In Part One, I explained why it’s impossible to win an argument with a narcissist, borderline or psychopath if you engage with them on their level (i.e., an irrational, petulant, belligerent, emotional reasoning, self-absorbed, poo flinging toddler). So how do you really win an argument with a narcissist?
Don’t argue. Don’t trade insults, no matter how tempting. Don’t JADE: justify, argue, defend or explain yourself. Don’t hurl psychiatric labels at them. Don’t send them links to Shrink4Men or CrazyBusters. Don’t try to give them a taste of their own medicine. And don’t try to out-narcissist a narcissist or out-borderline a borderline or out-psychopath a psychopath. If you aren’t personality disordered yourself, you simply cannot out-crazy Crazy. You could try, but it will require you to operate outside of your integrity and then you have to live with that.
In order to win an argument with a narcissist you must first redefine what winning means.
What winning doesn’t mean:
Getting an apology. You might get a non-apology like, “I’m sorry you feel that way,” or “I’m sorry if I offended you.” Variations of these statements don’t reflect remorse. They’re blame shifting non-apologies by which the narcissist is saying you are the one with the problem. The problem is that you’re having an emotional response to the narcissist’s or borderline’s abuse. You should really get some help for that — eye roll. Another blame-shifting non-apology is, “I’m sorry, BUT here’s why it’s really your fault . . .”
Other common non-apologies include blame-spreading, “We both did things that were wrong.” Okay. Try asking the narcissist what she or he did that was wrong. They might be able to parrot back some of your complaints, maybe. Or they’ll hem and haw and get angry all over again because they don’t actually think they did anything wrong. If the narcissist can parrot back what she or he did that was hurtful to you like cheating, lying, assaulting you, etc., then ask the narcissist why it was wrong. Warning: You may want to don some safety equipment before doing so. Odds are the narcissist can’t explain why their behavior was wrong. Even if they know their actions were wrong and hurtful, they often feel justified due to their entitlement and lack of empathy.
Admission of defeat. As discussed in Part One, narcissists et al engage in historical revisionism and whitewashing. They Photoshop their lives just like they Photoshop their Facebook selfies. Losses are retold as victories. When they publicly humiliate themselves by behaving like angry emotional toddlers, they accuse their targets of abusing them or treating them unfairly, or what’s known as DARVO (Deny, Attack and Reverse Victim and Offender).
My narcissistic ex used to say, “I always win.” In reality, no, he didn’t. He had huge public failures. He tripped over his own personality deficits more times than I can count. Over the course of our 7 year relationship there was never a time he didn’t have at least two attorneys on retainer, sometimes more. He was the defendant in several well-deserved civil lawsuits from which he had to lie and buy his way out. But in his narcissist reality distortion bubble, he “won” even when it was clear to objective observers that he had lost and lost spectacularly.
Public recognition of the narcissist’s asshattery. Narcissists, borderlines and psychopaths often conduct smear campaigns against their exes (or current spouses or partners once the Devaluation stage of the relationship has begun). Some people are going to believe Bobby Borderline’s or Nancy Narcissist’s lies, especially their minions, enablers and apologists. It’s one of the hard realities of ending a relationship with someone like that. Set the record straight with the people who matter most to you and let the narcissist remain king or queen of their flying monkey squadron.
Obtaining a fair judgment in family, civil or criminal legal actions. In legal terms, narcissists, borderlines, histrionics, psychopaths and sociopaths are known as high-conflict litigants. Bill Eddy, author of Splitting: Protecting Yourself While Divorcing Someone with Borderline or Narcissistic Personality Disorder, describes high-conflict people as persuasive blamers. The emotional intensity of their lies and distortions can convince even the most seasoned therapists, evaluators, judges and law enforcement personnel, if only for a time. Narcissists lie and often get away with their lies. It sucks, but that’s just the way it is.
What winning means:
Emotionally detaching so that nothing the narcissist does affects you. The narcissist marries your replacement with whom he or she cheated on you? Pffft. You know the hell that awaits your successor, that is if they’re not in hell already. The narcissist or borderline bombs Facebook like a 13-year old girl with “I’ve never been happier” posts with her or his newest soulmate? Pffft. You know it’s all bullshit because narcissists aren’t capable of true happiness, peace and well-being. Sure, they’ll get a temporary high from self-medicating themselves with their newest victim (just like she or he did with you), but it won’t last. The relationship may last for years, but you know very well that the love bombing or idealization stage won’t.
The narcissist is badmouthing you and spreading lies about you? Not caring about a smear campaign is often the toughest act of detachment, but it can be done. Another hard reality of saying goodbye to a narcissist or borderline is that there’s usually collateral loss. You’ll likely lose other relationships — family, mutual friends or even your own friends and family depending upon how manipulative the narcissist is and how gullible and dysfunctional your family and friends are. It will probably sting at first, but ultimately it’s good riddance. Anyone who maintains a friendship with the narcissist may eventually become a weak link in your personal firewall.
Eliminating or greatly reducing the narcissist’s presence in your life. This is the real win. Think of it as moving far, far away from a radioactive waste dump. If a narcissist throws a tantrum in the forest and no one’s there to hear it do they make a sound? Probably, but it doesn’t matter if you’re not in earshot. They can seethe, hate and scheme, but once you detach and disengage who cares?
For Crazy, winning means she or he has the ability to hurt you . . . It means they have the ability to intrude upon and disrupt your life, to cause you social harm, to cause you financial harm and to cause you legal harm. Winning for Crazy means she or he gets to destroy or take away things and people they think are important to you . . . Your pain brings him or her pleasure . . .
The win for you is removing Crazy and his or her minions from your life as best you can and nurturing and cherishing what is good in your life. The win is reducing Crazy’s ability to screw with you to the tiniest, infinitesimal speck of insignificance in your life. (Say Goodbye to Crazy, 2015)
Getting away from the narcissist and not looking back is how you win. Ultimately, you beat a narcissist, borderline or psychopath by ignoring them and living a good life. Make a safe exit plan, work on your boundaries, go No or Low (if there are minor children) contact and you before you know it you’ll be ready to take that victory lap.
Want to Say Goodbye to Crazy? Buy it HERE.
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Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD provides individual services to help individuals work through their relationship issues via telephone or Skype, particularly men and women trying to break free of abusive relationships, coping with the stress of abusive relationships or healing from abusive relationships. Her practice combines practical advice, support, reality testing and goal-oriented outcomes. Please visit the Services page for professional inquiries.