Ideally, you would like to approach relationships with openness and honesty leading the way.  But how many times have you reconsidered openness and honesty with a narcissist?  You have probably thought: “There’s no way I’m going to disclose my thoughts and feelings with that person.”  

Time reveals how narcissists bring much drama to their primary relationships, creating an unsafe environment.  Commonly, as you attempt to coordinate with the narcissist (especially in conflict), your exchanges will not end well. Narcissists are predisposed to assume that your uniqueness equates to rejection.  They are naturally inclined to turn simple discussions into competitions about who is right and who is wrong.  And complicating matters, their rules of relationship engagement shift based on their moods and needs of the moment.

It is only natural, then, for you to conclude: “Why bother?  Whenever I differ, it’s a virtual certainty I’ll end up in the doghouse. The less the narcissist knows about me, the better.”

This sets up the potential for ongoing problems since you can conclude that being authentic is just too risky.  Moreover, you can go one step further and develop tendencies toward blatant dishonesty.  You might have episodes of lying outright, or you might just lie by omission.  But either way, as you determine that truth is not something a narcissist prioritizes, genuineness often takes a back seat.

Let’s underscore the necessity of discernment as you engage with troubled individuals.  Even with narcissists, it’s possible to stay true to your good character. 

But before we go there, let’s highlight twelve of the most common tactics narcissists use that potentially prompt raw dishonesty.  For instance:

  1. Narcissists will approach you with an unbending, self-serving agenda.  When you veer from that agenda, they will target you with demands and punishment.
  1. They are persistently critical, judgmental, and close-minded.  This leads to lots of unsolicited advice, and they will remind you that you are hardly ever right.
  1. They will pepper you with badgering questions.  What’s worse, those questions are not asked for the purpose of knowing you better, but as a means of ridiculing and humiliating you.
  1. Narcissists will turn minor problems into major issues.  Being thin-skinned, there is no room for error with them.  They have a penchant for “awfulizing” trivia.
  1. They are prone toward irrational anger, and moreover, that anger can come in the form of rage and contempt.  Naturally, you can feel threatened and repulsed.
  1. Narcissists are often bullies.  They can rationalize how necessary it is to verbally pound you into subordination, and one of their favorite strategies is to seek out your presumed weak spots.
  1. Being bossy, they will take over projects.  Your preferred preferences and skills are considered inadequate or ineffective, despite evidence to the contrary.  
  1. They will scoff and mock you as they learn of your emotional needs or hurts.  You might hear comments like: “Quit whining!”  or “You’re the one who created this problem in the first place!”
  1. Narcissists frequently motivate via messages of shame.  In their minds, you are duty-bound to live inside their parameters, and when you don’t you are a lowly loser.
  1. Over time, they prove to be two-faced.  They may have moments of pleasantness and friendliness.  And just when you think it is safe to open up, you receive harshness.
  1. They cannot or will not maintain personal confidentialities.  They may show just enough interest to entice you into self-disclosures, but time shows they are merely gathering intel to use against you later.
  1. Narcissists like to tell you your reality.  They often proclaim themselves as the keepers of truth, and are not bashful to let you know how you do not interpret life correctly.

When you encounter these tactics, it is tempting to simply say whatever is expedient to keep the narcissist at bay, even if you have to lie. But let’s simultaneously acknowledge that such a reaction means the narcissist is setting the pace for your mannerisms, and that will hardly ever lead to a good outcome.  Simply put, narcissists want to back you into a corner where it is too risky to be yourself. 

But you do indeed have better options than to go along with their “training.”

To stay on your preferred path, it is essential to recognize that narcissists feed off of an attitude of entitlement.  They see themselves as enlightened, while deeming you lucky to have them to set you on the straight and narrow path.

But just because they appoint themselves as the ones set the pace in relationships, you are not obliged to play along.  As you respond to their initiatives, remind yourself that honesty and openness remain the preferred ideals.  But it comes with a caveat.  That is, the person in front of you needs to be mature enough to know how to manage your self-disclosures wisely.  

Understanding that the pattern of narcissism is built upon pervasive immaturity, being judicious and discerning is of utmost importance. 

You owe the narcissist no blind loyalty, and when that person demands your conformity, inwardly you can choose to reveal as little as possible.  Self-disclosure is reserved for relationships anchored in mutual respect…but narcissists have no sense of mutuality.  To them, you exist to service their emotional neediness.

Stay committed to honesty and integrity, and know that with some people the best response is: “No comment.”

~Les Carter, Ph.D.

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