How To Argue With a Narcissist

Avoid the trap of defending yourself.

Man and woman standing in front of a window, with their arms crossed and their backs to each other.

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This is How You Usually Argue With a Narcissist

You usually argue with a narcissist like this.  One of you brings up a topic that you need to have a discussion about.  Let’s say, you bring up how you would love it if the narcissist could help you around the house more, because you are feeling overworked.  A narcissist will use the DARVO method, coined by Jennifer Freyd, which stands for Deny, Attack, Reverse Victim and Offender, to end this argument.  

First, the narcissist will deny never helping around the house.  They’ll say something like, “I do help!  Remember when I helped you fold the laundry?”  You’ll say, “That was two years ago!”  Next, the narcissist will attack you.  “I help you all the time, you never give me credit for when I help out around here!  It’s no wonder I don’t do as much.  You always nag at me and tell me I don’t do anything.  You don’t appreciate all the ways I help around here.  You never help me when I need something.  Remember that time I asked you for a glass of water, when I was sick?  You didn’t get me water.”  

You probably don’t even know what they are talking about, or they asked at a time when you were just getting out of the shower, or putting the baby down to bed.  They have reversed victim and offender.  You were making a request for help, and now they are listing all the ways you have ever let them down in the past.  They are now the victim, and you are supposedly the inconsiderate one.  At this point, things are so turned around, you either try harder to get your point across, or you start defending yourself.  Either way, the narcissist gets out of helping around the house more, and you end up flustered and frustrated.  

It’s Not Worth It

Truthfully, it’s not even worth it to argue with a narcissist.  As soon as you bring up a problem (or if they bring up a problem to you), and you disagree, it’s game on.  A narcissist looks at an argument as a game with winners and losers.  There can only be one winner, and it must be them.  You are not allowed to win.  

The narcissist uses all kind of tactics to win, like I mentioned in this article.  These tactics are designed to make you defend yourself against their attacks.  Once you’ve started defending yourself, you’ve lost.  

Instead, try these ways of handling a difficult conversation with a narcissist:

  1. Even though the narcissist will probably not comply, still bring up your concerns or need for help, but when the denial starts, call it out and restate your original request.  You deserve to have your needs met, without the exhaustion of doing everything yourself.  

“I hear your denial of not helping me, but I really need you to do a few loads of laundry, while I cook dinner.”  They’ll likely keep denying or start the attack on how you do something wrong.  Don’t get distracted by that.  Repeat the original request in a calm voice.  “I’m not talking about the time I didn’t bring you water.  Right now, I’m requesting your help with the laundry.”  You may have to repeat it several times.  This is called the broken record technique.  You are not engaging in the argument and you are not escalating the argument.  You are just repeating yourself over and over in a boring, calm tone.  

If they still refuse to help, do the laundry, while not including their clothing.  Don’t announce it, but if they bring it up, you can let them know in a calm voice that since they chose not to help you, you are choosing to get your own laundry done.  

  1. Don’t escalate the situation.  Keep your voice and demeanor calm, no matter what the narcissist does.  They love to get you angry and riled up.  Then, they can turn things around on you, and say, “See how crazy you get?”.  They can shift the blame onto you.  They are also searching for a way to get energy supply from you.  Have you ever noticed how when you finally yell, or cry, suddenly the narcissist seems almost relieved?  Yeah, that’s because they got a reaction out of you which means they are controlling the situation.  Try your best not to give them that satisfaction.
  2. Disengage by walking away, removing yourself from the conversation.  When the narcissist tries the DARVO method on you, the conversation is over anyway.  There won’t be anything you can do to change their mind, or the way they are relating to you. 
  3. Take some time to emotionally ground yourself.  You can do this by taking a few minutes to meditate, take a walk outside, or do a few quick breathing exercises, for example.
  4. Talk to a supportive person afterward if that is an option for you. You don’t even have to talk about the argument, but just knowing that someone else is in your corner, and will keep the conversation lighthearted, can help you feel better quickly.

Limit the amount of time you spend with the narcissist, whenever possible, if things often escalate to an argument.  This is a little bit easier when you don’t live with them.  If they are your spouse or partner, make yourself busy at work, at church, with kid’s activities, or whatever else you can.  Narcissists don’t like to be ignored, so again, this isn’t always possible.  

Arguing with a narcissist is a waste of time.  They end up denying and attacking you, and you end up defending yourself.  Things rarely, or never get resolved, and you end up frustrated, and exhausted.  Your choices are to fulfill your own needs, or find another supportive friend or family member to help you.  When it comes right down to it, a narcissist is not a healthy partner or other type of relationship.

If any of these tips make you feel unsafe around the narcissist, then it is important to find that person, or group that is supportive and understanding.  Talk to a coach, therapist, trusted friend or family member, clergy member, 12-step support group, or even Facebook groups can be helpful.  
*If you are in danger, call local authorities, or

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