A common complaint I hear from individuals trying to coordinate life with a narcissist is: “Whenever we have to address differences, our discussions get absolutely nowhere.” Has that ever been the case with you?

In healthy relationships, we make room for a wide array of thoughts, feelings, and opinions, and in the interest of harmony, we make efforts to find a mutually beneficial middle ground as we move forward.

Narcissists, though, do not draw upon healthy traits. With their high need for control, their entitled attitudes, and their low levels of empathy, they bring contention to the equation, creating all sorts of frustrating experiences for you.

You have probably had thoughts of futility, such as:

  • “I don’t think that person has ever said, ‘Good point.’”
  • “The minute I try to explain myself, that person just talks over me. Listening doesn’t happen.”
  • “Stubbornness doesn’t even begin to describe what I’m up against.”
  • “Maybe that person can be nice in public, but behind the scenes it’s not at all like that.”

One of the side effects of the narcissistic pattern of life is an astonishingly low level of self-awareness. Being committed from early in life to a False Self, they have developed all sorts of defense mechanisms, prompting them to sidestep the responsibilities associated with conflict resolution and coordinating differences. They operate with an oblivious, clueless mindset that ensures ongoing strain and tension in primary relationships.

There are multiple signs that illustrate their incapacity for rational discussions.

Let’s look at seven of the most common.

  1. Once narcissists are emotionally triggered by disagreements, they cannot pull out of it. Their emotions veto the mind, not the other way around. Reason is lost.
  2. Narcissists are consumed by egotism. There is little to no willingness to ponder another person’s needs or point of view. Instead, they must always be right, prompting them to relegate you to a subordinate’s position.
  3. They have an exaggerated lack of empathy. In their oblivion, narcissists not only do not pay attention to the other’s perspective, it does not even dawn upon them to do so. They forget that others have the right to their uniqueness.
  4. Once angered, narcissists will jump from topic to topic. This illustrates how they become stuck in a loop of irrationality. Rather than engaging in a fair conversation, they use a “piling on” tactic, as if that somehow makes them more correct.
  5. Narcissists show no appreciation for nuance. Rather than recognizing that variety is built into the human fabric, they bring black/white thinking to the equation. In their minds, there is no other way to think beyond the narcissist’s. Period, end of discussion.
  6. Narcissists display no forethought regarding the undesirable fallout caused by their blustery mannerisms. Having no future focus, they live inside the mood of the moment, showing no need to consider the cost of their own contentious attitudes.
  7. They are not teachable. With minds made up, narcissists refuse to consider that no one is so enlightened that they have no need for education. In their minds, they are a finished product.

How to deal with an oblivious, clueless narcissist

When you encounter the oblivious, clueless attitudes of a narcissist, recognize that you will never go beyond a functional level (if that) with that person. You will be tempted to persuade them to listen to your ideas or principles or feelings, and that is understandable. But don’t get your hopes up. Being clueless, they assume any problem in their life is your fault.

Instead, it will be necessary for you to set your boundaries, meaning you would establish what you will and will not do in your ongoing exchanges. Don’t expect that any lightbulbs to go off in that person’s mind as you set your separate course. These are adults who use immature, childish reasoning, so plan accordingly.

On Team Healthy, we stand for traits like dignity, respect, and civility, concepts lost on narcissists. But their lack of understanding does not preclude you from moving forward with your own well-conceived patterns intact. That understood, as you minimize your involvements with oblivious, clueless narcissists, your capacity to find peace increases.

~Dr. Les Carter