How To Communicate With a Narcissist?

Last Updated on May 31, 2022 by Alexander Burgemeester

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.

What is Different in Communicating with a Narcissist?

A normal conversation requires to 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, acknowledgment, 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.

It will probably be made abundantly clear to you if you are on the wrong track.

4. If it is at all possible to do so,

be honest and sincere in your acknowledgment, 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 acknowledgment. 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.


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Alexander Burgemeester

Alexander Burgemeester has a Master in Neuropsychology. He studied at the University of Amsterdam and has a bachelor's in Clinical Psychology. Want to know more?

30 thoughts on “How To Communicate With a Narcissist?”

  1. I found that #2 was a tricky proposition no matter how intently I listened. What my husband said one day, was NOT what he remembered saying the next day. So, no matter if I copied what he said, word for word, very shortly afterward, I would be accused of lying or twisting his words….there was no winning this one.

    • I can relate Debbie L.

      I’m often left pondering if indeed I am the “crazy” in all this. Definitely in a NO WIN situation here…

    • I have had the exact same experience with my live in boyfriend of 10 years! I am always accused of lying and twisting what he has said! Or he claims to not remember the entire conversation! It is very frustrating, and I also feel there is no way to win!

  2. 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.

    Hell no. Ive started lecturing them on gas-lighting whenever I encounter them. They get even more enraged. Can we just start arresting these men and women already. Life would be much easier.

    • These people are dangerous mentally, emotionally and physically. You go in strong and come out weak all due to their disorder.

      Re-building yourself from some with NPD is a long and painful one and I would advise everyone to avoid one at all costs.

      I know what the reds flags are and I will be that bull that runs the opposite way!

      • To say the least! Both my parents and two other ppl whom I was very close with (these are the narcs i know of for sure) have the affliction and I don’t know anyone in my fathers life whose been on to him. I think the higher the intellect the trickier the psychopathology (s). Another is a PSYCHiatrist that I went to for a few yrs. OH WOW. His obsession was beauty-and a little while after we discussed where i was going to College and that I was a psych major….he (forgetting I the whole school thing) suggests out of the blue-oh you should be a cocktail waitress. I’m in f’in Florida not Vegas and really? Later as I gained weight, got a little older, had no makeup on-Ohh, you should be a welder. Then, lost a lot of weight and “so…you’re basically pretty but we can make you into a beauty queen!” Referring to body builder women. And need I remind-I am there for what’s going on INside, and this predator neglects the brain entirely or just w/half decent+ looking women??

        Something I have found huge and so very telling about them is their EYES. I haven’t read anything or heard anyone else mention this though. I have seen it the most in the men and they have no idea they are doing it…Watch from the botttom of the nose up, as certain subjects arise (and u know it will almost always be them doing the talking) or that they bring up-there’s a flash that comes across–and their eyes get a little larger. One look will indicate anger, repressed and could also be disgust. One felt homicidal, another is lust/excitement and that’s huge with the beauty narcs. It’s kind of gross to see. Another which I can’t quite place, but I know flashed through my exes eyes when we were first getting together. He was talking about a crush this guy (who he was friends with and then became much closer to=major source for that need supply) had on me that I hadn’t thought of as a big deal. He let this guy live vicariously through him with what I now know as storytime-or of course the explotation of myself. I almost wonder, and this is so sad and ….if the need supply perv and I had to both exsist in the narcs life at the same time for…well HIM. The timing indicates this may be true. Its nauseating.

        Research states there’s less than 1% or them. Completely false! Also each of the narcs i know are also addicts, has anyone else had the experience (mental hell) of having quite a few in your life, also with substance abuse issues?

        • Yes, I have. My ex had many different addictions from cocaine to porn. My most recent ex has addictions as well. I know that it goes hand in hand with the narcs need supply. They are addicted to their victims in the same sort of way.

        • Sabrina is right about the eyes. I’ve seen it too. It’s like watching one of those old murder movies set in an old home or castle where the eyes of the portrait disappear and evil eyes look out at you from behind the wall. So creepy.

        • Hi sabrina.

