Living with a narcissist can be difficult and frustrating. They always seem to need to be in control and can be very demanding. If you have a narcissist in your life, it is important to learn how to take control away from them.
We often use the term “narcissist” informally for a person who is too self-focussed and lacking in empathy. However, before we describe some as narcissistic, it would be better if we remind ourselves that Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is a mental condition as defined by the diagnostic criteria (DSM-5) of The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder issued by the American Psychiatric Association.
But people may exhibit narcissistic behavior without ever having the medical condition. Some of the commonly exhibited narcissistic symptoms in non-NPD individuals are:
- Self-importance or vanity
- Need for constant praise
- Exploiting people around them
- Lack of consideration or empathy
People with NPD or narcissistic behavior may make things worse for themselves and others by being overly sensitive to opinions and criticism.
This article explores a practical approach to dealing with narcissistic behavior. Here, you will also find tips on how to take control away from a Narcissist and know when to move on.
How to deal with a narcissistic personality?
1. Take the time to see them as they are
People with narcissistic behavior can switch on their charm whenever they want to. Even if you are aware of this, you might fall for their grand schemes and promises. This gives them an extra edge in workplaces and makes them popular.
Before their charm takes you in, try to notice their behavior when they are not in the limelight. If you have seen them lying, exploiting, or displaying disrespect, remember that they can do the same with you.
They may put you on a pedestal, but despite all their big talk, you and your needs probably don’t matter to them. If you dare to point this out to them, you may come up against defiance and hostility.
The best way to handle a narcissistic person is to accept who they really are. You just need to acknowledge that you can’t do much about it.
2. Define clear boundaries
A narcissistic person is self-centered and has a feeling of entitlement. They may feel that they have the freedom to do or say anything they want. You may find them violating your personal space, going through your personal effects, or preaching to you about the right behavior or emotions.
Unsolicited advice, snatching credit for your accomplishments and hard work, and embarrassing you in public are just a few things you can expect from them. They seem to have no understanding of personal space and often cross boundaries.
As the consequences of their behavior have little meaning for them or do they seem to matter to them, the onus is on you to set boundaries and enforce them.
One way to take control away from a narcissist is to set boundaries. This means being clear about what you will and won’t tolerate from them.
So, If someone regularly crosses your boundaries, they’re not worthy of your time and energy. Take control away from the narcissist by setting boundaries and sticking to them.
3. Reclaim your power
Narcissistic people expect others to follow their standards and rules. They criticize and trash those who fail to meet their expectations.
Here are some instances of such behavior.
- A parent telling a child how he is wasting his time playing sports.
- A partner saying how stupid their dress sense or hairstyle is.
They will say this often enough and at times in public to make you feel bad and force you to change. They may control and manipulate your time and activities to make sure that you follow their rules. Ultimately, all this will make you believe that you don’t know what you want and who you are.
The first step towards recovery is to reclaim your power and identity. You need to refamiliarize with who you are, what you enjoy, what you want to do, and who you like to be with.
Dating is not a good idea in this period. You should focus on reconnecting with yourself.
4. Don’t argue about ‘right’ and ‘wrong’
Narcissists are after all narcissists – individuals with inflated self-importance and ego. No matter how much evidence you parade before them, they are never going to admit that they were wrong.
It’s a waste of time and energy to argue with them, especially about who is right and who is wrong. Or whom to blame for something.
When arguing with a narcissist, you need to remember that they are keener on winning than on finding the truth. All they are interested in is ensuring that they are not blamed. In case they are the real culprits, they will shift the blame to someone else, most probably yourself.
Every time something goes wrong, they place the blame on others to avoid feeling bad. This applies to everything they are involved in, including their personal lives. They will blame you even for making them feel any negative emotions such as sadness, irritation, or anger.
It’s important to take control away from the narcissist by not arguing with them. This way, they can’t use your emotions against you.
5. Walk away
Walking away from a narcissist may seem the easiest way to deal with them until you try it. When you leave them, you are inflicting a blow on their ego and self-worth. This is something a narcissist will not tolerate. They will make sure that your life is ruined if you take this step.
Narcissists create an atmosphere of anxiety and fear that their victims dare not walk away from them. They are particularly good at destroying your support system and contacts so that you will be left alone in the world if you walk out on them.
You may ignore them or keep a distance from them, thus denying them the opportunity to influence or torment you. However, they may feel humiliated and lash out at you, often in an abusive or toxic way.
Take control away from a narcissist by refusing to give them the attention they crave. Ignoring them denies them the satisfaction of knowing they have upset or annoyed you.
If you are planning to walk out, plan your strategy to deal with such reactions.
6. Assert yourself
When someone is browbeating or harming you, the best way to counter is to speak up and assert your individuality. However, it is hard to succeed in this approach with a narcissist.
