Friday, September 12, 2008

When Listening A Lot Makes "Conversation"

I just stumbled across this article whose title I'm absolutely in love with:

"How to Talk to a Narcissist...When Listening A Lot Makes "Conversation"

This told me straight up that whatever followed was likely to be on target because the title of the article so nails an essential truth about dealing with narcissists. It makes me laugh. I have all kinds of mental pictures immediately flashing in my head where I see myself listening for hours and hours and hours to the narcissists I've had in my life. I've probably lost entire years of my life listening to narcissists. I started being called a "good listener" by people since I hit junior high school age. I was well-trained by my narcissist mother. You would have had to search a very long time to find a more patient listener than me. I'm not that patient anymore, but I am still a good listener. As in, I hear what is actually being said and catch on very quickly to who I'm dealing with. Sticking around to talk with a narcissist isn't one of my strong points anymore. I'm proud to say.

Anyway, I'll post a link to this article because there are circumstances which require some people to need to keep a narcissist in their life. This means you need to know how to keep the narcissist satisfied, calm and cooperative. I think this article is helpful to that end.

Of course, I am always advising here that you keep the narcissists out of your life insofar as that is possible to achieve. When it isn't possible then you need to prepare yourself for getting what little gain there is in keeping a narcissist around. A brief quote will also show how this author 'gets' narcissists:

Here are some rules that will make things easier for you to interact with a narcissist. (The aim at this point is not to provide comfortable guidelines. Interacting with a narcissist may not be comfortable, but it doesn't always have to be a total loss.)
"How to Talk to a Narcissist..." by William Snow

Yeah, no kidding. There is no comfortable or even completely safe way to interact with a narcissist. But you might find some helpful hints in this article if you absolutely must deal with one. Good luck with that.

Icon credit


Anonymous said...

I recently worked temporarily with a classic, over-the-top N and the way I dealt is much like the article but with a small spin. I did avoid conflict, shaming the N, accusations and so on, because I knew it would be totally unproductive for me and just escalate into the stratosphere or devolve into history-rewriting. On the other hand though, I did actually purposely frustrate the N in small ways in order to make sure I was not mistaken for a good or reliable source of NS. I did not give anything but the most minimal show of support or interest in the N. I played dumb and did not pick up hints or cues for soothing or admiring or concern. I didn't take bait for fighting. When on the phone, I had a piece of paper in front of me with a giant N on it, so I would not get emotionally distracted by some ploy and mistake her for a regular human. I made sure I needed or wanted nothing from her, not then nor in the future, so she could not feel she had any leverage over me. It wasn't easy, in fact the whole thing made me feel sick, but at least I didn't get sucked in to anything really sticky and crazy.

krl said...

I could have hooted when I read this, Anna. Thank you! Yes...indeedy....manymany hours ad nauseum.

What has astounded me (as I wake up to all this now) is how 'dutiful' I was. The biggest monster to overcome has been MYSELF! I hated MYSELF for FEELING bored, irritated, impatient, angry, frustrated...(oh my! All those 'unGodly' feeling that I 'MUST overcome'! Bah!)...when I was 'trapped' by hours of 'conversation'. Now, I relish the NATURAL/'normal' reactions and responses I have when I run across an N. I HAVE BETTER THINGS TO DO! Period. Color my ass 'GONE'!

Thanks for the hoot and the basic 'outline' of what to do and not do should I ever HAVE to be around one. ShudderTheThought.


Barbara said...

Come on Anna -- no one talks to or with a narcissist....

we are their audience!


great post btw ;)

CZBZ said...

Great website link, Anna. Thank you. I also found his article on Assertiveness to be helpful. (It's linked at the bottom of the article you referenced).

One of my great strengths and weaknesses is being able to listen and consider the other person's point-of-view. If we're married to someone whose point-of-view is narcissistic, we can end up losing our grounding in ourselves.

Here's something that might help people talk to a narcissist without losing themselves:

Prior to the conversation, write down your own viewpoint, belief, opinions. What's in your own best interests. Keep it handy when your brain starts spinning.

I did this at first as an experiment to see if I could maintain MY sense of self while the conversation twisted and turned and got me so confused, all I could do was shake my head 'yes' and agree.

