Last Updated on July 6, 2022 by Alexander Burgemeester
You’re exhausted and angry, and you are finished with feeling disrespected by the narcissist in your life. Maybe you have identified that what you’re doing isn’t working, and you’re ready for a different approach. Or perhaps you’re ready to start setting healthy boundaries and develop better relationships.
But is ignoring a Narcissist a good idea? What do narcissists do when you ignore them? And if you choose to change your interaction patterns, how can you ensure that you’re protecting your self-worth and well-being at the same time?
Of course, dealing with a narcissistic personality disorder isn’t easy. Their reaction to being ignored tends to be dramatic, exaggerated, and chaotic. As you know, they want to make a scene. They want to trigger you to feel ashamed, guilty, or confused about your choices. The goal here is simple: they need to feel in control, and they will do whatever they can to maintain that feeling of power.
Narcissists perceive you ignoring them as a personal attack. As a result, they won’t respect your decision to preserve appropriate boundaries. Instead, they will view this action as a massive form of rejection. Rejection, as you likely know, tends to be a fatal blow to their vulnerable egos. That’s why they can’t tolerate it.
You want a sense of freedom and respect. They want your attention and validation. And yet, their energy is all-consuming. And every time you stop ignoring them after a period of doing so, you only reinforce their toxic behavior. So, how do you change this vicious narcissistic cycle of abuse?
What Do Narcissists Do When You Ignore Them?
Ignoring a narcissist sounds simple enough. You don’t react or respond to them. You don’t give them any time of your day. And if you must remain in their lives- for whatever reason- you choose to remain entirely neutral for their drama.
If you want to know how to piss off a narcissist, that’s one of the best ways to achieve it. By remaining disconnected and detached, they’re left feeling unimportant.
Of course, ignoring a narcissist fuels immense rage. Even if they think they are being ignored (like you’re taking too long to respond to a text), they start feeling anxious. After all, they believe they’re entitled to whatever they want whenever they want it. So anything that falls outside of that parameter feels like a betrayal.
If they sense they’re being ignored, they focus on one goal: getting your attention and reeling you back into their lives. To achieve this goal, they will engage in various attention-seeking behaviors. These behaviors are often known as ‘hoover techniques.’ Like the famous vacuum, narcissists will try to suck you back into their chaotic worlds.
They may hoover you in many different ways, including:
- Begging for your forgiveness.
- Reaching out to loved ones or mutual friends to get ahold of you.
- Stalking you.
- Smearing you to others.
- Moving on to the next supply.
- Pretending that you never existed or mattered.
- Apologizing incessantly.
- Making up emergencies or crises to get you back.
Keep in mind they may alternate different strategies depending on the circumstances and their relationship with you. They are more likely to ‘hoover’ when they know their techniques will work.
Finally, it’s much easier to tap into a previous or current narcissistic supply than find a new one. Because they already know your weaknesses, they will do whatever they can to exploit them.
How Does a Narcissist Feel When You Ignore Their Hoover Attempts?
Narcissists often feel a chronic sense of hollowness and emptiness. To try to compensate for those uncomfortable feelings, they require their narcissistic supply to temporarily feel whole. The thought of losing their narcissistic supply (you) feels downright threatening.
If you first try ignoring them, they will probably doubt your endurance and ability to stay strong. They will engage a combination of hoovering tactics- sweet talking, gaslighting, reaching out to others- all to get you back into their orbit. If a particular technique worked well in the past, they will probably rely on that one first.
Reading Suggestion: How Dating a Narcissist Changes You
Over time, if you remain “strong” in your strategy, they often raise the stakes. Their tactics become more dramatic, frenzied, and intense, and this pattern embodies narcissistic abuse.
Keep in mind they aren’t trying to understand your needs or have empathy for your feelings- everything is about them and their perceived rejection. The narcissist thinks they are entitled to your attention whenever they want it. As a result, they often double down on their efforts to lure you back in.
How Does a Narcissist React to Being Blocked on Social Media?
In a world where most of us are digitally connected, it’s even harder to cut all contact with people. If you choose to block the narcissist, the following may happen:
- They might create fake profiles to stalk you.
- They might “accidentally” send you a friend request or follow you.
- They might call or text you demanding an explanation.
- They might continue viewing all your content using another friend’s profile.
- They might attempt to smear you online to others.
- They might do nothing (because they are biding their time and planning their next move).
