How to Placate a Malignant Narcissist in Seven Torturous Steps

Is being stuck in a stalemate with a malignant narcissist getting you down? Does this person treat you like garbage or, say, want build a very expensive wall as a not-too-subtle metaphor for his genitalia and have others pay for it? Ugh, just the worst. Well, I do have some advice for you with the caveat that you only want to do the following if you want the malignant narcissist (MN for short — sorry, Minnesota!) to win. I’m not sure why you’d want to do that but here’s what you’ll need to do.

Massage their egos. This is the first tool in your toolkit when dealing with a MN and you may not need anything more. You might feel like you’re laying it on a little thick with your compliments but the truth is you can never lavish enough praise on a MN. Flattery will get you everywhere, no matter how disingenuous it is. Grandiosity is a trait of the MN personality disorder so no matter how over-the-top you may be, expect that your words of admiration will always fall short of this individual’s self-regard. Keep in mind that MNs also tend to also be paranoid so if paranoia arises, you may need to dig into some of the other options as well.

Apologize effusively, even if you were not in the wrong. If you want a MN to win, though I am not sure why you would, you must really grovel. It doesn’t matter if the MN came home in a rotten mood and launched into a tirade seemingly out of nowhere. It doesn’t matter if the MN had an important business meeting go sour due to his obnoxious conduct. You caused it. Maybe he had to wait too long for dinner. Maybe he was mad because he had to stop for gas. Maybe he felt slighted because you didn’t immediately welcome him due to being on the phone when he got home. No matter what, you caused this individual’s unhappiness and you need to apologize for it. Again and again and again.

Redirect to them always. This doesn’t need to be compliments and praise, though that is always your best tact for placating a MN on a rampage. Instead, what I am talking about here is removing yourself and all others except for the narcissist from all discussions. Did the MN’s behavior upset you? It doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is the MN. Is this so hard to understand?

Allow yourself to be manipulated. MNs love affirmation of their dominance, so show your emotions. Be scared. Beg. Plead. Ask for another chance. Ask for forgiveness. Cry. Yes, it’s gross, but your goal is to let a MN win, right?

• Silence yourself. Even when you’re doing all of the above, it’s very important to let the MN do most of the talking. By far. This is because a MN can never be centered enough. Let the MN talk and talk and talk with occasional head nods to show your unquestioning agreement and pretty soon, things should be smoothed over. Sprinkle in the occasional compliments and praise as if you were seasoning a big, delicious bowl of nonsense and it should be over soon.

• Expect the Exceptional. I don’t mean exceptional like “outstandingly positive,” I mean exceptional like MNs do not feel the need to conform to social mores and codes of conduct expected of the rest of us. Due to the antisocial component of the MN psychological make-up, the individual in question feels deeply that they deserve different standards and different treatment than others. The MN expects that they and their desires to be treated as exceptional by everyone else. In fact, it is running afoul of this in the first place that so often leads to clashes with MNs.

• Adjust your expectations. As you’re placating a MN, expect lying, cruelty, self-delusion, exaggeration, deflections of personal accountability and more. Don’t expect empathy, fairness or reasonable behavior. The sooner you accept that there are different rules for MNs, the sooner you will allow them to win.

However, if for some reason, you don’t want a malignant narcissist to win, here are some alternative strategies:

• Maintain your own standards. Don’t allow your behavior to be dictated by the MN. In other words, have your word and your code of conduct be inviolable no matter what the MN says or does.

• Remain as emotionally detached as possible. This doesn’t mean to become robotic: I mean, you’re human and it’s perfectly understandable to be unsettled when dealing with a MN. That said, it’s best to stick to the facts of the matter under dispute because like any bully, a MN feeds off emotions as they have an inner-void that is impossible to fill.

• Do not try to change them. Accept that they are made of very different material than you. Realize that most people — even defensive people — can eventually come around to understanding their role in something that has gone awry but not the MN. The MN has an impenetrable wall protecting what is actually a very fragile and scared ego. Work toward the best outcome, not trying to change a MN because that is an exercise in futility.

• Do not do the things I mentioned in the first section. In other words, do not flatter, do not jump through hoops to accommodate their “super exceptional” needs, do not apologize if you weren’t in the wrong, do not silence yourself, etc. They will not learn from your refusal to play by their rules (see above point) but you will be a thorn in their side.

So, unfortunately, none of this means that you’ll be out of your stalemate soon. But at least you’ll be able to hold your head up high and know that you did not let a malignant narcissist run roughshod over you.

Marla Rose is a Chicago-area writer and co-founder of and

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