How to Deal with(and maybe heal) a Narcissistic Person

Whether you were raised by a narcissist or encounter one at work, here are strategies to help minimize the impact of narcissism in our lives

amelia brie
13 min readFeb 22, 2024
(Narcissistic villain, White Diamond, from the Cartoon Network show Steven Universe, having a meltdown. One of the heroes of the show utilizes a great tactic on how to deal with people like them. Image sourced from CBR.)

(Disclaimer: I am not a mental health professional. These techniques are what I’ve learned from my own experience only.)

CW: mentions of abuse.

So. You’re at crossroads in life where you think you should just cutoff or grey rock every person you encounter who seems narcissistic. Or, maybe you have no choice but to interact with one, and you aren’t necessarily willing to believe those are the only two options. There’s still goodness in them, I know it, you think. If only there were a way to just change them for the better…

There isn’t.

Have you changed you for the better? Well, if you have, then read on…

In case you didn’t know yet, let me preface this by saying that there is a big difference between a narcissistic person and someone who has Narcissistic Personality Disorder(NPD). And that difference is the D, “d” for delusion, as I like to call it. What I believe makes someone get the diagnoses for this disorder is their warped sense of reality: they no longer have the capacity to see their flaws or to see others’ points of view. They’ve deluded themselves into believing that the only reality is the one centered around them. That’s why so many people with NPD remain undiagnosed.

A narcissistic person can be tolerated, while the other shouldn’t be confronted at all(unless you have the energy to waste, or the assurance that they can’t affect you at all). The only way to handle someone with NPD is to do the grey rock method, or to just stay far, far away. Some tell-tale signs of NPD can be gleaned here, but mainly: they can’t handle criticism because they have exceptionally fragile egos, they can’t admit when they’re wrong(or apologize), and they feel the need to belittle others to make themselves feel good. There is no conflict resolution to be made with anyone whose well-being is so predicated on the fact that it’s the world that’s problematic and not them. Least of all them.

Meanwhile, someone with narcissism can be reasoned with to an extent— it all depends on the degree with which they have it.

With the latter, there seems to be hope so long as you do the strategies mentioned here.

This preface should also include a warning: it takes a lot of dedication and commitment to handle these types of people.

But if you’ve decided that this person is worth it because you realize that they’re just coping with the cards they were dealt with, then welcome aboard.

With that out of the way, here’s how to deal with someone who has narcissistic tendencies(note that I’ll refer to them sometimes as “narcissists” because it’s just more convenient):

1.) Heal your self-love and self-compassion.

The first stop on this journey is here. This is for the people who have narcissistic family members, or who were raised by one, like myself. If you’ve been surrounded by narcissism your whole life, it takes a LOT of compassion to be able to successfully encounter it again without wanting to blow your own head off(excuse the heavy imagery, but that’s just exactly how I used to feel). What’s more, being raised by such a person/s already ensures you have low self-esteem to begin with, and are more susceptible to the pain they can’t help but spread.

First, limit your contact with the narcissist until you feel like you’re ready to face them again(if you live within the same household, grey rocking is the only way. Little tip: keep headphones on handy to tune out their monologues when they get triggered). Please seek help if you’re being abused in any way.

If you’re already far from them, hopefully time will be enough to heal you. But if it isn’t, I’ll link a future article on the steps I took to heal myself(it’s too much to write about here). But reparenting will be your most helpful strategy.

After developing your self-compassion though, how do you know that you’re ready or healed enough to face them again? I believe it’s when you love yourself enough to be able to properly exert your boundaries and followthrough with them.

When I was writing a draft for this article, my first answer to that question was “when their actions can no longer affect you, or get in the way of your day.” But that’s not realistic. Ideally, we should be able to detach from anyone who doesn’t add value to our lives. Being raised with narcissism, however, we’re very likely to be co-dependent and even call ourselves “empaths”(this term is just co-dependency on overdrive. Our emotional states should not have to be so heavily impacted by other people).

Also, we’re social creatures, and every interaction with others will have some sort of effect. Whenever my own narcissist would raise their voice at me once again, I’d have an intense somatic reaction that I just could not control(my uterus would start cramping/aching, like I was on my period, and it would not go away until that person would apologize for the wrong they’d done). It’s important to put your foot down when any sort of abuse is being done. My boundary for that specific situation was: if you yell again, I will leave this house for good. I’m happy to report that it worked. If the narcissistic person in your life values the relationship and has the heart to change and get better, they will. This is what I believe differentiates “narcissistic” from someone with NPD: their willingness to be empathetic, see other’s perspectives, and grow.

Does this mean they’ll be ready and willing to change right away? Of course not. If you want to confront their behaviors head on though, do so with a neutral third party who can make the narcissist objectively see reality and the harmful effects of their behavior on other’s and themselves. Being narcissistic comes with a level of delusion(you gotta be delusional to think the world revolves around you). Because of this, the fastest way to repair your relationship with the narcissist is obviously through therapy.

