What to Remember When Dealing with a Narcissist
Don’t believe the narcissist’s self-reports. Narcissists will say anything they think makes them look good. Whatever they say is either a lie or a delusion.
Read between the lines.
Watch for weasel words and fuzzy logic. “I sold a book, and we bought a house.” You’re supposed to hear, “I sold a book, and we bought a house with the royalties.” The fact that the narcissist didn’t say that in the first place is telling. If she really did sell a book that brought in enough money to buy a house, she’d have told you how much she made or she’d go into detail about how rare it is for a book to earn that much and how special she is for writing it. If she says anything less–especially if she lets you infer the best part–it’s a red flag.
“Why wouldn’t she just lie about it?” you ask. Good question. Some narcissists will. Others are dimly aware that telling too many lies will get them caught and pilloried (again), so they stick to maximum deniability. (“I didn’t say we bought a house with the money from the book, I just said we bought a house after I sold the book. It’s not my fault you misheard me.”) And some of them like putting one over on you.
Check your sources. Never believe what the narcissist says about them. If she gets anything right, I assure you it’s purely by chance.
You’re not the first. If the narcissist is past the age of six, they’ve hurt somebody else. And they probably hurt them in exactly the same way they’re hurting you. Find their past contacts–friends, schoolmates, family members, students, co-workers. Narcissists are brilliant at isolating people who know too much, so look for hidden people: former friends who wandered away quietly, family members who aren’t estranged but just aren’t around much, people who worked for them for a while and then quit. And, of course, get in touch with those bitches who told such incredible lies about her and drummed her out of their circle because they were jealous of her talent. They know things you haven’t even started to dig up yet, and they’ll tell you everything once they know you’re not the narcissist’s sidekick.
“You’re not the first” applies online, too. Look not only for people, but for sites: abortive early blogs, comments in other people’s blogs, forums and boards they abandoned, attempts at sockpuppeting. Even if a narcissist is new to the web, they almost certainly have a past that stretches beyond the moment they sashayed into your forum. Less web-savvy narcissists leave behind entire trails of attempts to establish themselves before they hit on a persona that works.
“That was long ago” doesn’t apply to narcissists. Narcissists don’t improve. They may refine their techniques, they may become harder to catch, but they don’t become less malicious or toxic. Information about what a narcissist was like 10, 20, or 50 years ago is still relevant today.
Be doubly careful if the narcissist herself is the one trying to convince you that something is old news and doesn’t matter. Narcissists are prone to say that about things that happened ten minutes ago if it serves their purpose; it doesn’t have anything to do with the truth. In fact, it’s a red flag that you’re onto something.
Don’t give them money or personal information. Regardless of how much (they say) they need it.
Don’t underestimate them. Narcissists have a single goal in life–their self-image. If they’re successful, they have networks of followers and dupes to give them money and aid in whatever they choose to do. If they’re unsuccessful, they are unencumbered by drains on their time and energy in the shape of friends, family, and work, and can spend 100% of their time and energy on getting revenge and digging up a fresh band of followers.
Don’t overestimate them. Narcissists are often gullible, naive, and stunningly ignorant of anything outside their narrow circle of interests. (They’re often stunningly ignorant of things inside their circle of interests, since clearly they have already mastered the topic and don’t need to study more or keep up on new developments.) What looks like brilliant strategy is too often the result of being bugfuck crazy: They take chances because it doesn’t occur to them that they could lose, make huge demands because it doesn’t occur to them they they don’t have a right to ask for certain things, tell lies because it doesn’t occur to them that other people could see through them. Their “deep knowledge of human nature” is a set of formulas, and while it works painfully well most of the time, anything slightly off their charts will send them into a tailspin of projection. Remember that narcissists are formidable, but they’re not ninjas.
Their projections can be a powerful tool to use against them. Get a narcissist frothing at the mouth, and she’ll tell you exactly what she’s doing why, when, how, and to whom. It’s better than getting a Batman villain to monologue.