What Do You Think?

It’s Narcissist Friday!     


When the narcissist asks for feedback, be very careful!

There are many old jokes that center around a wife asking her husband if a certain outfit makes her “look fat.” The poor husband must be very careful how he answers. The wife, of course, may simply be asking for his perspective. The husband feels like there must be a trap somewhere.

When we began raising children we picked up a piece of advice that was very helpful. Parents should answer only the question that was asked, nothing more. Sometimes parents begin explanations, thinking the child is asking about some uncomfortable topic, when the child is only asking something simple. The key is to answer with the simple answer only, rather than the long explanation. If the child wants more, he will ask for more. If not, any further explanation would be unnecessary or even confusing.

Sometimes narcissistic bosses or parents will ask a question that seems to put us in uncomfortable positions. In fact, most narcissists will do this from time to time. It’s really a simple question, one asked by normal people with good intentions. And it is a question we long for from the narcissist.

“What do you think?”

That’s right, the narcissist may ask for your opinion. You will feel honored, even important. You may appreciate the chance to offer your thoughts. Your opinion has not been valued until this moment. Now’s your chance.

Don’t do it!

Here’s a rule to remember: narcissists do not want your opinion. They don’t need your opinion. Instead, the question, if it is not a set up to make you look bad, is a desire for affirmation. Remember that the goal of the narcissist is your focus and loyalty. They always want your affirmation.

So you have to be careful to answer the real question, not the one you heard. The words they said, coming from someone else (not a narcissist) would mean something else. But the question always revolves around the need for affirmation with the narcissist. Instead of truly asking for your opinion on a choice or an issue, the narcissist is asking if you remember your place or if you can give a word of praise.

“I think there’s a reason you are the boss.”

“I think you look great.”

“I think I am willing to go with whatever you choose.”

“I think you know what you are doing.”

Now, these are just examples, of course. Your response will have to fit your situation.

And someone will say, “But I can’t lie!” I understand. But you should understand that this is exactly the set-up some narcissists will use against you. They will ask your opinion because they know you will give it, then they will use it to show others how stupid or rebellious you are. They will use your opinion to put you down. They will twist your words and hurt you with them until you submit.

If it isn’t a set-up, it is still not a sincere request for your opinion. It is an opportunity for you to say the right thing, whatever will affirm the narcissist. If you don’t say the right thing, you will be punished. You will be put down, made to feel ashamed, or face retribution.

If you are prepared for that kind of conflict, then speak your mind. Share your opinion. Be honest and forthright. No, the narcissist does not deserve your submission. No, the narcissist does deserve to hear the truth. But you have to be prepared to pay the price.

Otherwise, learn to answer the real question.


Filed under Narcissism

17 responses to “What Do You Think?

  1. Penny

    This. So. Perfectly. True.

    Took me YEARS to learn this. No wonder it’s so exhausting being around a narc.

    Thank you once again Dave for your wisdom & insight.

  2. I never could seem to lean this…I always told the truth. Or tried to couch the truth in terms that made him feel good about himself. I still wont lie …never could. I learned along time ago through my Narc mother ….to ALWAYS tell the truth and NEVER omit anything. The consequences were dire if I got it wrong. So eventhough it would have saved me many beatings in may marriage, I always told the truth no matter what. I still wont lie ..but now it’s a personal choice and not conditioning. But then, I’m no longer married so no worries.

  3. I am having difficulty even recalling a time in which any of the narcs I know asked for an opinion. The closest is when they ask something clearly wanting to be agreed with. Something like “Don’t you agree I should, or we should etc”… Or “Isn’t it best like this, or that etc”… “Wasn’t that the perfect gift, or meal, or card etc”… And of course the best answer is the one they are clearly letting you know they want. And you are fight, agreement, adoration, and loyalty. Such ingenuous relationships!

  4. Janet

    I was thinking about these very things this morning out jogging. What was the start of trouble with my N friend was that I could not deny the truth. I would speak it out. That earned me accusations that I was critic and abusive. She always argued that I saw it all wrong, I took it wrong and I assumed wrong. I would end up apologizing. Friendship could then continue. this cycle happened over and over. Over time, I would learned to just keep my mouth shut. But I couldn’t tolerate the inexcusable behavior for too long. I would have to say something. And I would get the wounded birdy act, like I was some evil beast for saying what I did. And oh yes!!!! If I was off by any details of truth, my whole position was dissembled and I was left doubting myself and what I knew I saw and heard.
    This erroded my self worth and my faith that I was even saved.
    What had seen in her behavior could not be UN seen. They slip up by repeating behavior they swear they don’t do. So yes, I kept records, kept ALL cyber exchangs for my own sanity. I would reprint to show her what she said, but she ALWAYS had a clever eccuse for why it was no big deal and why was I being so critical, abusive and perfectionist. I could never win.
    You get bullied down, even if you keep records and proove the truth.
    Over time, it just wears you out. And, they get wary of you, because you won’t play by their rules: NO TOUCHY! We do not speak the truth!! Bad dog!!
    I was crying out to God about this this morning. She won’t ever take responsibility for her actions. I will always be the villain. I am in prison for HER crimes against ME and I do not know how to get free. She will be at church tonight. I have to endure the reproachful blaming looks every freaking weak.
    I. Am. Exhausted.

