Being Loud

It’s Narcissist Friday!     



I just wanted that statement to stand by itself. We are discouraged from writing in all caps these days. People say it’s obnoxious and intrusive. It seems demanding and, generally, uncool. People who write in all caps only demonstrate their inability to control themselves. At least that’s what THEY say!

So why is it that the people who seem quite willing to use triggers, insults, and strong words to get under our skin seem so offended when we react to their provocations? Could be a couple of reasons. First, they want to set us off so we will look bad to others. Second, they know the truth: being loud does get attention.

You know what I mean. Husband and wife go out to eat. The complaining and criticism start right away. Little jabs here and there and everywhere. Finally, BOOM! Someone is loudly reacting. Right there. In the restaurant. What did the other people think? Here’s another: the family gathers at mom’s for the holiday. Again, the criticisms and put-downs start. More and more and more until, BAM! Something hits the fan. Someone loses it. Now it’s a big mess and everyone knows whose fault it is. But, of course, they don’t really know, do they?

So, yes, narcissists will push your buttons until they get a reaction. They seem to get a great deal of pleasure from that reaction. They also succeed, usually, in making you look bad. In the mind of the narcissist, making you look bad makes him/her look better. Don’t ask why. It never makes any sense. And the narcissist will make a big deal of how bad you looked.

There is obviously a certain amount of control in this. The narcissist expects that you will be more subdued, more submissive, next time. The poking and prodding serve to humiliate and defeat you. On the job, the narcissist makes his/her comments and does little offensive things regularly. At home, same thing. The narcissist will invade your space, criticize your methods, make jokes about you, and do whatever it takes to get you to react. Why? Because each time you lose it, you pull back a little more.

You see, most of us were trained to be aware of what others think of us, but not in the same way the narcissist was trained. We were told to be quiet and non-obtrusive. If people noticed us, especially doing something inappropriate, we were taught to feel ashamed. “Be neither seen nor heard—unless doing something worth seeing and hearing.” We weren’t always told to be quiet. Sometimes we were told to perform. But our performance could only be appropriate when we were told it was appropriate.

Now, do you notice that the narcissist does not seem to have the same standards? The narcissist learned that being loud and obnoxious often worked to an advantage. People noticed. And people who get noticed get ahead. That’s what the narcissist thinks. Consider the television advertisements that everyone hates. Too loud. Too dumb. Too obnoxious. But they work. You remember that car dealership. The narcissist knows these things. He/she decides when to perform. The narcissist forces himself into the limelight.

And, secretly, all of us who were told to be quiet, who learned to repress our performance, admired the bravery and initiative of the narcissist—even if he was obnoxious.

But there can only be one performance at a time. The narcissist has to keep all the rest of us quiet. So, just in case, he/she teases, pokes, jabs to remind us that being quiet is still better than reacting. The narcissist knows that you will get the attention if you are loud, so he has to keep you quiet. To do that, he constantly reinforces your fears by working to get you to explode. You can be loud if you are out of control. That way you and everyone else will think you are doing something inappropriate.

So, the thing we must learn is how to be loud and appropriate. If being loud is not necessarily bad, then the problem is our lack of control. Anger, confusion, embarrassment, foolish words and actions—these reveal our lack of control. Retain control and loud will work for you.

Here’s what I mean. You are sitting next to the narcissist at a business meeting when he puts his finger in your coffee. (Not as far-fetched as you might think.) You normally have two choices. You can ignore it and throw your coffee away later. You can jump up, interrupt the meeting, and scream obscenities at the narcissist. You lose in both cases. How about some version of a third option? You slide your chair back and say, “Excuse me, I have to get another cup of coffee. Bob just stuck his finger in mine.” Then you calmly walk over to get a new cup of coffee. Now who looks like a fool? Not you.

I should warn you. The narcissist will fight back. He may lie. But maybe someone else saw him do it, or he has done it to them. Let him lie. You don’t have to say anything more. If the narcissist is your boss, you may have to be more careful. You still have options, however. Just keep your anger and disgust under control. Don’t be afraid to speak loudly enough so others hear. Even bosses are supposed to be under authority. Inappropriate touching, racist or bigoted jokes, deprecating humor—these should not be part of the workplace. Even if you can’t file a complaint, you might be able to speak loudly enough against the behavior for others to hear and understand. Speaking up might help you control the situation and, at least for the moment, the narcissist.

As always, count the cost. Don’t worry about what others will think. But if the narcissist is abusive, either as a spouse or a boss, then you have to be more careful. If you are in an abusive situation, where you are afraid, you have to find a way to get out. Please be careful.


Some of you might appreciate being reminded of this post ( )” on this Good Friday.  I wrote it for Christmas, but it certainly explains the purpose and power of what we remember these days.


