We have all heard the saying, “Communication is KEY,” but how communicating with difficult people can be highly challenging, especially if that person is narcissistic. Today, I want to teach you how to communicate with difficult people and to learn about timing. To me, timing is everything. Let me give you a few examples about timing.
When speaking with anyone, you want to make sure they are in the state of mind to listen to you. A person can be physically here, but they can be far away mentally. The same goes for someone narcissistic. If they are stuck in their survival brain and not their cortex, expect not to get the positive feedback you desire. When you do not have access to your cortex, you will discover that it is challenging to make rational decisions, find solutions to problems, not take things personally, and come up with creative ideas. That is why I say a narcissist is not solution oriented. The answers are within the cortex brain. The survival brain can come up with solutions, but those solutions are more about the self and not working together as a team.
Another area with timing is becoming self-aware. If the person you want to communicate with is irritable, angry, frustrated, or withdrawn, you will not get a positive response. You might even piss the person off even more. If you recall the podcast and blog post about the Map of Consciousness, All those negative emotions listed are all coming from a place of FORCE. The negative emotions are weak. In order to have a healthy rational conversation, you would have to learn to raise them up to a place of POWER. You have to work with them into shifting from anger into courage/empowerment. It can be done, but are certain steps that must be taken first.
For example, I assess the situation if I notice someone angry. The angry person might have a valid reason for being angry. If their anger is understandable, I validate it. I do not discredit it or dismiss it. I honor and respect it. I sit with them and stay quiet. I do not do this for long, just a few minutes. Then I think of the chart shifting from anger (150) to indifference or pride (175). What can I say that would make this shift? How can I shift their perspective so they might think or feel indifferent about the situation or person? If I can come up with a solution and see, hear, or feel the shift in emotions, tone of voice, and body language, then I know it worked. If it does not work, I will be quiet and not feed into the anger. I will no longer validate it; I will support them in defusing and toning down the offense. I can shift their perspective in a different direction. I could focus on forgiveness; we all make mistakes, shit happens, we cannot control everything in life, and maybe something good will come from this horrible event. By taking this different approach, I might be able to raise them up. My end goal is to raise them up from anger into empowerment, permitting, feasible, and having courage. The frequency level is 200. You can try some calming techniques like distracting or redirecting them. Here are some calm down strategies.
- Listen to music
- Pet a cat or dog
- Go for a walk
- Go to a quiet place
- Ask for a hug
- Drink some water
- Wrap up in a blanket
- Close your eyes
- Do some deep breathing
- Walk your dog
- Drink a warm beverage
- Have a snack
- Rub some scented lotion on
- Take a shower
- Take a bath
- Braid their hair
- Play with a pet
- Hug someone
- Sit outside in nature
- Turn off the lights and light a candle
Now, if you cannot raise them up and they want to stay stuck in anger, then you need to disengage. I hate to say this, but now you are their food source. They will drain you of your energy. You can end up feeling exhausted, irritable, confused, disconnected, and flustered. If you need to make an excuse to walk away, do it. Do not feed into their anger, disappointment, ideas of revenge, or despair.
When you feel the timing is right, you will want to do the sandwich approach. The bread is the positive and the middle is the issue. When communicating, you want to use “I” statements. You want to avoid using “YOU” because a person can feel threatened or ashamed when you are directly accusing or blaming them for something. It is best to use “YOU” statements as a positive. Also, never use the word BUT. The word but is a negative. Let me give you an example. I love you, but I hate it when you leave your dirty socks under the computer desk. I want to go out with you, but I feel uncomfortable in your car. The person will not hear the positive statements like I love you or I want to go out with you.
So, here is how I would word those two different statements. I would say, “I love you. I love watching you relax at night while you play your game, World of Warcraft. I was thinking of putting a small basket with a lid by the computer desk. This way, when you take off those (not your) stinky socks, they can go directly into the basket. The smell is no longer filling the room. I know the scent is not bothersome to you, and that’s great. I enjoy having our home smell fresh and clean. Therefore, I came up with a positive solution for both of us because I know you love me, and I love you. Can we try it out?” If your timing was right, the person come to a neutral agreement or compromise. If your timing was off and they want to be passive aggressive or punish you, they will not comply. They will maybe do it for a little while and then stop. They might use it against you. Do not give up. Just know that timing is everything.
