Why Can’t You Resolve An Argument With A Narcissist?


Disputes between people always arise. You might label it a debate, a discussion, a reasoned exchange of views, an argument, a fight or a blazing row. That label depends very much on the participants in the exchange.

When one of the participants is one of us, a narcissist, it always seems to be the case that it is never resolved, at least, not to your (the non-narcissist’s) satisfaction.

Let’s start however with a dispute between two people who are not narcissists. Person A states that person B owes him £ 50 000. Person B denies that he owes anything. If they cannot resolve it between themselves, they will have to resort to other means to achieve an outcome, which would invariably mean going to court with the attendant cost in time and money. The dispute is however capable of resolution because of the mind sets of the two participants.

Person A’s mindset is – “I would prefer £ 50 000 but I recognise that in order to reach a resolution I will have to accept a lesser sum. So long as this lesser sum is within a certain range, the problem will be solved.”

Person B’s mindset is – “I would prefer to pay nothing but I recognise that in order to reach resolution I will have to pay something. So long as this something is within a certain range, the problem will be solved.”

You can see from this that there is potential for the parties’ mindsets to align. Neither will be out and out happy but the dispute will be resolved and they can get on with other matters. If they agree at £ 30 000 Person A has made a recovery which is less than he desired but more than nothing. Person B has made a payment which is more than he desired but less than everything. The two people have mindsets which can and do align and thus there is resolution.

This non-narcissistic example demonstrates precisely why there is never any resolution (or at least it seems that way to you as the empathic victim) when engaging with our kind. The reason is that there is no alignment of interests.

Take for instance a situation between narcissist and victim. The victim does not know that they are in a romantic entanglement with the narcissist. The victim is an Intimate Partner Primary Source and the narcissist is a Mid-Range Narcissist. The two attended an event in the afternoon. The narcissist felt ignored by the IPPS and this ignited his fury and now the narcissist, in order to provoke and gain fuel has accused the victim of flirting with a member of the opposite sex. The victim knows that she did not do so and is upset by this accusation as well as bewildered. An argument about this ensues.

What is the victim’s mindset?

  1. As a truth seeker establish the truth that she did not flirt with anybody and the narcissist accepts she did not.
  2. The narcissist apologises for the false accusation.

What is the narcissist’s mindset?

  1. Gain fuel;
  2. Assert and maintain superiority over the victim

Both parties have entirely different aims.

Can the victim’s requirements be fulfilled by the narcissist?

The narcissist will not admit that the accusation was a lie because issuing the lie is causing the victim to be upset, to be angry and thus is providing fuel. Accordingly, the narcissist will maintain the lie in order to preserve the supply of fuel.

The narcissist will not apologise because that is ceding superiority to the victim by admitting that the narcissist is wrong. It will also bring an end to the victim’s hurt/upset/anger and thus the fuel ends.

There is nothing for the narcissist to gain in fulfilling what the victim wants.

Can the narcissist’s requirements be met by the victim?

Yes, but not in an intentional way by the victim. Owing to the fact that victims do not know what they are dealing with, that they do not know they are engaging with one of our kind, that they do not understand the concept of fuel or that we have a different perspective to them, the victim cannot decide to keep giving fuel nor can she decide to give superiority to the narcissist.

Instead, she remains bound by her own mindset and desires which are as a consequence of her perspective. She sees this as the ONLY outcome which is right, because from her perspective she did not flirt, therefore she cannot understand why the narcissist cannot accept that this is the case. She cannot understand why he will not apologise when he is wrong. She does not know that he needs to keep extracting fuel from her. She does not know that he needs to assert and maintain superiority over her.

Accordingly, she keeps trying to get the narcissist to see her perspective and to achieve the apology. This will not happen. She does not achieve the resolution she wants. Moreover, she is bewildered as to why the narcissist cannot achieve this resolution when it seems so obvious (to her) that she is right and he is wrong.

The resolution will not occur on her terms because they are not aligned with what the narcissist wants. Instead, the resolution will only occur when the narcissist is satisfied with the fuel received (thus the wounding has been healed and the ignited fury of the narcissist abates) and that his perception of superiority has been attained. He then halts the argument by walking away, changing topic or even completely perplexing the victim by suggesting going out for dinner together. This rapid switch from argument to suggesting something pleasant, when (from the victim’s perspective) there has been no resolution leaves the victim puzzled and open-mouthed at this sudden switching.

From the narcissist’s perspective it is entirely logical. He has gained fuel and healed the wound, thus the ignited fury abates so he has no need to continue the provocation in the argument. He feels he has asserted his fury because the victim is upset, looks dismayed or dejected. He has achieved his aims which the victim (unintentionally) has fulfilled. He thus ends the argument. The victim is puzzled because from her perspective nothing has been resolved. If she presses on, she is likely to provide Challenge Fuel ( seeFuel, Fight or Flight ) and thus the narcissist will respond to this by deflecting, denying, projecting and a whole host of other manipulations.

