Taking back control: Six ways to manage narcissists

Narcissists struggle to understand or care about the emotions of others.

Narcissists struggle to understand or care about the emotions of others.

Published Mar 19, 2024


Narcissists, with their inflated sense of self-importance and manipulative tendencies, can wreak havoc on our personal and professional lives.

They can be bosses, parents, children, or even romantic partners, leaving us feeling drained and questioning our own reality.

But how do you identify a narcissist, and more importantly, how do you handle them in a healthy way?

The six signs of narcissism

Grandiosity and self-absorption

Narcissists believe they are superior to others. They crave constant admiration and attention, often boasting about their achievements or exaggerating their abilities. Conversations tend to revolve around them, with little interest in your thoughts or feelings.

Lack of empathy

Narcissists struggle to understand or care about the emotions of others. They may belittle your feelings, dismiss your concerns, and even derive pleasure from your pain.

The need for control

Narcissists crave dominance and control in all aspects of their lives. They may use guilt trips, intimidation, or subtle manipulation to get their way.


Narcissists see others as instruments to serve their needs. They may exploit your kindness or generosity for personal gain, leaving you feeling used and depleted.

Envy and arrogance

Narcissists are highly envious of others' successes and achievements. They may constantly compare themselves to others, putting them down to inflate their own sense of superiority.

Aversion to criticism

Any criticism, even constructive feedback, is perceived as a personal attack. Narcissists may become defensive, angry, or even try to discredit you to deflect the criticism.

How to deal with narcissists

1. Set boundaries:

The key to managing a narcissist is establishing clear boundaries. Communicate your needs and expectations firmly but calmly. Be prepared to enforce these boundaries, even if it means limiting contact or saying "no."

2. Don't engage in arguments

Narcissists thrive on drama and conflict. Avoid getting sucked into arguments where you're constantly defending yourself. Stick to factual statements and resist the urge to be drawn into emotional exchanges.

3. Document everything

If dealing with a narcissistic boss or parent, keep documented evidence (emails, recordings) of their manipulative behaviour. This can be helpful if you need to escalate the issue or seek external support.

4. Prioritise your own well-being

Being around a narcissist can be emotionally draining so make self-care a priority. Engage in activities that bring you joy, connect with supportive friends and family, and seek professional help if needed.

5. Restrict your contact

In some case - particularly with a toxic family member or romantic partner - consider limiting contact or even going no contact. This may be the healthiest option for your mental and emotional well-being.

Understanding narcissistic children

Children can also exhibit narcissistic tendencies. However, it's important to distinguish this from normal developmental phases. If your child displays excessive arrogance, a lack of empathy, or a need for constant control, seek guidance from a child therapist or paediatrician. Early intervention can promote empathy and emotional regulation.

What to expect going forward

Remember, you are not responsible for a narcissist's behaviour. These individuals have deeply ingrained personality patterns that are unlikely to change overnight. By recognising the signs, setting boundaries, and prioritising your own well-being, you can navigate these challenging relationships with greater clarity and resilience.

Don't hesitate to seek support from friends, family, or a therapist for additional guidance.

IOL Lifestyle