Are there effective strategies for beating a narcissist at his (or her) games? Yes! You need to be able to distance emotionally (don’t let your emotions get to you), anticipate his next move and then strike back. You can do this by using the narcissist’s own narcissism against them to achieve your own goals.
To get what you want from them:
There are many ways to use a narcissist’s traits/behaviors to achieve your own goals if you are creative and don’t mind manipulating them back. To name a few:
1. Play to his ego– Get him to want to play act being a loving husband or father or etc. by laying the compliments on thick (without any sarcasm in your voice).
2. Play to his sense of entitlement and feeling that he is “special”– Don’t demand or ask if you want a better school for your children or a new set of luggage. Instead, casually ‘happen to mention’ things like, “Wow. It looks like the most intelligent people are sending their children to such and such school” or “Gee, the best looking travelers all have [name brand] luggage”.
3. Play to his jealousy (be careful using this one- don’t use this to make him jealous, but to have others jealous of him)–”Boy, would everyone be jealous if we had [name brand] luggage”. Or the car you want or the shirt and tie you want him to wear.
4. Admiration and praise will get you everywhere. They are like a drug to him- he craves it. ALWAYS apply flattery before you suggest something you’d like him to do for you.
5. Convince him that giving you what you want reflects well on him. Narcissists are infamous for their concern with outward appearances. For example, telling him that having a certain car (that you want) in the driveway makes him look really successful to the neighbors or etc.
To put them down/seek retribution:
If you know a narcissist well enough, you will know his weakest spot. It is some aspect of himself that he hides from the world. It could be something about his looks, some trophy he has never managed to win, a fear of being average or not intelligent enough, etc. Publicly expose his weak spot. For example, if you calmly state that his proudest achievement or characteristic is really common/ordinary, it will cause a narcissistic injury and threat to his grandiose self perception. Lowering his status in the eyes of people he is trying to impress is one of the greatest acts of revenge you can exact on a narcissist.
But be forewarned: it could be dangerous to distress them like that. Narcissists can have an astonishing degree of rage and it is often not under their control. They may turn their narcissistic rage against you. You should always be careful when exposing or confronting them in any way. They could retort with verbal, emotional or even physical abuse.
What if it is your boss?
You can’t beat a narcissistic boss if you want to continue working for him. However, you can learn to be a better player in his games:
- Be clear about what the rules are.
- Define your limits and boundaries
- Never assume anything
- Put everything in writing and get everything from the boss in writing
- If you want to initiate something new, make them think it’s their idea
- Offer sincere flattery- frequently
- If you don’t agree with something and want it changed, you need to show them that it will have negative consequences for them – not that it is something wrong or unethical — but that it will actually be bad for them
- Never give criticism, even if it is constructive (see below under Never Criticize a Narcissist). For example, if a narcissistic boss has what you perceive as a really lame suggestion, don’t tell him you think it’s a dumb idea or correct him with a better idea. Sometimes if you repeat the idea back to him-using a neutral tone with no sarcasm- he will tell you it’s a bad idea. “Oh, okay (agree with him first).You want me to take the blueprint down the street to The Copy Store and wait for a copy to be made.” (You are the General Manager and have several other meetings you need to go to and there are several assistants in the office).
How to cope with a narcissist:
If you have to work with a narcissist or are in a relationship where you cannot, or choose not, to break free, then understanding and accepting the following will be essential to your survival:
Narcissists promise the world but give you only a plot of dirt. Despite their extravagant promises, it is crucial to have low expectations for what they will actually deliver or you will end up perpetually disappointed. Narcissists give just the minimum necessary to sustain your association with them. The promises and even low level delivery will end abruptly as soon as you no longer serve a purpose for them. Keep in mind that anything they DO deliver you will pay dearly for—in some shape or form.
Narcissists Don’t Like You, Care About You, or Are Your Friend. When a narcissist wants to be friends with you- watch out- he is really engaged in obtaining Narcissistic Supply or you have something he values and he wants to have it remain available to him. He is simply waiting to use you. Never delude yourself into believing the narcissist enjoys your company. He wants you to feel “special” so that he can use you at his discretion.
Never Criticize A Narcissist. Never, ever criticize a narcissist that you intend to keep around. If you must give constructive criticism, present it as mild praise. When you criticize a narcissist –despite it being the truth or constructive— you inflict a narcissistic injury and could easily become the object of his narcissistic rage.
Never Ignore A Narcissist. If you are involved with a narcissist, either at home or at work, you will be expected to respond immediately to his or her demands or you will incur their wrath (think Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada). Learn to work around the narcissist’s demands without stirring his anger. Give vague responses such as, “Sounds good to me” which sound as if you are going to act immediately but don’t put you in the spot of committing to immediacy.
Don’t Defend a Put-Down
When someone puts you down or makes a condescending comment, the normal response is to defend yourself or strike back. That response just fuels the fire for a narcissist. They have become masters at making others look inferior so that they can feel superior. If you can’t ignore the comment, put the focus back on them by labeling what they are doing. For example in that situation you could respond with, “That sounded like a put-down” and then wait for them to respond back. The key here is they don’t want to” look bad” so this will create an uncomfortable situation they will try to squirm out of. You may have to repeat your response, but they will eventually change their comment to something more socially acceptable. To continue that example, they might reply, “I wasn’t putting you down… I was just making a suggestion”. At that point you politely thank them for the suggestion.
In general, don’t react to what the person is saying, but comment on how they are saying it and how they are coming across.