Accordingly, whenever a victim argues with our kind, the victim never feels like there is any resolution because their aims are never fulfilled. Even when the narcissist’s aims are achieved and he halts the manipulation, the victim still understandably believing the matter to be unresolved, keeps going. This causes the narcissist to respond to the challenge and then the narcissist sees the victim as maintaining an argument unnecessarily.

It is only when the victim understands that they are engaging with a narcissist and that we adopt an entirely different perspective, which alters the aims we seek from the argument, that the victim can achieve an alternative outcome. Armed with this knowledge, the victim can either:-

  1. State their case once so they know they have, offer no reaction and withdraw;
  2. State their case once, offer a positive reaction to fuel the narcissist whilst avoiding feeling dismayed and hurt in trying to achieve an outcome they cannot ever achieve; or
  3. Withdraw, preferring not to engage and save themselves the aggravation of being subjected to repeated manipulation because of the different agendas of victim and narcissist.

Once you become empowered with this understanding of why you never reach resolution with us, you will approach such entanglements in a completely different and edifying manner.

11 thoughts on “Why Can’t You Resolve An Argument With A Narcissist?

  1. Anm says:

    On monday, I was supposed to have another settlement conference with the narcissist. I decided it wasn’t worth going, because there is nothing for me to mediate with a narcissist anymore. Today was our pretrial conference. The judge asked us if there was anything recent that has come up that we would like to litigate or mediate. The narcissist asked if we could modify the order of protection that I have against him. He wanted it done right there at our pretrial conference. This was a stupid stupid move on his behal. I said no, but I wouldn’t mind reviewing the order of protection at our trial. This only aligns perfectly with what I was going to present in court anyways. I sat there calm. He erupted that I wouldnt do it then and now. The judge actually kicked him out today.

  2. WokeAF says:

    Ok !! But at what point does the narcissist actually BELIEVE their own lie? Does he really think she was flirting? Do they even know they’re lying? Obv a Greater would buy a lesser or mr?

    1. HG Tudor says:

      Yes he believes the lie. He believes she was flirting because his perspective causes that to be what he believes. Remember, particularly with Mid Range Narcissists their narcissism will use something which has plausibility, a Lesser less so. A Mid Ranger will accuse you of flirting when you have been talking to somebody so there is potential for your friendliness to be (mis) interpreted as flirtation. Thus it has plausibility and the self-flagellating victim thinks “I was talking to Joe, maybe it looked like I was being flirtatious, was I being flirtations? Maybe I was and I did not realise and that is why my husband is angry with me?”

  3. Pati says:

    HG I cant stand when they make accusations like this . They are so jeaulous! ,instead of an apologie they change it to lets go out for dinner after a long silent treatment on top of this.. There is NO win situation,NO compromising,and.NO energy to even have an argument and deal with your kind anymore . I am literally exhausted. I need a drink!

  4. Joy&Love says:

    I love this. Sweet simplicity!

  5. kaydiva3 says:

    Omg this used to drive me crazy. Every narcissist I have ever encountered has done this. There is never any winning or even any compromising with them.

    One in particular made me want to bang my head against the wall. He was always right no matter how ridiculous his assertions were. And even when I remained calm he would accuse me of being the unreasonable one. He would provoke me with outlandish statements. He knew I was an advocate for LGBT rights, for example, so out of nowhere he would say something extremely bigoted and ignorant. When I reacted, he would say “I’m having a healthy conversation. I had no idea you would get so defensive”. If I did not react, he would say “you’re ignoring me, I guess you’re bored of me, you’re dating other men and not telling me, you’re a liar..” blah blah blah. I can’t believe I tolerated this for as long as I did.

    1. FeelingFree says:

      Mine used to tell me, that I misunderstood and overinterpreted everything and he hadn’t done/ said things. As if I had a kind of perceptual disturbance. And still you try it again and again, and you rather doubt your own mind instead of accusing him. 🤦🏽‍♀️ So much wasted time….😥

      1. kaydiva3 says:

        Omg yes! “You never understand me”, “think from my perspective too”, “this is all just a misunderstanding”, “you deal with people with problems all the time so you think everyone has similar issues”, “I’m not those people in your past that hurt you”. It goes on and on. And eventually I just gave up trying to reason with him because it was pointless. It was even pointless to say “let’s just agree to disagree”, because he would just keep going. Eventually I would get so exhausted I would just agree with him. They want to make us doubt ourselves to control us and make us dependent on them.

  6. Lorelei says:

    It’s impossible to resolve! Interestingly—(not that I plan to have such engagements) when two narcissists argue do they just ping pong challenge fuel back and forth because the manipulations are often subtle and they don’t know they are instigating each other because they lack insight correct? Yet, nothing gets answered or resolved which impedes control and the manipulations challenge them further?

    1. MommyPino says:

      Lorelei, it probably depends on which school the narcissists belong. A MR would disengage usually in a self righteous manner, a Lesser would fight till the other person slams the door on him and a Greater would evaluate if he can go for the kill and if not disengage for now and wait for the right moment. There are narc vs narc articles that HG wrote.

  7. FeelingFree says:

    So true. It needs practising, but the surprised expression on narc’s face about the unexpected and suddenly new kind of conversation is worth every effort.

    Thanks to HG.

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