2) Kiss Up or Shut Up
Yeah, this isn’t a popular answer either. Sorry. But if you’re dealing with a narcissist and you’re in the less powerful position (like they’re your boss), there may not be a choice. At least not right now.
Clinical psychologist Al Bernstein recommends you kiss up to them or at least keep your mouth shut until you can get the heck out of there.
There is no way around this. If you want to communicate effectively with narcissists, you have to admire them, their achievements and their toys as much as they do. Typically, this won’t require any great effort. They’ll be more than happy to come up with reasons to congratulate themselves. All you have to do is listen and look interested.
There’s this concept called “narcissistic injury.” Pointing out a narcissist isn’t all they think they are can be like pulling the pin on a grenade. A grenade you have to see every day of your life.
Realize that narcissism is an identity, just like religion or politics. When you argue about it, people don’t fold or change their minds—they just hate you. And narcissists are among the most vindictive people you’ll ever meet.
You might reply, “But I’m right about them!” You may very well be. But that only makes the situation worse. Burst their narcissistic bubble and you will pay. Dearly.
And if you’re in the lower-power position in this relationship, as with an employer, well, you may have found a way to get away from them…along with two weeks’ severance.
Reject them and they’ll freak out. Act weak and they’ll try to victimize you. Expose them and they’ll hate you forever. (Trust me, I’ve tested all these personally—and in a single conversation.) It’s just not worth it.
Alright, here’s where the rubber meets the road. If you can’t get away from them, and they don’t have power over you, how do you deal with a narcissist?
3) Know What You Want and Get Payment Up Front
Don’t expect fairness. They’re just about themselves, right? Well, O.K. then. Know what you want. (They will, trust me.)
And then get them to pay up front with whatever it is you need before they get what they need. Al Bernstein explains:
Never extend credit to, or accept promises from, a narcissist. As soon as they get what they want, they will be on to the next thing, forgetting whatever they said they would do for you. Sometimes they make promises they don’t intend to keep, but just as often, they merely forget. Either way, you should keep a ledger in your mind and make sure you get what they dangle in front of you before you give them what they want. With other people, this mercenary approach might seem insulting. Narcissists will respect you for it. Everything in their world is quid pro quo. They will rarely be offended by people looking out for themselves.
Dealing with a narcissist regularly is like having a pet tiger: You always have to be careful that one day he’s gonna see you as dinner. But if you don’t have a choice, negotiate hard. This is nobody to be win-win with.
Always reward behavior, never words. They get what they want when they do what you want.
Now I’ve been very negative toward narcissists (understandably), but they can be worked with and can even be good employees. Yes, really.
Why? Because they want something. They really need to look good. And if you can align your desires with their desires, you may find yourself with an unstoppable achievement machine.
From The Narcissism Epidemic:
One possibility is to set up a situation where acts of caring and kindness are aligned with admiration and success. In other words, show narcissists that they can get their narcissistic needs met by acting like decent, caring people.
Give them a way to be impressive if they do what they are told. This makes them much easier to deal with than lazy people, trust me. Just make sure you get what you want first.
But what if you’re not in a position to reward them with what they crave? How can you keep a rampaging narcissist in line?