Help in Settling an Argument with a Narcissist :(

Updated on December 02, 2011
L.C. asks from Pearland, TX
25 answers

Hi there, this is more of a relationship question than a parenting one, but here goes: I am currently in a long-standing argument with an extended family member whom I believe has Narcissistic Personality Disorder (my opinion, not confirmed). In my naivete, I disagreed with this person about something that they said and it turned into a huge deal. I've since been reading about this disorder and am understanding what is going on in her head. She is also bullying me by using the time-honored (haha) female bullying techniques of forming cliques (within our family), exclusion (of me), and gossip (with other members of our family). BTW we aren't in high school. Both in our thirties. Of course with the holidays coming up, it brings the issue between us to the forefront. We see each other a couple times a year. I'm not willing to forgo these family functions just to satisfy her ego. There is family there that I do want to see. My question is: from your experience in dealing with someone like this, is there a way to end this argument so that we are not enemies, or do I just completely ignore her? I've already asked her to stop discussing it with family members. I hold no ill-will towards her, yet I don't think we will ever be very friendly. I've tried googling this, but only come up with "how to leave a narcissist if you're, like, married to one" Thank you so much for any insights you can give!

2 moms found this helpful

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So What Happened?

Thank you all so much. It helps to hear from people who have dealt with this in their personal lives! I never really understood why she is the way she is until now. I'm not trying to "label" her. I would never tell anyone my suspicions about NPD. But now I understand why, even when things were good between us, that I always felt that if we weren't family, she wouldn't consider me "good enough" to be her friend. I have fallen into the trap many times of doing favors for her when I truly did not have the time, taking criticism and not saying anything about it, etc. My husband would ask me "Why are you doing all this for her?" We had a disagreement about 2 years ago and I was the one to apologize to keep the peace. But that is my m.o. - passive, non-confrontational. Not until she started telling me how to raise my kids did I have to put a stop to it. I've been so distraught by this that my Dr. put me on anxiety and blood pressure medicine. I now understand that she has no interest in resolving this because I'm probably not all that important to her, her only interest is to make herself look better. It is actually very liberating because I now know that this has little to do with me, it is her defense mechanism to put on this show. I will absolutely not argue with her anymore; there's no reason to. I will be cordial. I still love her and her family, but I know, as I've known my whole life, that I can only be around her for a short time, for my own sanity.

Featured Answers


answers from Redding on

The best thing to do when you are playing tug-a-war with a difficult person is to just drop the rope.

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10 moms found this helpful


answers from Appleton on

There was a similar question about a week ago. These links might help you.

My Mom is a narcissist. She is very difficult to deal with. I don't argue with her I state my feelings and go on from there. She feels that if she isn't interested in something or doesn't like something -- no one should. I just her ignore her.

Go to the family gatherings and be polite but not overly friendly with this person. Don't engage her in conversation or argue with her. If she tries to start something simply look her in the eye in front of everyone and say "Why can't you accept that not everyone agrees with you. I have a right to my own opinion. Different is just that DIFFERENT it's not bad or wrong and neither am I."

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answers from Redding on

The best thing to do when you are playing tug-a-war with a difficult person is to just drop the rope.

10 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

There is no winning an argument with a narcissist. Drop it.

If it's critical, just do it your way with no argument.

9 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

Have you tried to agree to disagree, if only in your own mind? I would definitely not try to discuss the topic ever again.

I don't know what you mean by ignore her. I would go to family get togethers but I would be cordial. I would avoid all discussion of opinions.

I suggest that the best way to handle this is to give it time. Ignore what she says to other family members. Continue to be your friendly and accepting self. Let others make up their own minds about the situation without you trying to defend yourself.

8 moms found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

Well since I was married to a narcissistic sociopath for 18 years I can tell you that you cannot win an argument with a narcissist. They are always right, the only time you are right is when you are in agreement with them.

I can tell you how to get along with one. For one always word things as an opinion, an opinion that everyone believes is true. Never do this after they have offered a different opinion because then you are wrong. So long as they believe that agreeing with you will always be considered right they will agree with you.

