Some tips for setting limits with narcissistic people

How to respond effectively to intrusive and degrading behavior.


Lacking empathy for how their actions affect others, narcissists feel entitled to use other people. This makes it especially important to set firm limits with them. Here are some effective tips:

  1. It is not convenient or productive for you to justify, explain or defend yourself as it will not have an effect on the person affected by the alteration of the narcissistic personality. People with this type of disorder use scrutiny and intimidation to make others question themselves. Doing so gives them a feeling of power and control. Keep in mind, then, that part of setting limits is your right to decide what you share with others. The less you share, particularly personal information, the less you have to use a narcissist in your favor and logic against you.

You don’t need to justify thoughts, feelings, or actions to an intrusive narcissist. If a narcissist criticizes you, you can say something like “I hear your opinion and I will consider it.” If they question your actions, say, “I am confident in my choice.” If they demand an explanation, say “That’s personal” or “We will have to agree to disagree.”

  1. Leave the interaction when you feel that it is not healthy or does not follow the normal established channels. You don’t need anyone’s permission to get out of a destructive interaction. You, not the others, can determine what is healthy and normal.

You can just say, “I have to go: I’m late.” Then just go. Late for what? Every moment you remain in the presence of controlling or abusive behaviors makes you late for healthy self-care.

You can also directly confront unhealthy treatment by saying something like, “This is not healthy. I will not participate in this type of dialogue. “

  1. Define for you the red lines before any interaction, a key component to establish healthy limits is knowing when to say no and putting it into practice. Define what you are willing to accept from others and what you are not. For example, you may agree to mild jokes but not sarcasm. It can be fine with passionate expressions of opinion but not with insults or intimidation.

You don’t need to explain more. If the aggressive behavior of a narcissist continues, interrupting communication firmly is your right and for that it is not necessary to be rude or aggressive just firm.

When such limits are set, narcissists can run through their repertoire: arguing; blame minimizing feelings; acting as a victim; indicating that you are too sensitive or that you become angry or “intense”. While these tactics may be unpleasant and not easy to bear, the limits are not in dispute.

  1. Learn to artfully dodge intrusive questions or negative comments. Expert experts in politics, conflict resolution, and negotiation sidestep difficult questions simply by answering a different question, generally, a question they wish they had been asked and that can further their agenda.

If a narcissist likes to criticize your expenses, career options, or personal relationships and begins family questioning, why interact again? Say something like, “Those are the kinds of challenges that develop character.”

Or direct it to a topic that the narcissist loves to talk about and thus give him the opportunity to hear his own voice. Ask for example his views on the secret of a good relationship or how she/he made a career so difficult or what financial lessons are appropriate.

  1. Don’t underestimate the power of narcissism. Remember that narcissists have spent a lifetime learning how to devalue and take advantage of others. Narcissism is a psychological alteration based on distorted perceptions of themselves, others, and the world.

If you don’t set healthy limits in a given situation, have compassion for yourself. Identify what you want to do differently next time and move on. Setting limits is not a one-time event.

When a limit is crossed, act according to the chosen consequence immediately, decisively, unfailingly. Otherwise, you can lose credibility. The narcissist only in 1% of those affected wants and manages to change the altered behavior.

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