Communicating with a narcissist can be frustrating and almost maddening.
Trying to reason with them, telling them how you feel, or applying logic often results in an argument that leaves you so exhausted, you often end up giving in.
The classic mistake we make is that we believe the narcissist actually cares about us, our needs, or sadly, even our children, with whom we may share. We erroneously communicate out of survival emotions, which are usually fear, anger, resentment, hatred, or all of the above. But as you may have found, these communication methods only enflame the engagement and get you nowhere.
If you are locked into a relationship with a narcissist — such as an employer, a high conflict partner, an ex-spouse with shared custody, or perhaps a family member — avoid using these words or phrases. They will only trigger your narcissist’s greatest fears or insecurities, and yield the opposite effect that you likely desire: cooperation.
- “You are so unreasonable”
Narcissists fear people discovering that they aren’t the reasonable, easy going, Prince Charmings they pretend to be. So you telling them they are unreasonable will only trigger fear within them, not logic (as you hope it will). Instead, neutralize their insecurity by playing on it.
Try, “I trust that …” It will not only throw them off, but your “trusting” of them will feed their ego.
Example: “I trust that you will agree to signing up our son for karate. Thanks for being so reasonable.”
This word is one of the most powerful boundary words in our vocabulary. But if you are trying to inspire cooperation, this word will only backfire if you’re negotiating or you need something from them in the future.
Try “If/then” statements where you make an offer to appease them instead of saying “no.” Your proposed option may be equally unreasonable to them, but this positions them to have to “decide” thus, making them feel “in control” and thereby mitigating a temper tantrum.
Example: “If you want to get the kids one day early, then how about I get them another day next week.”
- “You should…”
Narcissists thrive on being in control. But when they perceive that their control is threatened, they experience a narcissistic injury which could result in anger or worse, violence. If you are trying to parent or co-parent with them, telling them they “should” do something on behalf of your child, albeit with suggestive or helpful intent, will likely guarantee the opposite effect you desire. Therefore, if you want them to take a particular action, you must use words that make them still feel in control. Instead, try, “You are so good at…”
Example: “You are so good at math and were always a good student, could you help Jimmy with his homework?”
No matter the words you choose to neutralize the power struggle, communicating with a narcissist means thinking like a CEO, and view every engagement as a business deal. By looking at them through a non-emotional lens, and choosing the “MAGIC Words” to engage, you will feel more empowered and ultimately inspire cooperation.
Lindsey Ellison is a relationship coach who specializes in narcissistic abuse, and author of MAGIC Words: How to Get What You Want from a Narcissist. Her bestselling book offers a step-by-step formula on how to create a communication plan, and provides a script of empowering “magic” words that can neutralize the power struggle. She can be found at LindseyEllison.com and her book can be found on Amazon: https://amzn.to/2GlEzGC
View her Practitioner page here: https://narcissistabusesupport.com/practitioners/lindsey-ellison/
Thank You Lindsey Ellison for this great article!