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how to communicate with a narcissist

If anything will give you heartburn and overall anxiety, it might be when you have to respond or communicate with your ex. Here’s how to communicate with a narcissist.

You probably already know this – but it’s best to only respond or communicate when necessary. Take your pride, your need to be understood, your anger – and put it on the shelf for now. Toxic people feed off of attention…positive or negative.  Understand this and realize you are communicating with someone who enjoys and feels power by getting a rise out of you – and unfortunately, often at the expense of your kids and what he knows you hold dear.

Maybe you are ahead of the game and only ask questions or engage with your ex when absolutely necessary. If so, you have exercised extreme self control and are adulting well. I tip my hat to you.

HERE ARE TIPS THAT HAVE WORKED FOR ME:

  • Our Family Wizard (ourfamilywizard.com). This is the only forum where my ex and I communicate. Understandably, if there was a serious emergency, I would text or call, but that very rarely happens. You need a platform like OFW that can be tracked, and if necessary, you can add administrators (lawyers/parent coordinators/etc.) to your account to view emails. Emails via other platforms can theoretically be forwarded (thus edited) so you really need a one-stop-shop to documenting your communication. You pay for OFW, but it is well worth it and shouldn’t break the bank. Unfortunately it took a directive from our parent coordinator (a mediator of sorts) to wrangle my ex into signing up for this service, but we have used this now for more than a year. I really love how you can set up notifications so that OFW texts you when you receive mail. Awesome.
  • Write to your ex as if your child will read it. I think this is going to keep you on track on being professional, simple, and direct. In other words, treat this as a business. How would you respond to a co-worker, or manager? How do you start an email to them? Leave opinions, or snarky comments at the door. This is not the time to talk about your feelings, what he did when, etc. What’s the issue? Write it down and pretend you are writing to someone you work with.how to communicate with a narcissist
  • Look over your email. Highlight words or phrases like ‘should’, ‘request’, ‘would like to’, ‘please’, ‘if you are ok with’, etc. Now edit. Here’s an example. Let’s say I have a work meeting that will prevent me from picking the kids up from school on my designated day:
    • First Draft:
      • “Hi there, I was wondering if you would be able to pick up the kids on Monday, as I have a conflict with work that just came up, and requires me to be there. I really hate to not be able to pick them up, but this is really unavoidable. Can you help me?”
    • Edited:
      • “Unfortunately, I have a sudden work conflict on Monday and I will not be able to pick up the kids from school. Let me know if you would be able to get them that day. If I have not heard from you by tomorrow at this time (3pm), I will secure other arrangements for the girls to be picked up. Thank you.”
    • So this is a subtle change – but in many cases, you don’t want to appear to be ‘asking for help’ – because really, this is for the kids. Appearing to ask for help in any form is leverage for your ex. Things come up, and change is normal, so treat it as such. If you have been a ‘pleaser’ for most of your life, you might not realize how often you are trying to make the other person feel better, or padding your words so you don’t sound too direct. Hey. Be direct. Seriously.
  • If you are entitled to vacation time with your kids, DO NOT REQUEST IT FROM YOUR EX. This is your right, so you simply INFORM. Start being more assertive (this does not mean being an asshole) within your communications. Start INFORMING! Remember, pretend you are writing to someone at the office – someone you don’t know very well.

OTHER EXAMPLES AND EDITS:

“I feel…”

No! Don’t put your feelings into anything. Edit that out.

“I was hoping…”

You are opening up dialogue for conflict. Try “I will be” or “It makes sense if”

“Would you mind”

Of course he would. Try “can you” or “if you can”

WAYS TO SHUT DOWN A TOXIC EX

Let’s say your ex gets personal, and starts to piss you off. For the sake of example, he tells you that you are a spoiled brat, because that is how you were raised. I’m just giving an example, but you get my drift. How do you respond? I’ve had luck with these phrases. Long story short…do not engage. Shut it down.