But, when therapy isn’t an option, the slow route of “being the change you want to see” always works, I think. Don’t even think about contacting them till you’ve gotten yourself out of the pit first.

2.) Never assume malice, only ignorance.

“Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.”- Hanlon’s Razor

Stupidity here can also mean ignorance.

This is one of the most powerful words I’ve ever read. Narcissists will almost always assume malice. They are always on the defensive, trying to protect their ego — they think everything is about them.

Try to avoid this trap and simply take things at face value. Better yet, take nothing personally.

But also: Don’t rule out malice.

In this article, I mention what creates a narcissist. In most cases, it’s a defense mechanism for how they grew up(narcissism could also be inheritable. Just as some people are born with lots of empathy or a deficiency of it, and some people can learn to develop it). Narcissists most likely grew up in their own toxic environments and they learned certain negative behaviors as a result. Because no child would grow up to learn unhealthy behaviors if they were truly loved— a child mimics what they see and how they’re being treated, in most cases(unless they have inborn mental disorders, like I said).

How can the narcissist model good behaviors, if bad ones were all they’ve known their entire lives and if mental health education wasn’t more accessible to them like it is today? My own narcissist was never taught how to have good manners, be considerate, etc.

You need to teach them those behaviors. When criticizing them, make sure to target their problematic behaviors that need to change — be logical, and don’t make ad hominems. Teach them like how you would teach a child: point out the bad behavior, tell them the better thing to do instead, and why.

Being raised by a narc, I had a dose of narcissism myself. From observing my own parent, I learned horrible traits that would come out if I was triggered: stone-walling, explosive anger, passive-aggressiveness, feeling shame around being corrected(or feeling small), etc. It was only by the saving grace and patience a former partner of mine had for me that I was able to learn, through his example, how to communicate better and lessen the defense mechanisms I couldn’t help but adapt. I am forever thankful to him for showing me a more loving way of being, simply by being his own loving self.

Narcissistic people are deeply hurt individuals, and their egos weren’t nurtured as children so they ended up not developing a healthy sense of self. They can’t uplift, or give love, to themselves in a real way without making others feel small, because their own parents weren’t good examples to them of how. They were probably never praised without being compared to someone else in some way. Or worse, they were heavily insulted without reason. So every criticism in their adulthood now sounds like the same unreasonable insults their parents gave them as innocent kids. And that’s why they’ve learned the defense mechanism of stone-walling — or simply blocking out other people’s negative views of them( going further to even create a grandiose view of themselves) — and verbally attacking others when they feel threatened.

3.) Only take criticism from the people whose opinions you value.

Usually, a narcissistic person won’t resort to verbal assaults unless they’re triggered. Whenever they get this way, learn how to not take anything personally. So that whatever insult they throw at you, you’ll be unfazed.

Just like how you shouldn’t take everyone’s advise, you shouldn’t take criticism from just anyone either. People with narcissism will tend to give you unsolicited opinions or will even manipulate you with backhanded compliments that slowly chip away at your self-esteem, trying to get to you. And their excuse for it is likely, “I’m only doing/saying that for your own good.” Or some other gaslighting statement. Don’t fall for it.

Develop a little bit of healthy narcissism for yourself and start valuing your own opinions and reasonings first and foremost — if it makes sense to. When a narcissist gives an erroneous assumption about you or anything, calmly say that you understand how they’d come to that conclusion, but make your own counterpoint. Or say: “I know you’re only giving your opinion because you care, but I didn’t ask for it.” And end it at that. Walk away, change the topic, or put your head phones on if they get triggered by you exerting your boundaries.

This can be hard, especially if the narcissist is an adult you’ve known your whole life and whose opinions were once highly valuable to you(that is, until you realized that it didn’t come from the best of places).

Remember though that what you pay attention to gets amplified. Ignore the behaviors you’d rather not see, and reward the ones you do with attention.

When arguing with them, be gentle:

“Always remember that to argue, and win, is to break down the reality of the person you are arguing against. It is painful to lose your reality, so be kind, even if you are right.”

Haruki Murakami

All of us have grown up in households where certain biases were instilled into us. As a result, we developed our own narrow realities. The narcissist, being raised by unkind people themselves, have a bias that everyone is out to get them. But still, when you know what they’re preaching is wrong, correct them, but in a way that they see how it’s beneficial for themselves as well as for other people. Learn to argue with grace(even if you don’t feel like it; even if it feels hopeless). Don’t succumb to the feelings of anger and frustration that they’re trying to dig up in you. Instead, learn how to keep a cool head. Have the satisfaction of knowing you won’t stoop to their level.

The loser in any argument is the one who loses their head.

4.) When they act like a child, treat them like one.

We all have a kid inside us that wasn’t properly seen or heard in the way we wanted them to be by the people around us — the narcissist most especially. This is why therapy is such a great resource for everyone: it gives us a safe space to just be seen. However, most people can’t afford it, or think it’s futile to try.

Whenever you’re faced with narcissistic-triggered tantrums, just remind yourself that this is their kid-self who never got to be angry or cross with mommy or daddy or else they’d be severely punished.

