Outsmarting the Narcissist

Once again, you find yourself struggling to remember what actually did happen. You are having THAT conversation again during which you are told your memory is bad, you are making things up and you must be losing your mind.

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Anyone who has been in a relationship with a narcissist has been told this. It matters very little if the narcissist is a co-worker, parent, lover, acquaintance, family member or simply someone who lives next door. This tactic is very common because it works.

Very few people are completely certain of everything they remember. Did I say that when I was angry? Was there any way I was misunderstood? I’m certain she said that, maybe I didn’t hear her right or understand what she meant.

For narcissists this is one of the many games they play. They want you to feel off balance, to question yourself, to spend inordinate amounts of emotional energy trying to remember what was said, the order things happened in and how the events unfolded.

When you realize they have been “gas lighting” you, making you unsure of yourself, your memories and perceptions, the natural response is to want to do it back. Unfortunately, they have several advantages.

Narcissists lack empathy. This means they do not feel bad when they hurt someone. They do not “feel” the pain they cause other people. So when you are trying to remember if you did say what she says you said, she is enjoying your discomfort, not feeling badly because you are in a disagreement.

Another tact a narcissist will take is to overtly lie. He may tell you he “forgot” or “got stuck at work” when in fact he simply did not want to show up because he knew you were relying on him. This may have put you in an awkward position, like sitting at a restaurant with two other couples waiting for your date to arrive.

The narcissist has an advantage here because when he does arrive, he tells the whole table that you made the mistake. You had the date or location wrong. You were supposed to pick him up on the way to the restaurant and you come off looking foolish for having let everyone down.

Another tact to make you look foolish is to keep “poking” you until you snap and behave “irrationally”. If the narcissist can get you to explode in public, this provides nourishment in the narcissistic form. The narcissist thrives on drama and causing drama, especially public drama. Most people, find this distasteful, which is part of the appeal to the narcissist.


Here are three examples of things that narcissists will do that most people will not do:

1. Lie
2. Hurt You on Purpose
3. Make a public scene

Even if you are willing to lie, do hurtful things and try to get them to act out in public, it will backfire on you.

1. If you lie to a narcissist, they are certain you are wrong.

Unlike a person with a conscience, narcissists do not doubt themselves. They just turn it around on you. Now they have “proof” that you are losing your mind. Then, forever, this example will be their way of reminding you how you have been wrong before.

2. If you hurt them on purpose, they will play the pity card.

You hurt them. You are a nasty person and they can’t believe how mean you are. Since, I’m assuming, you do have empathy, you will feel bad. You may even feel fully responsible for hurting them and they win this one as well.

3. Finally, a public scene is their dream come true.

If you try to cause a scene, where they look foolish you will end up looking more foolish than they will. They do not feel emotions like others do so it is much easier for them to regroup and turn it around leaving you as the only one who is acting out in public.

If a crazy person and a normal person are fighting,
it is NOT possible to tell who is who.


If you are a neighbour, acquaintance or a co-worker, you cannot win. The cycle will devolve into a nightmare of them trying to get back at you and you doing what you can to get back at them.

So, don’t try. Never rely on the narcissist or believe what they say. Never confide in them or speak to them more than necessary. This will allow you to keep it light and superficial and minimizes the amount of harm that they can do.

If you happen to be in a personal relationship with a narcissist (parent, sibling, lover) and want to outsmart them, develop an exit plan. Do not tell them. Make sure you have considered everything. Where will you go? Do you have your own money? Do you have extra clothing and personal effects? Then, get into an argument with them and have them either kick you out, or have them break off the relationship. (I have to add, think safety here. I don’t want anyone starting an argument if there is a possibility of physical harm as well.)

Then leave. You have won.

It is only by making them believe that they left you and they came out on top that they will let you go easily. In their minds, you will try to get them back. So, they are much more likely to leave you alone. They will wait for you to come crawling back, which you have no intention of doing. They have lost you and you no longer provide any emotional nourishment.


