You can't win an argument with a person with Narcissistic Personality Disorder. That's not an exaggeration, it's a fact. You cannot and will not win. Ever.
You can't win an argument with a person with NPD because arguing a point requires logical reasoning and a Narcissist does everything in their power to skirt logical reasoning. In fact, they are very strategically gifted at introducing logical fallacies into an argument. If their opponent recognizes the fallacy and calls them on it, they are quick to compound it with yet another fallacy. This pattern continues until the original argument is buried so deeply in layer upon twisted layer of invalid reasoning, blame-shifting, and misdirection, that there is no hope of the opponent ever untangling it.
A Narcissist knows that it is far simpler to argue with a fallacy than to rely on the burden of true logical reasoning. They also know that if they argue long enough, that eventually they can wear their logic-minded opponent down to the point where they choose to forfeit. Because what any logic-minded individual knows is that to continue to argue with a fool is itself the action of a fool.
Throughout the nearly-15 years of my marriage to a man with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, I fell into this trap time and time again: trying to argue my point with logic. And time and time again I found myself exhausted and utterly depleted. Of the literal thousands of arguments I engaged in, not one did I win. NOT ONE. You may wonder then, why in the heck I persisted to try. There were two main reasons: 1) I didn't understand the nature of what I was up against, and 2) I was filled to the brim with righteous indignation.
If you've read my previous installments in The Subtle Slave blog series, you'll recall that for the duration of my marriage I did not recognize that my husband had a personality disorder. I knew full well something was wrong with him – that much was painfully obvious – but what it was exactly, I could not put my finger on. Because I had no other frame of reference, I assumed he was a normal-functioning intellectual with the capacity to empathize. And, because I had never heard of NPD nor had I encountered another person with the disorder, it did not occur to me that a person could, at times, so closely emulate decency yet have no ability to differentiate between right and wrong, good and evil. For so many years I was left wondering if I was losing my flipping mind because the man who presented himself to the world as a thoughtful, compassionate individual was incapable of conjuring those characteristics behind closed doors. And, when it came to arguing with him…well, let's just say I lost long before I ever put up my dukes.
Still, knowing I had truth on my side, I tried my damnedest to get him to see the light; to get him to acknowledge the fallacy in his thinking. I would make clear and logical points, but my engineer husband – who should have been the one with a Spock-like rationale – seemed to deflect logic like The Great Wall of China would deflect a little rubber ball.
You see, what I didn't realize then was that arguing is a Narcissist's superpower. They thrive on their ability to drive you to the brink of insanity. They gain a sick sense of satisfaction watching you writhe and struggle, trying in every way possible to get them to acknowledge the truth. But the reality of the situation is that they already know the truth…they just don't care. Their game is not about getting to the truth. No. Like a prize fighter, the Narcissist's game is about getting the Knock Out. They enter the ring not necessarily expecting to throw the hardest punches but secure in their ability to endure any punches thrown at them (little rubber ball meet Great Wall of China). They can go round after round with logical fallacy and not break a sweat. However, watching their opponent bob, weave, and perspire profusely only serves to fuel their energy. In the end, their relentless bombardment of absurdities and their unfathomable ability to defy logical reasoning will either exhaust their opponent to the point where they break down or enrage them to the point where they explode. As in boxing, a technical KO is still a victory.
I'm ashamed to admit that it took me as long as it did to learn how to win an argument with my NPD spouse. But, after more than a decade of losing my mind, losing my sh*t, or most typically, both, I finally cracked the code: LOSE. And lose quickly.
In my experience, losing victoriously has been obtained by employing one of the two methods outlined below. Don't be mistaken, in none of these scenarios will the Narcissist ever cede the victory. They will still claim that they have won by default. Though they may never agree, YOU will know that by preserving your dignity and your sanity, you are the true winner. Here are the methods I suggest in order to lose victoriously:
- REFUSE TO ENGAGE
Refusing to allow a person with NPD to begin an argument that will eventually, inevitably, and without fail lead to your demise, is likely the most effective way to take the wind out of their sails. Nothing pisses them off more than not being allowed the opportunity to drag you onto a battlefield, pump you full of lead, and witness you slowly bleed out while they watch smugly from the bunkers. When the Narcissist tries to strike up an argument, simply tell them; "I refuse to engage in an argument with you." Do not open your mouth after that. No matter what. Have no doubt that they will unleash their entire arsenal of hateful and offensive slander trying to bait you into battle, but do not acknowledge them. Just sit quietly and look away as they shriek and claw the air around them like a demon who's been doused with holy water.
Of course, there is a chance that this tactic of avoidance may escalate them to become physically violent. If you feel you may be in danger, forgo this tactic and opt for the following:
2. IMMEDIATELY AGREE
Another highly effective method of losing victoriously is to wave the white flag the second the first shot is fired. When the Narcissist is trying to place blame on you for something (because they never accept fault. Never.) all you need to shut them up and shut them down is to wholeheartedly agree. For instance, one of my husband's favorite means to enslave me was by not allotting me adequate funds to pay the bills and still purchase other basic necessities (though we had ample funds available) then micromanage our financial accounts and scrutinize my every purchase- an aspect of financial abuse. Often he would say to me something to the effect of, "You're incapable of staying on budget!" To which I would reply, "You're right." You should have seen his face turn an inhuman shade of reddish-purple. He would continue, trying to drag me into the fight; "You're running us into the ground!" Again, "You're right." Smoke would billow from his eye sockets. "Aren't you even concerned?!" "Yes, I am." His body now convulsing with rage,"So what are you going to do about it?" to which I would politely answer, "Whatever you say, dear." And that was that.
Sure, he would then go on to lecture me about all the ways I needed to shape up and fall in line. All to which I would nod and agree. That did not mean, of course, that I planned to follow through on any of the absurd things he just demanded of me, but it put a quick end to his game by handing him the victor's crown straight out of the gate.
At first, choosing to lose to someone who is so clearly in the wrong may be a bitter pill to swallow. But, I promise it will get easier and easier. And, in the end, it is the only way for you exercise control over the situation while maintaining your sanity and self-respect.
So, my friend, should you find yourself in the unfortunate position of trying to reason with a Narcissist, don't. Don't give them the satisfaction of watching you fail. By assisting them to a swift victory, you come out the ultimate winner.
P.S. If you are just now joining me for my blog series The Subtle Slave, and would like to learn more about NPD and about my own personal experiences being married to a Narcissist, please check out my blog page Bittersweet Me. If you would like to read more about the topics covered in this post, see the links below.