If you have tried to use reason and logic to talk to a toxic person, then you probably already know that typical communication skills do not work. A toxic person’s goal is not to fix the problem. The toxic person’s goal is to make you feel like you are the problem. They literally get a high from controlling you and watching you squirm. If you try to appeal to their kindness they will say you are manipulative. If you try to stand strong they will say you are controlling. And, if you don’t communicate at all they will say you are negligent. If you have dealt with a narcissist for any period of time then you probably already know that there is no easy way to win, but there are several ways to get your point across without losing your mind.
1. Refuse to negotiate with terrorists.
First and foremost remember you are not engaging in a normal conversation. Toxic people are not interested in a win/win situation based on mutual interests. They are out to make you feel like a loser so they can feel like a winner. Logic and valid points are not helpful in this type of communication because no amount of intelligence and compromise will make you worthy in the toxic person’s mind. The only way they win is if you lose. Truly toxic people will do anything to make you lose and look bad. It isn’t even personal toward you. They are just so drastically insecure inside that they feed off other’s pain. This means there is no way to negotiate with them.
Before the discussion figure out what you want and figure out what you are willing to give up to get what you want. Spend your time thinking about creative ways to get what you want rather than creative ways to argue for what you want. Your arguments are not going to work no matter how intelligent they may be so diplomacy will not prove useful. Figure out what you want and don’t back down. Compromise will get you nowhere!
2. Never show emotion.
Emotion feeds the crazy. Toxic people love saying hurtful things to you to try to make you feel upset. When they say something mean don’t rush to answer immediately. Calm down and make sure you are able to say exactly what you want without any emotion. Remember that your pain is the toxic person’s drug! Therefore, anytime you show emotion the toxic person knows they have some type of control over you. They are trying to draw you into the crazy because if you lose your cool then they can say. “Well look she/he is the crazy one!” Keep every word neutral.
3. Never play defense.
Toxic people love telling lies about you. If they can engage you in a conversation about the lies, then they can move you away from the original purpose of the conversation. As soon as you begin playing defense then you have given validity to their statements. If a beggar on the street was saying, “The sky is falling!” you probably wouldn’t walk up to them and start explaining why the sky isn’t falling. You would shake your head, mumble something about people being crazy and move on with your life. When a toxic person says something absurd, picture them just as you would the beggar on the side of the road. Just because they say it doesn’t mean it is true; however. if you start defending yourself than you are giving them the impression that you just might agree with them. We only feel the need to defend ourselves against things that get under our skin. If someone said, “You are the greatest person I know!” you wouldn’t jump into defensive mode. However, if someone says, “I know you have been lying about that!” then we typically jump into defensive mode because we want to prove our honesty. Learn your trigger points so when someone tries to push your buttons you can be prepared. Know yourself, know your truth and don’t defend it. Ever!
4. Realize it is never going to be your turn.
You can be nice this time and let the toxic person have his or her way, but that doesn’t mean that next time they will return the favor. Negotiate for what you want and get it in writing. If you allow them to have their way then detach from the idea that the toxic person will allow you to have your way next time. Expecting a toxic people to play fair is a guaranteed path to frustration. And, anytime you are frustrated the toxic person is happy. They will love watching you become upset. If you agree to something, do it because you are okay with it or ready to move on from it, not because you think they will show kindness to you later on.
5. Focus on winning, not fighting.
What do you really want out of the situation? If your goal is to beat them, show them how tough you are or have the last word then you are just feeding into their crazy addiction. The sweetest revenge is creating the best version of yourself and getting as far away from the toxic person as possible. Playing into a life of fighting will only drain you of the energy and resources you will need to rebuild you. Is it fair? Gosh no. But if it isn’t working then it isn’t working. And, at this point, you have probably been fighting with the toxic person for a while now and you know that proving your point doesn’t work. Figure out what you truly want and focus on your objective rather than fighting out of anger or a possibility of fairness. That doesn’t mean letting them have their way all the time! It means fighting for the things that fit into what you really want and minimizing all other communication. Remember that toxic people love fighting so continuing to argue gives them home-field advantage.
6. Keep it short and sweet.
Yes, I said sweet! Throughout this life, you are always going to have to take a look in the mirror and say, “Am I proud to be the person looking back at me?” If you are regularly engaging in mudslinging then it is going to be tough to enjoy your life. Only say words that absolutely must be said. Try to turn a page into a paragraph and a paragraph into a sentence. The fewer words the better. Plus you never know who is reading your communication or if it could show up in court one day.
7. Know your blind spots.
Narcissists have built up defenses in such a way that they no longer feel shame, guilt or empathy. But shame, guilt, and empathy are part of the human experience. So instead of feeling these things themselves within their own day to day lives, they create situations where they use your empathy against you and experience your shame and guilt so they can feel human without any cost to their own fragile ego. Knowing your blind spots means understanding what triggers they are going to hit and being proactive rather than reactive. Blind spots can be everything from insecurity and guilt to kindness and agreeableness. What is the toxic person going to appeal to in order to get you to bend to their will?
8. Protect yourself.
Open an email with a friend, run your response through a helping professional, play your most powerful fight song before you respond to communication. You can’t control the toxic person’s response, but you can do your best to create your optimal environment. Surround yourself with people, objects, sights, smells and sounds that make you feel safe so the toxic person will be less likely to penetrate that sense of safety when you are forced to communicate.
9. Feed your soul, not your ego.
There is nothing fair, right or okay about a toxic relationship. The toxic person creates his or her heaven by creating your hell. That. Is. Not. Okay. But in dealing with toxic people we have to do what works rather than what we wish would work. And, for that, we have to feed our souls rather than our egos. Feeding our ego means feeling justified, right, having the last word or proving our point. It comes across as a bit angry and often smug. Feeding our soul means finding peace, rising above the crazy and moving our lives forward. It comes across as curious and controlled. On the outside feeding your ego looks like you are part of the problem; however, feeding your soul looks like you are rising above the problem. Feed your soul.
Communicating with a toxic person will never be easy. However, these tips will make it manageable so you can minimize the effect it has on your life. If you are forced to deal with a narcissist than your best defense is investing in yourself!