          I been dating a narcissistic person on and off for 2 years. I was reading your story and it’s true what u say about the eyes of a narcissistic it’s a scary feeling when this person looks at me I feel like he hates me. He also uses substances he’s very Co dependent on alcohol and other substances. Which it has come to a point that I have prefer him to be under the influence then when his not.
          He’s alot nicer, sweeter more passionate and says all the right things, then the next day is back to himself mean, puts me down, makes fun of me and etc.etc.
          I have tried numerous time letting him know of his actions and it’s like talking to a wall.
          At this moment as of him we are in a fight so it’s the silent treatment, no phone calls, text and he doesn’t want to see me. The most hurtful part is he does it most on holidays and on my birthday.
          What can I do. I have no friends cause of him and I have tried to leave this so called relationship but he always tries to find a way to get to me and I fall for it.

  3. I like the example given at the end.
    I’m in a relationship with a somatic(10~ years). I believe I have a borderline personality disorder, though actively working on it(I don’t emote anymore, see below. But I still have a long way to go).
    My way of dealing with my somatic (whom I still love, co-dependent probably – plus there is others involved that I care about), involves finding a way to show her a reward for her actions.
    I don’t smile, unless I find something funny. The rest of the time I am stone, zero emotion (even during sex).
    This is the cornerstone of keeping the relationship.

    I don’t think I will ever be in another relationship, dang tired of the games and learning the new rules every time. I attract narcissists like fly paper and the ones that lie well can pretend to be anything I might desire(until the mask comes off).
    When it all comes crashing down, I am ready to be on my own again. Until that day, I am still getting something from this relationship. So I take it as it is, something to enjoy now that wont be around forever.

    Side note, I do get a slight perverse pleasure watching her relationship with her mother. Her mother is in full narcissism mode, trying to get her to live with her forever. Her mother wants her to be a supply again. And her mother is an expert. Since the daughter I am with is a somatic narcissist, her mother constantly feeds her high fat foods – in hopes she will be so undesirable she wont have any choice but to live with her.
    I do however feel bad for the sister (who I think didn’t get the narcissist gene, somehow). She’s now so overweight she can’t land a permanent boyfriend for the life of her, despite having a wonderful and giving personality. She also attracts narcissists, but she is a throw away meant for short supply bursts. If the dynamic wasn’t so odd, I might pursue her as she seems to be a safe bet. But the mother has her hooks in very tightly. So tightly that this daughter feels moving out would be a betrayal. I guess she was raised for one purpose, to be a supply for both the mother and the “pretty” daughter I am with. It’s a little disturbing sometimes how attentive the mother can be, then she switches around to the “victim” status the second this daughter shows any sign of independence.

    I do wonder what would happen if the daughter I am with ever became un-attractive as the mother wants. For now, the mother likes to show her off – but at the same time she is trying to make her un-attractive. Interesting how that works.

