You CAN'T let them control you.
Here are 10 ways to help you both build a wall against being hurt and to help you keep your rationality during these interactions (WARNING: This list is pragmatic and often brutal. It's a guide to making your relationship work as best you can while also honoring your OWN needs):
1. Accept the fact that they are extremely unlikely to change.
It is incredibly rare for narcissists to change since they cannot understand the profound ways that they affect others. They believe their actions are good and everyone who complains at their behavior is "out to get them."
They can't change patterns that they completely and blatantly refuse to acknowledge in the first place. This complete lack of their personal responsibility can make you crazy, which is why you must accept that you will never, EVER convince them to change.
Realize that they are fundamentally incapable of suddenly realizing they are wrong and making changes, and that you must be the one who changes and manages your interactions.
2. Plan, plan, then plan some more.
When you’re considering spending any of your time with them, you need to consider all the options of how it could go. Know the expectations, and know that It's usually better to meet up somewhere public.
Activities can be good distractions when they are short (like grabbing lunch). They can be bad when you must spend a lot of uninterrupted time together (like 18 holes of golf).
It might be a good idea to plan a good escape route that you're okay with too.
3. Bring your own audience.
A narcissist can still say and do hurtful things with an audience, but they will have a much harder time claiming later that nothing happened. Depending on which witness(es) you choose, they might still be in “impress" mode and act completely differently than when you are with them alone.
If they are particularly toxic, sometimes they will twist your words and try to smear your reputation to others. If you always have a rational witness there with you, that nasty situation is easier to protect yourself against.
4. Act CORDIAL, but non-engaging.
When you keep the amount of information that you share about yourself to an absolute minimum (while staying polite), it is much easier to avoid conflict. If you don’t give them anything to latch on to, they are forced to keep their criticism and judgment to surface details, which — unfortunately — is usually more than enough for them to work with.
Avoid providing fuel for their fire in any way possible. Your personal details can and WILL be used against you, so confide nothing more than mundane details.
5. Refuse to be drawn into an argument.
If you’ve already accepted that they won’t change, it’s easier to avoid getting sucked into their drama. Refuse to let them pick a fight with you and cycle your emotions. You can only win by refusing to get into a fight in the first place.
Provide bland responses, and don’t take the bait if they criticize you. If they demand that you change in some way, provide no solid answer either way. Evade. Change the subject. Don’t agree nor disagree.
6. Take NOTHING personally.
This is easier said than done, but this quote is my mantra:
“Whatever happens around you, don’t take it personally… Nothing other people do is because of you. It is because of themselves.”
― Miguel Ruiz
If you refuse to take the narcissist personally, you create your own protective emotional space to help insulate yourself from the toxic parts of your interactions with them. Do not give in to guilt trips or attempts to make you feel ashamed.
7. Expect nothing.
Oddly, one of the worst parts about dealing with a narcissist is the good times. The good times can be so good that you find yourself wishing with your whole heart that maybe the bad times are over.
When an interaction with them goes well, continue to practice the other self-protective actions on the list. Maintain your emotional detachment. Appreciate the good, but remain prepared for the bad.
8. Withdraw when you’ve had enough.
Remove yourself from the situation when you’ve had enough. Cut the meeting short if things are turning negative or if you’ve been as polite as you can handle.
Have a signal to your witness (like a safe word) so they know you’ve had enough so they can prepare to get moving.
9. Appreciate the good relationships in your life.
Enlist your partner’s help and try to work as a team. Interacting with a non-spouse narcissist can be really hard on your primary relationship, so it’s vital that you express your appreciation for their help in dealing with it. Remember that they are affected by the toxic stuff too.
After you get through it together, demonstrate your appreciation — and above all, try not to take in out on them.
10. Above all, self nurture.
A narcissist cannot be trusted to say or do what is best for YOU, so you must put boundaries in place to take care of yourself. This means withdrawing when it’s time to withdraw and rewarding yourself for simply getting through it — no matter what happens during the interaction.
For more information on how to deal with narcissists, listen to Vanessa Van Edwards speak about it:
If you deal with frustrating relationships with men who dump and pull away from you, get to the bottom of it with a copy of Elizabeth's book, Why Men Lose Interest and free daily email series here.
This article was originally published at Digital Romance Inc. Reprinted with permission from the author.