Tag Archives: users and abusers

Mistakes

 

It’s Narcissist Friday!     

 

I hate mistakes. I hate making mistakes. I can spot a misspelling on a sign or a grammatical error in a document in seconds, unless I wrote it. For several years I read long theological documents able to catch minute doctrinal errors, but sometimes the things that come out of my own mouth are just dumb. I would never consider myself a perfectionist because there is nothing about me that is perfect.

Sound familiar? Most of us have been carefully trained to focus on our mistakes. Remember school? You handed in a paper with your most careful work. You received the same paper back covered with notations about your mistakes. Red circles, black check marks, harsh comments. Out of 100 points, you got 92. And, instead of noticing the A-level work, you wondered what you did wrong. Everything was focused on what you did wrong.

Many years ago, I worked for a man who seemed to take delight in pointing out my mistakes. He actually used the word “failed.” I failed this way and that way. I sat with him through my final assessment for three or four hours while he told me how I had failed. It took me a long time to get over that.

We learned to judge others and ourselves by our mistakes. The media loves to point out the mistakes of politicians they disagree with. The fans talk about the mistakes of the players and the referees. The error at the store is much more memorable than the many times we have had good service.

Teaching students without focusing on mistakes is a very delicate and difficult job. It takes more time and caring. Instead, teachers usually just hand the criticisms and judgments back and tell them to do better. And the students learn to hate their mistakes. Mistakes bring pain. Mistakes bring shame. Mistakes mean failure.

But we all know in our hearts that mistakes are basic to human life. Not one of us goes through life without making mistakes. It isn’t possible! Let me emphasize that: IT ISN’T POSSIBLE! And not only do we all make mistakes, we all make roughly the same number of mistakes.

The conventional wisdom is that the only way to avoid making mistakes is to do nothing. In other words, the people who are doing something are making mistakes. That means that the people who are doing more are making more mistakes. The most successful people are those who are making the most mistakes. For many years Babe Ruth was known as the “Sultan of Swat” for making so many home runs and the “King of Strikeouts” for missing so many balls. Making mistakes is part of living.

So what’s the difference between those of us who focus on our mistakes and live in fear and shame and those who seem to be able to move past their mistakes? If we all make mistakes, why does it seem like there are people who make none? And why does it seem like I make so many more than others?

The answer is: MAGIC!

What? You don’t believe me? Well, it’s true. How does the magician do his or her wonders? Is it because of mystical powers? Of course not. The key word to understanding magic is “misdirection.” And that explains how people seem to go through life without making mistakes.

Think about this: If others make mistakes just like you and I do, why don’t we see them? Probably because we are too busy looking at something else. The magician tells you where to look mostly by looking there himself. While his hands are doing the trick, his eyes are focused on the place he wants you to look. You look at his right hand, for example, while his left hand is doing the trick. You look at his assistant, just like he does, while he works his “magic.”

The successful person has his or her eyes on the next success. You don’t see their mistakes because they aren’t focused on them. I learned this early and have taught it to my family: if you don’t focus on your mistakes, the majority of people around you will not even know they happened. We have all listened to a singer or musician who stopped to correct a mistake we didn’t notice. If the singer had not called attention to the misspoken lyrics or error in music movement, most of the audience would have either missed or ignored the mistake. The successful performer keeps moving forward drawing the audience along.

The narcissist, on the other hand, gets you to miss his mistakes by causing you to focus on your own. He watches you and collects your errors to use as distractions when he makes his own mistake. By presenting you with your error, which you are ready to accept and consider, you don’t have a chance to see his. And, even if you did see his mistake, you can’t focus on it because you have to defend yourself against your own.

But suppose you have already moved past your mistake. Suppose you have learned whatever you needed to learn and left the fact of your error behind. Then, when the narcissist tries to distract you, you would see his attempt at distraction. You would not have to defend yourself, and you could keep your focus on his error.

Now, I am not suggesting that you focus on the mistakes of others, even of narcissists. What I am suggesting is that you learn to lose sight of your own. The fact that you make mistakes will never go away. You should accept that as the simple truth of an active life. But your mistakes have no purpose in your life other than to help you learn as you move forward. And like good housekeeping, when something has served its purpose, get rid of it. If someone else digs around in your trash and finds something you threw away, don’t take it back.

