You’ll try. I know I did, for a much longer period of time than I should have. It feels a lot like this:
This comic has nothing to do with narcissism, but I always think of it whenever I discuss trying to reason with a narcissist – it’s like trying to push a pull door without understanding that you can’t get in that way.
If you think you may be dealing with someone who aligns with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, your chances of reasoning with that person are not good. They’re just not reasonable people. Even if they do agree to respect your boundaries or seem to go along with what you’re saying, be suspicious – it doesn’t often last. Eventually they’ll backslide into the same behavioral patterns.
It may not be 100% their fault – the link above notes that recent research has uncovered that brains of those with NPD are different than ‘normal’ brains. I’ve read such studies, and it seems that the area of the brain that is impacted by factors that create a narcissist leave that person with a diminished capacity for empathy, and a diminished ability to regulate their emotions.
Example: Have you ever been told by a highly emotional person that you’re too emotional? That’s a classic narcissist move. They freak out over the smallest or most innocuous of things, and if you object or don’t immediately cater to their mood, suddenly you find yourself being told that you’re too emotional, too hostile, emotionally volatile, unstable, crazy, etc.
Just because someone may actually have a biological reason for why they behave the way they do, that doesn’t mean you are obligated to tolerate them. Now that I am permanently no contact with my parents, I find that I pity my mother. Living in a narcissist brain sounds like a nightmare – from what I experienced of her, she’s constantly dealing with anger, insecurity, jealousy, and disappointment. Very rarely is she actually content or happy.
The fact that I can feel sorry for her doesn’t mean I want her in my life. I can’t help her, I can’t save her – and it’s not my responsibility to. It’s not your responsibility, either. You can’t help someone who doesn’t believe that they need help, and in the case of narcissists, they very rarely do.
If you’re dealing with a narcissist, my recommendation – based on my own experience, a lot of research, and having talked at length to other people who have dealt with NPD individuals – is to give yourself permission to create distance, or even walk away entirely. Give yourself permission to stop trying to reason with them or change them.
Give yourself permission to not care.
That sounds harsh, and perhaps it is a bit, but sometimes it does wonders. I don’t care about my mother at all. I feel sorry for her, and I wish her no harm, but do I care about her? No.
And that’s okay. It’s okay to stop caring. It’s probably actually healthy, in a lot of cases, to be able to emotionally disconnect from someone with NPD or narcissistic traits.
This article has a few tips on how to interact with a narcissist if that interaction is unavoidable – the best one being on how to frame requests so that you can get your needs met.
This article is written for people with a narcissistic significant other, but some of the tips can apply to other sorts of relationships. Scroll down to the middle of the page for the “how to deal” advice.