Healthy communication


There are loads of different communication styles.  There is no right way or wrong way.   However, there are healthy ways and unhealthy or unhelpful ways to communicate.  There is a common misconception that the way that you communicate is dependent on what you say.  No matter what your communication style is, the way that you listen to the other person is far more important than what you say to them.  Listening is hard work and it takes effort because you have to move off your own perspective and try and see a situation from someone else’s point of view.  This takes empathy, imagination and determination to get to the root of what someone is saying. It also means that you have to shut up and give the other person the freedom and space to express an opinion that is different to yours and in some cases may even offend you.

It means that you have to concentrate on what the other person is saying.  If this person has very diverse opinions from yours, it will take more energy to understand their point of view.  This does not mean that you accept their point of view it means that you understand where they are coming from in a tourist kind of way.  One effective way to let the other person know that you are following their train of thought is to restate what they have said or give a synopsis of what you think they said.

The literature says that about 55% of our communication is non-verbal.  Non-verbal cues cover body language, facial expression and pheromones, most people are unaware of this sort of communication so it goes unchecked.  It is very important and it is important to educate yourself on these signals.

Narcissists are not touchy feely people, if anything they see touch as an invasion (this does not relate to sex, where they violate boundaries), in everyday stuff like meeting and greeting.  It is very important to register how non-verbal cues “make” you feel when you meet someone because they are usually indicative of how that person treats others.

Narcissists do not communicate in a healthy way because they are so self-absorbed and are so lacking in empathy that they cannot see another person’s point of view.  They also have no curiosity about other people so they do not ask questions and if they do they do not listen to the answers.  They always have “no go” areas i.e. topics that they refuse to discuss, the way that they avoid talking about “sensitive” issues is to start to talk absolute nonsense so that the conversation has to end.   In short having a conversation with a narcissist is very like trying to have an adult conversation with another adult and being constantly interrupted by a petulant toddler.

Emotional Abuse

  • Every time you are devalued by them, it is designed to make them feel better about themselves at your expense
  • Every time you are humiliated in front of other people it is to discredit you in the eyes of others, to weaken your support system
  • Every time your opinion is disregarded or actively attacked, it is to attack your mental well-being and trust in yourself and they are absolutely indifferent to the consequences
  • Every time they gaslight you it is an attempt to make you feel like you are irrational and are losing your mind
  • Every time they nag you until you concede to their “way of thinking” they are trying to break your spirit with a thousand cuts
  • Every threat is designed to terrorise you
  • Every sexual encounter is aimed at humiliating you
  • Every narcissistic rage is to make you fearful of more aggression
  • Every time they judge you, it is to make you feel small and insignificant
  • Every time they give you the silent treatment it is to let you know that you are not worthy of their attention
  • When they sneer at your friends and family it is to isolate you from your support system so that they can mess with your head without being challenged
  • When they blame you, they are making you take responsibility for their bad behaviours
  • When they lie to you, they are hiding their true self from you
  • When they intimidate you it is because they are completely out of control themselves so that they have to control another person to make themselves feel stable (when they are anything but)
  • When they interrogate you, they want to make sure that you are not up to all of the dubious activities that they are indulging in
  • When they forget stuff or rewrite history, they are denying you and your memories/your reality
  • When they are passive aggressive it is another ploy to make you question your intuition and rational thinking
  • When they tell you that no one could love you as much as they do, they want to imply that you are “unlovable”, but since a narcissist has no idea of what love is…


  • This is when a parent does not respond to their infant’s/child’s needs, or a partner does not recognise the needs of their other half. This can take the form of
  • Failure to acknowledge significant events (birthdays, graduations, job promotion)
  • Lack of attention to interests
  • Planning activities for child/partner without their consent
  • Trying to force child/partner into inappropriate role as care giver
  • Denying health issues
  • Sneering at friends
  • Physical abandonment
  • Not letting the other person make decisions about their own life
  • Being rude to visitors so that they stop calling
  • Complaining about time spent with other people


