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Tips on How to Deal with a Narcissist

min read

By Jeff Hayward

Medically Reviewed by Greg Dorter, RP

You may have heard the word narcissist thrown around to describe someone’s personality. But the truth is that it’s actually a recognized mental illness – known as narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). In some cases, however, a person can have some of the traits of a narcissist without a diagnosis.

Narcissists generally think very highly of themselves and can use people for their own gain, and their behavior can be difficult to cope with for those around them. But by recognizing narcissistic traits in others, you can keep these 15 tips in mind to help navigate your interactions…

Learn Who You’re Dealing With

Psychology Today explains there are actually different types of narcissists (it’s a spectrum), and that you may have to approach them differently depending on their traits. The source notes there are “vulnerable” narcissists (also known as covert narcissism) that don’t actually think all that highly of themselves (and are sensitive to criticism), it notes.

Meanwhile, there are “grandiose” narcissists that are basically the opposite, demanding attention and having a sense of entitlement to other people’s attention and praise. Knowing what kind of narcissist you’re dealing with can help you determine if they’re getting in your way or if they can work well on a team to achieve a goal, explains the source.

Limit The Attention

Narcissists love being the center of attention. And that means they crave a constant flow of attention, often without paying any mind to others or reciprocating praise. As Healthline points out, it doesn’t matter how much you put aside your own needs to meet theirs, they will probably never be satisfied.

The key is to not compromise your own life for the benefit of theirs, it adds. While it might seem like they’re overshadowing your own sense of worth, you have to keep your own strengths in mind and leave space to reach your own goals, notes the source.

Question Fast-Moving Relationships

Dating someone new is exciting, sure. But Women’s Health says too much of a good thing too soon can be a “red flag” they’re actually a narcissist. For example, the source says if the person is planning a major trip together and you’ve only been dating a couple of weeks, something may be off.

While there’s nothing wrong with adventure and spontaneity, remember that a narcissist can take away things as quickly as they give them to you – typically when they “win you over,” it adds. They might even discard you after that – because of their own low sense of self-esteem, they might not deem you worthy anymore if you reciprocate, it explains.

Give a Little

Following on the last thought, vulnerable narcissists crave your approval but don’t always do it outwardly. Instead of being direct about wanting your attention, they can be “sneaky and undercutting,” explains Psychology Today.

Know you’re dealing with someone who has this covert version of narcissism, and that they’re really just trying to satisfy their own insecurities. Give them some polite words of reassurance, but don’t overdo it – you may be able to get them to cooperate without heaps of praise, it adds.

Recognize The Pitfalls

You might not recognize right away that you’re dealing with a narcissist – you may just be dealing with a charming person who seems to be able to captivate the room. But while you can be charismatic without being a narcissist, there are certain clues to look for to tell the difference, explains Healthline.

For example, if you’re having doubts about their true nature, pay attention to how they act when they’re not in the spotlight, suggests the source. If they seem charming to others when attention is being paid to them, but treat others poorly behind the scenes, then you might end up being treated badly by them when others aren’t around too.

Stand Your Ground

Healthline explains that some people with NPD may deliberately make others feel uncomfortable for their own validation. But the worst thing you can do is show that you’re bothered by their words, as it can fuel the flames and make it worse, it adds.

However, sometimes this individual is someone you have to deal with every day, whether it’s a co-worker or a family member. Then it’s time to speak up so you don’t become a dumping ground for their poor behavior. Calmly explain to them how their actions affect you, but don’t be surprised if they don’t acknowledge it, warns the source.

Define Boundaries

Along the same lines, you have to define some boundaries to limit how much of you a narcissist gets, says Healthline. This is because a narcissist will expect a lot from you without necessarily acknowledging how much you actually do for them. They may even try to take credit for some of the things you’ve accomplished, it adds.

If they’re expecting too much or not respecting your personal space or privacy, then it’s time to draw a line, explains the source. Tell them when they’re crossing it – they may pay attention if things start to affect them (by not doing their bidding, for example), notes the source.

Avoid Direct Criticisms

While it’s easy to start resenting someone with NPD or want to give them some of their own medicine, doing so can end up in an argument you don’t need or a tantrum, notes The goal of these outbursts is to make you think twice about putting them down again in the future, it adds.