Crazy I know. If you find the most insecure person you know I can assure you the narcissist is even more insecure. They are so insecure they cannot handle being wrong.

My ex would have temper tantrums that would inspire pride from any two year old if I tried to get him to admit he is wrong.

Good luck, they are a lot of work. Obviously more than I could take because I divorced him.

Yeah Hazel brought up some good ones. They won't confront you in public where someone else could take your side. They are strange creatures I tell ya. My boss is one, she loved to yell about all my mistakes, which were actually her mistakes, until I had enough and said, no I emailed you about this, it is on your desk. She never did it again because that is beyond humiliating to a narcissist.

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

Win an arguement with a narcissist? That's impossible. They are never wrong and they love drama. My stepdtr is like this and worse. My advice to you is to not react to her, do not engage in deep conversations with her. Avoid her as much as possible if you can. Keep it a hi and bye type of thing. You can't reason with someone like this because they do not have the reasoning skills you and I do, ones that make sense that is. Be glad you only have to see her a couple of times a year. Just play nice and do your thing. Rise above and others will see that and respect that. True narcissists usually end up alone because eventually people get tired of dealing with their drama. How many narcissists do you know that have true friends?

7 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

This is a really tough one... if she's truly a narcissist there is literally nothing that you can say/do to have her see your point. The only thing that will "end it" is to somehow acquiesce to her thinking. Depending on what the argument is about, either concede and end the whole thing for the sake of the family or refuse to discuss it with her further. Either way, try not to be alone with her because it WILL become the ONLY topic of conversation.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Honolulu on

You can't "win" with a Narcissist.
There are many.... types of Narcissism and degrees of its mental illness and personality disorders, or DSM categories, .,
Which only a trained Psychologist, can pinpoint in all its spectrum.

And, people like this, will always get people to be in their vicious toxic cycle... because most people who deal with them, either keeps trying to knock 'sense' into them or 'win' against them or prove their point or think they can 'change' them... or, they are just being manipulated by the Narcissist. And it does not stop.

One way a person can keep manipulating or victimizing someone else... is when the person keeps interacting with them, too.
To various degrees of what is required, you either just ignore them, divorce them, get legal help, or just disown them. etc.

You cannot... 'rationalize' with someone who is mentally ill... and with a Narcissist, which is very moot.
They do NOT think, like a normal person, nor do they have the same basis of right/wrong, as a normal person would.
Their whole matrix... is different.

AND... another thing is: people who are mentally ill, CAN make other people mentally ill as well... because of the stress/mental games & anguish and manipulations.... that they do to the other person.
Unless you are trained and can "detach" from the person emotionally and mentally... you can easily... be swept up INTO the mentally ill person's.... total toxicity. And therefore, become, not well yourself and fully, absorbed by the other person.
Many people do not consider, just how a mentally ill person, can make THEM, mentally ill too. Therefore, unless you are cognizant of that, a person can be forever tangled up emotionally, with that mentally ill person.
And then, the relationship becomes entrenched.
And then, the lines of normalcy, ends and becomes blurred.
And then, before you know it, years of misery accumulates. And no hindsight is evident. Anymore.

You have to watch out for yourself and your own mental well being.
Not about "fixing" the other person who you KNOW is mentally ill, or trying to prove that you can outdo them.
They need to see a Psychologist or Psychiatrist.

You cannot "settle" an argument with a Narcissist.
Do you see? That person already has YOU.... spinning your wheels... because you do not want to let go of that person. Whom you know... is mentally ill. And you don't even see this person everyday... but you are thinking about it a lot... and 'planning' ways to win that person.
So you are in the vicious cycle with that person. Already.
You cannot win... with a person like this.
It takes years.... or psychological treatment and/or meds... for a Narcissist to MAYBE, improve. But it is still, no guarantee.
So for a Layperson, to try and 'win' or convert a Narcissist.. is really, a moot thing.

Narcissists... leave trails of damaged people behind them.
And.... everyone... walks on egg-shells, around a Narcissist.
And, most people, just give in to them, because that is easier... than arguing with them or becoming their victim.
Hence, yes, cliques form. And some people do not see through the Narcissists lies and manipulations. Hence, yes, unfortunate problems occurs, often with a whole bunch of people seemingly against "one" person. And tons, of gossip/lies/rumors, which the other people take as truth.