For the following example, I will use the whole sandwich approach. If someone said this to you, “I want to go out with you, but I feel uncomfortable in your car.” This statement can offend a person; if that is the case for you, you will want to unpack it by asking questions. Here is how I would use the sandwich approach in this situation.
BREAD: I would say, “I am also looking forward to going out with you. We have a lot in common. I enjoy talking to you. It has been fun getting to know you. (as you can see, when I said you, I used it positively).
Middle – ISSUE: I know my car is not very clean inside and could use some improvements. The last thing I would want is to make you feel uncomfortable. I am curious if the smell is the cause for the uncomfortable feelings or the mess, or is it something else? I know we can come to some kind of solution.
BREAD: You are important to me, and your comfort level is essential. I know communication is vital, and I trust your positive feedback. And if we cannot figure this out, there is always Uber or Lyft as a form of alternative transportation. I really like you. I am excited to do something fun with you again. How can we make this work for both of us? I am all ears (with a smile in your voice).
The following example will be about divorce and ending a relationship. Most people do not realize this fact, but when anyone ends a relationship, someone can become triggered. We can trigger old childhood wounds of abandonment, rejection, not being good enough, shame, self-hatred, blame, and unworthiness. That person can shift from being someone you know into becoming a stranger. When we trigger old unresolved childhood or relationship wounds, we can discover that the person we once loved is now an angry, immature child or young adult. That wounded PART of them will act out, say cruel things, and will project their insecurities upon you. That wounded person can become temporarily narcissistic. Therefore, the following example is one that I have used many times with couples that are splitting up. And again, timing is everything. You want to talk to them when they are in a good mood. And do not say, “We need to talk.” This always makes a person put up a wall. If doing this face to face seems impossible, you can write it out in an email. Please do not send it. Save it as a draft. Get all the word vomit out and then review it the next day. Remove the “You” blaming comments. Read it out loud if that helps. Just wait 24 hours before sending it. You want to send it when your mind is clear, and the negative emotions are defused. Trust me; I had a few choice words that I wanted to slam back as insults but don’t. It can be used against you in court. The narcissist can spin it around to make you appear to be the angry, unagreeable monster instead of them. I had this happen to me. Your neutral email can be proof if things get ugly and you need to see a counselor, therapist, divorce mediator, or attorney. All these professional people must be educated in narcissism and trauma-informed. So, pick wisely for your defense.
BREAD: I would say, “It is good to see you smiling. I have always loved your smile and laugh. It makes me smile inside and out. I know this transition has been difficult for both of us. We have spent so many (months or years) together. We have created so many beautiful memories that I will cherish. It hurts me to see you struggling. I realize that I might have unintentionally triggered some old wounds. I am sorry. It was not my intention. My intention is to make this transition comfortable and smooth for both of us. We will always be friends (if you want). I want us to show each other mutual respect. How we move forward in treating one another is important to me because you are important to me.
Middle – ISSUE: I have noticed that unkind words are spoken when tension builds between us. My feelings get hurt. I feel attacked, belittled, threatened, and scared. I want to believe this is not your authentic self, the self I fell in love with. I realize that I must have triggered an old wound, and I am getting a reaction instead of a healthy response or solution. I have been thinking of solutions because I don’t want either of us to get hurt or wounded any further. Therefore, when the feeling of anger comes over one of us, I would like us to communicate more clearly, coming from our hearts, instead of our wounded ego. Express that we are getting angry and we need a break. We need to calm down and work together, instead of against each other. I am fine with taking it slow and taking breaks, if that is what is needed during this transition. I want there to be cooperation, instead of fear. Acceptance, instead of disappointment. Hope, instead of despair.
BREAD: I care about you. I will always care about you. I will celebrate when you find someone new. I will praise your growth, new life adventures, and joy. We just outgrew each other, and this new life chapter is waiting for us. It does not have to end with hate, anger, and regrets. I know it will take us both some time to make this transition. I know setting healthy boundaries that support each of us is required now. We can do it. We have to take each day as if it is fresh and new. I am letting go of the past and moving forward. We both deserve happiness and joy. We can do this from a place of compassion instead of fear. I know we can do this. Can we do this together?”
When I did this example for one woman, she said it might make him want to rekindle the relationship. I told her that some people might want to cling to the past and give it a second chance. That is really up to you because you do have a choice. Not many people know how to speak from their heart. Speaking from your heart can be scary and leave you feeling vulnerable. Speaking from your heart might change your perspective and you could realize that your partner triggered some of your unresolved childhood wounds. The subject was never addressed before and now there is clarity and insight.
