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?
- As a truth seeker establish the truth that she did not flirt with anybody and the narcissist accepts she did not.
- The narcissist apologises for the false accusation.
What is the narcissist’s mindset?
- Gain fuel;
- 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:-
- State their case once so they know they have, offer no reaction and withdraw;
- 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
- 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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10 thoughts on “Why Can’t You Resolve An Argument With A Narcissist?”
Just watched the video of this one. It makes so much fall into place regarding my marriage. Nothing ever got resolved, I would just apologize to bring the “peace” back, even when I knew I wasn’t wrong. One of the most frustrating things ever.
Ooohhh, now I’m watching “Emotional Thinking: The Need For the Last Word” – more frustration!!! So exactly accurate, ugh!
They may have the need for the last ‘word’….. but you can use sign language as a ‘last resort’ – without having to say the last word out loud….. there’s a difference (laughing). God, I’m such a bitch tonight…..
Hahahaha, you are so right! Why didn’t I ever think of that!! Thank you!
No worries, AV. Your friend can teach you 🙂
Loved your comment. I get it. Bloody annoying, though (sometimes, you have to laugh and accept the way they are).
Brilliant article HG. You know, when I’m feeling down, your articles help me to gain perspective. You are a treasure. Have a great weekend. 💗
Having said in an earlier comment – there are times when my friends and I ‘fell out’ during the school years. Then we’d go into different ‘directions’ to calm down (both myself and friends may not actually have been at fault, it could have been started by someone else!) – then later on, we would ‘make up’ with a hug and apology. We remain friends to this day – goes to show friendships can work.
Yet, where a narcissist is concerned, they do not always, possibly never apologise because of the different ‘perceptions’.
“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.”
For me, it would not be about ‘winning’, so the section that I have copied & pasted as above is a good reminder – the way a narcissist thinks is different from how an empath thinks.
***remembering my response to a comment in ‘I Spy A Private Eye’ – November 17 2020 –
If I may, HG, offer another perspective on this – (to a blogger) – have you ever looked through a camera’s lens when it was cracked? It distorts the picture you actually see. Or even a window – the image differs compared to an unbroken view / lens. Now, I am not saying what a narcissist sees is not the ‘wrong’ way, it is their way of what they see – just like how us, empaths see our ‘view’. We are all looking at the same image through the same ‘lens’ but in a different way. X ***
The best way for an empath to ‘respond’ is to remain calm and remember their learning (if they have obtained the knowledge) – or at least, leave the room, quietly (and go get a glass of wine or take a walk outside). Besides, the ‘making’ up afterwards, well…..
This aspect of the relationship with my mother is one of the most challenging. The only way to avoid it is to have no contact. It is horrible, every single thing can be, and usually is, an argument with her.