How to Talk to a Narcissist


 
By Chris Hammond

After years of speculation, you have finally come to the realization that your boss is a narcissist.  Since this is not the type of economy where you can just leave your job and expect to get another one quickly, you find yourself stuck and miserable in a job that normally you would like except for your narcissistic boss.  In the beginning everything was great.  Your boss seemed to like you and you liked him/her despite the previous dozen or so former employees who left rather abruptly.  Then one day everything changed, as if a switch just flicked without your knowledge and you went from the best employee ever to the most incompetent human alive.

But you are stuck and despite the numerous attempts to flick the switch back the other way, it’s not budging.  Every day now begins with several duck and cover attempts as you dodge the verbal bullets assaults of your boss until one day when you have no option but to confront.  Finally, the issues on your desk have built up to an unbearable level and something has to give as there is no more time. While you know you need to confront your boss, you must do it in a way that doesn’t cost your job in the process.  So how do you do it?  Try a few of these suggestions.

 Use the Hamburger method.  Think for a moment about a McDonald’s hamburger, would you ever eat the meat without the bun?  No, the meat is terrible without the bun.  Well for just about anyone, but a narcissist in particular, delivering bad news is the meat of the matter and without a bun it is likely to be spit right back out at you.  So, create a bun of praise around the meat.  Since a narcissist loves himself/herself, try praising your boss first, then follow it with the meat of the matter, and end it with yet another personal or professional praise.

Use it only once.  You are going to be shocked at how well this will work and be very tempted to repeat this for the dozen or so other meats but watch out.  Your narcissist boss will likely catch on and become even angrier thinking that you are manipulating him/her.  So when you do this, do it once per conversation, and never twice in the same day.

 Pick your meat carefully.  If possible, prioritize the meat that needs to be confronted and do the most burning issues first, then follow it with the ones for greater long-term impact and end with the other not so important short-term issues that may just go away on their own.  Whenever possible, overlook meat so your confrontations are not frequent but don’t be irresponsible about the meat.  Some meat must be dealt with however insignificant it may seem.

When in danger…If the confrontation begins to take a bad turn, don’t defend yourself.  Never ever give ground to a narcissist unless you are willing to give that ground permanently.  Instead repeat back part of what your boss is saying, not too much to be obnoxious, but just enough to let him/her know you heard what he/she said even if this includes something negative about you.  That action alone, without your overreaction will be enough to take the wind out of his/her sails.

No emotion.  The thing about a narcissist is that he/she has no empathy of anyone else except himself/herself, so don’t waste your time getting upset or teary eyed.  The quickest way for a narcissist to stop being angry is for you to have no emotion whatsoever.  When you show emotion, he/she believes you have lost and treats you like prey instead of treating you with compassion.  When you don’t show emotion, your narcissistic boss will try another tactic such as changing the subject to try again to get the upper hand. 

Don’t give ground, stand still, and stand strong and your narcissistic boss will likely soften around you instead of attacking the next time.  Just remember that a narcissistic boss is common and even if you left your current position, you are likely to find another one lurking behind some corner.  So stop fighting and learn how to talk to a narcissistic boss instead of running from them.

 

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About the author-
Chris Hammond is a
Registered Mental Health Counselor Intern at LifeWorks Group w/ over 15 years of experience as a counselor, mentor & teacher for children, teenagers & adults.

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