Narcissists struggle with having positive feelings
about someone while they are made at them.
This means they get incredibly fierce and cruel during
For many people, the best thing to do is to leave a
narcissist and cut them out of their life.
If this isn’t possible there are some tactics you can
use to stop the argument escalating.
- But it won’t be easy.
Narcissists tend to be incapable of something called
“object constancy.” This means they struggle to have positive
feelings at the same time as negative ones.
For example, once they are fired up for a fight, they can be
incredibly cruel, because all they can comprehend in the moment
are feelings of resentment and anger.
As a result, an argument about the smallest of issues can
escalate quickly and fiercely. Something you may have thought of
as unimportant, or even irrelevant, has been blown into a
relationship-ending level row. They’ve spent your entire
relationship working out how to push your buttons, and they will
use everything in their power to make you feel insignificant and
If the narcissist is physically abusive, the tiniest
inconvenience can cause them to throw things or even strike their
Narcissists can be very delicate, depending on what sub-type they
are. They can easily become offended, often accusing their
partner of being “disrespectful” or “selfish” if they dare to do
something for themselves. The world should revolve around them in
their eyes, so focusing on anything else is taken as a direct
This isn’t necessarily a conscious act, and it’s hard to
understand whether narcissists really mean to cause
the harm they do or not.
Expect the fight of your life
Elinor Greenberg, a therapist who wrote the book “Borderline, Narcissistic, and
Schizoid Adaptations: The Pursuit of Love, Admiration, and
Safety,” told Business Insider that fighting with a
narcissist is a completely different experience to regular
They are wired to be abusive because they’re so hypersensitive
and completely lack empathy, so they are primed to take offense
and misunderstand someone else’s needs and points of view.
“It’s a lot of work for a therapist,” she said. “I get screamed
at, I’ve had people run from my room over the UPS man ringing my
doorbell… I do 45 minute sessions, but the person who lives
with them has it 24/7. So if they’re going to yell at me over the
UPS man, you can see just how hard it is for them to have a
relationship without getting nasty.”
Narcissistic rage ranges from direct confrontation with
name-calling and hurtful slurs, to calculated, closed down
reactions like giving their partner the silent treatment for
hours at a time.
“They give you the cold shoulder, or they walk out and they find
another woman,” Greenberg said. “But it’s all done silently and
coolly and coldly — you know what you did.”
In a blog post for Psychology
Today, Greenberg highlighted a set of ways you can
de-escalate an argument with a narcissist if you find yourself in
For most people, breaking things off with a
narcissist and being free from them is the only option. They
will never change, and your energy is better off being used
But there may be some instances where narcissists are
unavoidable, like if you have a toxic colleague or member of the
Here are the steps you should take:
1. Don’t argue about ‘right’ and ‘wrong’
There’s no point trying to figure out who is “to blame” for
something, as narcissists will never admit fault. They want to
blame you for any negative emotions they are feeling, because
they utterly rely on the image they are portraying as being
2. Instead, try to empathise with their feelings
If you are with a narcissist in the first place, you probably already have a lot of
empathy. But even the most caring people struggle to see the
sense of having it for someone who is hurling insult after insult
However, if you find yourself backed into a corner, one way to
sooth a narcissist’s rage is to empathise with their feelings,
and say something like: “You must have felt very hurt by what I
did, I can understand why you are feeling that way.”
3. Use ‘we’ language
By saying “we” rather than “I” or “you,” you include yourself in
the behaviour. The narcissist is probably so angry at you because
you dared to defend yourself, so to try and stop the argument
escalating further you can try and remind them you’re in this
together, and it’ll be better off for everyone to stop.
4. Don’t expect an apology
There’s no chance of the narcissist admitting to any wrongdoing
or apologising. This includes asking them to process what really
happened. According to Greenberg, a narcissist will not be
comfortable with the idea that they started an argument over
something trivial, so it’s best to just move on.
5. Ask about a topic that interests them
Narcissists love talking about themselves, or expressing just how
much more they know about something than you do. So, in a similar
way you might distract a baby with a set of keys, you can dangle
a new topic in front of their face to veer the conversation away
from conflict. This might not be that effective in the midst of a
fierce row, but if you do it after some time has passed, the
narcissist will probably take the bait.
Another similar solution is to ask for advice. This may look like
a slightly less transparent way of changing the subject, because
it’ll make the narcissist feel like they are the only person you
can go to, and make them feel superior.
6. Don’t take the bait yourself
As the narcissist believes you have hurt them severely by
whatever they think you did, they’ll want to do the same to you.
This means they’ll proverbially throw everything at you, from
that one time you misbehaved a year ago, to how you’re acting
selfishly right now.
Essentially, they are trying to get the maximum response out of
you they can. Greenberg says that by ignoring the insult, you can
often avoid the pointless fight. If you rise to the bait, things
are likely to escalate, and you’re effectively giving the
narcissist exactly what they want — your pain.
7. Remember to put yourself first
Most experts believe being in a romantic relationship with a
narcissist is an emotionally draining, damaging process.
Ultimately, it’s up to you if you think the tedious ego stroking
and hard work is worth it or not.
In all likelihood, you’ll probably realise it isn’t, and you’ll
one day be able to move on with your life without the narcissist
holding you back. But in the meantime, using these methods to
de-escalate a narcissist who is on a roll can help get you out of
upsetting, and potentially dangerous, situations.