How do you defend yourself against a narcissist?

Interacting with a narcissist is likely to involve some form of conflict, but if you’re reading this article, you already know this.

You know that your interactions with the narcissist involve arguments, during which they engage in name-calling, accusations, and other upsetting behaviors.

They’ve probably blamed you for things that aren’t your fault, or tried to convince you that you’re deserving of their horrible treatment.

Naturally, you want to defend yourself against this behavior, but it’s not always easy. After all, the narcissist will go to great lengths to win any argument! 

How can you possibly defend yourself?

It may not be easy or intuitive, but you can learn how to defend yourself against the narcissist’s attacks.

Once you have a better understanding of narcissistic behavior, you’ll be prepared to protect yourself from it. Defending yourself involves carefully selected, strategic behaviors. 

Setting firm boundaries

Strong boundaries are one of the best defenses against narcissistic attacks. Boundaries don’t mean you’re trying to change the narcissist; they simply mean that you’re making it clear what you will and will not tolerate from the narcissist. 

For instance, you can clearly communicate to the narcissist that you will not tolerate name-calling, screaming, or baseless accusations.

Once you set such a boundary, stick to it. If the narcissist violates your boundaries during an interaction, remind them that you cannot tolerate this behavior, and walk away! 

Don’t engage

It might seem like the opposite of defending yourself, but another one of the top ways to protect yourself from a narcissist is to disengage simply.

When they try to pick a fight, or they’re being nasty, they’re often looking for a reaction out of you. When you get all hot and bothered, it feeds their ego.

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Instead of giving them the reaction they want, disengage. Please change the subject, be as boring as possible, or simply thank them for their opinion.

This will shut the narcissist down pretty quickly, so you don’t have to endure an entire battle with them. 

Limit your contact

One of the best ways to defend yourself against attacks from a narcissist is to limit your contact with them to the greatest extent possible.

If you can, try to avoid them altogether, or go entirely no contact with them.

If this isn’t possible, or you’re not looking to cut them out of your life, limit your negative interactions with them by avoiding their triggers.

Over time, you can probably identify topics or situations that tend to trigger their rage. Protect yourself by limiting any discussion or engagement related to these triggers. 

Trust your instincts

Narcissists are great at making people question their own perceptions. They commonly achieve this by gaslighting.

This is a technique in which the narcissist or another abusive person tries to convince their victims that the victim is actually to blame for problems in the relationship. 

The narcissist may accuse the victim of being too sensitive, or they may tell the victim that they are insane or remembering things incorrectly. 

When the narcissist is engaging in this behavior, trust your instincts. Remember, you’re grounded in reality, while the narcissist is busy maintaining their immature, borderline delusional defense mechanisms to protect themselves from facing the truth. 

When you need to defend yourself, stick to the truth. If the narcissist tries to convince you otherwise, remain confident and firm in your perception of events. 

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Remain calm

When you conflict with a narcissist, it’s important to stay calm. If you become heated, this will only escalate the conflict.

Remember, the narcissist wants a reaction from you. When you react to their abuse with anger or hostility, they will get sick enjoyment out of it, and they will continue the conflict. 

You might be tempted to yell back at them or tell them just how nasty they’re being, but this won’t get you anywhere. In fact, if you serve them a dose of their own medicine, suddenly, they’ll accuse you of being angry or irrational. 

Take a few deep breaths if needed, and give them a calm, collected response. If this is difficult for you, imagine you’re in a safe, comforting place, like the beach, a nature preserve, or a close friend’s house. 

Give them a clear, matter-of-fact statement, remaining as calm as possible. This is one of the best ways to defend yourself against unfair accusations from the narcissist. 

Learn all you can about narcissism 

If you want to be able to defend yourself against a narcissist, you must be knowledgeable about common narcissistic tactics. 

For example, it’s essential to understand common manipulative tactics, like gaslighting, deflecting, and blame shifting.

Once you understand narcissistic behaviors, and how they look during interactions, you’ll be prepared to identify them. 

This gives you an advantage over the narcissist.Once you’re wise to their games, you can actually prepare to fight back. 

I don’t mean physically or verbally; I simply mean you’re ready to protect yourself, as you have a right to do! 

Develop strong self-care practices

Sometimes, it’s not possible to defend yourself during an argument with a narcissist. It’s often best to disengage or keep interactions to a minimum, especially when they’re angry.

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However, this doesn’t mean that the narcissist’s behaviors don’t negatively affect you. In order to protect your mental health, it’s essential to practice regular self-care.

Take time to relax and unwind, and allow yourself to engage in hobbies and activities that bring you joy regularly.

It’s also important to care for yourself through a healthy diet, regular exercise, and adequate sleep.

When you have good self-care in place, the narcissist’s attacks won’t have such a negative effect on your psyche. 

Seek support

If you’re struggling to defend yourself against a narcissist in your life, reaching out for support can be beneficial. Trusted friends and family members can offer a neutral perspective and guide you.

There is also no harm in seeking professional support, if needed. A counselor or therapist can help you process your emotions and develop assertive communication skills so you can defend yourself against abusive behavior. 

Summarizing what you’ve learned

You can defend yourself against a narcissist, but it’s important to select effective strategies. 

Rather than becoming overly angry or defensive in response to the narcissist, it’s important to remain calm, stick to the facts, and set boundaries related to what behavior you won’t tolerate.

If things become heated, disengage, and don’t give the narcissist the satisfaction of seeing you overly emotional or upset. It can be difficult to be the bigger person and walk away, but staying and fighting won’t work. 

Narcissists don’t argue to understand you; they argue to win. If you disengage from the conflict, there’s no longer a game for them to win.

Amidst all this stress and conflict, remember to care for yourself and seek help if you need it. 

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