You take yourself out of the equation.
Which means, ignore the person. In whatever way that means to you.
But that will not necessarily, stop... the Narcissist, from talking about you or making trouble.

Now, I have a relative, that is a Narcissist. And who knows if she even knows she herself has mental problems. Probably not. As is typical.
But... naturally, this person has tons of problems and interaction problems with others to various degrees. This is typical of Narcissists.
But... this person, (as is typical again), will say that nothing is 'her' fault... BECAUSE... she will say "Sally is SUCH a Narcissist, and blames everyone except herself and always has to make trouble to others and then puts on such an act like she is so innocent."
So, a Narcissist calling another person, a Narcissist. When, the real Narcissist can't even recognize.... that the problem is themselves.
What another vicious cycle.
And it goes on and on and on.

The end result is:
-others stop associating with them
- others become more tangled up with them and the problems they cause.
- others just give in to them because they don't want to be attacked and then everyone just ends up walking on egg-shells around them, and then this becomes, the 'norm.'
- but the Narcissist, often just keeps on making trouble for others, whether they imagine it or not. Because their sense of reality, is not normal. And making trouble for others, is powerful. Again, justifying their existence.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Phoenix on

I think you have to keep a person like that at arm's length. It's too much work to worry about when the next argument will be. Be nice, but distant, and don't let her drag you into any of the drama. People will figure out who the jerk is, eventually.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Appleton on

There was a similar question about a week ago. These links might help you.

My Mom is a narcissist. She is very difficult to deal with. I don't argue with her I state my feelings and go on from there. She feels that if she isn't interested in something or doesn't like something -- no one should. I just her ignore her.

Go to the family gatherings and be polite but not overly friendly with this person. Don't engage her in conversation or argue with her. If she tries to start something simply look her in the eye in front of everyone and say "Why can't you accept that not everyone agrees with you. I have a right to my own opinion. Different is just that DIFFERENT it's not bad or wrong and neither am I."

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Roanoke on

You've gotten some great advice. I just wanted to add an interesting tidbit. In 2013 when the DSM V comes out, the board has decided to throw out Narcissistic personality disorder. Sometimes it's easy to call someone a narcissist, because they act like it, but to actually have the disorder currently is a little bit different than most people think (I don't know her, of course, I'm just talking from experience). If I were you, I wouldn't label her to have something to blame her attitude on. Just take the situation and the argument for what it's worth. It sounds like she's kind of a pain, so I'd just stick with being civil and call it at that.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

Unfortunately I have a lot of experience in this domain. There is no way to settle the argument unless you go back with tail between your legs and admit you were wrong. Even then she'll gloat and tell everybody that you were wrong. But that doesn't help you much.

In my experience, best to cease talking about it all together. If anybody in the family brings it up, politely tell them that you have let that go and you do not wish to discuss it. You will have to ignore what she is saying to others. It's hard, I know, but there is no way to get her to stop gossiping. And of course she is lying about what happened, and you have to accept that too.

My experience tells me the best way to get along with a narcissistic personality is to avoid any conversation that turns personal or opinionated. Just keep your distance. When things blow up, think about what is best for you, and move on. The more you try to fix it, the worse it's going to get.

I'm 45 and I've tried up, down, backwards and sideways to get along with 2 people in my family who are deeply narcissistic. I've come to accept that there will never be a "normal" relationship with them, and for me the best relationship with them is none at all. Sad but true. I just can't deal with the constantly altering realty they live in.

Good luck!

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

Go along, to get along. You will have to be the bigger person and make nice. She will respond positively to compliments, flattery, and you humbling yourself before her..,..and not much else. So, you may have to publicly call an end to the feud - "so and so, I thought about what you said, and while we disagreed in theory, I concede to your expertise in the area. I hate all the conflict it caused, can we agree to disagree and move forward?" She gets what she thinks she is due, you get peaceful holidays. Everyone around her will know you are the better person.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Boca Raton on

IMHO the key to dealing with narcissistic behavior: BOUNDARIES.