Talking to a N (especially when we don't know they are narcissistic) is like putting your head in a blender. So get very straight with yourself first and when the world starts spinning backwards, end the conversation as fast as you can!


Anonymous said...

Krl, I can relate to everything you wrote.

One of the last times I spoke to my N sister she said, "You sound irritated, maybe you should be on valium or something". Typical Narc insanity! It would never occur to her that she irritates the hell out of me and that's why I'm irritated. No, she turned everything upside down, and my natural, normal response to her deranged, infuriating behavior became the problem which I needed meds for.

My system is so clean of Narcs that I now get physically ill when in contact with one. Soon I'll get an automatic gag-reflex if one comes within 50 feet of me.

As for that article, it could also be entitled "How to play a Narcissist" because if you can master the techniques, and stomach being in the presence of an N, you can exploit and manipulate them all you want and never feel an ounce of guilt. Mind you, these type of sick exchanges come at too great a cost for anyone with an ounce of integrity.

Anonymous said...

While there are some Ns who indeed do most of the talking in a "conversation", I have encountered some Ns who are very skilled at using awkward silence to get what they want. They ask you an uncomfortable question or say something cruel and then they just stare, watching your discomfort. No helping along the conversation from the N at all.

It's an old trick that therapists, car salesmen and police interrogators use: stay silent and the other party will scramble to fill the silence, often saying more than originally intended.

krl said...'s weird too..because most of what they say is STOOPID.....that's what I don't get. WHY did I sit there and listen? and for so many years! I think back and it's like they pulled such strange, off-balance perpectives on subjects....or it would be so abstract as to be worthless and beside the point....or out of context....or a totally unrelated interjection. The ONLY consistency I can find in any of it is that the subject would ALWAYS relate itself back to THEMSELVES. When I was younger I just thought I wasn't 'smart'...that THAT was why I had trouble keeping up with Nmom's 'conversations'! Then, when I got older I could kinda see how she arrived at what she was talking about.....I learned to 'jump' from the rational, sensical to this abstract 'plane' of thought. (I call it TheMagicCarpetRide now) And then when I really got old, I got sick and bored and angry and impatient with all the nonsense. Finally.

Anonymous said...

Anna, Please look at link to K. Kraco main website. It has become something else! The blog is still there. I am startled and worried that we will lose that valuable resource. Guess someone else bought the domain? Sorry to put this comment here - don't know how else to raise the question. ' jewell'

Anonymous said...

Eeew, the awkward silence..It creeps me out and I have experienced it a lot with Narcs. Especially when you tell them something that would illicit empathy in a normal person. They just don't respond. Utter silence on the phone or in person - you can be sitting right across from them and they turn to stone. So creepy! I realize they lack empathy and they can't relate and thus not respond, or they are envious and threatened and thus can't be happy for you but the silence is a blatant way of witholding. It's a perverse way of reminding you that you don't exist beyond being a source of supply to THEM, and you are nothing in their eyes.

I've never filled in the uncomfortable silence because It would be letting them off the hook. In some ways, I want to draw it out to make them uncomfortable. At the very most I just say "gotta go" and hang-up the phone or leave. But come to think of it, as far as they are concerned, the conversation ended the second it wasn't about them.

Now that there are no N's in my life, I don't have to play those twisted games. However, there is a part of me that loves to frustrate N's. They are obscenely predictable. If you've experienced one N you've experienced all N's. Like Anna once wrote, they come of some sort of factory assembly line.

"How to frustrate a Narcissist" - Now that's an article I could really get behind.

st said...

This was a literal Function I was required to perform as a child, from as long as I can remember. I call it "Stand and Listen."

My mom would say, "Atten-SHUN!" and I'd snap to the proper military "Attention" stance she taught me, along with Appropriate Expression on my face. After about half hour or 45 minutes, she'd say "Pah-rade REST!" and I could go to Parade Rest.

This would be hours... an hour and a half up to 3 or more... any time of day or at least at night, after dinner. I spent so much time at Parade Rest that my arms hang backwards, only semi-kidding.

Anna Valerious said...


I'm not seeing what you're seeing. I've checked the main site a couple of times in the last few hours and it looks the same to me. ??

toni said...

