How to Deal With a Narcissist When You’re an Introvert

A woman motioning to “stop” with her hand

For introverts, it’s easy to feel overpowered by a narcissist’s manipulation tactics. But here’s how to deal with them.

Growing up with a narcissistic mother has made me an expert on narcissists and toxic people. Though undiagnosed, my mother shows all the classic traits of narcissism and narcissistic personality disorder (NPD): she lacks empathy, has to be the center of attention, is entitled, manipulative, and never takes responsibility for anything. 

As an introvert, it’s difficult for me to be around narcissists — or other toxic personalities — because they never allow me to just be. If you’re an introvert, you can probably relate. Since narcissists feed off negative energy, they’re only content when they cause a reaction, so they cultivate drama. Any extended time spent with a narcissist will leave you with your self-esteem in pieces, feeling either angry, agitated, sad, alone, empty, or overwhelmed. And since we introverts tend to be attentive listeners and empathic, it’s easy for us to get sucked into a narcissist’s drama.

It took me many years — and many narcissists — to finally see that my mother was one. The first step in knowing how to deal with narcissists is identifying their traits. Only a mental health professional can know for sure if someone is one, and exhibits signs of NPD, but that doesn’t mean you can’t see the red flags of a narcissistic personality.

5 Signs of a Narcissist

1. The person lacks empathy and is only sensitive when it comes to themselves.

It’s impossible to feel both seen and heard by someone without empathy. They can’t appreciate  anyone else’s perspective, nor can they relate to your feelings. Since life for a narcissist is focused on them, they don’t care and have little sympathy for anyone else. They think of themselves as sensitive and are quick to act if they think someone isn’t treating them right. 

Still, they’re indifferent to the emotions or situations of others. And because introverts like to have deep, meaningful one-on-one conversations with others, this won’t work with a narcissist. 

2. Nothing is ever their responsibility, and they see themselves as “victims.”

It’s impressive how narcissists can release themselves from responsibility for their mistakes, failures, or actions leading to non-intended results. Still, they have no problem taking credit for good things in which they had little or no participation. They want all the praise and glory. 

Somehow, they’re relieved of any blame by referring to themselves as “victims.” Everything that anyone has ever done to them, or things that have happened to them, has made them a victim, and they will use their victim status in any way they can. My elderly mother — who has many health problems — never refers to herself as a patient, only as a victim.

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3. They have no boundaries and are incapable of honoring yours.

Boundaries aren’t a narcissist’s “thing.” They don’t appreciate not having full access to your life and take a boundary the same way they’d take someone questioning their every move. 

Narcissists need to feel they’re in control, and a boundary puts up a roadblock against that. You could tell a narcissist repeatedly that you don’t allow smoking in your house, but they’ll still pull out a cigarette after Thanksgiving dinner.

And, given that it can be tough for us introverts to enact boundaries, it’s impossible where narcissists are concerned.

4. They act superior because they think they’re better than everyone else.

People who display narcissistic personality traits tend to be the most entitled people on earth, even if they don’t have anything to back it up. Only their opinions matter; they’re perfect and never wrong, even when it’s obvious they are. They need constant confirmation that they’re amazing because, deep down, underneath all their bravado, they’re insecure. 

This sense of being better than everyone is why narcissists need people they can emotionally feed off of or get attention from. Enter the introvert, who’s an amazing listener and likes to connect with others once they get to know them. Plus, if you’re a people-pleasing introvert, narcissists can take advantage of that, too. 

5. They want you to share everything about yourself so they can later use it all against you. 

Never — ever — trust a narcissist or share your secrets with them, because those secrets will come back to haunt you. Narcissists are manipulative, jealous, and self-obsessed. There’s no such thing as a balanced relationship with a narcissist or one based on mutual respect. They want you to tell them everything about your life and not hold anything back. (But don’t expect them to reveal anything about their lives in return!)

In this way, their goals are to get you to trust them, to love them unconditionally, and to believe they have your best interests at heart. However, they’ll use whatever information they have against you in a way that will cause the most pain, like gaslighting you and making you think you’re the one with problems.

Now that you have an idea that someone may be a narcissist or is, at the very least, a toxic person, here are some tips on how to deal with them.

8 Ways to Deal With Narcissists as an Introvert

1. If you can’t cut them out of your life, limit the amount of contact you have with them.  

Introverts tend to be careful about who we let into our lives, but toxic people, especially narcissists, are good at sneaking their way in. Sometimes, there are those whom we didn’t choose, but who have a permanent place in our lives, like family members or coworkers. 

It would be great if there was a Narcissist Be Gone app, where all we had to do was push a button and the narcissist would magically be removed from our lives. Meanwhile, you may think you’re safe when a narcissist tires of you or finds someone new as their emotional supply, but don’t get too excited: You’ll never be completely rid of them. They always have a way of coming back. 

A narcissist may make you feel as if you have little control, but this isn’t true. You can manage the time you spend around them. If it’s a family holiday celebration, bring someone along as a buffer, or if it’s a coworker, try not to get assigned to the same projects as them. If you’re still forced to deal with a toxic personality on a regular basis, remind yourself that they have no real power over you and that you don’t exist merely to serve them. Living your best life — whether this is through hobbies or self-care — will help strengthen your resolve to not be a pushover to the narcissist.

2. Avoid direct confrontation, as you’ll only end up feeling worse than when you started.

Confrontation isn’t always (or ever!) an introverts’ favorite thing, but there are times when we need to — for our own mental health and well-being — stand up for ourselves. That way, we’re feeling empowered and ready to confront the narcissist head-on. Just remember: You should express your feelings, but keep your expectations down. 

