Beat them at their own game.
Don’t employ these four positive character traits when you’re in love with, work for, were parented by, or are friends (frenemies) with a narcissist. These are admirable and useful traits when offered to “normal” people who don’t have the traits that typify a narcissist:
- An abundance of empathy.
- A strong desire to rescue and help.
- A willingness to try harder to make the relationship work.
- A strong sense of responsibility.
On the other end of the spectrum are the traits of a narcissist:
- Interpersonally exploitative.
- Lacking empathy: unwilling or unable to recognize the feelings and needs of others.
- Negative reaction to criticism (they can interpret us asking to have our needs met as criticism).
- Difficulty in admitting mistakes or taking responsibility for their bad behavior.
- Using fear to control people.
An example of how not to act around a narcissist comes from my long-ago narcissistic relationship:
My live-in boyfriend didn’t come until 7 AM from a “boys night out.” I was prepared to have it out with him. Get him to admit that he was cheating so I’d have the proof I needed to break up with him. Instead, he came home and grilled me. Did I call his friend Colin at 4 AM to find out where he was? (Controlling me by making me fearful I’d done something wrong.) Yes, I did call Colin.
My strong misplaced sense of responsibility kicked in. I began to doubt. Maybe it was my fault he stayed out all night because I was always trying to track him down? It’s no wonder, he said, that he couldn’t commit to a woman who behaves like “white trash.” If I could just trust him, he said, and quit trying to control him, his bad behavior would stop.
My abundance of empathy and need to try harder kicked in. I forgave him for staying out all night because maybe I was a shrew who made him want to rebel.
So, I’d just have to try harder to put up with his inconsistency, unreliability and (if I could set denial aside) his infidelities. And since he was tired from his night out he “really didn’t want to discuss our relationship right then.” (My desire to rescue and help kicked in and I let him off the hook. At least I didn’t make him breakfast!)
And don’t let passion blind you to reason! Our sexual organs often don’t care if our lover is a narcissist. So, how can you protect yourself when you’re in a relationship with someone like this? By learning how not to act around a narcissist who uses your positive character traits against you.
- Learn all the narcissistic personality traits in a location on your body where you can see them (for me it would be my tummy).
- Get into recovery for co-dependency (Twelve-step recovery is amazing).
- Use emotional detachment to stop trying to manipulate, rescue, fix or people-please the narcissist.
- Never reveal what hurts you or makes you feel vulnerable to a narcissist.
Dr. Athena Staik Ph.D. writes, “Expressing vulnerable emotions is vital to life balance and peace of mind, but do so only with safe others — never a narcissist. A narcissist literally uses this information to get into your mind, instilling fear to steal your sense of self, by crippling your brain’s capacity to clearly think. That means, while you’re pouring your heart and spilling your guts, the narcissist you’re talking to, like a mad scientist, listens only to gather data… to execute strategies to exploit and take possession of your mind, heart, soul for his (her) gain alone.”
This guest article originally appeared on YourTango.com: The 4 Personality Traits Narcissists Take Advantage Of (And How To Hide Them).