One day shortly after Halloween in I think it was 2013, my mother called, and as she so often did, attempted to push my buttons. A part of me wanted to just jump through the phone and smack her. I mean really – trying to shame me by acting like I am the only person in the entire world who likes Stephen King’s writing and movies just because she does not like scary stories is ridiculous!
Anyway, I refused to show her I was angry, because that only made her meaner. Instead I used to either pretend I did not notice the snide comments, or respond calmly albeit a bit sarcastically. With the Stephen King comments, for example, she ended her tirade with, “I don’t know where you get your taste in books! I certainly don’t like anything scary!” (She has always liked fluffy, light stories only). In a somewhat cheerful tone, I simply said, “You obviously don’t know any of us Baileys then. There is not one Bailey I know of who doesn’t like scary stories. Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Clive Barker.. you know, the GOOD authors.” My mother responded by changing the subject. HA! She obviously was not amused that I did not respond in anger and I made a valid point.
My point of telling you this is that there is a very big difference in responding and reacting. If you have a narcissist in your life, then you need to learn the difference!
What I did in the above story is respond. I know this is a topic that she would bring up often (it is an obvious attempt to shame me for being different than her), so I learned to prepare my responses ahead of time. I maintained an air of calmness, even though inside I may not have felt so calm, and I spoke my peace.
Reacting is much different. Reacting is what you do when you do not think or prepare ahead of time. When someone pushes your buttons, you react out of anger and without thought. This is what narcissists want you to do – they feed off of the fact that they have so much control/power over you that they can make you angry or even lose control. If they can make you look crazy by yelling at them while they stay calm, they love this. They see that they have a lot of power, plus they make you doubt your own sanity.
See the difference??
If you too have a narcissist in your life, then you need to master the art of responding and lose your reaction for your own mental health. In order to do this, you need to know your narcissist. What topics does he or she frequently bring up to hurt you with? Does she use the same method with several topics? How does this person expect you to react to his or her antics – with anger? Tears?
Once you know what to expect, that is half the battle. From there, you can prepare various ways to respond. I suggest you start by asking God for help. Help you to stay calm in the narcissist’s presence, to say creative things to let him or her that know the manipulation is not working.
I also learned that saying, “well ain’t that nice” was also effective. It is the polite way of saying, “I don’t care about what you have to say.”
Remember too that you do not need to feel ashamed of yourself for being different or feel guilty because you do not agree with the narcissist or whatever this person is trying to make you think. You are your own unique individual, and that is a very good thing, whether or not the narcissist thinks so!
Learning to respond rather than react was very beneficial for me. It eliminated many topics that my mother used to use to try to hurt or invalidate me. It can do the same for you! I doubt there is ever a way to completely eliminate all of a narcissist’s weapons of verbal destruction, but this one will eliminate some of them! I encourage you to give it a try. What do you have to lose??