Boundaries aren’t an aggressive measure. They’re a completely normal and measured way of limiting our interaction when we feel being asked too much of in our social interactions. For the most part, they’re easy to maintain. Almost everyone you’ll encounter is cognizant of allowing your personal space and not encroaching in areas you find uncomfortable or sensitive. Narcissists, on the other hand, don’t fall into this bracket. They exhibit tendencies that can often be described as forward at best and toxic at worst. They don’t understand or acknowledge etiquette in the way others do, meaning you need to be very clear about what you will and will not accept as appropriate. Here are some of the best things to keep in mind when laying out your boundaries with a suspected narcissist:
- Know When Enough Is Enough
In setting boundaries, it can be easy to become a little self-righteous. Although some behaviours you may not agree with, it’s not always necessary to flag them up. Everyone has personality quirks that we accept. But getting clear on where you draw the line is something you need to make abundantly clear. If someone is mentally or verbally abusing you, as subtle as it may be, you can’t tolerate it, if it’s causing you distress. In cases like these, you need to issue an ultimatum, “if you continue to call this/treat me in such a way, then I no longer want any contact with you.” Be firm, but even-handed.
- Make Sure You Don’t Feel Obligated (Exit Strategy)
Sometimes, it can feel as though we’re obligated to be in someone’s company because of the nature or length of the relationship. Pulling away is hard. But if you’re feeling uncomfortable in any given situation, it’s your right to do so. You don’t have to stand and suffer, ‘just because.’ But there are ways and means of doing so that will allow you to save face if the person in question is someone you may need to face at a later date. Having an exit strategy is one of the best tools you can have in your self-care arsenal. Excusing yourself for a pre-arranged meeting, or using false alarms on your phone are both effective ways of exiting situations that are making you feel anxious.
- Direct the Narrative of the Conversation
If you’ve experienced a hard time someone who’s constantly wearing you down with their probing questions, you don’t need to answer. You can use the simple technique of misdirection and redirection. If you’re feeling uncomfortable about a particular subject matter and feel as though you’re being put upon, ask the question of them. Ask for their opinion and what they would do in your place. Narcissists love to talk about themselves. They won’t be able to help but answer you, and will often run away with their thoughts in the process. It takes the heat off of you and also gives you the opportunity to change the subject.
About the author:
Dr Becky Spelman is a leading UK Psychologist who’s had great success helping her clients manage and overcome a multitude of mental illnesses.
***If you’re struggling with any setting boundaries and think you might benefit from speaking to someone about your situation, we offer a FREE 15-MINUTE CONSULTATION with one of our specialists to help you find the best way to move forward. You can book yours here.