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How to Deal With a Borderline, Narcissist or Psychopath

Updated on January 13, 2016

Borderline Personality Disorder. Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Antisocial Personality Disorder, also known as sociopathy or psycopathy. If you have anyone in your life with these diagnoses, you already know how difficult dealing with them can be. Difficult isn't really the right word. Horrible might be better. Impossible is another. They are malignant narcissists and can be cruel, provocative and abusive. However, there is a method that can help.

The Key

The most important thing to remember when dealing with any of these personalities is they seek to control. You, the conversation, the outcome, everything. Everything they do and say is designed to that end. It is their only real argument and their only real point. They can argue one side of an argument one day and then argue the exact opposite the next day with no cognitive disturbance about it all. One day it's an argument because you didn't do something. The next day, it's an argument because you did do the exact same thing. There is no rhyme or reason to it, and no way for you to be right. This happens because they don't really have a side; their true goal is the argument itself and provoking you into it. This is the key.

The Method

It needs to be said that No Contact is the best method of dealing with any of these personalities. Sometimes it isn't possible, and when it's not, other methods are necessary. So how do you argue with a borderline, narcissist or a psychopath? You don't, in a manner of speaking. Their power lies in their ability to create drama, trauma and emotional upheaval. The key is to take this away from them. If you can do that, you can control the situation. They rely on you losing control of your emotions and therefore the situation, which they interpret as them then taking control of both. This is what they want, and they will go as far as they have to in order to do it. If you can retain control of your emotions by simply not reacting to their endless provocations, it will go a very long way to defusing the argument before it even starts.

It can be very difficult to do this, but it's important that you do not falter. Even a sigh or a fleeting look can show them they've gotten to you. You must conceal all of your emotional responses totally. Try envisioning a blank white wall. Strong, bland and most of all, featureless. This is what you must become; you must show them "no face." Malignant narcissists thrive on provoking people into emotional states so that they cannot defend themselves or think clearly. They endlessly insult, provoke, sidetrack, derail and stall until the conversation is hopelessly broken and there is nothing to gain from it. A conversation with one of these people can escalate from 0 to 60 in one sentence, because many times the things they say are so out of line, so disrespectful, so insulting and cruel that it is impossible to continue at all. If this weapon can be taken from them, they have nothing else. No side, no rationale, no logic and no point. The conversation will in all likelihood stop right there when they see they cannot provoke you into losing control or beat you into a retreat.

Setting Up Boundaries

Setting up boundaries is also very important and a great tool for managing interaction with a malignant narcissist. Remember, the malignant narcissist in your life wants to argue. They want to hurt you and upset you, and they want your attention most of all. They are going to disrespect any boundaries you set up. As soon as they do so, let them know they've disrespected your boundaries and walk away from the conversation. No matter what they say, do not respond. This takes control of the conversation away from them.

If they become hysterical or overwrought because you've taken control (and your attention) away from them, let them know that the conversation can continue when they have calmed down and can show they understand the boundaries. Say this in an unemotional, polite way and do not add anything more, no matter what they say in response. If necessary, repeat this exactly the same way until they hear it. Other than this, do not acknowledge anything they say until they are able to demonstrate that they will respect your boundaries.

Examples of boundaries might be:

  • No yelling
  • No insults
  • No blaming
  • No interrupting
  • No accusations
  • No threats

or any number of other rules put into place so that the conversation does not become abusive. The malignant narcissist can either learn to control their behavior or the conversation can be over. That's it. You don't owe them your attention and you do not have to engage with anybody who is abusive and disrespectful, regardless of who it is.

It's up to you to break the cycle. If you absolutely must engage with a malignant narcissist, remember these key points:

Don't:

  • Do not engage in conversations that aren't absolutely necessary
  • Do not react to their attempts at emotional provocation at all
  • Do not acknowledge baseless accusations
  • Do not allow them to sidetrack the conversation; ignore all attempts to do this
  • Do not respond to attempts to project, or "flip" the situation around to you
  • Do not respond to insults with your own insults; ignore them
  • Do not acknowledge hysteria or temper tantrums; this rewards the behavior
  • Do not try to make them understand how much they are hurting you
  • Do not make excuses, defend yourself or rationalize
  • Do not apologize needlessly or give in to other methods of emotional extortion
  • Do not continue the conversation if you feel that you cannot stay unemotional

Do:

  • Do engage in conversations that are necessary
  • Do state your purpose, answer, side, etc. with clarity and without emotion
  • Do establish - and keep - boundaries
  • Do walk away from the conversation if you need to
  • Do end the conversation if boundaries are not respected
  • Do recognize that other people's actions/emotions are their own responsibility

If you can stick to this method, it will greatly reduce the amount of stress and upheaval the malignant narcissist is able to create. Nothing can eliminate these things totally, of course, except the narcissist's permanent exit from your life.

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