  • Constant criticism
  • Shouting at the child\partner
  • Name calling
  • Deliberate humiliation
  • “Joking” about weaknesses/insecurities
  • Inappropriate age appropriate treatment of child/adult
  • Pulling back if “other” offers appropriate signs of physical contact or affection, so that if you go to kiss them they will physically pull away from their partner/child
  • Body shaming – too something fat/thin/short/tall/grey haired/
  • Physical abandonment – not taking care of their partner/child when they are physically sick or for example letting their teenage walk home at night alone because they can’t be bothered to collect her after a party


  • Teasing to the point of total humiliation
  • Verbal abuse
  • Threatening abandonment – either divorce or leaving a child behind somewhere unknown to them
  • Destroying precious personal objects


  • Telling a child/partner who they can be friends with
  • Limiting the interaction with other people
  • Sneering at friends that they don’t like/threaten them
  • Not allowing social interaction with peer/interest groups
  • Being overtly rude or hostile to visitors to the point that they feel uncomfortable and stop visiting


  • Giving a child responsibility that are age inappropriate such as minding younger siblings, taking care of parents emotional needs or doing too much house work
  • Giving a child jobs that are too demanding and stressful for them
  • Excessive demands of money from partner/child
  • Refusal to participate in the “shared” responsibilities in the relationship
  • Making excessive demands on a child’s/partner’s free time
  • Offering child’s/partner’s time and energy to a third party without asking
  • Giving child’s/partner’s things to a third party to make the narcissist look generous
  • Refusal to listen to what the child/partner says
  • Demanding that their partner earns more money and then complain that they are never at home
  • Over spending of partner’s money without consent
  • Applying for jobs in other places without discussing it with their partner
  • Arranging holidays without consulting their partner



Grey Rock

Grey Rock is a technique that can be used to stay neutral and unemotional in the presence of a narcissist so that they do not try to extract narcissistic supply from you.  Narcissistic supply can come in either positive or negative form of emotion, either will usually do.  So to remain emotionless, polite but uninvolved and detached is of no “use” to the narcissist, so they will usually (perhaps after a few attempts to get an emotional reaction from you (hook you)) move on to look for a better source. Their attempts can happen on either end of the spectrum, either by being excessively nice, attentive or sycophantic or by being extremely rude, dismissive and critical.

It is a non-confrontational method that implies “It’s not you, it’s me” except that you act it out rather than saying it so that the narcissist can come to that conclusion on his or her own.

When dealing with narcissists it is important to avoid making them envious, if you use the grey rock approach you will fade into the background and therefore their attention will not be focused on you as a potential threat.  Let them know that you are a boring person and have a boring life if they do try to test you for narcissistic supply and do not tell them anything personal however benign as they will use it to draw you in and then use it against you.

If the narcissist gets even the slightest inclination that you might be a good source of supply they will try different tactics to see which one can provoke the best reaction.  Should this happen you can use a technique that is called Selective Grey Rock.  This is where you respond to the issues that matter least to you, it will focus the narcissist on that issue.  Selective grey rock acts as a decoy and prevents the narcissist from pulling you into their drama.

Grey rock works because a narcissist is easily bored and the need constant stimulation to keep their own demons at bay.  That is why they get over involved in other people’s lives and constantly try to create drama, to have an effective drama you need (real or imaginary) actors and an audience.  Feeling involved in this production invigorates them, they feel empowered by directing the play, any kind of response works for them so long as they are the cause of that reaction.

The narcissist is addicted to power and control, they will do anything to divert attention to themselves, they know how much they “need” control and will constantly check to see that you are still jumping through their loops and are not creating any type of side show that they might be excluded from.  The more often we respond to their dramatic behaviour the more reinforcement that we provide.  If we just stay neutral s/he will get upset and probably try harder, if we stand firm and do not react the narcissist well see that we aren’t much “fun” any more and move on.  They may sporadically come back to see if there is any “play” in you, but if you do not respond, the game is over.