In general, despite these potential consequences, blocking the narcissist tends to be more advantageous than remaining friends online. It can be dangerous for them to know your whereabouts, especially if they sense they’re being ignored. In addition, having online access to you makes it easier to engage in stalking or other obsessive behaviors.
Furthermore, it may be toxic for you to continue checking in on them. Spending time online looking at their profile triggers you to think about them- this thinking may provoke feelings of remorse, sadness, hope, or shame. In a moment of weakness, these feelings may trigger you to reach out.
What Happens When You Begin Ignoring a Narcissistic Text?
Many narcissists use written communication to either love-bomb or devalue others. Texting may feel safer for them- they can calculate what they want to say and spend as long as they need crafting the perfect message. So, what happens when you ignore a narcissist and their incessant texting?
Sometimes, they might continue texting you, almost acting as if nothing happened. In this case, they will pretend like they haven’t noticed that you’re not responding. Then, they will simply go about their day having a typical conversation, updating you with various details they deem essential. This can be frustrating, but it’s them trying to convince themselves (and you) that everything is perfectly normal.
In other cases, they will pester you with questions. What’s going on? Did you see what I last sent you? What are you doing later today? Why aren’t you talking to me? What’s your problem? The questions tend to be direct, and that’s because they’re fishing for a response, even if it’s just a one-word answer.
Sometimes, narcissists will flat-out lie to get your attention once you’ve been ignoring them. For example, they will send a sultry or emotionally charged text and then immediately say, Oh, sorry, that was meant for someone else. Even if you don’t respond (and you shouldn’t!), they often feel a sense of satisfaction knowing you’re now thinking about them.
Or, they might try to bid for your attention by feigning a crisis. My dog is really sick, and I’m taking her to the emergency vet right now. I hope you’re doing well. The “crisis,” of course, will be designed to tug at your heartstrings and make you want to reach out. But, even if the crisis is real, they will often inflate the situation to trigger your emotions.
When Should You Ignore A Narcissist?
You can ignore a narcissist whenever you want! After all, you deserve healthy relationships and respect.
But choosing to ignore the narcissist successfully often requires dedication and commitment. So before making this decision, reflect on your motives. Are you trying to seek revenge? Do you want to irritate them? Are you hoping for a genuine apology? Do you think that you ignoring them will prompt them to change for the better?
If you’re answering yes to any of these questions, time to pause. Even if you briefly achieve what you want, it will likely be short-lived. Once you have their attention, you will probably return to your usual dynamic. Unfortunately, this approach only reinforces their manipulative behavior.
You must recognize the importance of having realistic expectations. Most narcissists will not readily change their behavior once you ignore them. They might make half-hearted attempts to “get better,” but they often abandon these efforts once they can refuel their narcissistic supply. This pattern often leads you to feel exhausted, resentful, and angry.
Ideally, you should ignore a narcissist once you want to completely stop enabling them. This may mean maintaining minimal contact or no contact at all.
If You Ignore A Narcissist, Will They Leave You Alone?
Probably not at first.
Initially, you ignoring them feels like a challenge. But, it’s a game, and they will feel determined to conquer and win. As mentioned, if you have ignored them in the past, they will probably engage in the same tactics they previously used to elicit your attention.
Understanding The Refueling of Narcissistic Supply
If you’ve ever wondered how the narcissist can “jump so quickly” into a new relationship, it’s because they constantly search for people who can adore and enable them. This supply keeps them feeling safe and special- they depend on it for survival.
Rebecca Marcus, LCSW and psychotherapist, shares this analogy about narcissism: “a narcissist’s ego is similar to a colander or a balloon with a hole it in. It can fill up, but it cannot hold the air or the water, so the person is also looking to be filled either by seeking validation or knocking others down when feeling threatened.”
Keep in mind that narcissists don’t just use people- they will also try to fill their supply by:
- Achieving measurable successes.
- Accumulating wealth.
- Achieving a high status.
- Having an ideal appearance.
- Having an important or influential role.
- Engaging in addictive hobbies or behaviors.
“I wrote an article about that” Read my article: What Happens When You Ignore the Narcissist who Dumped you?
However, their efforts, no matter how impressive, are futile. The narcissist has an insatiable need for adoration and validation- no matter how much they accumulate, it never feels like enough. Moreover, their hunger never entirely disappears. As a result, the people who fall victim to their traps often feel exhausted and insecure.
