Many people ask themselves when thinking about ways to stand up for themselves against a narcissist: “What happens when you confront a narcissist?”
When confronting a narcissist, they will avoid taking responsibility for their actions by manipulating you with tactics such as projection, gaslighting, blame-shifting, stonewalling, narcissistic rage, self-victimization, triangulation, and even discarding.
In this article, I will guide you through examples of these manipulation tactics so you can better understand what could happen if you confront a narcissist.
The first response that a narcissist could have if you were to confront them is projection.
This means attributing one’s negative qualities or behaviors on to someone else.
Suggested Reading: 7 Reasons Narcissists Use Projection
For example, I want you to imagine that you are confronting the narcissist in your life about the way that they treat you in front of others.
You say, “I noticed that when we hang out with friends, you often make little jokes at my expense. It makes me feel belittled.”
They say, “Jokes? That’s rich coming from you. You’re always the one making fun of everyone, including me. It’s like you constantly need to be the center of attention.”
(this was projection because narcissists are the ones with the need for attention)
You say, “I’m just trying to express how I feel. I think it’s essential for both of us to be mindful of each other’s feelings.”
They say, “Well if you weren’t so critical all the time, I wouldn’t have to defend myself.”
The second response that a narcissist could have if you were to confront them is gaslighting.
Gaslighting is a manipulation tactic that occurs when someone intentionally or unintentionally doubts or denies reality.
Suggested Reading: Why Does Gaslighting Work So Well? (6 Reasons)
For example, let’s say you confront the narcissist about not doing something they previously agreed to do.
You say, “Remember two days ago when we agreed that you would do the dishes? They’re still not done.”
They say, “We never had that conversation. You’re always forgetting things and then blaming me.”
You say, “I’m certain we discussed this. I remember because you said you’d handle it after watching your show.”
They say, “Your memory is playing tricks on you again. That never happened.”
The gaslighting in this scenario came when the narcissist said, “We never had that conversation,” and then again when they said, “That never happened.”
The third response that a narcissist could have if you were to confront them is blame-shifting.
This means redirecting responsibility away from oneself and onto someone else.
For instance, imagine you’ve decided to confront the narcissist in your life about canceling on you very last minute.
You say, “I felt hurt when you canceled our plans last minute yesterday. It would have been nice to get a heads-up.”
The narcissist says, “Well, if you weren’t always so rigid with schedules, maybe I wouldn’t feel so pressured. This is really because of your inability to be flexible.”
(blaming you for your “rigid” schedule is blame-shifting)
You say, “It’s just about mutual respect. Letting each other know in advance is just the courteous thing to do.”
They say, “You always make everything about respect. Maybe we wouldn’t have these issues if you respected my time and stopped over-planning.”
The fourth response that a narcissist could have if you were to confront them is stonewalling.
This means refusing to participate in communication or connection in a relationship.
For example, I want you to imagine that you are sitting in the living room with the narcissist in your life and decide to confront them about the hurtful comments they made.
You say, “I want to talk about how you reacted during our dinner with friends last week. Some of the comments you made were hurtful.”
The narcissist responds with silence and looks past you out the window.
You say, “It’s essential for our relationship that we communicate about these things. Can you please share your thoughts?”
The narcissist in your life remains silent, pulls out their phone, and starts scrolling without acknowledging your words.
You try to engage with them one last time by saying, “This silent treatment isn’t helping. I’m trying to connect with you.”
And without making eye contact, the narcissist says, “I don’t have anything to say.”
This is an example of a narcissist responding to a confrontation with stonewalling.
5.) Narcissistic Rage
Narcissistic rage is the fifth response that a narcissist could have if you were to confront them.
Narcissistic rage is a reaction that emerges when someone with narcissistic tendencies perceives a threat to their self-esteem or self-worth.
Suggested Reading: What Is Narcissistic Rage? (A Complete Guide)
Alright, take a moment to picture yourself standing at the kitchen counter looking over some bills. The narcissist in your life walks into the room and sees what you are doing.
You say, “Hey, I was going through our expenses, and I noticed some large purchases I wasn’t aware of. We really should discuss big expenditures beforehand.”
They say, “Why are you always snooping around? Can’t I spend without you breathing down my neck?”
You say, “It’s not snooping. We agreed to discuss major expenses. It’s about transparency and mutual respect.”
They raise their voice and say, “You NEVER trust me with anything!” Then suddenly, with a surge of anger, they punch a hole in the wall next to the refrigerator.
You say, “Whoa! That’s not okay. What are you doing?”
They respond by shouting, “If you stopped nitpicking, I wouldn’t get this angry!”
This interaction is an example of a narcissist responding to a confrontation with narcissistic rage.
The sixth response that a narcissist could have if you were to confront them is self-victimization.
When people victimize themselves, they label themselves as victims and blame their problems on external factors.
For example, imagine that you have decided to confront the narcissist in your life about their tendency to raise their voice and interrupt you.
You say, “I’ve noticed that whenever we disagree, you raise your voice and interrupt me. I’d appreciate it if we could communicate more calmly.”
They say, “Why is it always about what I do wrong? You’re always criticizing and pointing fingers. I feel like you’re always against me no matter what.”
You say, “It’s not about being against you; it’s about improving our communication.”
They say, “It feels like no matter what I do, I’m the bad guy in your eyes. It’s exhausting always being the one to blame.”
This is a prime example of a narcissist casting themselves as a victim because you have tried to confront them about something.
The seventh response that a narcissist could have if you were to confront them is triangulation.
Triangulation is a manipulation tactic that occurs when someone turns a one-on-one situation into a two-on-one situation by involving a third party.
Suggested Reading: 6 Examples of Triangulation In Narcissistic Relationships
For example, imagine confronting the narcissist in your life by saying, “I’d prefer if we discussed our relationship issues directly instead of involving our friends.”
They respond, “Well, I talked to (friend’s name) about it, and they understand where I’m coming from. They even said they’ve noticed you overreacting a lot.”
(this was triangulation because they involved a third-party, your friend)
You say, “It’s not about who agrees with who. It’s about privacy and mutual respect.”
They say, “I just needed someone to talk to because it feels like you never understand. (friend’s name) gets it.”
The eighth response that a narcissist could have if you were to confront them is discarding.
This refers to suddenly ending a relationship or discarding someone from one’s life once they are no longer seen as beneficial or needed.
Suggested Reading: 6 Ways to Respond After Being Discarded by a Narcissist
For instance, imagine you confront the narcissist in your life about a problem in your relationship with them.
You say, “It feels like every time we hit a rough patch, you pull away and become distant. It’s tough for me when you shut down like that.”
They say, “Maybe it’s just that I’ve outgrown this relationship. Maybe it’s time I moved on to something that doesn’t drain me.”
You say, “If there are issues, we should discuss and work through them. We both deserve that much.”
They say, “Honestly, I feel like maybe I’m better off alone. Or maybe with someone who doesn’t come with so much baggage.” Then they leave you.
This is an example of a narcissist responding to a confrontation by discarding the person they are having the confrontation with.
What Should You Take Away from This Article?
It is rare for a narcissist to be willing to take responsibility for their actions, so if you decide to confront the narcissist in your life, you should expect to be met with one or more of the manipulation tactics I’ve covered in this article.
About the Author
Hey, I’m Elijah.
I experienced narcissistic abuse for three years.
I create these articles to help you understand and validate your experiences.
Thank you for reading, and remember, healing is possible even when it feels impossible.