Narcissistic friends have a way of tearing you down while they build themselves up. Narcissism is usually a cover-up for feelings of inadequacy, so having a bit of compassion will help. At the same time, you need to be careful not to let a narcissistic friend walk all over you. Being your own person and having boundaries will help keep you safe from being the target of blame or anger.
Joey seems likeable and friendly at first, but those who know him best have seen another side. He flies into a rage at the slightest bit of criticism and always expects things to go his way. He is quick to make friends with people who have something to offer him -- and also quick to move on when there is nothing left in it for him. In just this way, narcissistic friends act as if the world revolves around them, according to Dr. Judith Orloff, a psychiatrist, in the article, "How To Deal With A Narcissist" on her website. Being able to recognize narcissism will allow you to keep your distance and not be blamed for things that aren't your fault.
Though it might be tempting to fight back when attacked, resist that urge. Fighting back will only leave you feeling out of control. Instead, keep your calm at all times, have a clear head and state your position, argues psychologist Steven Berglas, in the Forbes article, "5 Ways To Shut Down A Narcissist." For example, if a friend reacts with anger when you suggest that he dealt the wrong number of cards during a poker game, say something like "I guess I was just confused about what happened since we don't have the right number of cards. Could you help me figure this out?" Stay calm and keep repeating your request until he backs down.
Keeping Your Distance
Be careful not to share too much of yourself, such as your deepest feelings and emotions. At worst, these friends may use this information against you -- and at best they will not value what you have shared. Never become emotionally dependent on a friend like this and be sure to maintain personal boundaries, as discussed in the Life Counseling Center article, "Understanding Narcissism." Have other friendships with empathic and caring people who can help you keep your perspective.
As much as your narcissistic friends might leave you feeling angry and frustrated, try to have compassion and understanding. Realize that these friends do not have the same capacity to bond and lower your expectations, says Berglas. If you need to criticize a friend with this problem, try to do it in a way that takes away the sting. For example, in the card dealing situation, you might say "You are a great dealer, everyone knows you are the best. Could you check for me on the card counts though? I think there might have been a problem with the deck." If you can stretch yourself to see the frightened and fragile person hiding behind the big ego, it will be easier to stay compassionate and calm.
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