Here’s an interesting tidbit: In Texas, the things you have put out in the trash no longer belong to you. The courts have ruled that you have transferred ownership of those items to the waste-hauling company, the people with the job of getting it away from you.

So here’s what I would suggest. When you make a mistake, acknowledge it and learn from it. Then get rid of it. Give it to the Lord, and thank Him for His love and acceptance. Then it belongs to Him. He will remove it from you, and you will not be identified by your mistake. Tell anyone who tries to bring it back to you that it belongs to God now. They have no right to it.

Stop focusing on your mistakes. They are normal. Everybody makes them. Move forward with your life.

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Resolution

It’s Narcissist Friday!     

 

I know I am a few days late to address New Year’s resolutions. Most of the ones we made (if we made any) are already broken or seriously bent. I am not big on resolutions anyway. If any of us really wanted to change things, we could begin anytime.

But there is one resolution I would strongly suggest. It’s simple. It’s difficult. It’s life-changing. It’s necessary. It’s right. So, whether you make any other resolutions, make this one. If you hate the idea of resolutions, still make this one.

Ready? Here you go:

 

I resolve to think and speak positively about myself.

 

Like I said, simple. Narcissists and other abusers get by with their cruelties and manipulations because we let them. We let them because we believe their negative assessments of us. They see us as weak and inferior, so they use us.

We can stop most of this simply by seeing ourselves in a positive light. When the narcissist says something negative, it should sound like screeching on the chalkboard or breaking glass or clanging metal. In other words, it should be disharmonious.

Remember LP records? Remember the sound of your favorite music interrupted by the scratching of the needle sliding across the record? The simple pleasure and affirmation of your favorite music attacked by the painful sound of the scratch. That’s what the narcissistic criticism should sound like.

When the narcissist seeks a victim, he/she will choose someone who has strength and competence. That always sounds wrong to people at first hearing. But that strong and competent person is usually not confident. Somehow, the abilities grew without awareness. I suppose that makes sense. People who lack confidence often try harder and work more carefully. They remember their mistakes, and they work smarter to avoid those mistakes. But they forget their successes as they focus on their mistakes. And, as they focus on their mistakes, their confidence weakens even more.

So the “under-confident achiever” sings a negative self-song. “I am stupid. I am lazy. I make mistakes. My mind is hazy.” That song plays in the background throughout the day, dragging down self-esteem and confidence. Along comes the narcissist. He knows that song is playing. So, he sings something positive that feels good—and something negative that feels right. “You did better than I expected; here’s what needs to be corrected.” It seems to be an affirmation, but still fits with your negative self-song.

I don’t know the words to your song. What I know is that it is vital to your health to speak and sing positive words about yourself. What I also know is that those positive words are true.

You are loved.
You are valuable.
You are able to make changes.
You have strength.
You have a contribution.
You can learn.
You can make a difference.
You have hope.
You have promise.
You have a future.
God loves you
God has invested in you.
God is not disappointed with you.

 

I could go on and on. Look into your heart. What affirmation has been hiding in there, afraid to come out because of the negative all around you? Say that word to yourself. Say it and others over and over. Believe those words—because they are true.

Yes, the old song is familiar. You will hear yourself singing it in the days to come. But just stop yourself and speak the positive words. Don’t dwell on the negative, even to try to explain why those things are not true. Just speak positive about yourself. Over and over and over and over. Every time you do, you will be making an offering to the Lord who loves you. Every time you do, you will become just a little stronger and a little more confident.

I plan to write on this more. This is important. The opening the narcissist/abuser found that enabled him to hurt you was probably there already. Time to close it!

He has put a new song in my mouth– Praise to our God; Many will see it and fear, and will trust in the LORD. Psalm 40:3

 

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If you want to build your positive self-talk, this devotional will help.  Reaffirming (or learning for the first time) how God feels about you and what His grace means to you can truly be life-changing.

You can still get Walk with Me, a 30-day grace devotional, as an ebook on Amazon for only $4.99.  The paperback is also available.  This would be a great way to start the New Year!  Just click the images to access the links.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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No Touchee!

It’s Narcissist Friday!     

 

Recently I watched a video of a local government meeting where one man reacted to being touched repeatedly by another man. Man A was putting his hand on Man B’s arm during some kind of debate. He did this several times apparently, enough to greatly irritate the second man. Man B suggested that Man A might find this acceptable in circles of his sexual orientation, but stated strongly that he was not of that persuasion and the touching was not welcome. Everyone in the room got to laugh at Man B’s discomfort and the media used it as an example of homophobia and bigotry.