  4. Everything on this list rings true with my ex. The past 6 years with my other half (i called off the wedding as things didnt seem quite right with him or his mother) have truly been the most exhausting years of my life; and ive had other hurdles, like death of parent, bullying in workplace etc to compare it to. For a while now ive known something was “wrong” with his personality, and ive toyed between deeming it NPD or HFASD. The clincher for NPD for me was that his mother is a full blown narcissist (so surely she’d have rubbed off on him?), and he changes his persona to fit any given situation. He wears different masks in front of different people. A charmer in public, horrible behind closed doors. A pathological liar. His mother denegrates him ALL the time, has never said “i love you” to him in all the years ive known them, never hugged him, calls him a “failure” in front of me (“once a failure, always a failure”), cries non stop when she doesnt get her way, shouts at him, laughs at him, cooks him food she knows he has an aversion to. Had i known back when i met him the damage narcissistic mothers can do to their sons, i would have run. Im a very soft person (used to be), who felt sorry for his situation. Seeing where he had come from. And for a long time i ultimately let him walk all over me, and treat me appallingly all because i made excuses for his own behaviour, and, if im honest, because i wanted to be in a relationship. Its been interesting to see though, as he’s hit his 40s that his aggression has now tended toward depression and verbalising suicidal ideation (something his mother does too) now that i will no longer stand for his self centredness and his treatment of me. He now constantly talks of death. Ive noticed it more since ive told him we’re finished, and since i told him id been keeping evidence (photographs) of his physical abuse (bruises on me, holes in wall, cupboards etc). I even had him charged after his last physical assault, and he was convicted – him pleading guilty to assault. As ive distanced myself from him, he has become more expressive in his love (??) for me which i dont understand, and yet also talks of ending his life. But after a handful of years together, i can honestly say i no longer fear this person, and am no longer feeling responsible for his toddler-like behaviour. I pity him. I see him for what he is. Lost. I can no longer excuse his behaviour based on his obvious damaged upbringing. As ive become emboldened with confidence to cut him out of my life, he seems to be withering right before me. The purpose of my post is for other women, who find themselves in such a relationship, to see that such a relationship does not have to be destructive to the end. I was naive when i met my ex. Very inexperienced with men, too too trusting. I fell for it all. But i wish to say, even after all the hurt, and betrayal, you really can come out the other end, stronger, happier and refilled with a vigour for life. I guess i feel so positive because i know what ive survived, the family i have escaped, and i know that id rather be single and gloriously happy, than be in a relationship with someone who threw me scraps when he wanted to and when it suited him. I thought i could play therapist. I no longer have an interest in doing that.

  5. Narcissists must have all the attention. When children come long divorce is inevitable because the children take time away from the constant ego feeding which another source will provide. Hence adultery and divorce. Then the narcicist uses the judicial
    System to punish you and it goes on and on until the kids are out of college and sf supporting. It doesn’t matter what you do or say, they just want to have power over you to make themselves feel important and you are IT. If you marry a narrcicist you will raise your kids alone and be constantly dealing with an ex who refuses to comply with court degrees.
    It is a living hell. By the time you are divorced all your friends and family have deserted you, then the kids are off to college, you gave up your career to get married, had to try and ressurect it after the divorce, then as a single parent burdened with dozens of court dates you try like hell to raise your kids in a happy home all alone. It is a no win. You can’t be mom dad grandparent , while running your career, and going to divorce court and dealing with selling the marital assets ALL ALONE. and of course if there are medical emergencies the narrcicist makes a point of not being there or dealing with it on their aloof terms which usually means not at all. Welcome to the world of the divorced wives of narcissists.

    • Yep, Sounds about right
      Definitely hypochondriac, what’s up with that?
      Definitely Drama creating: the latest: The cat is now banned from the room for scratching a towel, i kid you not, much to the sadness of the child who loves the cat, now we have to monitor the cat, who can monitor a cat all the time? out of fear of what he’ll do to the cat, (although he’s never harmed the animal before) . He insists the dog and cat do things on purpose to “HIM” like barking, peeing on patio furniture and scratching things it’s ridiculous and not funny but you have to laugh because it’s so unbelievable that you question your own sanity, raising the kids alone even though he’s there, he wants a gold star of recognition for doing the very least on the rare occasions when he contributes socially, like cook once a month or actually fold laundry that wasn’t his, always saying “somebody” should do this task or that, meaning somebody besides himself! wants sex but not intimacy, refuses conversation that goes below the surface, bristles at any attempt to establish responsibility that might be inconvenient to his desires, will give kids the silent treatment for days or even weeks but not his ‘favorite’ kid but the ‘other’ one (the one most like him, ironically) anytime anything goes wrong he is a victim, even if the trash truck comes late or it happens to rain unexpectedly, not joking, and then there are the times (very few now) when he is the loving, supportive father person i fell in love with 20 years ago, but i see that part of him so rarely now, it always stuns me “When he’s good, he’s very very good, but when he’s bad, he’s HORRID”

    • Amen sister! Been there, done that. Going on 10 years in court, a lot $$$, and we were divorced many years ago. It is never ending.