My book, "The Narcissist Survival Guide" is now available.
My book, “The Narcissist Survival Guide” is now available.

8 thoughts on “Outsmarting the Narcissist

  1. Wendy. I’m curious about what it “looks like” when a narcissist is NOT attracted to a woman. Does that make sense? I recently got dumped from a relationship that lasted all of a month. While I didn’t get to know him well enough to call him a narcissist, everything he did and said within those first few weeks was so textbook it made my heart come out of my mouth (lovebombing, carefully mentioning that he had many women on the line that he “took care of”, the very inconsiderate way he dumped me-ghosted me and then two weeks later began posting pictures on facebook of his new girlfriend on a date at a pub…across the street from my house, an attempt to make contact with me after the fact, which I learned about from a third party because at that point I’d gone no contact, etc…) I’m really so grateful he didn’t find me attractive. In all honesty he got to me before I was able to dump him. The great joke/s are that I found him very easy to see through. He was infantile, his mentioning of his many lady exes who were now friends etc. made it sound like he was unable to make healthy relationship choices, not that he was awesome. The other great joke is that his dumping me the way that he did made me feel GREAT ABOUT MYSELF! I know it sounds crazy, but after the very last conversation with him in which I clearly stated that my boundaries were 1) No lying; 2) I don’t do drama or passive aggressive. He disappeared on me, and then that passive aggressive move. It made me feel strong. I suspect there are many inadvertent things I did that turned him off. Good inadvertent things…

    Back to my question, because this experience does leave me questioning and wondering: what “turns a narcissist off.” What does it look like when you don’t fill his narcissitic supply, or he finds you wanting? This comparison would be far more helpful then finding out what happens once you are deep in the game. Again, I got the axe pretty quickly and I am not a professional in narcissism. But I’m so glad I’m not this other woman. My gut tells me I won this battle, even if it did hurt my feelings for a minute. FYI, the best thing I ever did was block him, unfriend him, and delete all information. It helped give me some space, and after one day I realized the situation was stupid, boring, and he was a child. Really, you cannot control nasty people and their behavior. You can control what happens next. In his case that next is absolutely nothing.

    Thanks in advance.


    1. I can’t tell you how much it warms my heart that you have enough self respect to turn him away when you knew he was not what you were looking for.

      And you did turn him away by blocking him.

      Quite frankly, I have not written that piece, explaining what it is like when a narcissist finds you unattractive. Your message was the first I’d ever heard of it.

      Thanks for letting me know. And to answer your question, I think you know more about it than I do.

      Well done.


  2. My brother and his wife are very sad foolish narcissistic individuals who
    need psych help and will never get it. The best thing I ever did is go no contact


  3. What if the narcist is your boss and you can’t leave because she has already sabotage your CV/references? How do you reclaim enough of your self-respect and the [professional respect you need to rebuild so you can successfully get an interview and leave for a job elsewhere?


    1. There are two issues here. The first one is that your boss has sabotaged your references. Unfortunately, if people still haven’t seen through her and if you want to stay in the same profession, you may have to relocate (if feasible). What often happens, is that many people in the profession already know what she is like. If you go for another job they may realize who you were working for and take that into consideration with your lack of references. Sometimes people are more aware of what is going on than you think. At the end of the day, your sanity and well-being are at stake and you need to leave as soon as you can.

      The second thing is your self-respect. I hate to say it, but that is what got you into this mess as well. I know personally, I was so invested in trying to “make things work” that I could not see how poorly I was being treated and that came down to self-respect, so there is no judgement here. This is a larger issue and I suggest you find a professional to speak with. Unfortunately, finding a “friend” to speak with will likely put you at risk of drawing in another narcissist. Please see 10 ways to discourage a narcissist from dating you. This applies to friends as well and will help you understand why sensitive, caring people are targeted by these individuals.

      Best of luck.


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