Now, I suppose I should qualify this, since I was not present and don’t know the two men, but I would almost bet that I understand what was happening. You see, touching is a powerful control technique—especially when you know the other person is made uncomfortable by the touch. Man A knew full well that his touch disturbed Man B. That’s why he did it. The difference in sexual orientation made the touch even more uncomfortable for Man B and even more manipulative for Man A. This was neither accidental nor innocent.

People in narcissistic relationships may understand this. Narcissists use touch to intimidate and manipulate. Not all of them, of course. But I have watched narcissistic men—who would never allow you to touch them—use touch to control others. A gentle hand on the back to direct. A hand on the arm to subdue. Perhaps even a pat on the head to humiliate. A hand on the leg to unsettle. An over-long handshake to suggest unity. A squeeze on the shoulder to intimidate. This is all man-to-man, and the narcissist is always in the dominant position.

Narcissistic men will touch women in ways that are inappropriate but not overtly sexual (unless they think they can get by with it). Again, the purpose is to control. If the result is arousal, even more control is possible. An arm around the waist. A brush of the hair. A gentle hand on the cheek or back. Uncomfortable, but not really something to report unless the organization has a strong no-touching policy. Even then, the narcissist will plead innocence. But touch is far from innocent where the narcissist is concerned.

And, yes, women do this as well. In fact, I would suggest that men are far more susceptible to the touch of a woman than vice-versa. Women are usually suspicious of men who touch. Men think there is genuine connection in the touch. Men are less suspicious of women, I think.

Some women touch a lot. They want hugs or like to hold hands, even with other women. Female narcissists use touch to control also. Some hold a hug too long. Others will touch the waist or the hair or trace a wrinkle—all to make an unspoken point.

Now, I want to be sure to say that not everyone who touches is a narcissist. Many older people need touch. They receive little, especially if their spouse is gone, and touch does offer a sense of connection. But holding hands with Grandma is far different from the controlling touch of a narcissistic mother.

So how should you handle touch that makes you uncomfortable? Well, the man in the video, Man B, did the right thing. He spoke out. He should have spoken to Man A privately first, and I think he did, but then he had every right to do so publicly… just as a young woman has the right to publicly speak out when touched inappropriately. Don’t be afraid to step away or speak up. You are not obligated to tolerate this manipulative touching, even if it is a boss, a pastor, or a relative.

Of course, like the man on the video I watched, the narcissist will make fun of your objection. He/she will say that you are making a big deal out of nothing. Maybe others will wonder why you are making a scene. But there will be some who will be grateful to you for speaking up. Maybe they will do the same when the narcissist touches them. You may empower them, and they may vindicate you.

Narcissistic touching is manipulative. You don’t have to put up with it. And, even if you feel there is nothing you can do, at least you know that it is just another technique the narcissist uses to try to control you. Each time you identify one of the ways the narcissist works, you become wiser and stronger—and less susceptible to the deception.

 

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Don’t forget!  You can still get Walk with Me, a 30-day grace devotional, as an ebook on Amazon for only $4.99.  The paperback is also available.  This would be a great way to start the New Year!  Just click the images to access the links.

 

 

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Christmas Prayers

It’s Narcissist Friday Wednesday!     

(This post ran last year and many were encouraged to know that others would be praying.  Let’s keep a good thing going!)

 

I have written a couple of Christmas posts on dealing with the narcissists in the past. They usually meet with mixed reviews because some who have reached the point of anger (a very natural point!) don’t like my suggestions on trying to get along. I understand and value the objections just as much as the words of appreciation. I will provide links to those posts at the end of this post.

This year I would simply like to assure each of you who have to deal with uncomfortable situations with your narcissist that there are people praying for you. I am also going to post this on Wednesday, so you will know ahead of your visit.

If we have learned anything here, it’s that many people are struggling in narcissistic relationships. That means you are not alone. I know you may have to physically be alone in your situation, but there are people here who believe you and care. We will be praying for you.

To make that a little more personal, I invite those who desire prayer to write a note in the comments. You don’t have to write a lot, just “Pray for me!” If you use a pseudonym, that’s okay. The Lord knows who you are and what you are going through. And if you are able to pray, maybe just once or twice over the weekend, write a comment that says, “I will be praying for you!” Just a general comment, not in answer to a particular request. It will be a wonderful word of encouragement.