  • “Interesting”
  • “Noted”
  • “Sorry you feel that way”
  • “Thanks for your input”

I have to strongly advise you to look at your response and make sure you’re not being passive aggressive here, because you will invite another response.

So if you decided to say “It sounds like you’re still really angry, so I’m sorry you feel this way” you are opening up dialogue. A simple “sorry you feel that way” shuts things down, and keeps everything simple. Maybe you are really pissed off and want to engage. Walk away, come back later, and do not allow someone like this to tick you off. There are better ways you can use your energy, and this person does not deserve yours.

PerSisters, I get it. It’s fucking hard as hell to keep your lips pursed and your temper in check. Look at it this way. Do not engage, because if you do, you are allowing him to control you all over again. The best thing you can do is write very unsatisfying, simple, and short responses that do not play into his attempts at getting your goat.

You can do this. It just takes practice. It also takes practice to tell yourself that you DO NOT need validation from this person. Stop looking for it, because you will never get it. Shut down the cycle of abusive conversation. You will find people who love and support you, and a toxic person’s affirmation is not what you need.

Comment below with any other tips or tricks that you found work for you! If you have any questions, add those as well.  Hugs to you!

 

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Hey! Hi! An-yong-ha-sae-oh! I’m Jenn, and I am here to share what has worked for me (and what hasn’t) while going through my separation, divorce, remarriage, and blended family. Wow, that's a lot, but I've been through a lot and here is where I share it with you!

14 Responses

  1. Lori Verni
    | Reply

    Great post! Lots of good advice. I learned the hard way that “You can’t rationalize with the irrational.” When it’s necessary to communicate with someone like that, I agree with your advice to keep it as brief and businesslike as possible.

    • Jennifer
      | Reply

      Thank you Lori!! And YES…many times we just have to realize that the other person will just “never get it”. We get our spirit back when we start practicing (then preaching) the “art of not giving a f%*k” about whether he ever will.

  2. Kate
    | Reply

    Super helpful ideas…. takes a lot of self-control to not engage!

    • Jennifer
      | Reply

      A complete practice in self control, for sure!!

  3. Shannon
    | Reply

    I never respond to anything of a contentious nature for at least 24 hours. My first instinct it to defend myself against his ridiculious accusations, which is absurd and pointless. So, rather than engage in an argument, I let emails cool off for a day. I have found that, often by this time, he has moved on from his previous mindset about whatever its, and/or his mood has changed, without my even having to get involved in the conversation.

    • Jennifer
      | Reply

      This is such a great point. I do the same – it’s still an effort in self control to wait, but always ALWAYS the best idea. Many times I elect not to respond after letting things cool off, and to your point, it can also allow the other person to calm a bit, too.

  4. Pam
    | Reply

    My son had a narcissistic girl friend for 12 years, she moved in with him, with out being asked, and announced she would not pay for anything, because he would have to pay it anyway.. this is a very small house, he tried to get her to leave for years, but where’s she going to go, and not pay rent? My son was getting sicker and sicker, I’d take him to the doctor to find out why he was throwing up all the time, he quit driving, And she really liked alcohol, they were on a break up, but she was still staying at the house, drinking. So I had it, I called her dad and told him to come get her. She was mad, she said had been telling him how much he hated him, and she needed to find a man that can provide for her. The day she left he quit throwing up. He’s 5 ft 10 in. He was down to 125 lb. He started driving again, and gained weight and happiness. For years he thought he could fix it. Nope. She found a man to support her, her dad.

    • Jennifer
      | Reply

      Men are victims as well. Most victims of narcissistic abuse are extremely empathetic, great listeners, and ‘fixers’. I’m so glad you stepped in and helped the situation. I’m glad he’s doing better!

  5. Landi
    | Reply

    We have to use OFW… And I try my best to keep it like running a business and avoid his every other message of hate/olive branch (with 6 strings attached). My question is…how do you get them to stop when they call your new partner…family members…children’s services ( for no reason)..etc. How do I make the harassing and menacing of our time together stop? We have court ordered exchanges ( location)..times he can call the kids…I have sought protection orders that were denied…and its like if anyone does read the wizard…nothing has been done. I’m getting desperate.

