You, yourself and you: Coping with a narcissist

Communicating with a narcissist can feel like talking with Gilderoy Lockhart from the "Harry Potter" series. Following these suggestions can help soften the blow when dealing with the self-involved.

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  • nar·cis·sist

  • [nahr-suh-sist] / _noun_

  • 1.a person who is overly self-involved, and often vain and selfish.

  • Communicating with a narcissist can feel like talking with Gilderoy Lockhart from the Harry Potter series. They tend to condescend, control or criticize during conversations. Following these suggestions can help soften the blow when dealing with the self-involved.

  • 1. Keep conversations brief

  • If you regularly interact with a narcissist you may want to keep all of your interactions short so as to stamp out the impending monologue. Politely excuse yourself from the lunch table, or set your mental clock to prompt you to get off the phone at a designated time. Eventually the narcissist should get the point that each time the conversation moves to them and only them, you’ll be exiting stage left. Perhaps these interruptions will even clue them in to their behavior.

  • 2. Change the subject

  • Listening to a co-worker drone on about their mad basketball skills and their 5-year-old son's future in the NBA can be infuriating, but trying to interject stories of your own physical prowess will most likely fail, so try a transition approach. After a polite spell of listening to superstar Timmy stories, change the subject to something you and the narcissist have in common. This will move him on to another topic and increase the likelihood that you’ll be able to contribute.

  • Note: the topic of conversation is usually controlled by the narcissist but at least you'll be talking about something you enjoy.

  • 3. Remember their capabilities

  • If you’re having a rough day and are looking for a pick-me-up, don’t call a narcissist. They often lack empathy because they are not able to sense the needs of others. “The general rules of reciprocity don’t exist with a person suffering from Narcissistic Personality Disorder,” according to Eleanor Payson, author of The Wizard of Oz and Other Narcissists: Coping with the One-Way Relationship in Work, Love, and Family. Narcissists tend to be subject matter experts because they think and converse about certain topics a great deal. If you're in need of assistance in one of their areas of expertise, they could be an unwitting accomplice.

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  • 4. Close your emotional space

  • Licensed Clinical Therapist, Lori Olsen, MC, LPC, explains that, "The brain naturally creates an energetic and emotional boundary as humans grow which closes off during the teen years. This boundary can be referred to as personal space.” Within this boundary is a gate. Typically we choose how and when we open that gate for the people around us. Narcissists, however, act like a steel-toed shoe stopping our gate from closing. They disable our ability to protect our emotional space.

  • The narcissist’s need for self-gratification and self-talk is ongoing, so resisting closure can often be difficult. Don’t lose heart. Removing their steel-toed shoe from your emotional gateway allows the relationship to change. Once appropriate emotional boundaries have been created, a healthy relationship can be built.

  • Above all, keep things light and don't take offense. If you could be a fly on the wall during a conversation with a narcissist you'd probably be laughing.

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Jen Savage is the COO of her household. She loves life in Arizona.

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