mental health Mandy Kloppers

How to behave with a narcissist

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Feeling unseen, unheard and self-blaming is often the result of being with a narcissistic person

What are the signs that you are dealing with a narcissist?

Narcissists lack empathy and they feel entitled. They are also super sensitive when it comes to criticism and they seek out validation and admiration constantly. Angry reactive outbursts are common. They don’t like being told what to do. They will react negatively if they feel you are trying to control them and because they lack empathy they have to learn to fake it.

This is because they are actually insecure people but do everything they can to avoid the threat of feeling like the complete loser that they are. They try to create a suit of armour against their own shame – that they aren’t as great as they make out.

They see people as objects and will always live by the motto: “What’s in it for me?” As long as they have a use for you they will keep you around but if they get bored…you might be out in the cold. The thing about narcissists though is that they often come across as fun and charismatic. There is something different about them and they appear to offer an exciting life that you definitely want to be a part of…until you spend more time with them and find out what they are really about.

What a healthy upbringing consists of:

Healthy secure attachment – at least one caregiver that is consistent, available, and supportive in the early years.

Ability to self-soothe – learn how to manage emotions, and deal with disappointment, failure and rejection.

Empathy – ability to understand feelings and relate to the experiences of others. Modelled behaviour from a parent helps the child learn how to care for others.

Narcissistic people often don’t receive the above from their parents.

So, how should you behave with a narcissist to protect yourself?

You aren’t crazy, you are around someone who makes you believe you are. It’s always your fault. They will always be the victim. Narcissism is a personality style, it’s NOT a diagnosis. Narcissistic Personality Disorder is a diagnosis – there is a difference.

They will lash out with anger if you criticize or make observations about their behaviour. They find it difficult to take responsibility for their actions. As a result, it’s never a good idea to confront a narcissist. They will never say sorry, instead, they will turn it around and blame you somehow.

Unfortunately, you will never be able to change someone who has a narcissistic personality style. No matter how you change, offer love, and try to adapt, they will stay the same. The more flexible you are in your thinking, the less likely you are to possess a narcissistic personality style. Narcissists are very black-and-white and rigid in their views of the world. They have an egocentric style rather than an agreeable style.

Agreeable people are laid back, fun and empathic, warm, flexible and highly ethical – the opposite of narcissistic traits. Narcissistic people show superficial empathy and know how to use it to get what they want. They find it hard to not make a conversation about themselves. It’s often all about them – this is known as egocentrism.


“I never said that, I never did that” etc…They make you doubt your version of reality. To gaslight someone means to manipulate another person into doubting their own perceptions, experiences or understanding of events, according to the American Psychological Association.

When dealing with a narcissistic style personality, try not to argue with them or make your arguments confrontational. They will end up raging and you won’t be able to communicate in a productive way.

The grey rock method

Grey rocking is a technique used to divert a toxic person’s behavior by acting as unresponsive as possible when you’re interacting with them.

Keep communication simple and repeat what you want to say to them – don’t get drawn into their mind games. They may come at you from different angles to ruffle your feather but keep repeating what you want to say.

People with narcissistic personality disorder crave attention and making themselves appear like a grey rock is a way to deprive them of the reactions that they’re seeking. The tactic includes limiting emotional responses, avoiding eye contact, and removing yourself from situations whenever it’s possible to do so.
  • Shrugging and nodding
  • Using noncommittal phrases and responses like “eh,” “mhm,” or “uh-huh” or “If you say so…”
  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Responding briefly, and without elaboration, to direct questions
  • Ending or leaving interactions as quickly as is safely possible

There are two main things to consider when ‘grey rocking’:

  1. Hide your emotions and keep a neutral face. A manipulator usually uses people’s emotions to hurt them or to seek conflict, because they feed off your reactions. If you don’t react, you don’t give them what they want, so they go away because you’re not interesting.
  2. Give short or pointless answers. Don’t get actively involved in the conversation. Your answers should seem monotonous, “Ok.” Nothing more. If you disagree or contradict them, they will use it to create a conflict. If you give the slightest information about yourself, they are likely to use it to seek conflict to hurt you. Basically, they will use it to play mind games with you.

That way, you let the manipulator think you don’t care about what they say and they don’t get an emotional reaction from you. No reaction at all means they don’t have power over you. They will soon get bored and leave you alone. If you manage to keep doing this every time you are with an aggressive person, it should be effective.

There is still a chance that you won’t manage to do the grey rock method 100% of the time because it requires a lot of self-control and the manipulator may push your buttons to get a reaction from you. If you fail a few times, it’s no big deal so long as you don’t give them anything they can use against you to manipulate you. If it doesn’t keep them away, it will help to protect your either way.

Grey rocking when children are involved

The flexibility of the grey rock technique makes it useful in a variety of relationship contexts, including ones that involve children. However, unfortunately, for many, the presence and inclusion of children can either discourage or complicate the use of this technique because of fear that it may negatively impact the child(ren). Still, there are ways to effectively—and almost passively—go grey rock so as to avoid it affecting children

Boost Your Self-Esteem

A narcissistic person often undermines others to boost their sense of self. This can be particularly damaging when the person is always running you down in subtle and non-subtle ways. The workplace is especially vulnerable to this kind of behavior.

To help ensure that you have the mental strength to cope, make sure that your self-esteem remains healthy, even in the face of challenges. Keep an assertive attitude; narcissists gravitate toward people who enable their antics.











Mandy Kloppers
Author: Mandy Kloppers

Mandy is a qualified therapist who treats depression, anxiety, OCD, PTSD, trauma, and many other types of mental health issues. She provides online therapy around the world for those needing support and also provides relationship counselling.