No, I will not engage with you, argue with you, stroke your ego, etc. I will be polite and civil, but that's it. Nothing more, nothing less (to do less is to actually engage in the drama).

Therefore no more argument would be forthcoming from me. And if my family can't figure out 'what's what' for themselves then that's just too bad.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

I've not read your other responses so if this is a repeat, sorry.

Ian, my first husband was a narcissist. You CANNOT win an argument with a narcissist. They HAVE to be right. Always. There is NO other option. You can let them believe they are right. Let them make the fool of day the light bulb MIGHT come on...

In regards to the family member? Just let it go. If it's a safety issue? fine. carry on. But really? Who are you hurting here with this long-standing feud? Everyone as they are feeling as if they have to chose sides, etc.

If you have no ill-will towards her - you wouldn't have let this go on - do you need to be right too? Would it hurt to say "you know what Jane? you were right...blah blah blah..." does it mean you were wrong? No. It just makes YOU the better person. Do you see how that works? If you have no ill-will nor if you HAVE to be right? then drop the pettiness and tell her - you are right and press on. You are continuing the fight instead of dropping it. Why is it so important to you?

Be nice. Be polite. In the grand scheme of things - how important is it to you to be right? or to continue this feud? Just let it go. life is much better that way....

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Dover on

Can you or have you said to her "I understand that we disagree on that topic and although my opinion is different than yours, I respect your opinion. We are family and should be able to move past this. Can we just agree that we disagree and move on?" or something to that affect?

Either way, when you go to these family functions just smile and say say "Merry Christmas Aunt Judy" and move on. Don't engage in any real conversation that could encourage disagreement.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Rockford on

There are people in my family who, I don't know are necessarily narcissistic, but have a tendency to need lots of attention and always have to be right?? Hmmmm...we'll leave it at that. Over the years, the way I have found best to deal is to NOT argue w/ them, even if I KNOW I am right. Not worth it. And to NOT confront them on something you feel they did was not ok (unless it's really bad) and even then, be prepared for the backlash.

As for the holidays, if you must be around these types of people, be pleasant, act as if you have nothing to be bothered about, and don't feed into their arguments...I have noticed that these types of people will sometimes even LOOK for something to argue about. Don't allow it! Remember, these are YOUR holidays, too and they are your emotions and feelings and you can CHOOSE to control them better than the narcissist.

I know how hard that can be...I recently had a HUGE ugly blow out w/ a very close family member, who definitely crossed a line regarding my daughter...we chose to confront her and not only did she deny that she did anything wrong, she told us (my hubs and I) that we didn't know how to handle ourselves...WRONG! She did later apologize for her behavior and was very sorry to have hurt our daughter, also. We are ok now (I took the high road and emailed her and just told her no on would win this argument and for the sake of everyone, we needed to move forward and get over the was affecting our whole family!)

Anyway, I hope you can be the "bigger" person friendly, don't let it ruin your holidays and SMILE! :) Best of luck w/ this! Hope you have a Happy Holiday Season!

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answers from Tulsa on

I don't believe a narcissist will ever change. Ignoring one will help you keep your sanity and dignity.
You never win anything with a narcissist. Eventually everyone sees their true colors which might give you a bit of satisfaction.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Phoenix on

You can go up to her, say hello, and tell her that everyone has different opinions about things and that she should be mature enough to "agree to disagree" and move on.
If she continues the juvenile gossip, then let it be her problem. If people want to side with her and enable her juvenile ways, then they are no better than she is. Hold your head high and know you are the better person. :-)

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answers from Kansas City on

Well I would say go along with your day. If you get to Christmas, and everyone wants to know what is going on between you two, just smile and say you had a disagreement and leave it at that. If you go further, you will keep the fire going. But I do have to question, why you would be googling, to find a "label" to put on your family member. Maybe you have a problem too.

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answers from Houston on

I also have a narcissis in my family so I know what you are going through. If you read, get the book Boundaries by Dr. John Townsend and Dr. Henry Cloud. It's a great book that will help you set limitations with her and everyone else. The best advice I can give you is to not let her drag you into her drama. Just be the best you that you can be and that's it. Don't discuss the issues you have with her with other family members. In other words, don't let anyone know when or if it bothers you. That is something that you can discuss with God, your friends, or your spouse. Try to stay away from her but if you must come in contact with her, be polite but keep it short and simple. That's really all you can do. God Bless!