Unfortunately, the closer you are to a narcissist, the more likely they depend on you for their supply. This is because they feel safe and comfortable with you- you have proven your loyalty to them. You have seemingly accepted their flaws and chosen to love them, and they will exploit your kindness for their own emotional gain.
If you cut this supply off, the narcissist will likely feel abandoned. Then, because they can’t sit with that vulnerable feeling, they will lash out at you and try to divert their efforts elsewhere.
Ignoring a Narcissist Who ignores You, What Will Happen?
You might think that them ignoring you first means it will be easier for you to ignore them. However, this isn’t true.
If a narcissist ignores you, it’s all about power and control. They want to show you how you have hurt them. Then, they want you to recognize your mistake and apologize profusely for your wrongdoing. Then, they might decide to forgive you.
It’s a game of cat-and-mouse. They want your attention, long-winded promises, and your gifts of love. They want reassurance that you’re genuinely and entirely there for them, that you accept their flaws and setbacks.
Some narcissists will engage in stonewalling to elicit a reaction. Stonewalling is an intentionally harmful tool people use to shut another person out. If you’re on the receiving end, it feels like the other person isn’t listening to you. They have checked out completely.
Stonewalling may seem like a temporary reprieve, especially in the middle of a heated argument. The narcissist is upset and ignoring you, and you might think this will all blow over once they start thinking rationally. But it’s a calculated move. They want you to start asking what’s wrong. They’re betting on you apologizing or becoming anxious or trying to otherwise fix the situation.
Who Gives In First?
Someone will eventually stop ignoring the other person, but when you’re playing this game with a narcissist, you’re doomed to lose.
First, if the narcissist stops ignoring you, they will likely expect everything to return to normal. They’ve moved on! They’re no longer upset! They’re ready to talk about things and get back on track.
So, what happens if you’re still feeling angry, confused, or upset? Now, you’re the problem. You’re the one who is dragging things out and making it all too complicated.
On the other hand, if you persist and try to get them to speak, they probably will. But it’s on their terms. They may lash out at you for not doing something right. They might criticize, demean, or otherwise try to hurt your feelings. They will continue to try to drive home the point that you’re responsible for all the issues in the relationship.
Is Ignoring a Narcissist the Best Revenge?
It can be, but revenge shouldn’t be the goal. If it’s your goal, you are stooping to their level, and that’s a level you can’t win. Remember, you aren’t playing on the same field as the narcissist. If you attempt to play by their rules, expect to be disappointed and angry.
Instead, ask yourself this: How much energy do you want to give this relationship? How well are your current boundaries working?
Unfortunately, narcissists don’t respond well to typical boundaries. Their self-esteem can’t handle the notion of other people having needs that don’t include them. So they build their lives around filling their narcissistic supply, and it’s an endless quest for validation and security.
Your needs feel insignificant to theirs, and they lack the empathy to understand your true feelings. Subsequently, if your needs are getting in the way of theirs, they will always prioritize their needs first (even if they pretend to act otherwise).
Ignoring them might be the best revenge, but revenge should not be your driving motive. Instead, it’s best to focus on building self-worth and attuning to your inherent needs for self-care.
How To ignore a Narcissist? 7 Steps for Ignoring the Narcissist
Ignoring the narcissist may feel easier said than done. Even when you know you want to limit contact, deciding where to draw the line isn’t always straightforward.
If you have decided that it’s time to honor your self-respect, the task ahead may feel daunting. Narcissists and their loved ones often form a tight trauma bond, which happens due to cyclical abuse. You may feel responsible for their happiness, and you might also feel some guilt for changing the status quo. Here are some tips to consider.
Recognize The Symptoms of Trauma Bonding
Trauma bonding can be a confusing concept. You may genuinely care about the narcissist and their well-being. But, at the same time, you probably feel disheartened and frustrated by their behavior. Trauma bonding happens when you feel a sense of love for someone you know is also hurting you.
Other common signs of trauma bonding include:
- Feeling like you no longer even like the person.
- Feeling completely distressed at the thought of leaving the relationship.
- Wistfully hoping that they will change their behaviors.
- Obsessing over the good days or good moments.
- Making excuses or rationalizing their behavior, particularly in front of other people.
Trauma bonding isn’t exclusive to narcissists and their loved ones. It can happen to anyone in an emotionally or physically abusive relationship. Unfortunately, some people may not recognize the severity of these symptoms until someone else points them out, or until they seek professional help.