You may not want to walk away from them because you are too much involved with them. However, silently putting up with their abuse is neither good for your mental health. You owe it to yourself to speak up.
But narcissists have a readymade counter for this. They won’t tolerate anyone toppling them from their high pedestal. This means you will have to go about it calmly.
You should gently tell them how their behavior impacts and harms your life. You should clearly state what is not acceptable and the changes you want in their behavior towards you. You may expect indifference or intense resistance to your suggestions. Be ready to overcome them.
One of the most important things you can do when learning how to take control away from a narcissist is to start speaking up for yourself. This means communicating your needs clearly and assertively and not letting the narcissist control or manipulate the conversation.
7. Persuade them to get professional help
Whether the selfish and inconsiderate behavior is part of their mental health condition or not, narcissists don’t see it as their problem. From their viewpoint, the other person is always to blame. This means they won’t consider therapy or counseling.
To make matters worse, people with narcissistic tendencies typically have other issues like substance abuse, personality disorders, or mental health issues. They may agree to seek help for other issues if you are persuasive enough.
You can only suggest that they seek professional help. But you have no way to force them. Don’t blame yourself if they are refusing to reach out for help. It is their responsibility to do this and not yours.
Narcissistic behavior is a mental health issue and needs to be treated for the same. You need to remember that they cannot make this an excuse to mistreat and abuse you.
An experienced therapist can help you to understand more about narcissistic personality disorder and how to deal with it.
8. Divert the focus away from them
One way to take control away from a narcissist is to divert the focus away from them. Narcissistic individuals love to be the center of attention in a crowd. You may also play into their hands intentionally or unintentionally to feed their ego. They often use the limelight to be cruel and abusive. You may feel helpless that you can do nothing about this situation.
The situation may look bleak, but you can still do a lot to improve yourself. If you are expecting a miracle, that may never happen. If you adjust your life to suit them, they will keep taking from you and will never be satisfied. You need to take charge and plan it out.
The most important thing to remember is to deny them the spotlight. Take away the focus from them. You may find it hard to do it initially but plan your strategy taking into account all their quirky behaviors. Develop thick skin so that you remain unaffected by the commotion.
9. Expect them to resist change
A person with a narcissistic personality disorder can be very difficult to deal with.
Of course, they want things to continue as it is and will fight you hard if you try to change the status quo. You are trying to keep their narcissistic personality under control and how can they tolerate the curtailment of their freedom and right to torment others?
How they will react to your effort depends on the individual. Some try the manipulation route to make you feel guilty. They may impress upon you that you are controlling and unreasonable. Or else, they may be insanely angry and lash out at you. Another approach they may adopt is by playing for your sympathy.
If you are planning to take control away from a narcissist, you should be well aware of how they would react. If you are unprepared and concede even an inch, your effort is as good as wasted. They will not take you seriously anymore. Be prepared and be firm.
10. Just know that you are not to blame
With the blame flying thick and fast in your direction, you may feel compelled to blame yourself. No matter how much you talk it over, just know that a narcissist will never admit their mistake or take on the blame. They are so good at passing their wrongs to others, most probably to you.
After several rounds of talks, you will feel drained and have no more energy to fight back. You would find it easier and needs less effort to accept the blame.
You need to know that it won’t end with this. This will be an ongoing saga of you taking on blame for anything and everything that goes wrong. Moreover, accepting a mistake without doing it will create a huge dent in your mental health.
It is just not worth it. Blaming yourself is not the solution. You are aware of the truth and stand by it. So, take control away from them, and let them know that you will no longer tolerate their abuse.
Related: How To Make A Narcissist Fear You
What does a healthy relationship look like?
Trust, mutual respect, and communication are the pillars of a healthy relationship. These are the essential ingredients in a happy and fulfilling relationship.
Lack of trust makes it hard to feel safe and secure in a relationship. Mutual respect is vital to letting your partner know you value them and their feelings.
Communication is essential to let each other know their needs and wants. All these three are vital for the health of a relationship. The absence of even one can affect the balance of the relationship.
That being so, when you take up the challenge to take control away from a narcissist, you can expect a great deal of resistance and anger. If this is the case, how is it ever possible to reform a narcissist? The answer lies in creating a positive atmosphere for a healthy relationship built on trust, respect, and communication. If you succeed in this, you are assured of a happy life.
Here are some signs of a healthy relationship.
- Partners listen to and understand each other.
- Partners admit to their mistakes and own responsibility for their actions.
- Partners feel comfortable in their own skin and relaxed in the presence of each other.
In case any of these are missing in your relationship, you will not feel contentment.
For more help, you can always find more articles and books on the topic. You can also seek professional help from a therapist or counselor who can assist you in learning how to take control away from a narcissist. They can guide you on how to take back control of your life.
We also have a few articles on How to Respond to a Narcissist Text Message that you might find helpful to reclaim your power for a happy and fulfilling life.