Filed under Narcissism

12 responses to “Being Loud

  1. Staying in control of me is something I found difficult & scary thing to do. Being quiet, withdrawn, observing, for a long time, to feel emotions was very unsettling, initially. I had to learn to acknowledge my emotions, feel & learn from them, trust them & trust myself I could feel & be in control of ME. As I moved into feeling again, the observing trait became my ally. I became able to watch the “game”; the monkey dance, the loudness. Then I became able to read the game & apply the appropriate strategies. Sometimes I needed to be loud by speaking my truth, sometimes being loud was saying nothing at all. In my case, the game is still playing in the background, just on the horizon. I am still anxious that they will run out of other targets & bring their game back into my field. My red card & whistle are ready to send them off.
    Thank you for another great post

    • Elaine

      Thank you for reminding me to observe! Hope things go well for you and you don’t need your whistle and red card soon! Elaine

  2. When the victim has PTSD, however, the outcome is very much more difficult to control. Hyper-vigilance causes the victim to sometimes react to things that he/she shouldn’t react to. And, being aware of that tendency makes the victim apprehensive about reacting even when he/she should. Then there’s the hyper-arousal that comes and causes over-reaction. It doesn’t even have to be a severe over-reaction to make the victim look bad.

    Often times the abuser does this to only one person — the one person with authority, the ability to hurt or expose the abuser, etc.. When that abusive button-pushing and manipulation happens, it is common that no one will believe what just happened. Even the calm accusation makes the victim look petty and stupid.

    My case is such a no-win scenario (covertly abusive wife) that it makes it tempting at times to not worry about overreacting. I try not to, and don’t recommend it. However, it is *tempting* in the finger-in-the-coffee example, to just pour the coffee in the abuser’s lap. The problem is that abusers care infinitely more about not looking bad or losing a battle. They are willing to go at least one step further than the victim to win. I’m not advocating being vindictive. I just mean to point out the frustration, and temptation. Besides, in dealing with a person who only understands clear and direct consequences, providing consequences still rarely accomplishes anything good or useful.

    The lack of being able to change the situation and have an effect to improve anything is a major cause of depression and learned helplessness.

    • Elaine

      Thank you for your thoughtful, considered and insightful response. I enjoyed it because it added to the main post without taking anything away from it. Excellent. Elaine

    • Annette

      Good point, OoC. When you have lived with a narcissist long enough, unfortunately there is a good chance that you end up with PTSD, most likely C-PTSD.

      The finger-in-the-coffee example is a good one. When you have to live with a narcissist, however, you have no place to hide from his offenses, and your nerves may eventually be so frazzled that you are unable to respond in such a cool fashion.

  3. Learning to do these things “in the moment” would be so helpful. So many times, as I think through what just happened, I say to myself, I should have said this or I could have done this. Shoulda, coulda, woulda.

  4. Anne

    It took me decades to see the covert abuse/gaslighting my ex-husband did. Then it took me at least another year of reading and therapy to work through the cognitive dissonance and be able to accept the truth of his nature.

    He often did things to provoke me in social settings or on the way to social activities, so that I would be upset when we got there. Yet if I said anything to him in front of other people he would just smirk. I guess it reinforced his behind-the-scenes narrative that I was an angry woman/crazy wife.

    I finally realized that no reaction (gray rock) was the only way to handle him. Once I realized that he wanted me to react I stopped reacting at all. Now that we’re divorced and totally no-contact I can’t help wondering who his new victims are.

    • Elaine

      Hope you are continuing to do well now that you are away from a dreadful situation. All the best, Elaine

      • Anne

        Thanks, Elaine. It’s still raw and I’m very lonely. He managed to convince my own siblings that I was the problem. I’m not sure what our daughters think. I found out after the divorce what the big secret was that led to all the lying and verbal abuse – he is gay. He will not admit it but I have proof. Proof that is so sordid that I can’t share with our daughters. He probably knows that and now he’s dating women. Thank God for the Straight Spouse Network and the support groups for str8 spouses. Every day we have more members, men and women, who were married to gays and lesbians. For those of us who have no disclosure or apology it is even harder. He stole my youth with his lie and now I don’t know how to trust anyone. I pray that I will someday meet a man who will love me as a woman should be loved.
        Thanks again for your kind words.

      • Elaine

        Hi Anne, I am in the UK – My brother aged 69 has completely turned on me because he did not like my opinion on something – which he took huge offence at – and he has been verbally cruel, distorting everything and so on. Now we are estranged from his whole side of the family at his instigation – and looking back on his past behaviour – when we were sucked in and gave him the benefit of the doubt – it is clear that he at the very least has narc. tendencies.

        I pray too that you will heal – it is very hard when ‘they’ charm others and blame you. Remember God knows the truth and he will judge. He can also deal with these people – I find it hard doing nothing though and leaving it to God.

        Thinking of you, Elaine

  5. Cat

    It’s actually quite incredible when you think that narcissists learned (and all use) the same tricks for manipulating people, putting people down and making themselves look better without any manuals, classes or Youtube videos. One of my friends put it this way, “It’s like they were all cloned from the same asshole”. Or rather, it’s like they all did the same course on how to abuse and groom people. Which they did, of course, but not consciously.

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