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.

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

  1. Amy Boyd says:

    I have a replaced my narcissist addiction with listening to you and reading your site. You are my new hit. Thank you for what you are doing, even if it isn’t for any benefit except your own.

    1. HG Tudor says:

      You’re welcome

  2. Dorion says:

    One thing I’ve learned from my interactions with narcissists is not to try to negotiate with them. Most seem incapable of two-sided, mutually satisfying compromises and fail to see that might actually serve them better in the long run. They seem this way with both professional and personal matters. Definitely it is best not to argue and just state my perspective and expectations in a clear, matter of fact manner, without listening to their twisting things. I think it is especially a bad idea to express empathy to a narc that engages in excuses and pity play. Some also tend to start arguments and manipulations with showering the other party with excessive, unnecessary compliments – it is best not to react to these at all, maybe say a quick and polite ‘thanks’ and move the subject to what really needs to be settled. Giving ultimatums can also work sometimes in my experience, but only if the narc does have an interest/investment in the project.

    Another tactic I use in work situations is to only interact with them in a team context, preferentially including more than one members who are more senior relative to them – every direct discussion, email etc will consistently involve the entire team. I find they still very often approach and respond privately, try to approach that way to manipulate behind the scenes. I either never respond to those or reply with copying the whole team again on an email, for example. Exposing their maneuvers that way can intimidate them at times I guess and, in my experience, they usually stop approaching (hoovering) privately. I’ve had a few narcs completely stopping their involvement, I guess they are just totally unwilling or unable to work in a transparent manner. Some others become more cooperative but typically only when they have some very strong interest in the project, including how collaborating could enhance their finances, status etc directly. But arguing is a no-no indeed.

    1. lisk says:

      Thank you for sharing this, Dorion.

      It will be very helpful to me as there is a new narc at work. I realized it last week, when she just would not stop responding to my emails without extraneous commentary. My simple “Thank you” would be responded to with “You’re welcome. I did so because blah, blah, blah.” When I responded to that with, “Your consideration is greatly appreciated,” she could not help but say, “I do try to be blah, blah, blah.” Okay, she needs the last word. From now on, one “Thank you” from me and I’m out.

      She also uses “I” and “me” and “my” way too much, when she should be talking teamspeak.

      I almost called her out publicly on something “I” self-servingly did, but I decided not to engage, not even in front of the team. I will try my best not to be a fuel-giver.

  3. mcthriver says:

    This is so extraordinarily accurate and pertinent, and a crystal clear demonstration of why it is so important not to react in any shape or form, to the ploys our ex-narcs throw at us, when they try desperately to provoke an argument with us post-escape (their ridiculous hoovering having already failed, obviously).

    I honestly am sometimes convinced that my own ex-narc writes this blog. I know he doesn’t as he has no insight whatsoever, but it is so true to my own experiences of living with a narc that it is uncanny.

    Being able to see the wood for the trees overcomes all the fear, obligation and guilt I once had. I now see before me a quivering jelly instead of the “big bad wolf”.

    What a pathetic loser he really is.

    1. HG Tudor says:

      Hello McThriver,

      1. Your narcissist does not write this blog but it is relatively common for people to think that. It is as a consequence of the accuracy of my work. I do not know you, you do not know me.
      2. I am not a loser, so that seals it in terms of the fact I am not your ex-narc.

      1. mcthriver says:

        Touchė HG. Of course I know you’re not him, my ex-narc is an elite UMRN and literally has no clue that that is what he is.

        The only times he ever writes anything of any length are either to hoover or to deny, blame-shift, project and deflect, or to play the victim and garner sympathy.

        Your point number two made me laugh out loud 😂 I don’t have you down as a loser, far from it. You appear to win (following your own rules, obviously) every time, annoyingly 😏

        In your OP you wrote:

        “changing topic or even completely perplexing the victim by suggesting going out for dinner together.”

        This literally did happen to me, since walking out on him after thirty years of being together. WTF? His total lack of empathy and insight still floors me, every time.

        However, armed with the knowledge I have gained through the extensive reading, both here and elsewhere, that I have done in recent months, at least I am now able to clearly see through his attempts to manipulate and control me and not react to them in the way I used to. Life, for me anyway, is definitely on the up.


        Have you ever written about Jeremy Bamber? I thought the recent ITV series “White House Farm” was very accurate in its portrayal of a narcissistic psychopath. It would be interesting to know your own opinion of Bamber.

        1. HG Tudor says:

          Hello McThriver, no I have not written about Bamber.

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