The Narcissist and Communication? Perhaps it would have been more accurately titled The Narcissist and Their Lack of Communication. Narcissists are notorious for having one way communication…they do all the talking and none of the listening. Narcissists don’t talk or communicate; they fend off. They hide and evade and disguise. They lecture, badger and preach. They perfect the ability to say nothing in lengthy speeches. Their speech is crowded with first person pronouns (“I”, “me”, “my”, “mine”). A conversation with a narcissist is always about their needs, wants and thoughts. A normal conversation requires give and take between two people but with a narcissist there is only one person that matters in their world. The narcissists’ egos are self inflated and full of grandiosity; it is common for them to lie to further inflate their egos. They crave any attention, positive or negative. Any behavior or wild story that will draw attention to them will be utilized. Understanding this will help explain many of the irrational interactions you will encounter when communicating with them.
Narcissists never talk to others – rather, they talk at others. Theirs is a world where communication is permitted only with oneself, and the aim of language is to throw others off the scent or to obtain Narcissistic Supply. Narcissists put language to different uses: not to communicate but to obscure, not to share but to abstain, not to learn but to defend and resist, to disagree without incurring wrath, to criticize without commitment, to agree without appearing to do so.
With the classic narcissist, language is used cruelly and ruthlessly to ensnare one’s enemies, to create confusion and panic, to move others to emulate the narcissist, to leave the listeners in doubt or hesitation, to gain control, or to punish. Language is considered to be a weapon, an asset, and a piece of lethal property.
7 Strategies for Communicating with a Narcissist
What can you do if you are forced to communicate with a narcissist, perhaps an aging parent, a spouse you won’t leave, a sibling or a boss? Here are some strategies that will make things easier for you to interact with a narcissist.
1. Demand little. Expect little. You will find your role is one of support, acknowledgement, and recognition. The narcissist may see you as a kind of “go-for” or personal assistant. If that is acceptable to you, you should have little difficulty.
2. Be willing to listen a lot and listen carefully.
3. Find ways to provide positive recognition frequently. The narcissist needs lots of praise and recognition but be sure to check the narcissist’s reaction to make certain you are giving the positive recognition he or she wants at that moment. If you are on the wrong track, it will probably be made abundantly clear to you fairly quickly.
4. If it is at all possible to do so, be honest and sincere in your acknowledgement, praise, and recognition. Identify and make note of all of the narcissist’s endeavors or achievements you genuinely admire. Use them to provide recognition and acknowledgement. Insincere flattery may be accepted by the narcissist, but keep in mind that deep down the narcissist lacks well grounded self esteem. Therefore, the more credible you can be, the better.
5. Don’t worry about making the narcissist more self- centered. He or she became that way at an early age and can’t stop now. Narcissists need help; although usually they are very reluctant to seek it. If you think the narcissist in your life may want to alter his or her narcissistic outlook, consider making an intervention with the help of an experienced therapist.
6. Avoid challenging the narcissist’s wishes or desires. Narcissists have an incredibly low tolerance for frustration or interference.
7. Failing these, smile a lot and keep quiet. While this may not put you in especially good standing with the narcissist, it avoids the risk of attack and leaves you still in the picture after others falter, fail, or flee.
How to Get What You Want From a Narcissist
Getting what you want from a narcissist is an issue of motivation, i.e., finding a way of motivating the narcissist to want to give something or agree to something. If there is something you want a narcissist to agree to or provide, the following guidelines will prove helpful:
1. Be precise in describing what you want
2. Know what the narcissist wants
3. Persuade the narcissist that he or she will derive something (significant to them) from doing what you want.
Determine whether the other person’s narcissism is primarily invested in beauty, intelligence, power/influence, or independence. As a general rule, one of these will be far more significant than the others.
Begin your request by finding a way to validate the narcissist. Admire his or her appearance, intellect, display of strength or control, or etc. Make certain the narcissist has heard and accepted the compliment before proceeding.
Then link what you want to the narcissist’s preferred attribute. If, for example, you want to go to a specific movie, you could make statements such as the following:
- “I’ve heard all the coolest (powerful, beautiful) people are rushing to see it.”
- “The reviewers call it ‘a movie for quick minds’.”
The absolute best tip that I can give you about communicating with a narcissist is…avoid any contact at all with one. Unfortunately, some people do not have the luxury of avoiding all contact. Some people need to have contact to get a paycheck, a narcissistic family member may need a place to live, and others may be the adult children of narcissists that are still emotionally entwined in a dysfunctional relationship. It takes an incredible amount of energy to have a conversation with a narcissist. If you must endure interacting with one, try to remember that they speak only about themselves and use you simply as a listening post.