8 ways to assertively deal with a narcissistic friend, according to psychology

As people, it’s important for us to feel valued, understood, and respected in our friendships. Unfortunately, these are things we’ll never get from a narcissistic friend.

A narcissistic friend often exhibits behaviors that are self-centered and lacks empathy, leaving you feeling unheard, invalidated, or even manipulated.

Narcissism is a complex personality disorder that can manifest in various ways, such as excessive need for admiration, disregard for others’ feelings, and a grandiose sense of self-importance.

Understanding how to assertively deal with a narcissistic friend can be challenging due to the manipulative tactics they often employ—and psychology offers some useful strategies to help you handle these friendships.

In the following paragraphs, we’ll explore some key signs of a narcissistic friend and provide practical methods to assert your boundaries effectively with them.

1) Set and maintain boundaries

Setting and maintaining boundaries is not always a straightforward task, especially when dealing with a narcissistic friend.

Narcissistic people often overstep your boundaries, making you feel uncomfortable or exploited in the process. They may dismiss your feelings, constantly demand your time, or invade your personal space without consideration for your comfort level.

This could manifest in simple ways, such as them calling you at inappropriate hours or expecting you to drop everything to accommodate their needs.

They might downplay your achievements while exaggerating their own or consistently turn conversations back towards themselves.

It’s essential to assertively communicate the boundaries you wish to set within this friendship. This could mean letting them know specific times when you’re available to chat or expressing that certain topics are off-limits for discussion.

There may be resistance or pushback from your narcissistic friend, but it’s important to stand firm in protecting your personal space and emotional wellbeing.

2) Practice emotional detachment

A narcissistic friend might shower you with attention one moment, only to completely disregard your feelings the next.

This can be draining and leave you feeling confused and frustrated. One effective way to manage this is by practicing emotional detachment.

Emotional detachment doesn’t mean cutting off all feelings or severing the friendship; rather, it means not allowing your friend’s actions or words to dictate your emotions and self-worth.

For instance, if they belittle your achievements, instead of feeling hurt or devalued, remind yourself that their response is more reflective of their narcissism than your actual worth or accomplishment.

By doing this, you’re essentially creating a buffer between their harmful behavior and your emotional health. This can provide you with a sense of control and stability, even when faced with their unpredictable behavior.

3) Show empathy

While it may seem odd or even unfair to show empathy towards a friend who consistently puts their needs before yours, it can actually be a beneficial approach.

Narcissistic people often act out due to a deeply ingrained insecurity and fear of rejection. Understanding this can help you empathize with their struggle, even when they’re acting out.

This is not condoning their behavior or letting them off the hook. It’s seeing the person behind the narcissism and recognizing that their actions stem from a place of fear and insecurity.

By approaching them with empathy, you can sometimes diffuse situations of conflict and prevent escalation. It also allows you to protect your own mental health by not taking their actions personally.

Remember, empathy is not about self-sacrifice. You can show understanding without compromising on your boundaries or self-respect.

This could involve listening to their concerns without absorbing their negativity or expressing understanding while maintaining your stance.

4) Accept the limitations

Friends who seem understanding but secretly judge you often exhibit these subtle behaviors 8 ways to assertively deal with a narcissistic friend, according to psychology

This is a hard pill to swallow, but an essential one.

Narcissism is a deep-seated personality disorder, and expecting your friend to change their behavior overnight is unrealistic and can lead to further disappointment and hurt.

Despite your best efforts to set boundaries, practice emotional detachment, or show empathy, you may still encounter the same narcissistic patterns. You need to understand this and adjust your expectations accordingly.

Your friend may never be able to fully reciprocate your feelings or truly appreciate your efforts in the friendship. This doesn’t reflect on you or your worth but is a limitation of their disorder.

Acknowledging this can be painful, but it can also free you from the cycle of hoping for change and feeling let down. It allows you to make informed decisions about the extent and terms of your friendship, ensuring that it serves your well-being too.

5) Seek support

Being friends with a narcissistic person can be challenging and emotionally draining. It’s okay to admit if you’re feeling overwhelmed, and it’s more than okay to seek support.

Whether it’s talking to a trusted confidante, a family member, or seeking professional help from a psychologist or counselor, having someone to share your feelings with can be immensely helpful.

You’re not alone in this. Many people have experienced similar situations and there are resources out there designed to provide guidance and support.

Taking care of your own mental health is important. So, don’t hesitate to reach out for help when you need it. It’s not a sign of weakness, but a testament to your strength and self-care.

6) Take time for yourself

When dealing with a narcissistic friend, it’s easy to forget about taking care of yourself.

You might find yourself constantly trying to appease them, spending hours listening to their problems or feeling guilty when you can’t meet their demands. Amid all this, your own needs could take a backseat.

Take time out for activities that you enjoy and that help you relax. It could be something as simple as reading a book, going for a walk in the park, or catching up on your favorite TV show.

Spending some quality time with yourself not only helps recharge your mental and emotional batteries but also reminds you of your individuality and self-worth outside of this challenging friendship.

After all, maintaining your happiness and wellness should be the top priority, even when dealing with complex relationships.

7) Find humor in the situation

Dealing with a narcissistic friend can certainly be stressful, but guess what?

Sometimes, it’s alright to lighten the mood and find a bit of humor in the situation.

Perhaps your friend has an over-the-top reaction to a minor inconvenience, or they manage to turn every conversation back to themselves, even when it’s about the weather.

Instead of letting it frustrate you, try to see the funny side of it.

Of course, this doesn’t mean dismissing their behavior or your feelings, but sometimes, seeing the humor in an otherwise difficult situation can help diffuse tension.

Laughter is a great stress-reliever!

8) Know when to walk away

This is not easy to hear, but it’s important that you know it:

You have the right to end a friendship that consistently brings you more pain than joy. If you’ve tried everything, yet the harmful behaviors persist and your mental health suffers, it might be time to reconsider the friendship.

Walking away doesn’t mean you’ve failed or given up. It simply means you’re choosing your peace and well-being over a detrimental relationship.

It’s okay to put yourself first. It’s okay to choose your happiness over a friendship that drains you. Not all friendships are meant to last forever, and that’s okay.

It’s a tough decision, no doubt, but sometimes it’s the best one. After all, you deserve a friendship that uplifts you, respects you, and brings joy into your life. Never forget that.

You are enough

In the midst of managing a complex relationship with a narcissistic friend, this is the most crucial point to remember: You are enough.

It’s easy to feel inadequate or question your self-worth when dealing with a narcissistic individual who constantly seeks attention and validation.

But it’s important to remember that their behavior is not a reflection of your worth, but of their own insecurities.

You are enough, just as you are. Your value does not decrease based on someone’s inability to see your worth. Don’t let anyone make you feel otherwise.

Always remember to love and respect yourself. Because, at the end of the day, no friendship is worth compromising your self-esteem and well-being.

Picture of Isabella Chase

Isabella Chase

Isabella Chase, a New York City native, writes about the complexities of modern life and relationships. Her articles draw from her experiences navigating the vibrant and diverse social landscape of the city. Isabella’s insights are about finding harmony in the chaos and building strong, authentic connections in a fast-paced world.

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