So, again, here’s the plan:

 

If you need prayer, write – Pray for me!

If you can pray, write – I will be praying!

 

If you are uncomfortable asking for prayer, please know that we will still be praying for you.  Even if no one asks, we know that many will need help.  So we will pray anyway.  For you.

Know that you are loved!

 

https://graceformyheart.wordpress.com/2014/12/19/what-will-he-or-she-do-this-christmas/

https://graceformyheart.wordpress.com/2013/12/20/the-narcissist-at-christmas/

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Document!

 

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.

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(Anyone have examples of how your documentation helped in dealing with your narcissist?)

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Revenge

 

It’s Narcissist Friday!    

 

“Vengeance is fine, says the Lord.”  Oops!  That isn’t quite right, is it?  The verse says this:

Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.    Romans 12:19

We are instructed not to seek vengeance, not even against the narcissists in our lives.  But isn’t that hard?!?  I remember Sam Vaknin saying something like: “the most common reaction of a person who realizes that he/she has been victimized by a narcissist is rage.”  I haven’t quoted that precisely, but that’s what opened my eyes to what I was seeing in the counseling that began my study of this type of abuse.

And rage desires vengeance.

Well, we understand some of the reasons why we should not seek vengeance, don’t we?  It lowers us to the level of those who hurt us.  It rarely accomplishes what we think it should.  It often hurts others the abuser has gathered to his life.  But let me add that attempting vengeance against a narcissist rarely works.  The narcissist is way ahead of you.  He/she has played the game much longer and is far more ruthless than you would be.  Many could tell stories of how their vengeance backfired because the narcissist’s image was so strong.  Now the friends you used to share see you as the dangerous one, for example.  Now the resources you wasted in your fruitless attempt at vengeance are gone, and you have less.

No, vengeance won’t solve anything.  But let’s define vengeance here.  What I am talking about is my desire to hurt someone in the way or at the level in which that person hurt me.  My desire to make them feel the pain and grief and loss I have felt.  If I want vengeance, I want to be the cause of their pain.  I want that person to look me in the eyes and realize I am repaying the abuse he/she gave to me.  And, even as I write those words, I realize why I can’t be in charge of vengeance.  That isn’t me; it shouldn’t become me; I don’t want it to ever be me.

But the narcissist may still get what’s coming to him.  It isn’t that vengeance is wrong.  It’s that it is not ours.  Evil does come with a price.  Those who do not come to Jesus, confessing sin and yielding to Him, will pay a price for their sins.  That is something the church has taught from Scripture from the beginning.  But this is in the hands of God.

At the same time, there are a couple of things that should be made clear.  Sometimes teachers and other believers add to our burdens by making wrong connections.  They prohibit actions that are not prohibited by the Scriptures.

For example, should an abused wife seek a significant settlement from her cruel husband in a divorce or separation?  Should she go before the authorities to force him to provide care for her and her children?  Some people say that isn’t right, that it falls within the desire for vengeance.

But a narcissist father and husband may have an amazing ability to walk away from his responsibilities—and will do so if he can.  So, yes, she should sue him at court if necessary.  A father has a responsibility to provide for his children.  A husband has a responsibility to care for his wife, even when his mistreatment of her drives her away.  This is not vengeance, nor even justice.  This is using proper authority to enforce what should be enforced.  Don’t let anyone suggest that this is somehow tied to vengeance.

Should you report the illegal actions of a boss or co-worker?  Should you expect repayment of debts made by narcissists?  Should you hold narcissists accountable to the same reasonable expectations the rest of us live under?  Yes, yes, and yes.  These things are not vengeance.

Some of these same teachers and believers want us to feel bad if the narcissist ever does receive punishment or consequences for his actions.  We cannot rejoice in the pain of others, they say.  Love does not rejoice in justice, they say.  And, when they say these things, they bind us unnecessarily.

God does not do wrong.  If He allows someone to suffer for their own actions, that is not wrong.  God does love the narcissist and desires that the narcissist would repent and turn in humility to Him.  God would quickly forgive and receive the narcissist in love.  But apart from that, the narcissist will receive just consequences for the life he/she has lived.

If we see someone humbled after a career of abuse and lies, it is not wrong for us to feel a sense of satisfaction.  Sadness, yes.  I suppose.  I would always rather see someone repent and turn to Jesus than suffer for sin.  But there is a sense of vindication when others see what you have seen, when the narcissist is exposed.  And that sense of vindication is not wrong.