Just like how you don’t take a kid’s insults or meltdowns seriously, be forgiving of the narcissist when they do so as well. I know it can be hard, especially since you’re probably dealing with an adult, but try looking back to a time when you too were triggered and broke down. How cathartic breaking down might’ve felt, and after you did, you were okay again. All you needed to do was let out all the frustrations you had held on to for so long. If you feel you can handle it, allow space for the toxic person to express without inhibition too. I did this with mine, and it’s gotten smoother and smoother with each exhalation of the pain that was never acknowledged for so long. (Note: I also expressed my own frustrations to them. We had a yelling fight. It felt soooo good afterward to finally release that pain I’d been holding on to for so long. This is part of what loving yourself means — your anger is valid and useful. It needs to be seen and heard. It’s there to let others know you’re not going to sit around to be an emotional punching bag. BUT! And this is a big but: I also let myself uninhibitedly express because I knew I was physically safe to do so — always go to authorities if it gets out of hand!)

Utilize humor

In the show Steven Universe, the most intimidating of all the antagonists, White Diamond, tells Steven an insult they think will put him back in line: “You can’t do this, you’re acting like a child!”

Steven’s retort? “That’s because I am one. What’s your excuse?” The scene then ends in the whole cast erupting in laughter and White Diamond blushing embarrasingly. The big, bad villain then gets reduced to a child and they realize how badly they’ve been acting all along.

If their insults seem to be too much, try throwing it back at them as if you were mocking a little kid. If they want the attention so much, give it to them(only when you have the energy to entertain it. Otherwise, put on the headphones. Remember to always do what feels loving for you). This is a tactic I learned from my father and how he dealt with my mother when she was having her tantrums. Having their behaviors mirrored by someone and thrown back at them in a humorous way will make them realize just how absurd and childish their behaviors really are. When they act like children, treat them like one.

Narcissists are simply expressing their wounded inner child, remember that. What do you do when a child has a meltdown? You try to make them laugh! You remind them not to take life so seriously. This also reminds you not to take them seriously. It lightens the load off everything.

But sometimes we don’t have the bandwidth to deal with outbursts. Just letting them express it all will tucker them out eventually(I can’t help but laugh as I’m typing this line. They really are just children). Feelings don’t last forever.

Another powerful thing you can say is, “So what?” (— I remember learning this from Dr. Ramani.)

When they remark at how much you’ve gained weight, “so what?”

When they say how ugly you’ve become, you do a little shimmy, twirl around and say “so what?” Then wink at them blessedly.

(Obviosuly, this will only work if you’re authentically very secure in yourself though, hence the first point I made in this article. )

A narcissist very well likely grew up with a slew of criticisms their parents gave them which they took to heart. This is why they can no longer handle negative comments from other people. But if you yourself don’t take their unsolicited criticisms seriously, it then shows them that not all words need to have an effect on you.

5.) Be kind to those who are unkind — they need it the most.

Compassion is hard. But once you learn how to unconditionally love yourself, I think that love will naturally spill forth onto others as well. Just like how a narcissist can’t help but spread their pain, you won’t be able to help but spread your love either.

Be kind, but don’t be a doormat. If it hurts you in anyway just to have an interaction with them, you don’t have to take it upon yourself to keep doing so. Remember you don’t owe them anything just because they’re your loved one. You and your precious inner child are your top priority. Give yourself distance to replenish your patience and care by redirecting it at yourself again first.

In conclusion

Narcissists are very much like children who, in their youth, just developed childish coping mechanisms with what they knew at the time. Interacting with them will feel like you’re reparenting them. And, even though that’s not at all your job, remember that you committed to be on this journey because you know there’s good in them still, buried underneath all of the harshness that they had to learn.

Healed people heal people.

It’s a long and arduous journey to even healing yourself, I know. But a good way to challenge how far you’ve come is to face these people and see how shaken it’ll make you. Will you let their hurt regress you? Or will you let your healing progress them?

I know you’re not their therapist, but these people deserve love too. And relational healing can be such a powerful thing. If you allow space for them, they’ll hopefully learn that there’s a different way to be. Over time, your own love and example will teach them how to be better. Loving someone isn’t wishing for them to change, but just accepting them as they are — that includes letting them be when they need to express their wounded selves from time to time. Just like how you have the love and patience to let yourself express and heal at your own time.

And, when it gets too hard, remember you can always take time and space for yourself, love them from afar, then come back when you feel ready again.

I always like to recall this line when it feels tough:

“But everybody cries, and nobody comforts.”

— Aurora, “Giving into the Love”

Be so good at comforting and loving yourself that people can’t help but learn from your example on how to do the same.

Hi, I’m Amelia! I’m a highly sensitive person, sharing my insights on healing from narcissistic abuse, having better relationships, and sustainable productivity. Subscribe on youtube for more:



amelia brie

Sharing my insights on how to have better relationships, healing from narcissistic abuse and body image issues, and sustainable productivity as an HSP.