The source suggests staying away from the “you’re wrong” and “I wouldn’t have done it that way” kind of language when talking with a narcissist. This only serves to fuel their need to validate themselves, and could end up in them playing dirty to make a point, it adds. Try to use language that leads in a bit gentler, such as “”I hear you, but I see it a little differently,” suggests the source.

Don’t Directly Point Out Their Faults

At some point, you may lose your cool with a narcissist and blurt out a question such as “what’s wrong with you?” says But while that may release some of the pressure temporarily, it’s not going to do anyone any favors in the long-term, explains the source.

Being that direct will shatter a narcissist’s already fragile sense of self-esteem, it adds. Try to use your understanding of their NPD and formulate words that can express your frustration without making them feel less as a person, it suggests. One suggestion it gives is saying, “It sounds like a lot is going on. Do you want to talk about it?”

Use Humor To Diffuse

Some well-placed quips might be the thing a narcissist needs to look a bit more inwardly while not feeling too threatened, explains Psychology Today. When you know they’re engaging in “egocentric” behavior that’s not genuine, you can call them on it with a smile, wink and a nudge, it adds.

The source says that if the person is of the grandiose narcissist variety, they might actually find the joke entertaining “and possibly instructive.” Just remember to keep it light while making your point, and avoid some of the conflict-causing language mentioned earlier.

Don’t Accept The Blame

Those with NPD are not likely to readily admit a mistake, especially if it’s one that negatively impacts you, says Healthline. Instead, to salvage their own sense of self-worth, they may try to deflect the blame onto you or someone close to you, it adds.

The easy road is to acknowledge that you are somewhat (or fully) responsible for the behavior, but you shouldn’t have to compromise yourself in order to keep the peace, says the source. “You know the truth. Don’t let anyone take that away from you,” it notes. Their behavior is not your fault, it adds.

Make Them Follow Through

A narcissist is especially talented at getting others to do things for them, but not always so good at fulfilling promises to others, explains Healthline. They may promise something for the future, but that’s just a temporary measure until you start doing their bidding again, it adds. Once you give in, they no longer have the incentive to change.

The source suggests making the narcissist follow through with their words immediately, and not give them time to return to their old behaviors. That means not agreeing to do anything for them until they acknowledge and follow through with things you’ve asked of them first, it notes.

Build Support For Yourself

At some point, dealing with a narcissist may be too much for you to handle on your own, especially if they’re someone who makes a regular appearance in your life (that you can’t “block”). But you can release some of the stress and get suggestions from others through talking to trusted friends and family.

Healthline suggests trying to make more time for friends who can lift you up, and even “rekindle old friendships” to add to the positive mix. If you’re not feeling particularly connected to someone else, then you could consider taking up a hobby or volunteer to direct your energy and help give you some breathing room, it adds. Furthermore, if you find yourself anxious or depressed as a result of a narcissist’s behavior, then you might want to seek medical help, says the source.

Encourage Them To Get Support

While you need to look out for your own well-being, you can gently push a narcissist in the right direction to seek help as well, notes Healthline. It may be easier said than done, however: the source says the nature of narcissism means they might never acknowledge there’s anything wrong with their behavior.

It explains that a narcissist will sometimes seek help on their own if they develop another issue, such as substance abuse, or if they’re experiencing depression or another mental health condition. In this case, you can suggest they seek help, “but you can’t make them do it. It’s absolutely their responsibility, not yours,” it notes.

Walk Away

So you’ve tried to get help for the person with NPD and you’ve done everything you can for self-preservation. But sometimes it’s not enough, and you have to create some distance from that person for your own sake. If you’re in a relationship or close to someone with NPD, then you should walk away if they become verbally or emotionally abusive to you (including in public).

But it might not be the end of it. They may also try to gaslight you by making you question or doubt what you know. Narcissists might try to make grand gestures to win you back (presumably so they can continue to manipulate you). As Women’s Health explains, when you call them on their bad behavior and split, “they’ll put on a big love-bombing campaign to win you back.” The source warns not to fall for this tactic.

RP, Registered Psychotherapist

Greg has a master's degree in counselling psychology and is a registered psychotherapist in Ontario where he's been practicing with individuals and couples for 15 years. He specializes in evidence-based treatments such as CBT and mindfulness, and produces a variety of online self-help content you can find on ( and twitter (@GregDorter).

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