If your mind is made up and you must separate, shift into focusing on remaining friends instead of at odds with each other. Focus on how taking a break for six months is healthy and vital. You can suggest still separating but looking into couples counseling or therapy. You are still standing your ground and giving them positive solutions when you do this. And at times, this other person can still struggle with wanting to eat their cake too, but you must set healthy boundaries. If the only solution you see is no contact, use that as leverage. You can express that, at times, the only solution seems to go no contact and that you are doing your best to avoid that situation. Therefore, you are asking for their support to show each other mutual respect and kindness during this challenging transition.
Next, I want to discuss making a proposal or finding a solution. If you are dealing with someone narcissistic, this can be highly challenging. First, you need to “deconstruct” their proposal. This involves asking questions about their proposal, including what it would look like. Have them unpack it, step by step. With this knowledge, you can say, “It seems like what is most important to you is such and such. Is this correct?” Then you can explain what is most important to you. If it is incorrect, you can ask, “What would be the more accurate description of your concerns because I want to understand you better.” Some people will not want to come up with a proposal to piss you off. Some might come back with a proposal that only benefits the narcissist and not both parties. Therefore, if you know you are dealing with a self-righteous person, you might want to present three or four proposal solutions to them. Whatever you do, do not put your best solution first. In my experience, they never pick the first one, no matter how good it sounds. Put your best solution second to last. I have found that it is best to get this proposal in writing. You can email each other or send it in a text message. Just create a paper trail. Saving all the emails and correspondence supporting me in writing the book, “The Undetected Narcissist”.
You do not want to be responsible for their decision because you know they will blame you for it later. It must be their decision and responsibility. That is why you want to focus on it being their own “personal choice.” Review the three to four proposals and stress that it is their own personal choice. In the end, you want to say that you respect their decision and thoughtfulness in making that choice. When you have resolved the issue, save the correspondence in a folder within your email account or forward it to another email account they are unaware of. You can screenshot any text messages and then attach them to an email. You may want to send the proof to another email account because you can get hacked, and evidence can be destroyed. You need proof that you were trying to make things work without needing an attorney or appearing in court.
Lastly, I want to teach you the BIFF approach. BIFF stands for brief, informative, friendly, and firm. Here is an example of a text message I had with one of my neighbors that is stuck in his survival brain. “S” is for my neighbor and “M” is for me.
S – Hey
M – What’s up
S – I was burglarized two nights ago. I will explain some other time but for now know I am a good person and I have never fuckT anyone over (false truth)
S – I know who they are
M – Sorry to hear that. Did you report it?
S – I need to go get some wood for my door. If you could look outside every 10 minutes to make sure that everything is ok. I will be back very soon. (time was the middle of the day)
M – okay
S- Don’t ask me questions that are obviously thought about. Please. Common sense is my life. It’s why I’m alive (truth because he is stuck in his survival brain and is insulting me to trigger a reaction.)
M – I am working but I will check outside (Note: In my response I did not allow myself to get triggered or offended by his insult towards me. I ignored it.)
S – I mean this respectfully. It’s hard to tell sometimes with a text. Ok. Thank you.
M – emoji thumbs up
S – Oh and please keep whatever I tell you to yourself
M – I have no time for gossip
S – If I thought there was a need to tell all then I would. Safety.
M – emoji thumbs up. I am working.
S – (15 minutes later) please check
M – Fine. Nobody is there.
S – You asked me if I called the popo but you didn’t ask me if my cat was ok. HMMMMM. (Trying to make me feel guilty and sucking me into his drama)
M – I am working (I need not feed into it)
S – I’m back
M – emoji thumbs up
Now, did he irritate me? Yes. Did I let him know that he was annoying me? No. I played it cool and knew who I was dealing with. I know how he gets and why most of my neighbors cannot stand this person. I personally do not dislike this person or like them. I am just neutral. I find being neutral with difficult people works best for me. I will comminate with them but keep them at a distance. I will not overextend myself because it can be mentally and emotionally exhausting. That is why it helps when you can be brief, informative, friendly, and firm.
Thank you for learning about how to communicate with difficult people. I hope this information will support you and the people around you. I also want to put a shot out there for the Mental Health News Radio Network. Take care.
Music by Teho – Arif