How to Turn the Table on a Narcissist
One extremely effective tactic for when you are forced to communicate with a narcissist in your life.
Narcissists absolutely hate for the other person to be right. Especially if that person is a spouse, significant other, parent or child.
They will disagree with you simply for the sake of disagreeing. Their immediate reaction to most of what you say is to tell you that you are wrong. Then they will explain their own point of view, saying the exact same thing you did. If you try to tell them that is the same as what you said, they will adamantly deny that and explain their point of view all over again. They will put words in your mouth, saying, “No, you said….” Those words will often not be anything like what you said. If you confront them on this, they often have a standard cop-out, “Well, I don’t remember exactly word for word, but it was something like that.” Their insistence of explaining how they were right and your were wrong is never-ending. You will go in infinite circles around and around. You will get absolutely nowhere!
When a narcissist does occasionally find themselves in a place where the other person is right, they absolutely will not admit it. They cannot simply say, “Hey, you are right” or “I never thought of it like that.” They may actually get to a point that they admit you are right, but only in a back-handed way. They will make it very clear that what you are saying is stuff they already knew. Their knowledge must be greater, faster and stronger. You will hear things such as,
- “I know! I had that thought a week ago. Glad you caught up.”
- “You’re right, you must have been listening to me.”
- “I knew that was the case.”
- “I already know that, and I’ll take it a step further….”
A simple “Hey, you have a good point there,” is not within their capabilities. It threatens their ego too much. For that tiny instant, they would feel inferior to you. To admit that you are right means, internally, they have to admit that they were wrong. There simply is no in-between ground. Don’t forget, for them, this isn’t conversation. It’s combat! Every interaction has a winner and a loser, and they must be the winner, no matter how insignificant the conversation really is.
Use Their Own Game Against Them
So what do you do if you are in such a relationship and you can’t walk away, at least not yet? How do you avoid these combative interactions and their narcissistic rage?
One very effective tactic is to beat them at their own game. Anticipate their irrational reactions before they happen and call them out on it ahead of time. Use their own desire to always be right and to always prove you wrong against them.
Let me explain. Let’s say you know you have a tough conversation coming with your narcissist. Before the conversation even starts, simply say, “Now I know you are going to react hard to this, but I need to tell you…..” Then tell them. Their own burning desire to prove you wrong will keep their reaction in check. If they blow up now, then you will be right, and they CANNOT allow that to happen.
Some examples of these pre-emptive statements:
- I know you are not going to like this, but ……
- I know you are going to get mad, but ……
- I know this is going to set you off, but …….
As soon as the words “I know” come out of your mouth, their mind is already triggered to prove you wrong.
Yes this is a bit manipulative and purely intentional. But it is also a way of self-protection. Often, we still are caught in interactions with these narcissists. Maybe you have kids together and are co-parenting, otherwise known as counter parenting. Maybe you simply aren’t out of the relationship yet. Maybe it’s your parent, and you don’t want to completely cut ties. If you must keep interacting with them, then you should start finding ways to do it without losing your own mind.
Whatever the circumstances, use this tactic and watch them nearly bite their tongue in half just to prove you wrong! Enjoy it!