    • Maya

      Obviously, that person is toxic for you. I would have to remove myself from her presence altogether. The No Contact thing. Is it possible for you to find another church?

      • Janet

        Hi Maya. I did remove myself from relationship with her 9 months ago. Yes, it was extremely toxic, and I told her that this was why I was ending the relationship then. She has been viscious to me ever since. She attends our church as a visitor. She has been with us for 6 years, renewing her visa every year. I cannot leave the church and I have no desire to. Its my home. And, I am on leadership staff here. I have asked the Lord over the last 9 months if He would please block her visa and send her back home to her own country (UK). He has made it clear that He wants her here with us. So I have to accept His will and grow through this. My last words to her was that I still loved her and thought she was a wonderful person. She just grunted at me without looking up from her phone. At least I am clean before the Lord.

  5. Finally Safe

    What do I think? You are absolutely right, again.
    The one time I stood up for myself and expressed a differing opinion to the Narcissist family member, I very carefully chose my words. The retelling was completely false. Lies. An apology was requested because, yeah, we treat each other with kindness and respect — although it’s never been directed towards me and my spouse — followed by a command/demand for mediation because apparently I have a problem and I am an abuser.
    The remaining siblings/spouses apparently believe the lies.
    Boundaries are now firmly established. Since safe corners at gatherings no longer exist, we choose to not attend. It’s lonely, but freeing at the same time. I think everyone loses, but at least we (both introverts) are enjoying peaceful and stress-free times.

  6. Mark

    This seems so much evidence that churches can be narcissistic. My former church loved to have Sunday School classes that were discussion oriented. We’d watch a video and discuss or go through a prepared outline and discuss. Early on, I was open and honest about where I disagreed with the material – usually when people started talking negatively about other churches, or glowingly about our denomination when I had first-hand experience to the contrary. Over time, the reaction to what I said became more and more negative. Members and church leaders did not want to hear disagreement. When I left, I was told I had too many concerns and criticisms.

    It seems to be the same thing. The church wants to have “discussion”, but what they really mean is they want to hear back how good they look and how wonderful everything is. Someone who says, “the doctrine is great, but there’s some love missing here” violates the unspoken rules and gets brow beaten.

  7. SDM

    Thank you for your wise and compassionate advice. We readers deal with these situations daily in our narcisstic relationships and it is confusing and exhausting. It is a breath of fresh air to receive your posts. They are so helpful. God bless you!

  8. Lady Quixote/Linda Lee

    Oh my goodness… light dawns!!

    About 12 years ago my mother called and asked if I had heard of the book A CHILD CALLED “IT”, a memoir written by Dave Pelzer. A best seller, Pelzer’s story has been called one of the worst cases of child abuse in the history of California. His mother was so vile, she made him eat his meals out of the garbage pail. She beat him regularly, wouldn’t let him bathe or have clean clothes, made him do all the menial chores around the house, force-fed him the poo in his baby brother’s diaper when he didn’t do his chores fast enough, forced him to kneel for hours on a cement floor, and made him sleep every night in a dark, damp, unheated basement without any blankets, while his parents and siblings all slept upstairs in warm, comfy beds.

    I told my mother yes, that I had in fact read Pelzer’s book. Then she shocked me by asking: “Was I as bad as that mother?”

    Her question, so completely out of character for someone who could never admit to any serious wrongdoing, gave me a tremendous surge of HOPE. FINALLY, I thought, my mom is seeing the light! Surely now she will apologize and make some long overdue amends — starting with setting the record straight about all the evil, projecting, scapegoating, gaslighting, character-assassinating LIES my mother has told about me for the past 40+ years!

    But as it turned out, my mother was not having a moment of clarity after all, and she certainly did not want to hear my truth. She did not want to hear, for example, that her having an affair with my first husband and trying to gas our whole family to death when I was 12, was at least as bad as anything Dave Pelzer’s mother ever did.

    As I later learned, one of my stepbrothers had given my mother a copy of Dave’s book, telling her that he had figured out through therapy that his emotional problems stemmed from my mother’s abuses of him when he was growing up. According to my much younger stepbrother, after I was gone from the family home, my mother’s treatment of him was similar to the way Dave Pelzer’s mother had treated her scapegoat son.

