How to Say NO to Narcissists & Other Toxic People
Dealing with pathologically narcissistic people is difficult. There are no two ways about it. It's frustrating, it's upsetting, it's exhausting and it's hard. The best scenario would be to just get out of the situation so that you don't have to do that anymore. For those who cannot do that just yet, or who are dealing with narcissistic people in a situation they can't get out of for some reason, it can be helpful to understand how their minds work.
It's important to preface this episode of the show by reminding everyone that you cannot control the narcissist's behavior. Nothing you will learn in your research about this subject or any other is going to teach you how to do that. It's not possible. You cannot control the behavior, thoughts or feelings of another person. People often say things like, "Well, the techniques you are talking about don't work because I tried it and the narcissist was still abusive!" No, they work. That just isn't what they are for. Nothing is going to make this person act differently except their own desire to do so and unfortunately, there is no magic wand that can make them suddenly want to do that.
You can be as perfect as possible, as passive as possible, as kind as possible and accomodating as possible and people are still going to behave however they want. They will still feel however they want. They will still think whatever they want. The most important step in your recovery process may be to work on accepting this fact. You have no control over other people. You can't make them love you or listen to you or do what you want. The beautiful thing about that is, they have no control over you, either.
Now, the most important thing to remember when you are dealing with narcissistic people is that they do not have any control over you. Not over your feelings, not over your thoughts. They can try to use guilt or manipulation or bullying on you to make you do what they want, but it only works if you let it. If you say no and stand your ground, they have to accept that. They don't want to, and that's why they work on you, trying to get you to change your mind. It's up to you whether you will give in to this. It isn't up to them, and I want to make that really clear here. It's up to you. Even if someone harasses you day and night about something for 3 months - for 3 years - it's still up to you. If you give in to shut them up or out of guilt, you still made the choice to do so.
This is important to understand because it helps you realize that you really do have power here. It isn't the narcissist that is controlling or manipulating you. Not really. They are using your own feelings to manipulate you. It is your feelings that have influence over you, not the other person. And once you gain control over your feelings, that takes the other person's perceived power away. This is not easy. In fact, it can be extremely difficult. The biggest battle you will have in this situation is not with the narcissist. It is with yourself. You have to stand up to the guilt, the anxiety, the fear, the insecurity. You have to master them and beat them so that you can make healthy decisions for yourself. This can be very difficult for some people, but it is so worth it.
Many people are looking for a way to get out of these situations without there being a problem. Unfortunately, there is no way to say no to a pathologically narcissistic person without there being a problem - sometimes a big problem. This is why if you are in a dangerous situation or you feel unsafe, you need to leave or call the police. The whole point of their existence is getting what they want. It's their reason for being and the only thing they care about. The trick is to get yourself to a place where it's their problem, not yours.
They will use guilt. They will use anger. They will blame and accuse. They will use manipulation and bullying and gaslighting. They will do whatever they can to get what they want. You have to stand firm. If you said NO, it's because you have a good reason. Whatever the reason is, even if it's that you just don't want to, that is enough. You don't have to explain if you don't want to, you don't have to justify, you don't have to defend your decision and you don't have to argue. No is no. If they can't accept that, it's their problem. They will try to make it your problem and your responsibility. It isn't. It's theirs, and they need to solve their own problems.
For example, let's say the narcissist in your life wants a ride somewhere because they don't have a car. They have really treated you like absolute dirt and you've understandably decided that you are not going to do a favor for someone who treats you so badly. You tell the narcissist that you are not driving them anywhere. The narcissist accuses you of not caring, of hating them, of being selfish, of lying, of thinking you're better than them, and on and on and on. They yell, they scream, they holler. They may cry. They may throw something or break something. They say it's your responsibility to drive them. They say you never do anything for them and you're evil. This is all done because they are trying to force you to do what they want.
Now, let's examine this situation. The narcissistic person has asked you for a favor. You've said no. Does it really warrant this type of abuse, or this type of overreaction? The answer is no. More importantly, is it your fault they don't have a car as a grown adult, or can't drive? Is it your fault they made plans or an appointment they need a ride to when they don't have a car? Is anything in this situation your responsibility? The answer is no. So don't let them make you feel like it is. If they wanted you to do them a favor, maybe they should have treated you better. They can walk. And if they can't walk to wherever it is, they probably should have thought of that. Their life, their plans and their affairs are their responsibility, and this doesn't just go for narcissists. It goes for everybody.
Too many people think that saying NO in this scenario - or any other - means they are cold or uncaring. It doesn't. Doing things for someone who is abusive or ungrateful doesn't mean you are caring. It means you are letting people take advantage of you. No one is going to stop that but you, and the way you do that is by saying NO.
Narcissistic people are not going to like it when you say no, but again, that is their problem. They will try to reframe the situation in such a way that it becomes your problem instead. "You don't care. You are selfish. You are lying. You have to prove to me that you are not these things by doing what I want." But you know what? You'll never prove anything to them and saying YES after they do this only reinforces the behavior. So just refuse delivery of the problems they are trying to dump on your doorstep. You know those things are not true. You also know that nothing you do will stop the narcissist from saying them. So why bother? Why dishonor yourself and put yourself out to prove something to someone or make them happy just to be abused anyway? What's the point of that? Just to shut them up? For how long? Dishonoring yourself to try and get a temporary respite from abuse is not worth your self-respect.
Looking at our example, let's say after all the harassment and abuse, you finally say YES, you will drive them. Is it going to be all sunshine and rainbows now? Doubtful. More than likely, they will continue to abuse you on the car ride because now they're angry. Nothing you do will ever be enough to make this person believe you are a good person with good intentions. Nothing you do will ever prove to them that they should consider or care about you. Nothing you do will ever make them not abusive. The only thing you are proving to them is that if they keep this behavior up long enough, they will win. They don't care about you or your feelings. All you're doing is selling pieces of your self-respect to momentarily appease someone and your own guilt or fear. It's not worth it.
The way you feel about yourself is very important. It sets the tone for all of your relationships, and for your entire life. Don't let someone take respect for yourself away from you. You have to be able to look yourself in the eye every day. Narcissists can't do that and it's one of the biggest reasons they are so miserable and unpleasant. If guilt or threats of abandonment work on you, you have to find out why and address those issues so that you are strong enough to respect yourself and say NO. You are not losing the respect of the narcissist. You never had it in the first place. The only person who is being affected by this is you.