  6. My narc boyfriend flies into a rage over trivialities. Recently it was over another person’s toenails, believe it or not. Long story made short, he offered advice that I said wasn’t applicable, and it was none of our business anyway. He lit into me about how I disrespected himk, screamed at him, and called him stupid, which wasn’t true. I did no such thing, but this is always his fall-back argument. It always amazes me how he can’t seem to see what he’s doing, even when it’s so ridiculous (as with the toenails) that I have to bite my tongue to keep from laughing. He is never physically abusive, but he can be very verbally abusive.

    Fortunately, I’m able to see through his nonsense, which makes life a little easier, but I have trouble controlling my knee-jerk need to defend myself when I’m blindsided by this nut, which is happening more and more often. I would leave him if I could, but I would only be trading one set of problems for another since he contributes considerably to the family economy, and I’m too old to start over. On the other side of the coin, he can be very normal and easy-going when he gets his way. Like anything else, NPD occurs in degrees, and I think his is a pretty mild case–which is why I keep hanging in there. I sometimes get lulled into a false sense of security, but I do know that he can turn on a dime so I’m always wary.

  7. My daughter is a narcissist. .she got jealous when we bought our grandson a Christmas present that he liked better than what she got for him…she broke off all communication. mother..her grandmother died and she would not attend the funersl..she unfriendly us and all of our friends from facebook. .the day of mom’s funeral she bought a Christmas tree. ..honestly I am glad she. Ended communication. .we have walked on eggshells for years

  8. Hi all. A lot of you have found that your narc is an addict. Have any of you become substance dependent yourself because of the constant emotional abuse? I am trying to address my alcohol problem of 8 years or so, because I have spent that time trying to numb myself to him and to life. Of course, a substance issue just lets the narc have another thing to shame you about, and even though my husband has had professional advice that my alcohol issues are tied to his behaviour, he just won’t accept that. So I have to do this on my own, or it’s going to kill me. Would very much value your experiences x

    • Yes!!!! I was allowed to drink when we first met and into the first years of our marriage. As the marriage went on, I found it easier to cope with no sex, lack of empathy for my feelings and the continual bellitling me in front of the children! When I would point out this was the reason for my drinking his new focus was to shout to the world that I was an alcoholic which made me drink even more!

    • Yes.i did this too.And away from the narcissist I was able to stop drinking.Now he’s back and tho it’s only online communication I am drinking again.So I am going to say no to him and this addiction to him..Goodbye Asshole.

    • No get into a Bible Study Group at your nearby church find something that you always want ed to do and do that.because substance abuse is just another form of abuse which mean you did not learn anything from the intinal abuse do yourself a favor give back that person to you and the rest of the world that God gave you. And move on not easy but oh so worth it

  9. I haven’t seen any recent comments; however, I am going to make one anyway, hoping that it may help someone who is a victim of a Narcissistic mother.
    All my life, I am now 67 years old, I thought that it was me that did something wrong, that I was the bad person, that I was a terrible child growing up.
    I was told frequently when growing up that I was dumb, stupid, ugly, etc: I never seemed to do anything right no matter how hard I tried.
    But the one thing that I most missed then and now was love. Being held warmly when I was ill and gently stroked and soothed, being told everything would be fine; that I was loved.
    I was an only child and often reminded in my young years that I was a mistake, that I caused her terrible pain to give birth to me, all of the sacrifices she made for me, and she could have been married to a very wealthy man and had a fantastic life if it had not been for me.
    I grew up being screeched at for the most minor things, but often for things I did not do, or say. I was hit with frying pans and other items when she was in a rage.
    She divorced my real father and remarried very shortly after. She would tell my step-father I did not care for him. If he was nice to me and said something nice to me she would jump in and start criticizing me. I needed a friend, I needed someone to care for me, I was scared of her most of the time. But, she could not accept it if he showed any caring for me.
    Truthfully, I was not a bad child, not a troublemaker or any of the other things she accused me of because I was so scared of her I was afraid of what she might do to me at any time if I did anything. I stayed in my room a lot, reading books; how other people lived, loving mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers who talked and helped each other get through things in life. Love.
    I ran away from home at 18 because she was yelling and screaming at me and hitting me with anything she could get her hands on because I went and had dinner with a girl friend after work.
    After that I joined the military and later married and had my own children to love. Wanting to be a family, I still reached out to her to be a Grandmother, but that turned sour fast.
    Later, in years, I just was so drained and depressed from trying to get along with her I just cut off all communication.
    I slowly, very slowly, regained my self-esteem, and realized that I was not a bad person.
    As I said I am 67 now and she is 89, and I decided to call her to see how she was and hope upon hope we could finally get along, and found within 2 minutes or less that nothing had changed with how she sees me or the world.
    Yes it still hurts; however, knowing she has a mental condition/personality disorder kind of eases the pain, by that I mean I wasn’t the cause of our non-relationship.
    It is very sad to me, that she has had to live in a world of her own creation that would not make any room for true love or be able to receive love.
    She made my real father and step-father’s lives miserable too, and a lot of other peoples that came in contact with her, but she never to this day can see any harm she has caused anyone.
    So, to anyone out there who has experienced such a person in their lives, please know this: You are not a bad person, you are not the cause of their frustrations, anger, displeasure etc: You are a good person and know that you can rise above this situation by making the right choice for yourself, my choice was to leave and make a happy life for me and my family.

