You are standing in the shower, having the best conversation ever with your narcissist–in your head. You know exactly what to say, how to say it, and your thoughts are so cohesive. Your narcissist responds in just the way you need them to. And then you wonder why you can’t do that in real life. We’ve all been there.
While the vast majority of people who break off whatever relationship they have with a narcissist, many are not able to go completely no contact. Generally speaking, this would include minor children of narcissistic parents, spouses who share children with a narcissist, employees who work with or for a narcissist, and others don’t have the luxury of turning away and never looking back.
So, how do we learn what phrases to use to disarm a narcissist and also not make him angry at the same time? First, do not get spun up by anything he says. Then, respond with words that are benign and low key. It won’t give him any material to throw back at you and will stop him dead in his tracks.
Let’s take a look at what this means when played out. Then I will give you an extensive list of phrases to disarm a narcissist that you can use easily in just about any conversation.
Table of Contents
The Perfect Boundary is a Well-spoken Phrase to Disarm a Narcissist
When you first begin to emerge from a toxic narcissistic relationship (for more on that, click here), regardless of what kind of relationship it is spouse, coworker, etc), you must begin to set boundaries. They may be small boundaries at first, but over time, they become stronger and bigger as you begin to navigate your way through to autonomy, perhaps for the first time in your life.
The best start for setting new boundaries is in changing your language with your narcissist. Learning the best time and place to use these phrases will make a world of difference as you begin to emerge from the fog.
As you master these phrases and start to become comfortable, your boundaries will expand in ways that will help you become more and more independent. And once you are ready to start doing this, I have the perfect resource for you! The book, Boundaries, by Henry Cloud and John Townsend was a God-send for me. I was told for my whole marriage that there were no boundaries. He had total access to me pretty much whenever and however he wanted it. So, when the concept of boundaries for me came up in counseling, all hell broke loose. And my ex couldn’t do a thing about it because it wasn’t me asking for something “inappropriate.” It was people helping me to learn to stand up for myself.
Get your hands on this book if you are working out what appropriate boundaries are during and after being in relationship with a narcissist. You can click on it below to find out more information. And once you do and work your way through it, please tell me how it worked out for you! I hope it was as amazing for you as it proved to be for me.
Keep All Communication With a Narcissist Brief and Safe
More often than not, you can’t just go no-contact with your narcissist. Which means that you will have to continue to communicate with them, even though they have not healed, most likely will never seek healing, and will still want to gaslight, deny, blame, and otherwise abuse you. You were an easy target before, maybe they can make you that easy target again.
So because of these issues, you need to find a way to communicate with them going forward that doesn’t allow him to continue to treat you the way he has historically. And believe it or not, is a pretty short time, you can easily learn how to do this.
First, do not answer the phone if they call. Let it go to voicemail. If they don’t leave a message, text or email back asking what they need or want. Then you will have proof of your communication. They can’t change the story or lie when they need the narrative to change to hide the abuse.
When you take this one simple step, you will be amazed at how quickly your mind gains clarity. Suddenly, you won’t be questioning your thoughts and memories anymore because you can go back to the conversation and see exactly what was said. And you will be keeping yourself safe because they won’t be able to abuse you by confusing you anymore.
As a side note, have you ever wondered what made your narcissist a narcissist? Click here for an article that will tell you all about that!
Don’t Give Your Narcissist the Reaction They are Looking For
It is incredibly important to not fall into the narcissist’s trap of losing control emotionally when they engage you. One of the biggest sources of narcissistic supply for them is when you react to his craziness in crazy ways. Except that his craziness was so subtle that nobody else noticed except for you.
When you are reacting out of emotions, everyone sees you reacting strongly to nothing they saw. You automatically look like the crazy one. And they will use that for even more narcissistic supply. It is the gift that keeps on giving. Don’t give them any part of that gift!
The book that taught me how to learn to control myself emotionally when attacked narcissistically by my ex husband was The Emotionally Destructive Marriage by Leslie Vernick. She has four C.O.R.E. principles that guide your behavior into thoughtful, wise reactions.
Here is what each of the letters of CORE mean:
C – I will be committed to truth, both internally in my own heart and mind and externally. I refuse to pretend.
O – I will be open to the Holy Spirit and wise others, teaching me, maturing me, and guiding me into his way of living my life.