    • Jennifer
      | Reply

      Hi Landi, thanks for your comment and question. It bothers me to no end when I hear stories like yours, and that have been so similar to mine. My heart goes out to you. Do you have a lawyer? What really helped in my situation was getting a Parent Coordinator. In my state, a PC is typically a lawyer or even a professional psychologist that does double duty and takes on contentious cases like yours/mine to act as a mediator or judge for any and all issues you bring in front of them. This ended up being requested by my lawyer and signed off on by a judge. A parent coordinator was assigned to us for a term of 2 years. Both myself and my ex would put in a certain amount of ‘retainer’ and the PC would work to resolve issues and put to rest any questionable wording within our separation agreement/custody documents/frustrating issues. It was very helpful to have a third person who could see what was going on, and would give the directive to either stop the behavior or make a judgment call. It’s helpful with any toxic relationship like this to have your ex exposed to others. I hope that somehow helps? Good luck to you and keep me posted!

  6. Cherie
    | Reply

    I love this post. I am currently going through a divorce from an emotionally abusive husband. We are both still living in the house and everything has been somewhat calm. However, I feel like he is watching every move I make and questions me frequently. ( What are you doing? Why did you go to the grocery store again? You weren’t at blah, blah. I know what you were doing.) He enjoys throwing me “zingers” as well. My daughter said “I am saving up for something.” He replied, “So am I.” He had to start taking high blood pressure medication (which, of course, is my fault.) He proclaimed that he would be off of it in 6 months. Normally, that would sound like a positive comment or goal. From him, it was a zinger basically saying once he was done with me, he wouldn’t need the medicine anymore. Alternately, he goes out of his way to be nice to me and be the “perfect dad”. He gets gas in my car, make French toast on Sundays for everyone, etc. He is dragging his feet, as well, about getting the paperwork done. I just want to move on with my life and I can’t until he gets his stuff together. We have to sell the house and I want to know how much money I am going to have, so I can buy a new one for my children and me. Emotionally, I am feeling myself slip and I want to stay strong. What got you through this difficult transitional period? I can’t wait to be settled in a new place without his criticism and watchful eye. Thanks so much,
    Cherie

    • Jennifer
      | Reply

      Hi Cheri! I hope your situation is a bit better now? I am sorry I did not respond to your comment sooner. I know how it feels to be in the same home while navigating a separation/divorce – but it will be better for sure once you are in separate spaces. The best advice I can give you is to respond in a succinct, professional way. If the question doesn’t have anything to do with your child, or have value to your situation – you might want to have a good store of responses in your arsenal. When your ex states something that offends you, you can say “interesting” or “noted”. You also have every right to walk away from a conversation and dispelling it by telling him directly that you are not interested in engaging in conversation that does not relate to your child, etc. It’s my opinion that being a bit robotic and unemotional will really set a precedent moving forward. The worst thing that can happen is that he triggers you into arguing and heightening your emotions. Try your best to be calm (or fake it) and shut a lot of the jabs and needless conversation off. I hope it’s going better for you!

  7. Sonia
    | Reply

    Hello – I found your articles helpful. I have a situation right now. My husband is in the Navy and is stationed 280 miles from where I have a home with my daughter. Her Dad and I coparent. We switch off weeks with her every other week. He mentioned that he is concerned about my daughter not having her own room when we sometimes go and visit my husband, he doesn’t like the idea that she does not have privacy, she is 12 and will be 13 this summer. My response to him that this is not where we actually live but where we just visit. But he got upset with my response to his concern. My husband is due to retire next year. We really can’t afford to get a 2 bedroom apartment. Since we have a mortgage. Thoughts? Advice? Please help.

    Kindest Regards,
    Sonia

    • Jennifer
      | Reply

      Hi Sonia, I hope all is going well with you these days. I would definitely consult with an attorney if things should escalate with your ex. If you can’t ease his mind and your daughter is just fine with the arrangement as is, get a legal opinion.

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