It’s Narcissist Friday!
Every so often I find myself telling someone to document everything. Write it all down. Accusations without support might work in the political arena, but they don’t work in the courtroom unless there is careful documentation. Documentation can save the day with the auto mechanic, the doctor, the salesman, and the narcissist. Even if it is just in your notebook.
I don’t pretend to be an attorney, so check these things out locally. Most states are “one-party consent” states. That means only one person in a conversation needs to know that conversation is being recorded. In other words, phone calls and personal visits can be recorded as long as one of the participants is aware of the recording. Only eleven states require both to be aware, and recording a conversation where you are not a participant is not legal in any state. You can find this information online. Check this link.
What this means is that threatening words, lies, promises, and more can be recorded. There may be several reasons for doing this, not the least of which is to help you remember what was said. When the narcissist tries to make you think you are crazy, you can play the recording for yourself to know just what was said.
Now, you might not be able to use these recordings in court. They might also be against the rules at your workplace. The value may be limited and the risk might be high, but this kind of thing is possible. If you have an attorney, talk to him/her about this.
And remember: you can document without recording. Emails can be saved. Notes written down at the time or immediately following an event or conversation will be more accurate than trying to remember later. When the mechanic guarantees that your car will be finished by 5:00 and then says it won’t be ready until morning, your notes can “remind” him of his promise. In the same way, when the narcissist says he will be by to pick up the kids at 5:00, and you write it down with him standing there, your notes will help when he denies making that promise.
There are so many ways of doing this, just find something that works for you. A small notebook carried in your purse or pocket, a pad by the phone, even a good note app for your cell phone. Something handy and easy to protect. When the phone rings in the night, note the time and number (if your phone doesn’t already do that). Transfer that information to your daily log or diary or notebook. Keep track of the days and hours of custody visits, and a log of the kids’ reports after those visits. Whatever you think you need to remember.
At work or in the organization, these notes can be just as important. You have the right to a personal notebook, even at work. If the boss requires you to do something you think is inappropriate, write it down at the time you were asked. If you see activities or expenses that are questionable, write them down. Even if you see the abuse of others, you can write it down. Keep the email threads somewhere offline (unless that is also forbidden at work). Work may have different rules that could result in you being fired or disciplined, so be careful. But don’t let that stop you from doing something.
Be careful. Yes, there may be some danger in this. The narcissist will be very angry if he knows you are keeping track in this way. Think that through. Some have had their notebooks mysteriously disappear. Others have found that the narcissists become very silent and non-committal when things are written down. Some find that their email accounts are read or even deleted. If this is a battle for you, there can be a price to pay for trying to protect yourself.
At the same time, contemporaneous notes are powerful tools. They help you remember, and they give convincing witness to your concerns. Just imagine how much more strength would be given to the accusation of a sexual harassment victim if she had a diary or personal log with dates and times and phone numbers and verbatim conversations. No, these notes would not have the strength of a good recording, but they would still be something of value.
And, again, understand that your notes may only serve to help you remember. The court or the higher-ups of the organization might not take them seriously. Your attorney might not even want to read them. But you will know that you are not crazy, not even forgetful. You will have evidence to support your own heart—and we know that is needed when narcissists are involved. Sometimes looking over the notes from past months will give you the courage to do what you need to do. Seeing the accumulation of the wrong behaviors will make it far more difficult to dismiss each one as “just a misunderstanding.”
Bare minimum: get a small notebook and a pen or pencil. Keep it with you. Be ready to write down the things that happen. Document.
(Anyone have examples of how your documentation helped in dealing with your narcissist?)