A narcissist is someone who is highly self-absorbed and lacks empathy. Unfortunately, many of us will have to engage with narcissists at one point or another. Sadly, narcissists are not people who respect boundaries or personal space. Because of their lack of accountability, it can be challenging to interact with narcissists. If your family member, professor, co-worker, or acquaintance is a narcissist, here are ways to effectively engage with them when necessary.

End The Conversation

If you are having a conversation with a narcissist and notice that the conversation is not moving forward, you are within your rights to cut the conversation off. Always remember, the best thing you can do is to leave before you do anything that is out of character. Your exit strategy might vary depending on who you are talking to, but the most important thing is to immediately nip the conversation in the bud for your mental health.

Skillfully “Jump Over” Intrusive Behavior

Narcissists are known to ask questions that are intrusive and cross boundaries. Suppose you are in the middle of a conversation with a narcissist and they are asking questions that you are uncomfortable with. In that case, you can skillfully avoid answering the question by changing topics and maintaining an invisible mental barricade. If this tactic does not work, change the conversation to a topic that focuses on them or their interests. Narcissists generally love to talk about themselves, and this is an effective strategy that you can use to avoid intrusive behavior.

Call Them Out

Sometimes, the best way to hold a narcissist accountable is to take the proverbial bull by the horns and directly, and (unwaveringly) address their behavior. Many narcissists lack self-awareness, so they may try to push you to the wall until they find out what they can get away with. In some scenarios, no amount of tact on your end can send the message to them, so the best way to curb their behavior is to call it out explicitly. If you are talking and they interrupt you, for example, you can ask:

“Why are you interrupting me?” in a calm, matter-of-fact tone. Calling a narcissist out will leave them no choice but to check their attitude immediately.

Take Narcissists For Who They Are

Before engaging with a narcissist, it is important to keep in mind that narcissists have programmed themselves for many years to disrespect and manipulate people to gain a psychological upper hand. Narcissism is a powerful mental phenomenon that is destructive at its core. Narcissistic people aim to distort anyone and everything in their wake, and many people who are close to the narcissist just accept their unhealthy behavioral patterns. Do not be one of those people. Recognize that you need to set healthy boundaries with the narcissist and remember to protect yourself from manipulation by enforcing your boundaries.

Set Consequences

If you set boundaries with a narcissist, then it is crucial to include consequences. A big part of navigating conversations with a narcissist is the ability to hold them accountable for their actions by reinforcing what you will and will not accept. The next line of action is to know what you will do if the narcissist does not adhere to your consequences. That way, when a narcissist violates your boundaries, then you can decisively take action. If you let their behavior slide one too many times without acting, you may lose your respect.

Don’t Expect Too Much

In interacting with narcissists, it is always important to remember that they are far more interested in themselves than any other person in the room. Because of their lack of empathy, it is almost impossible to have a deep, meaningful conversation with them. Their lack of emotional depth and inability to function in a balanced, healthy relationship is the biggest stumbling block, so train yourself not to expect any heart-to-heart, vulnerable discussions with narcissistic people. Maintaining firm boundaries is invaluable.

Address Issues As They Occur

The best thing to do when relating with them is to be direct, matter-of-fact, and address things as they happen. Addressing issues that occurred in the past will not get you anywhere with a narcissistic person. Narcissists hardly ever change, so it is best to learn how to engage with them without taking their inappropriate behavior personally.