Trying to play nice

  • They are completely disinterested in what is going on in your life, they don’t ask questions about you (or your opinion), if they do, it is only a formality, they do not listen to your reply. They will swing the conversation back to them or general gossip as soon as they can.
  • You will only hear from this type of person when they want something from you. The will constantly make demands on you, gradually wearing you down.   They will not ask you to do something outright as that would be a favour, but will repeat time and again the action that they want you to take through oblique comments and manipulation in general.  It is important to stand your ground when they do this, otherwise you will find yourself over facilitating them (if only for a quiet life), once you do this, they will feel superior and like they have “won” and will almost certainly try to push you into doing something else for them a short while after.  The quickest and most effective way to avoid being coerced in this way is to say “no’ I do not want to do that”.  They will try to force you to do what they want by applying pressure, this can be done with aggression, but weakness and vulnerability are other powerful weapons in their arsenal.  They can also use persuasion, “explaining” how it would benefit you by doing what they told you to do.
  • They can also try to physically intimidate you. This can be done by invading your personal space, threatening facial expression “you will be sorry if you do not do as I say”, staring/glaring at you with a false smile or avoiding eye contact altogether but using a low and menacing tone of voice.
  • They do not let you express yourself in any way. They will tell you that your feelings are all “wrong”, as well as your taste – both decorative and gastronomic disguising it as “advice”, they will lie to you and assume an air of authority on subjects that they know nothing about.  They will flatly contradict what you say and a conversation can quickly turn into an infantile “did”, “didn’t” argument, which most adults will quickly back out of.  That is where the phrase “we will have to agree to disagree” comes in handy.
  • The supposedly “nice” person can leave you feeling horrible after you have tried to communicate with them. They do not want you to express yourself, they want to control you and make you see things exclusively from their point of view.
  • No matter how much they say that they are on your side, they are never, never an ally.

The look and feel of abuse

Questions to ask yourself:

  • How do you feel when you are around the other person?
  • Do you feel uncomfortable around this person, restless, edgy, muted?
  • After you have been open and sincere with a narcissist do you feel better or worse – do you feel vulnerable in some way and/or wish you hadn’t told them how you feel? Do you feel vulnerable because you were frank with them?
  • Are you the person you once were and knew? (If you are in an adult relationship with a narcissist). If you live with a narcissist do you have negative feelings around fear of explosive rage and a negative image of yourself.?
  • Is your dominant feeling in the relationship one of fear? Fear of doing things wrong, fear of rage, fear of being punished in some way, fear of being humiliated or sneered at?
  • Try to define how you feel around them to yourself.
  • Do they “dump” on you – make their problems your problems?
  • Do they try to provoke you in some way? Such as trying to make you feel excluded, jealous or zone in on your vulnerabilities?
  • Do you feel better or worse after you have spent time with them?
  • Do they talk about winning or losing where the narcissist is playing the role of both the hero and the victim?
  • Do they apologise if they have upset you in any way?
  • Does the apology sound sincere?
  • Do they put you down and simultaneously build themselves up?
  • Is it all about the other person?
  • Are your needs, wants and desires met (both emotional and physical)?
  • When you admit to yourself that there is a problem and that it needs to be dealt with, are they willing to listen or co-operate?
  • Do you feel physically or psychologically drained when you are around this person?
  • Does this person let you express your feelings, thoughts, dreams and emotions without trying to block your conversation with negative feedback?
  • Do you ever try to have conversations with this person and think “what is the point, this conversation isn’t going anywhere or making sense”, it feels like they are deliberately misunderstanding you or changing the subject to suit them?
  • Does this person tell you things like their job is better than yours, their family is better than yours, they have better friendships than you do? Or start a conversation with “the problem with you is…”
  • Do you find yourself playing the role of parent or guardian, even if it is with your own parents.
  • Do you feel compromised by the needs and demands of the other person and give in to them just for a quiet life?
  • How do you feel about having friends and family over to your house?
  • Do you trust this person?
  • If this person is your partner, do they participate in household jobs?
  • If something bad or unpleasant happens to the other person, do they take it out on you?
  • Do they listen to you if you are emotionally upset or are feeling physically unwell?
  • Does the other person constantly say unpleasant things about other people and always assume that they are jealous or envious of them?
  • Does the other person have fantasies about success, power, genius or beauty that doesn’t manifest itself in anything that they do or have achieved?
  • Do they tell you that they are fantastic a doing certain things, but there is little or no evidence to support their claim?
  • Do they constantly exaggerate their potential, without making any effort to realise it?
  • Does your relationship feel stable, or are you never quite sure “who is going to turn up”?