R – I will be responsible for my own responses to destructive behavior and commit to being respectful without dishonoring myself.
E – I will be empathic and compassionate toward others without enabling people to continue to abuse and disrespect me.
In a response to a follower, she goes on to say, “When you know and believe that you are a loved, valuable, worthwhile human being and live from that core place, toxic people lose their power to manipulate you. They can’t control and intimidate you as they once did when you felt worthless, dependent and needy.”
Once I learned these 4 really important steps and started practicing them, my whole world changed. Tell me how it worked for you too!!!!
How a Narcissist Will React to Even the Most Benign Responses
As you learn to master how to respond to your narcissist, you will soon realize that sometimes even the most benign responses will set him off. And honestly, that is on him, not you. As long as what you are saying is respectful, kind, honest, and not destructive you cannot worry about “causing” the narcissist’s reaction. You did what was right on your part. You cannot control what they do on theirs.
What you can do, however, is continue to learn what phrases and words are calming to the narcissist, and what words and phrases trigger him. While it technically isn’t your responsibility to be so detailed about exactly what words you have to use around a person, it will make your life easier.
The more you can speak to him in ways that don’t trigger him into a narcissistic rage, the better chance you will have in working with him in co-parenting and post divorce situations. That doesn’t mean he won’t still treat you in narcissistic ways. But it does mean that he likely won’t be raging at you. At least not as much.
And finally, before we go over the list of the best phrases to disarm a narcissist, I just want to remind you that no answer will always be better when dealing with a narcissist. Unfortunately, we don’t always have that luxury and we must give them some answer.
And with that, let’s take a look at some ways to respond in healthy ways that will disarm your narcissist and take the ball out of their court!
Phrases to Disarm a Narcissist Safely
I have a good number of phrases for you to use to disarm you narcissist in a way that should generally keep you safe. But keep in mind, narcissists like the element of surprise. My kids and I learned early on that we could set off our narcissist in some of the most unexpected ways. There were times we made him angry by simply complimenting him on something. He wasn’t offended by the compliment. He was offended by the incorrect motives he assigned to us. And that was something we couldn’t change, no matter how perfectly we worded our communications to him.
All this is to just say even if you communicate really well with your narcissist, don’t expect that to mean you will get good responses back or finally crack the communication mystery. Oh, and one more thing: remember that narcissists love to argue and they love to keep that argument going indefinitely. Keep your expectations low and you will be better off!
Do you think it may be time to cut ties with your narcissist? Check out my article here to get a better idea and help you know what actions to take to stay safe!
Phrases to Disarm a Narcissist That Don’t Make Him Feel Threatened
- “I cannot control what you think about me.” This statement to your narcissist lets them know that they are free to believe what they choose to. But it also tells them that you are free to live independently from their opinion. At the same time it gives them the ability to think what they want, that statement confirms in your mind that you don’t have to be trapped by their thoughts. You can live in your own truth.
- “I hear you.” This phrase allows the narcissist to feel heard while you are able to keep your own thoughts and opinions without further challenge.
- “Thank you for letting me know…” This phrase will disarm your narcissist because he feels appreciated. And it is a way you can extend him an olive branch without having to sell your soul or feel like you are submitting yourself to his control.
- “I understand that you are hurt (or whatever emotion you see that he is experiencing).” This will show your narcissist that you see them and will appease them at that moment, which may be enough to diffuse the situation. That doesn’t mean he gets to control you with his emotions. It just means you acknowledge them.
- “It seems that you have thought a lot about this.” This phrase is also an acknowledgement to the narcissist. You know that they deeply think about all of their next steps. They have to in order to keep up with their own shifting narrative. They may actually be proud of themselves that you acknowledged their thought process. But, once again, that doesn’t mean that you have to submit yourself to their thoughts and opinions. It just means that you acknowledge that they feel that way based on a thought process.
- “Thank you for being willing to share with me.” This phrase acknowledges what they shared with you, and again, doesn’t sacrifice your own autonomy. He will feel heard and you can drop the conversation there.
- “I am happy to consider what we have discussed.” Just leave it there. Don’t give him a time frame or continue to engage. Tell him you need time and leave it open ended. Maybe he will forget and not re-engage. Or if he does re-engage, it gives you some time to think of a wise follow up response.