Understand The Familiar Patterns of Narcissistic Personality Disorder
According to Dr. Moreen Rubin, a licensed clinical therapist, “being in a relationship with a narcissist can be stressful and confusing. However, it’s helpful to know that narcissistic personality disorder is designed to react in predictable ways.”
Rubin goes onto recommend four different strategies. First, ask yourself what you can do to reduce harm to yourself and your children. Your job is to find ways to protect yourself from the impact of stress. Perhaps you can limit the time you spend with the narcissist, spend more time with social support, and increase your self-care. Second, try the “grey rocking” technique. Third, go to therapy with a therapist who can help you practice Acceptance and Commitment therapy. Fourth, learn to have compassion for yourself and be kind to yourself in times of stress.
Identify Your Boundaries
Although narcissists struggle to respect other boundaries, it’s still crucial that you consider your interpersonal limits. Regardless of the nature of your relationship, you are responsible for taking care of yourself.
Boundaries may include:
- Setting rules around touch and intimacy.
- Refusing to tolerate rude, offensive, or degrading language.
- Setting specific guidelines about sharing or giving away money.
- Creating limits around confidentiality and privacy.
At the very least, you should spend some time reflecting on what boundaries mean to you. For example, what do you want to be nonnegotiable in your relationships? How do you want other people to treat you?
It’s okay if you don’t know the answers right away. However, that should be a telltale sign that you owe it to yourself to consider how you can start taking better care of yourself.
Avoid Playing Into The Drama
Dr. Nereida Gonzale- Berrios recommends you avoid feeding the narcissist’s attention-seeking behavior. By avoiding it, the narcissist has less incentive to rely on you for their narcissistic supply.
She states, “Never show that you are unhappy with their behavior because it will fuel their manipulative tendencies. You will have to learn emotional control. Stay calm, but be firm with what you want.”
Try The Grey Rock Method
The grey rock method may be beneficial for people who cannot avoid all contact with the narcissist. It might be impossible to prevent all instances of narcissism- for example, it is often unrealistic to cut off all ties with your child’s other parent, a difficult coworker, or a roommate.
The grey rock method entails communicating without much emotion or interest. Instead of reacting to the narcissist’s drama, you act fairly unresponsively, just like a rock.
Communication, therefore, tends to brief, matter-of-fact, and limited. You may avoid eye contact and engage in fairly non-committal phrases like uh-huh, or sure. Grey rocking can be a fantastic tool if you are still deciding what limits you want to maintain in the relationship.
However, it’s not necessarily recommended as a long-term approach. Over time, grey rocking can start to feel exhausting. Likewise, suppressing your emotions isn’t a good idea. If you use this approach, make sure you have a healthy support system in place.
Finally, you also want to be careful to avoid telling the narcissist what you’re doing. Offering such disclosure can trigger even more rage or abuse. In addition, the narcissist won’t understand why you’re choosing to withhold critical information from them.
Be Careful Who You Confide In
It’s not uncommon for narcissists to latch themselves onto your friends or family if they suspect you are pulling away. They may try to convince them that you’re being unreasonable or difficult. They might also try to elicit their compassion and empathy.
This is why it’s important to be mindful of who you confide in when talking about the narcissist. Aim to connect with people who are not mutually connected to both of you. If you don’t have anyone, consider reaching out to a therapist or another trusted professional.
This advice isn’t meant to make you suspicious of others. It’s simply to raise awareness of the various abuse strategies narcissists may employ to lure you back into the relationship.
Consider The No-Contact Approach
Ignoring is the foundation of taking a no-contact approach. While this approach may sound ruthless, it’s often the best strategy for emotional healing. When you stop all contact, you avoid guessing or adapting to the narcissist’s needs. There is no ‘gray area.’ The rules are simple, and you have the freedom to resume living the way you want to live.
However, a successful no-contact approach requires discipline. You cannot answer their calls, texts, or Facebook friend requests. If other people ask you about what’s going on, you need to remain firm in your boundary. Caving in on a no-contact approach is exactly what the narcissist wants (and often anticipates), so it’s your responsibility to maintain your firm limit.
The narcissist will probably continue trying to reach out. They will apologize and promise to change. They will become angry and spiteful and probably send you many rambling messages in the middle of the night. These actions simply highlight their need for your attention.
However, as long as you do not give them your attention, they lose that power and control. As a result, they also lose the ability to dictate how you live your life.