Narcissists can get mean quickly, and they don’t take being told they’re wrong or lacking in any way, due to their poor sense of self. So, self-reflection isn’t one of their coping skills. Rather than having an “aha moment,” the narcissist will either get angry, deny everything, twist things to suit their own narrative, put the blame on you, stop talking to you, or play the victim. None of these options are well-thought-out, healthy, or rational.

Narcissists don’t change, even if they say they will or even if you want them to. Instead of confronting the narcissist and making them feel cornered, talk to a friend or therapist about how you’re feeling, or write it out in a journal or a letter. (By the way, you don’t actually need to send the letter; but, chances are, you will feel much better after writing it.)

3. Don’t take their behavior personally — it’s never about you, yet always about them.

Introverts tend to be sensitive to external stimuli, including what other people are putting out, and this can be dangerous when being around narcissists. It’s easy for introverts to take the blame or responsibility when the narcissist-in-question won’t. Although we want to handle chaotic situations and make everything better, it’s not our duty to fix what the narcissist has broken (or how they themselves are broken).

As perpetual victims, narcissists are very good at rejecting any accountability for their actions and putting the blame onto other people. If the narcissist is behaving badly, accusing you of mistakes you didn’t make, or blowing up over something you did, remind yourself that their reaction has nothing to do with you. They’re choosing to react in an inappropriate and unkind manner. They’re too self-involved to see the truth of a situation, and you’re not in charge of damage control.

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4. Familiarize yourself with narcissist manipulation tools and stay alert for signs of gaslighting.

Narcissists are master manipulators and have so many ways of trying to control others. Some primary ways narcissists seem to manipulate others are through micro-manipulation, a tactic that uses indirect manipulations to get sympathy and empathy from others; lovebombing, which is when they shower someone with presents, attention, and affection (and completely overwhelm them); and projection, when they project their negative feelings onto someone else. (In projection, cheating narcissists may accuse their partner of being unfaithful.) 

Another of the most well-known types of narcissistic manipulation is gaslighting, which can be devastating for the person being gaslit. Since narcissists feel they can do no wrong, when they’re confronted about their failures or mistakes, they’ll get defensive and reject the reality that’s right in front of them. But they don’t stop there. The narcissist, determined to convince the other person to question their reality, will say things like, “Are you sure it happened like that?” or “You’re crazy if you believe that,” or “You’re not remembering that right.” The narcissist will continue with their gaslighting campaign until they’ve convinced the other person to question their own version of the events — and even their sanity. And since we introverts are master overthinkers, being gaslit can get us to overthink way more than usual (if that’s even possible). 

5. Remember that you’re wonderful, and continue to boost your self-esteem.

Narcissists will do anything for attention, even if it means sacrificing someone else. Narcissists can damage our sense of who we are, and our self-confidence, and will devalue us all as a way to keep us in their grasp. They don’t want us to feel good about ourselves — this may mean we might put ourselves first and kick them out of our lives. 

So, above all, remind yourself that you’re spectacular and have many wonderful qualities and talents. Write reminders that you can leave around your home, make lists about how you’re incredible, and do whatever makes you feel happy, healthy, and whole. If it feels silly, remind yourself that the narcissist is doing everything they can to undermine you and keep you controllable, and you cannot buy into it. 

When you have a narcissist in your life, they will try to undermine and weaken you in any way they can. You have the ability to stand up to them — and stay protected from their lies, manipulations, and mind games — the more you believe in yourself.

6. Instead of losing touch with people, strengthen your relationships and support systems. 

Introverts don’t need to have a million friends — we do best with one, two, or a small group of true friends, those who “get” us. But any amount is too many for a narcissist and they will try to cut you off from the other people in your life. For example, they may instantly dislike someone you introduce them to, without having a good reason for not liking them. Or they may physically separate you from loved ones by moving you away from your support system. And one of the shadier things a narcissist can do is befriend your friends, and then try to turn them against you.

When you’re in a new relationship, spending less time with family and friends, and focusing on your new partner, is natural. But when you’re involved with a narcissist, you’ve got to build up your inner circle of trustworthy people. Make an effort to reach out to old friends, spend time with them, or make a new friend. You want to be around people who are healthy for you, those who have your back and aren’t trying to change or manipulate you.

7. Strengthen your boundaries and don’t accept harmful behavior from anyone.

Yes, I  said earlier that narcissists ignore your boundaries, and that’s true, but you’re not putting boundaries up for them; you’re enacting them for you. So get clear on your limits and what you will, and won’t, stand for. 

A boundary sends the message that you’re standing up for yourself, even if you never mention it to the narcissist. Having a boundary ensures your foundation is solid and will support you. It will give you an added sense of protection, which is crucial when dealing with narcissists. Your boundaries can be centered around many different things, from your time (and how much of it you will give to the narcissist) to the way you communicate with them (maybe you decide to “mute” them in your phone, so you only see their messages, and contact them, on your terms).

8. Realize you’ll never please them, and get better at saying “no” and standing up for yourself.

It’s easy to feel as if you’re losing yourself in the well of a narcissist’s many needs. You don’t want trouble, and it’s easier to just go along with the narcissist rather than stick up for yourself and face their rage. 

But the truth is, you can’t go on like this forever; you will get to a point where everything you’ve internalized will bubble up. Rather than have a massive explosion, it’s better to take steps toward being your own best advocate, voicing your opinion (despite conflict it may create), and not doing what you don’t have to do.

Saying “no” can be challenging, but the more you do it, the more empowered you’ll feel. As a result, your ability to withstand criticism and conflict will be strengthened. 

Always put yourself, and your emotional well-being, first, especially when it comes to dealing with a toxic personality like a narcissist. You exist to make the world a better place, to express your truth, and to grow as a person. Dealing with a narcissist can be challenging as an introvert, but you can do it, and you’ll build up your feelings of self-worth at the same time.

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