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answers from Oklahoma City on

The more attention you give it the more it feeds her ego and tells her she was right because if you were right it would not bother you anymore. So, ignore her unless she talks to you, don't try to engage her in conversation, sit and visit wity people who you can stand, laugh and enjoy their conversation, if you are not then at least look like you are having the time of your life. She will be eat up with the non-attention and might just blow up for everyone to see she is nuts. If that happens then act like nothing is wrong.

If she says something regarding a past incident act like you can't even remember it, like you don't know what she is talking about, you can even rub your forehead like you are thinking deeply, still don't know what she is talking about. If she keeps going on and other people are starting to notice you might want an out so say something like "You mean when we were talking about the different sides of XXX" I enjoyed that conversation so much!". Then turn around like you think it's over. She might try to keep it going but she will have lost her momentum at this point. Just treat her like nothing is wrong at all, she is family, she is not an issue or annoying, etc...act, act, act. You can do it and it will drive her nuts!



answers from Austin on

Great advice so far. Don't feed the flame; don't discuss it with her and don't discuss it with others. But absolutely don't cut yourself off from your family. It's her issue; you act like a grown up and other family members will follow your lead. If she confronts you, tell her that you'll just have to agree to disagree - no matter how right you are [don't say this last part :-) ]. She can't force you to change your opinion and you can't force her to change hers. As far as not being enemies, you can only control your side of things. It will be very apparent to everyone who is not in high school anymore.


answers from Houston on

Even though you know rationally that you should be able to solve this problem, it sounds like she either is not able or not willing to change. Since the only behavior you can control is your own, I suggest an apology on your part (even though you did nothing wrong) to clear the air, hopefully. Trying to be logical or reasonable is liable to be an exercise in frustration. If she thinks she has "won", she might tone it down. Downplaying the whole issue may prove to be the only way to stay calm.



answers from Waco on

I have a person in my life that has borderline personality disorder, which is in the same "family" as NPD. I completely understand what you are dealing with. I have been dealing with this person for almost 20 years and it is a nightmare watching the damage she inflicts on people she is supposed to "love". One thing I can reiterate is that you CANNOT "win" with someone like this. It's their way or the highway. Your best bet is to set your boundaries and have an "escape" plan in case of emergencies. People like this will do anything and everything they can to engage you in confrontation and to argue with you... they feed off of it. You have to do your best to remain calm at all times and not give in to their childish antics. When she starts to bully you by forming cliques or spreading gossip, there really isn't much you can do about it. You can try to say to the other person, "Look, I know this may be hard for you to understand, but this person is lying to you". It's really up to the other person to decide who to believe. In my experience, though, the "real" personality will always shine through and it won't be long before people understand what's really going on. There is a pretty good book out there called "Stop Walking on Eggshells"... can't remember the author, but it's pretty good. I has as it is, you have to remember that this person is suffering from an illness. They don't think the same way you and I think. You have to love them, but you don't have to love the way they act and you don't have to love the pain they inflict on others. HTH!



answers from College Station on

I see you are asking about how to settle this argument, not necessarily wanting to WIN the argument. Good for you. As it takes two to tango, you have to stop arguing with her. Keep your opinions to yourself when she is within earshot. And if she starts to get loud and/or arguing again, simply change the subject. My best line is "oh, excuse me, I have to go to the bathroom" [or "I just remembered something that I need to take care of right away" ]. I like having a pre-arranged signal I can give my spouse (a pull on my ear lobe or something) which means COME GET ME OUT OF THIS MESS!!! ;) I know it sounds a bit funny but that can be a "life-saver".

The gossiping really hurts doesn't it. I hope you have one or two of the family "on your side" and that they are understanding. Ask them to set the record straight when they hear someone in the family is believing this narcissistic person's lies about you. You need that support!

You have a lot of good advice here. Good luck.

Next question: "That's Not the Point!"