6 smart ways to show a narcissist you won’t play their psychological games

Do you remember back in 2012 when the book Gone Girl was making waves?

I sure do. I remember I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a copy. (You see, I’m kind of a sucker for thrillers with a major twist.)

The novel was also unique in its unflinching portrayal of a character we rarely ever see represented in culture: the female narcissist.

Her character is basically a masterclass in unabashed self-centeredness—and in being a very unreliable narrator indeed. (Warning: spoilers ahead!)

In the story, Amy meticulously plans and executes a scheme to frame her husband, Nick, for her disappearance and possible death. 

And it does not end there. You see, Amy considers herself to be intellectually superior to the people around her. 

Plus, she is a master at presenting vastly different personas to achieve her goals. 

From the cool girl act to the emotionally and physically broken wife, her ability to shift identities shows her deeply narcissistic desire to manipulate the people who care for her.

Throughout the story, Amy appears to lack any kind remorse for the pain she inflicts on others. Her actions are driven by narcissism, and she seems unfazed by the emotional turmoil she causes.

In other words, Amy is the queen of narcissistic, psychological games. Do you know anyone like Amy? 

I certainly hope not! But in the unfortunate instance that you do—you might find this article helpful.

Here are 6 clever ways to show a narcissist that you won’t play their games.

1) Keep your cool and respond with reason

Coming up against the world’s most enormous ego can be a real trip. Trust me!

You might find yourself imagining you are elsewhere—literally anywhere else—and in the end you will probably be trying to make it through the chat without losing your sanity. 

I know it sounds like I am being dramatic, but I promise you this is not the case!

Now, I know the temptation is real. The temptation to match the narcissist’s intensity, throw some snarky remarks their way, or engage in a bit of an argument—but hold fire!

I am here to tell you there is a better way—a smarter way.

After all, fighting fire with fire is 100% what they are looking for. They live to get a rise out of you.

In these situations, you cannot overlook the power of simply keeping your cool.

When you stay calm in the face of narcissistic drama, you become undefeatable in their eyes.

Simply take a deep breath (aaaaah) and let them have their moment. Now breathe out. Remember, it will all be over soon!

If you find that you are struggling to keep your cool, start asking questions.

Nothing fancy, just respond with reason and ever-so-gently challenge their viewpoint. This way you get to continue the chat with what appears to be curiosity rather than conflict.

Here’s my absolute favorite bit: with this technique, you are not sinking down to their level. 

Instead, you are doing the far opposite: you are rising right above it.

2) Open up about your feelings and concerns using “I” statements

Rather than allowing a deeply self-centered person to overwhelm you, you need to prioritize your emotional wellbeing.

But how do you do this? Well, by openly sharing your feelings and concerns using “I” statements.

By saying, “I feel this way when…” you are healthily expressing your take on things, and how it makes you feel.

I am definitely not saying that by doing this, they will finally understand the impact and consequences of their problematic behavior—usually if you’re up against a narcissist, they won’t—I am simply saying this is a far more diplomatic way of conducting yourself.

Seriously, the last thing you want to do in this case is challenge their ego or get into a verbal argument. It is so not worth it.

All you can really do is open up (but not too much, as I will explain later), share your feelings, and invite them to understand your perspective.

By opting for “I” statements, you are carving out a more collaborative environment for growth and achieving shared understanding.

3) Use assertive and straightforward language in your communication

One of the best ways to deal with a full-blown narcissist is with assertive communication.

And why does this work so well? 

Because assertiveness is not about being confrontational or aggressive (which is what the narcissist is like), rather, it is about standing your ground with a calm, reassured kind of  confidence. 

It lets them know, firmly and kindly, that you are not here for a power struggle but for a respectful and reasonable chat.

This communication style also does one other thing: it does not feed their fragile ego. And this can be game-changing.

4) Redirect the conversation when things get tricky

signs your friend may be a narcissist 6 smart ways to show a narcissist you won’t play their psychological games

This brings me to my next part. One of the best tools in the box of assertiveness is diversion.

When up against a narcissist? Redirect. 

When in doubt? Redirect, redirect, redirect.

This way, instead of colliding head-on with the narcissist, you simply turn down another street.

You can do this in a number of simple and subtle ways.

My favorite way is to redirect the conversation by very casually steering it towards a totally different topic, preferably an area that does not trigger the narcissist’s undying need for validation.

It can be the new taco joint in your neighborhood, or the latest season of True Detective. Whatever it may be, just commit to it, and go go go!

Don’t get me wrong, this steer is not about shutting them down, or leaving them out, it is more so about inviting others in and bringing a little more balance to the chat.

The very best thing is, by using this subtle tactic, you won’t come across as the bad guy. Nope!

Do it well and it will go completely unnoticed by all parties involved.

5) Keep personal stuff private—don’t spill all your emotions to them

One thing I have noticed with tried and true narcissists is that whenever I share something personal with them, you know, really open up, it almost always comes back to haunt me!

Why?

Because usually, vulnerability—or any signs of so-called weakness—is like a nice hot dinner for a narcissist.

Seriously, it fills them right up. And still, they will want more.

Divulge too much sensitive information about yourself, or anyone else, and you might notice they go on to use that information to manipulate people, twist truths, and ultimately make everything work in their favor.

So, try to take a different approach and keep your personal stuff private. For real, lock it away! Guard it with your life!

You seriously need to protect yourself from those who might exploit your vulnerability—the aim is to not give narcissistic personalities any ammunition to use against you at a later date.

This way, you get to maintain control over your life and share your private details with discretion.

Remember, your secrets are precious, and should be shared only with those who truly value you—and of course, who you trust.

6) Use humor to lighten the mood and deflect their behavior

I know, I know—what’s so funny about dealing with a narcissist? 

Honestly… not much.

But sometimes looking for that silver lining, or the giggle to be found, can be the very thing that saves you!

Trust me on this one.

When you are faced with a narcissistic person, it can well and truly pay off to disarm and throw off their self-importance and massive ego with a cleverly crafted joke or a witty quip. 

This is because humor has that rare ability to lighten the mood and slice through the tension, creating a vibe that is more bearable for everyone involved.

It is also a clever way to engage with the narcissist without things escalating.

Or in other words, a way to make your point without triggering full-blown conflict from them.

Plus, it goes back to my earlier point on redirection—humor in the face of narcissistic tendencies is a subtle but super effective form of redirection.

Instead of directly confronting their fragile ego or getting all tripped up in their lies, you are instead gracefully guiding the conversation into lighter territory. 

Final thoughts

Facing up to a narcissist can be one of the most emotionally taxing things you will ever do—but you cannot let it drag you down.

You can do this by opting for composed, “I” statements. 

Failing that, it’s in with the more assertive approach, with a side of redirection, of course!

Maintaining a sense of calm is crucial in all this, as you get to stay on top of things by remaining firm yet non-confrontational.

I wish you all the best.

Picture of Eliza Hartley

Eliza Hartley

Eliza Hartley, a London-based writer, is passionate about helping others discover the power of self-improvement. Her approach combines everyday wisdom with practical strategies, shaped by her own journey overcoming personal challenges. Eliza's articles resonate with those seeking to navigate life's complexities with grace and strength.

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