- “What would you do if you were in my position?” The key to delivery for this response is to keep your tone polite and kind. Then he will feel like it is a sincere question and not an attack. And honestly, that is exactly what it needs to be. If you are polite and sincerely seeking to know his thoughts, it will help you to gauge the situation better. But also know that the narcissist’s words are almost always sprinkled with lies and gaslighting. Be wise, discerning, and thoughtful in your evaluation of his words.
- “I agree with you when you say _____.” This allows the narcissist to see when you agree with the truthful parts of his communication with you. And hopefully, it will appease him enough to not engage about the words and thoughts you don’t agree with. If so, just tell him you need to think some more about those things before you can comment. It also may give both of you a window into some healthy communication if you can find common ground, especially if your narcissist does not rank high on the spectrum of narcissism. Just stay on your toes. Don’t get sucked into the carousel.
- “I’m sorry you feel this way.” You can acknowledge the narcissist’s feelings without betraying your own. But just don’t expect the narcissist to return the compassion and understanding. You may make inroads in communication with them if they feel that you care though.
- “I would like to discuss this further as long as we can remain respectful and kind to each other.” The narcissist will almost always agree to this, at least initially. Especially if they are a covert narcissist because they need to be seen as wonderful at least on the outside.
- “I value what you have to say. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me.” This phrase allows you to communicate value to your narcissist. Value is one of the things they treasure the most. So with this phrase, you will instantly get their attention and favor.
- “I’m glad that you are so good at _____.” This phrase will disarm your narcissist by distracting them from what they are hitting you with. Flattery will get you everywhere with your narcissist. And if it diverts the conversation so it will go your way for a little bit, then that is a good thing!
- “Is there some way I can help you with this?” This phrase will help disarm the narcissist because he becomes the center of attention for a little bit. While this is not good for every situation or even long term, it gets you what you need in the short term–some agreement to keep things from getting too crazy.
- “How would you like me to help you with this?” By showing your narcissist that you are willing to invest in them to help them out, you are diffusing a potentially difficult or even impossible situation.
- “Can I help you with ______?” This takes the last point a little bit farther by suggesting a way that you think could be helpful.
- “I really appreciate that you ______.” This phrase to disarm your narcissist allows you to give them enough credit for something they did that will help them possibly use a little bit of give and take. For many narcissists, they are willing to use give and take to get what they want. But usually it has to be their idea and not theirs.
- “I think you idea to ______ is awesome. Let’s also _______.” This is helping your narcissist to see that you value what he had to say or do. It may help him to give you something in return. This is an extension of the last point which talked about give and take.
- “I am thankful that you ______.” This phrase will let your narcissist know that you are willing to acknowledge how he has done well. It will likely spur him on to do other good things. At the very least, this will make daily life a little easier if you are able to get him to make some effort and reciprocity.
- “I am sorry that I _____. How can I make it up to you?” This phrase is yet another olive branch to give them credit for something they did well. It is important that we show them what does please us because it could help them to choose healthy words and actions in the relationship going forward.
Phrases to Disarm a Narcissist When You Need to Stand Your Ground
Sometimes what your narcissist says needs a strong but kind response because you have to stand your ground. In those cases, the narcissist will likely be offended to some degree by your tone. But if you can deliver the words with kindness and compassion, it should make them land more softly than if you come out swinging. Let’s take a look at some of those.
21. “I see that you remember things differently than I do.” With this phrase, you are able to acknowledge the narcissist’s words first, then acknowledge your own. That may give the narcissist enough confidence that they are willing to work through the issue with you, especially if you show them that you are not discounting their words, but just trying to find the truth between the two different accounts.
22. “I am willing to work this issue out with you, but I am not willing to have you yell or intimidate me.” A covert narcissist will likely instantly try to convince you that they “would never want to make you feel bad.” And that gives you an opportunity to still try to work through the issue in spite of the gaslighting. In the case of an overt narcissist, you will likely not get any empathetic reactions out of them. But you will be able to assert your personal autonomy and the conversation can at least stop if you can’t get things to turn around.
23. “Please don’t say that to me again.” Almost daily for the last few years, my ex would say to me, “There’s something really wrong with you.” It drove me crazy. And counseling had proven that there was not something really wrong with me. I was, in fact, healing very well and learning how to respond to abusive situations. But he didn’t like my newfound ability to stand my ground. He did actually stop saying that. He found other ways to say it, though. And as long as I would tell him to not say that, he wouldn’t. Eventually, he began to run out of derogatory things to say about his perception my emotional health.