Signs that you have been abused or are being abused by a Narcissist


You are unsure of yourself.  Do you find it difficult to make decisions?  Constantly refer to other people for validation or before you do something (when you never did this before?)  The reasons for this are three fold a) the narcissist does not want you “to get ahead” and be successful in whatever you do, as they see this as an injury to their own self-image. B) a narcissist will always blame someone else for everything, if you are in a relationship with a narcissist then you will be the obvious target, c) a person is much easier to control if they are confused and fearful of making the “wrong” decision.  This demeaning and destructive behaviour works slowly and over time you wake up wondering why you have no energy and have completely lost the fight to defend yourself (and maybe even get out of bed).  The narcissist will take absolutely everything away from you that they can.  Your social support network, your money, your confidence and self- esteem.  When they have done this they will be pleased with themselves because in this broken state you are much easier to control and they will see this as a victory.

Confusion is an inevitable by-product of abuse.  You will feel violated and doubt yourself at the same time.  Your reality will constantly be denied and they will not engage in open and frank communication.  If you say that you are not “happy” with the situation, they will go on the offensive and tell you that you are depressed, you are too sensitive, you need to go to therapy or do something, but it is never their fault. They will not work together with you to find a solution/compromise, on the contrary they will work against you.   Any disharmony in the relationship with a narcissist will always be the other person’s fault and they will let you know either directly or indirectly that they are wonderful person for staying with such a crazy person like you.  For example, they might tell someone else that you are being “really tough to tolerate at the moment”, but they will stand by you, even though they know very well that they are the source of your anguish.  This is a double win for them because a) the other person sees them as a loyal and caring partner, b) they get to continue to abuse you, knowing that everyone thinks that they are great, and won’t believe you if you try to set the record straight (you are the one going through mental health issues after all, not them!)

They also believe that they are being magnanimous for pointing out your flaws to you so that you can change and become the better person that they deserve.  They create all of the rules for you, but they are for you alone, they do not abide by any of them.  They have the freedom to do whatever they want to whoever they want even when it means hurting others (including their own children).

You cannot pull a narcissist up on their behaviour for three reasons a) they will flatly deny that they did what they did b) you will get a counter “attack” with narcissistic rage or c) take your constructive criticism and flip it right back at you “no you are…”

Arguing with a narcissist is futile because they will not stick to the argument, they do not argue/discuss to find a solution to a problem, they argue to “win”.  The techniques that they employ to do this are irrelevant to them no matter how nonsensical or illogical they are.

The person on the receiving end of this type of abuse will know instinctively that there is something “wrong”, but might not know what or why.  Most people if they have been accused of a certain type of an annoying or inappropriate behaviour will go off and introspect (even if they are defensive at the time of the argument), a narcissist will not.  They will not listen to what you say and they will firmly place the blame for their behaviour somewhere else, anywhere else, it is just never their “fault”.  This is not just the behaviour of a small child who denies stealing biscuits, it is more pathological than that.  They don’t just deny what they have done, they want to hurt the person who has suggested that they were culpable of a wrong doing, either by a smear campaign, gas lighting or some other means, this is narcissistic abuse and they are relentless in the pursuit for “winning” their “game” (like hurting the person who confronted them, preferably destroy them).  This can literally go on for years.

If you have been subjected to narcissistic abuse either at a family of origin level or in adult relationships it may well be the case that you disassociate from your feelings.  So if someone is overtly shouting abuse at you and you don’t react.  You don’t tell them to F**k Off and you don’t cry or cringe either, you just stand there, speechless, it is only when you get to some place that you feel safe that your emotions emerge.  This might serve you in the short term, but in the long term it has been proven to decrease your ability for healthy psychological interaction and function.  It often happens that the person who is being abused by narcissists exhibits symptoms that the narcissist “should” own, such as anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, suicidal thoughts etc., this is because you are taking on the “stuff” of a narcissist.  You didn’t earn it, they projected it on to you and expect/ insist that you own their negative thoughts about themselves and the world in general.  It is very, very stressful being around a narcissist.