One time I made the mistake of telling N-sib that I found some little blurb about her in one of my old diaries. It was just a funny little thing that we laughed about. Then... so what else is in there about me -on this date? She thought I wrote about her life in my diary all the time. She would call me and ask me to look up things about her at a particular time period. I couldn't get through to her that it was just the one time.

Never, ever let them know you recall anything they ever did or told you. Apathy -that is how you frustrate them. If you go out to dinner with one, which I don't recommend, they expect you to remember what they ate, even if they don't. My sib just freaked that I didn't know the last name of one of her 800 boyfriends from 20 years ago. She doesn't know anything of my dating history and will change the subject if I bring it up because she "doesn't remember that".

True, they do not respond if you seek support or empathy, or they may respond, "so what are you going to do?" This has happened with Ns whom I have supported and given advice and thoughts regarding their problems when they needed help. Of course, those days are over.

I like that idea of writing a big N on a paper when talking to one, as a reminder to keep on track.

Anonymous said...

Anna, You are right the KK main site is fine now. I don't know why I saw something different early this am (different web material entirely but listed as that web address.) Maybe it was a temporary weird web redirection or mistake. Don't know if her domain name was being offered up. I apologize for the false alarm. 'jewell'

Anonymous said...

skdzhpMy N would call me and this is how the conversation always started:

N: Hi! You're not going to believe the day I had, oh-but first, how are you?

Me: I'm fine.

N: Good. So anyway, blah, blah, blah......

He was really only interested in talking about himself, so he would get the obligatory "How are you?" out of the way so that he could get back to talking more about his favorite subject-himself.

If I had a problem or a topic of interest that I wanted to discuss, he would get bored very quickly and drone 'uh-huh, uh-huh' and other times he would begin humming while I was still talking. At his rudest, he would pretend that he had another call on the line, hang up on me, and the following day apologize for doing so, claiming that he just 'couldn't get the hang of call waiting'.

I solved my problem by investing in a phone with caller ID and stopped taking his calls.

sonicido said...

It is most unfortunate, that many of us have malignants as our "sperm donors", or, "womb donors" (because they do not parent at all). We are forced to deal with them daily-especially when the courts protect and enable them to ruin our kids by having too much access to them, sometimes daily.

kt said...

Heh, this reminds me of every conversation with my mother. Excruciatingly long and detailed descriptions of the minutiae of her life, followed by a "so, what's up with you?" When I reply, listing some things that have been "up" with me, I get...silence. No follow up questions, no expression of interest or comprehension whatsoever. At that point she will usually say something to the effect of "well, gotta get going, talk to you later!" The exception is if I ever make the mistake of bringing up anything that could be interpreted as negative about my life (I rarely do this anymore). In that instance, there is an instantaneous deluge of criticism, judgment, guilt-tripping, or whatever else is on special that day. Because of this I've narrowed what I will reveal about my life to her to a bare, bare minimum. Which means I have to hear periodically from my brother her repeated complaints that I "am uncommunicative," but hey, it beats the alternative.

P.S. Thanks for the great blog. I came here seeking answers after ending a long friendship with a textbook narcissist, and after reading more about the disorder both here and elsewhere, it finally dawned on me that my mother most likely is one too! I can't tell you what a revelation that has been for my life - probably saved me years of therapy. Keep up the good and frequently entertaining posts.

Anonymous said...

Wow, it is funny that the MN have so many "Signs" that they all do.

My MN ex would drone on for hours it seemed like. My mind got so used to zoning out after a minute or so, I could not tell you what he was talking about. Whatever it was, you can be sure he was the expert!!!

Be strong and get the trash out of your life.

God bless,

Bonney boys said...

I agree with Sonicido...just lost primary custody of my son to a N despite having tons of documentation as to his N'ness. I am so grieved and I don't know how to proceed in the court mandate to co-parent with this man. We're trying to decide on school and every option is being discarded by him and he wants us to only use his criteria. It's impossible to make decisions together and I don't know what to do. Do I give in and not even express an opinion (which I can't do in good conscience as a mother) in hopes that he'll give up and go find someone else to bug? Or do I continue to press for what I think is best and equitable for my son?