24. “I’m sorry, I am not going to be able to do/say what you want me to.” You need to stand your ground for your own safety and wellbeing. But you need to do what is best and healthy for you. If you preface your statement with an apology, it will soften the response to your narcissist. And they will either be willing to let it go, or may even engage with you in a healthy way, at least to save face. They won’t engage in a healthy way because they want you to feel better. But sometimes you just have to take what you can get.
25. “I let you have time to share your ideas. Now I would like a chance to share mine.” You could even add what you heard him say to you so that he knows for a fact you heard him and understood. That should help in convincing him that you are willing to give him fair time. And he may just let you have a turn! He likely won’t value your opinion as much as he values his own. But if he at least lets you talk, you have made a little bit of progress.
26. “I know I am responsible for _____(something you said or did), but I cannot take responsibility for _______ (something the narcissist said or did).” It is good for you to show them that you are big enough to admit your mistakes. For a narcissist that ranks lower on the narcissism scale, it may help them become brave enough to take responsibility for their issues without panicking about the shame. Over time, they could actually see that they are able to get past the shame, even in bigger issues.
27. “I think we should consider it a victory for us when you ______. How do you think can we turn this issue into a victory for us?” Narcissists like to be the most successful person in the room. If you give them an example of something they did well with you recently, maybe it will motivate them to work through the current situation just as well, if not even better!
Phrases to Disarm a Narcissist When You Realize the Conversation Isn’t Going to go Anywhere
28. “I need to stop talking for now because we are just arguing in circles.” In this case, you are identifying the narcissistic behavior and letting them know they can’t drag you around like that anymore. It won’t solve anything, but it also won’t drag you down the wrong lane. And honestly, most of the time you won’t resolve anything with your narcissist, especially in the long term.
29. “I am feeling manipulated when you say/do _______ and I can’t keep on going in this way.” Make sure you are not using accusatory words. If you use feeling words, the narcissist still may discredit you, but they won’t feel attacked and end up in a narcissistic rage.
30. “I cannot be responsible for your anger.” Again, say it kindly, because you should be talking to everyone kindly anyway, not just because you don’t want to poke the bear. But if you know the conversation isn’t going anywhere after you have already tried to rein it in, it is important that you set this boundary for yourself.
32. “If you keep accusing me of things I didn’t do, I cannot continue this conversation with you.” Whether is is ascribing motives wrongly or outright accusing of things you didn’t do, you cannot take the blame for things that you didn’t do or say. While you may be willing to let a thing or two slide, you can’t let that trend continue.
33. “I’m sure you aren’t intentionally _____, but if you don’t stop or change your perspective, I will not be able to continue ______.” Whether you are telling him you won’t continue an activity with him or you just won’t continue on in whatever capacity your relationship is, make it clear that he cannot continue to mistreat you without consequences. Be kind with your words, but firm, even though you know he probably won’t return the favor. You ARE responsible for your side of the argument.
35. “I think we should continue this argument with a neutral party.” This phrase to disarm a narcissist will allow you to get help when you think your narcissist is unfairly placing all the blame on you and you know you won’t be able to keep your head above water with the accusations. Make sure it is a person they respect and trust, because it will help to keep an even playing field.
36. “This has given me a lot to think about. Can I have some time to think it through?” This phrase to disarm a narcissist once again gives them the credit for contributing something to the conversation. But it also gives you an escape so you can have the time you need to to work it out and be confident of your own thoughts.
Putting Your Phrases to Disarm a Narcissist into Perspective
These are some great ways to diffuse a tense situation, whether you are able to keep the conversation going or you need to take a break. And I’m sure that as new conversations come up, you will be able to create some of your own phrases that will be perfect for how you are relating to your narcissist.
Do you want to know more about how narcissists behave so you can protect yourself better? Check out my article on 45 examples of narcissistic behavior.
Do you think you may be in a toxic or narcissistic relationship with someone? You can get a better idea by taking this short quiz with instant results.
I would love to hear what phrases worked for you! Please share for us here so you can help someone else who is going through the same thing you are! There is a comment section below that you can scroll down to.
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