  10. I found the opposite was true for me. It seems to me that listening and caring was a way to keep the narc supply coming. I am convinced my mother was a narc. VERY damaging to me. Yet, she would always help me through a problem on the phone. As soon as I had a vulnerability, though, gloves off. It makes me think she needed to feel needed and that somehow this contributed to her getting the supply she needed. Seems like a reasonable theory to me.

  11. These work if you want to simply placate the narcissist. I am married to a narcissist and have found that I cannot have a real conversation with my husband. If he talks about any substantive topic (politics, religion, culture, etc.) I can do nothing but agree and say nothing else. If I actually try to inject my opinion or offer some additional insight, he will yell and accuse me of arguing with him. I feel like he is a college professor lecturing an empty room–he wants no questions and no opposition of any kind. He just wants to display his knowledge and brilliance. Luckily, I have plenty of friends and family that I can talk to in a normal way. It’s sad the way he never keeps any friends for long and wonders why no one likes him.

  12. I dated a Narcissist and grew up in a home with one (my older brother). My ex boyfriend was so ridiculous that he would blame ME for uncontrollable things like the weather or him not getting a job. He would say it was because I did something to cause the outcome (as in a superstitious way). My brother was so overbearing that even when I would agree with him and engage in pleasant conversation, he would still get upset and yell and me. He would tell me I have no idea what I’m talking about and I just don’t “get it”. The statement about it being exhausting being with a narcissist was the truest statement I’ve ever read. I get tired just thinking about being in the same room with my brother.

  13. When it comes to the “how to” deal with a narcissist advice, oddly enough, to me, it’s as if I then, am manipulating them. To me, honesty, sincerity & loyalty can lead to a loving relationship. It seemed so unnatural to behave that way. It’s like lowering my standards of communication. Maybe that’s your point, lower your expectations. And I’m being honest, not sarcastic. It’s such a disappointment to know that as willing a partner you may be, this person who says they love you chooses this behavior anyway. And yes, children are affected by such dis-function. How can they not be? Things like lying by omission, coersion, gas lighting, forgetting, not listening, too busy, not answering me, I’m (me) too emotional, I only talk about what he’s doing wrong and that’s not on his agenda, etc. & so on. And I can go on & on, believe me. There are 2 quotes that he says often. One is, “You hurt the ones you love the most.” The other is “Take what you want and leave the rest.” He also believes he has everyone convinced that he’s the nicest guy. Yet, I still have a hard time, after 25 years of a slow progression to ridiculousness and chaos in our relationship, to behave in a manner that belittles me and my own values. It feels like being mentally raped. I’m not sure if anyone else can relate.

    • DC, I can totally relate. I spent many years in court with my ex and eventually it took therapy to teach me how to manipulate my narcissistic ex because I have a low threshold for BS. Just think of it like having a marketing communication plan for your client. That’s how you have to handle your narcissist.

  14. With my understanding of these people, I’ve come to put them under this category, as they should be treated as such; punk a** b****. They should never be taken seriously, as looked at as such as soon as being identified.


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