What do you think of this:

LORD All-Powerful, you test good people; you look deeply into the heart and mind of a person. I have told you my arguments against these people, so let me see you give them the punishment they deserve.   Jeremiah 20:12 (NCV)

Jeremiah even made this a matter of prayer.  Again, I would rather see a person change than suffer, even if the suffering is deserved.  But it is far better to take your desire for vengeance to the Lord and lay it in His hands.

Let’s be honest.  These people can cause great pain.  They are cruel and uncaring.  When they are done using one person or group, they move on to another.  How can it be wrong for us to pray that they would be exposed and stopped?  How can it be wrong for us to pray that they would feel something of what they made others feel?  Yes, our first desire should be for the narcissist to change, but sometimes the only way for them to want change is to begin to see the truth about themselves.  Exposure, humiliation, legal consequences—these are often the way change begins.  There is nothing wrong with being encouraged when we see these things happen.

Allow the Lord to choose the time and method.  Give the right of vengeance to Him and trust Him.  He knows what you have been through, and He loves you.  He will care for you—whatever He chooses to do with the narcissist.  You may not get to see what happens.  In fact, you may think that nothing happens.  Just trust the Lord.

Vengeance belongs to the Lord, not to you and me.  But it does belong to Him, and when He allows pain and recompense to come into the life of the abuser, it is good.

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Guard Your Tongue

It’s Narcissist Friday!     

 

What do you do when you discover that you are in a relationship with a narcissist? Obviously, if this is a boyfriend or girlfriend, you should get out. Run, and not slowly. But what if this is in your job or at your church or even in your family? What if you can’t get out? How can you survive?

Maybe it’s your new boss or co-worker. Maybe it’s your new in-law. Maybe it’s someone at the club or church or school. You know what a narcissist is, and this person fits the bill. Now what?

First, don’t be afraid. You are smarter than you were, at least you have more knowledge about this. Your guard is up and your boundaries are in place. There are things you can do to protect yourself.

Once you know that a narcissist is in the equation, guard your tongue. Don’t offer information about yourself, especially not secrets or information that can compromise you. If possible, don’t tell details about your family or your background or even previous jobs. People at work don’t need these details to work with you. Your job is to do your job. They can do theirs. You can be civil, even friendly, without giving information that will be used against you later.

Don’t criticize others. Your thoughts about the company or your co-workers or your neighbors can and will be used against you or them. You may suddenly find yourself on a “side” in a battle because of something you said. You can have your opinions, but keep them to yourself if there is a narcissist around.

Don’t make promises. Narcissists remember and expand your promises. Just do your job and do it well. If you say you will do something, do it. And if you don’t intend to do something, say you won’t do it. Even in a new job or relationship, there is a place for boundaries.

Tell the truth. Narcissists love to accuse others of the things they do themselves. Since narcissists lie easily and believe lies are a good way to accomplish their purposes, they will want to deflect attention from their lies to yours. If you only tell the truth, you can support the things you say when you are questioned.

Don’t agree. If the narcissist makes a bold statement about the company or a co-worker and you nod your head or indicate in any way that you agree, he will say it was you that came up with the idea. You will be pulled to her side in whatever argument she is in. There is nothing wrong with saying that you don’t want to get into it, that you don’t agree, or that you are too busy with your job to care. Whatever it takes to keep yourself out of the narcissist’s manipulations.

Don’t make fun of others, or state strong political opinions, or tell inappropriate jokes, or even give compliments that can be used against you. Believe me, the narcissist is listening for something. Guard your tongue.

Now, some of us would have a hard time functioning with these restrictions. I know I would. At the same time, I sure wouldn’t want to give the narcissist free tools to use on me. Be yourself, but be your guarded self. The narcissist represents a danger to you and to others.

You know that person who seems to be pleasant and kind, but never really enters into the banter and politics? Be that person. You know how others seem to stop their complaining and criticizing and gossip when that certain person comes around? Be that person. Don’t be superior or condescending. Don’t give the impression that you are better than others. Just be separate from the kind of things the narcissist commonly uses in these environments. If you can avoid the game, do it.

Now, you might still get attacked or hurt by the narcissist. These folks often get what they want. Just don’t let your tongue make it easy for them.

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