    Apparently, my mother had called and asked me how she compared to Pelzer’s mother because, during that time, I was trying, yet again — for the final time, as it turned out — to get along with her. So she knew even before she dialed the phone that I would probably tell her what she wanted to hear — that NO, she wasn’t ANYTHING like the mother in A Child Called “It”!

    And that is exactly what I told her, while on the inside I was thinking “You weren’t AS bad as Pelzer’s momster, because you were WORSE!” I was also thinking “But NOW you are a MUCH BETTER mother than Pelzer’s, because otherwise you would not even be able to ask me this question!”

    And anyway, how do you compare being fed out of the garbage pail and made to sleep in a cold basement, with the crazy things my mother did? I did have a real bed, and I ate at the dinner table…

    But it soon became apparent that my mother had not “seen the light” in 2004. Because within a year or two, she was once again verbally abusing me and spreading lies and twisted, out-of-context truths about me to the rest of the family.

    And yet, I kept hanging on, trying to have a relationship with my mother, because of the glimmer of hope that her question about Dave Pelzer’s book had given me.

    I did not give up and go completely No Contact until 2011, after my newly widowed mother sent me a 62 page hate letter, telling me everything that was ever “wrong” with me in my entire life… plus, she gave copies of that horrible, reality-twisting, lying letter to my siblings and her sister, my aunt to whom I have grown close over the years. After my momster did that, I was finally done.

    Yet… I kept wondering about her question, wondering if there isn’t still some hope.

    But there isn’t any hope, is there?

    I have a granddaughter in nursing school, another granddaughter in Harvard University, I have a 35 year old son who works in the jewelry business,, a 41 year old daughter who is a life coach and a hypnotherapist, and a son, the manager of two motels, who will be 45 on Monday. I am now 63, my mother is 81 — and deep inside I still feel like a lost, unwanted little girl who can’t completely let go of this last tiny glimmer of HOPE….

    My mother asked me if she was as bad as A Child Called It’s mother!! Surely there is some hope, before she/me/we are all dead and gone from this crazy world…?

    Oh, dear Lord Jesus, have mercy on us.

  9. Sunflower

    So I read the post on Friday evening. The next morning I was asked for my opinion. “Can we visit about finances and our future?” “What do you think we should do?” “What are your feelings about (a certain job), or (moving to a certain place)?” etc. Every response that I could think of, I already knew was no good. We’ve been around that bush twice a year for ages. I used to give my ‘feelings’ and opinions, yet over time, those have become more or less hesitant and sometimes just scarce. I know that if we end up doing something that I suggested, then either (1) when it doesn’t work out, it will be my fault, or (2) he will sabotage it to make it not work, so he can blame me. He is emotionally attached to where he is and what he is doing, so to make a change is really hard for him, even though it is financially, physically, and even emotionally draining. I kept thinking of this post. I have learned the smile and nod, smile and nod, smile and nod response. I think I am a bobble-head. haha!!

  10. So true! I feel that narcissist are demon possessed. Their level of cruelty is beyond what a typical human being is capable of doing.

  11. Another option: I knew that no matter how I answered it would be twisted. It didn’t matter what it was. It was always a trap. Even “Do you want to have dinner with us?” I lost count of the number of times I said, “Sure,” and was then informed of the menu, nothing of which I could eat.

    The only successful way to answer my NM’s questions is with a question. I ask for some form of clarification, without using any accusation. Funnily enough, she’d ask me to dinner, and I would ask “When?” She would talk herself through what she was cooking and “realize” she wasn’t making anything I could eat. Dinner together would have to be postponed.

    It’s like she expects me to condemn myself. By asking a question in return, it puts the ball in her court, and she doesn’t have an answer prepared.

    I doubt this works with every narcissist, but I find it works more often than not.

  12. dombeck

    Even when he asked where would I like to go to eat, I knew it was just an invitation to argue. And when I said it didn’t matter to me (and most of the time it didn’t) my opinion was wrong and met with hostility. It was a game, and not one of my liking. We either went to where he wanted, or nowhere at all.

  13. dombeck

    I guess my point is I had to say “something”, and just play along to keep things relatively peaceful. Keeping quiet was just as offensive to him. If I didn’t give my opinion when he asked for it, it turned volatile.

    • contendingearnestly

      dombeck, LOL I was going to post almost the exact thing you posted! Even if I said it didn’t matter where we ate he would insist that I make a decision about it, so, when I did his immediate response was to scowl and say, well I don’t want to eat there, I want to eat here instead…. no winning with a N!

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