself to do so, be empathetic and then get back to the issue — “you’re right about that one, but right now we need to deal with this problem.”

“Know That It’s OK To Physically Step Away (Just Don’t Storm Off).” Arguing can be exhausting. If you’re not making any progress, admit it to yourself and explain you need a little time alone.

“Bring It To A Soft Landing.” Realize that you’ll rarely resolve an issue. Figure out how to simply stop arguing by calmly saying something like, “I think we’ve said all we need to say.”

For a more in-depth discussion about each point, read  Ramani Durvasula’s full article here.

Posted in: Marriage Counseling