How to avoid picking fights with narcissists 

When you have a narcissist in your life, they don’t always make things easy. 

Whether they’re a coworker, family member, or neighbor, they often stir up conflict, making it difficult to get along with them.

You’re likely left wondering what you can do to avoid these fights. After all, it seems like you’re rarely the one who starts them.

While you cannot control the narcissist, you can make changes to your own behavior, to stop a fight dead in its tracks. 

What you can do to dodge the fight

Narcissists are a frustrating bunch, so it can be difficult to be the bigger person and shut down a fight.

However, you’ll find that you’re much happier if you don’t engage in their chaos and drama. 

The strategies below are often helpful for avoiding a fight with the narcissist. 

Remain calm 

Narcissists love chaos and conflict, because it allows them to assert their dominance. So, they may pick fights just for entertainment. 

The good news is, you don’t have to take the bait. If they say something crass or triggering, simply take a deep breath, and stay calm.

They’re seeking a reaction from you. Don’t give it to them. It will only progress the fight.

Set firm boundaries

People with narcissistic traits love to test boundaries, and they’ll violate your boundaries when they’re in a mood to fight. Don’t allow them to get away with this.

Set firm boundaries about what behavior you will and won’t accept, and stick to them. When the narcissist violates your boundaries, do not engage with them.

Perhaps they begin name calling, and you’ve told them you won’t tolerate this behavior. End the conversation, and walk away.  Fight over.

Learn their triggers

Narcissists aren’t difficult to figure out, so if you spend a decent amount of time with one, you’ll come to learn their triggers.

Take a look at the patterns you’ve noticed about this person. They’re probably triggered when anyone undermines their authority or intelligence, or makes them feel inferior. 

If you must interact with a narcissist, whether at a family function or a work meeting, avoid hot-button conversations. Don’t bring up any of their shortcomings or question what they say about themselves.

Just move along. It’s not worth triggering a rage attack.

Pick your battles 

Just about any conversation with a narcissist can become a fight if you let it. But, you don’t have to spar with them over every comment they make.

The narcissist will likely try to provoke you and push your buttons. If you react defensively or angrily, a fight will ensue.

This means you don’t have to respond to every snide remark they make. Choose what’s worth fighting over, and move on when it’s not worth the battle. 

Listen and validate when possible

Perhaps you’re in a work meeting, and the narcissist becomes frustrated. They may begin talking loudly, making accusations, or simply ranting out of frustration.

When they become hostile, your first instinct is probably to argue with them, telling them why they’re out of line.

This isn’t a good idea, especially if you want to dodge a fight. Rather than arguing logic, simply listen to the narcissist’s concerns.

Clearly, they’re frustrated about something, and you probably won’t be able to talk them out of it. 

If you offer listening ear and validate them by saying, “I can understand this is upsetting for you,” you can minimize your chances of starting a fight. 

Limit your interactions with them

It’s not always possible to avoid a narcissist, especially if they’re your boss or a close relative. However, you can limit interactions with them.

The reality is that the fewer interactions you have with them, the fewer opportunities you have for a big blow up. 

If possible, only engage with the narcissist when absolutely necessary. This means talking with them as needed, such as when you’re working on a project together.

At family events, you can simply choose to sit at a different table, or immerse yourself in conversations with others. Nothing says you’re obligated to carry on a lengthy conversation with the narcissist, especially if they tend to pick fights. 

Avoid making accusations 

Narcissists hate being accused of wrongdoing and certainly don’t like admitting flaws. So, anything that comes across as an accusation will likely anger them. 

This means choosing your words carefully to avoid an argument is important. Do not use any language that could come across as accusatory or confrontational. 

It can be helpful to use “I” statements to express anything that you’re feeling, so it seems like you’re taking ownership for whatever you’re saying, rather than placing blame on the narcissist. 

Remember, you’re dealing with someone who has a fragile ego, so you need to handle them softly, even if they are anything but soft with others. 

Set realistic expectations

People with narcissistic traits probably aren’t going to conform to expected standards of behavior. They simply aren’t going to be caring and kind, and if you expect them to be, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment.

Many fights with narcissists arise because we expect them to act a certain way, and we become angry when they don’t. Rather than starting fights when the narcissist doesn’t behave, approach them with a degree of acceptance.

This means recognizing that the narcissist will probably show some traits that are agitating, upsetting, and downright rude. You don’t have to fight them over it; recognize it’s just who they are. 

Offer praise when you can

As challenging as they are narcissists are still human beings. They have strengths and weaknesses and need praise like everyone else.

For a narcissist, praise and admiration are actually the fuel that keeps them going. So, if you can offer a compliment, give it to them.

It may feel unnatural to compliment someone who can be arrogant and crass, but if it makes your interactions with them more pleasant, it may be worth it.

At the very least, a word of praise will put them in a good mood, so they’re less likely to show bad behavior. This reduces the likelihood of conflict. 

Seek outside support 

Dealing with a narcissist regularly can be difficult. Perhaps one of your closest family members is narcissistic, or you’re dealing with a workplace narcissist you can’t avoid.

If you’re having trouble getting along, consider seeking outside support. A counselor or therapist can help you practice healthy, assertive communication and develop strategies for avoiding conflict. 

Remember, if you’re struggling with a narcissist, there’s nothing wrong with you. This is a difficult personality type, and plenty of people have sought advice to learn how to manage a narcissist. 

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