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5 tips on how to negotiate with a narcissist

Updated: Aug 28, 2023

Negotiating with a narcissist can feel like negotiating with a terrorist who have taken your children hostage and issuing their demands. It can be excruciatingly painful in an already stressful time in your life amidst separation. It takes tremendous strength, emotional control and self-confidence to survive the narcissist.

There are 5 key tips to help negotiate with a narcissist -

1. Don’t use the word narcissist - This word is inflammatory in any negotiation, especially if there has NOT been a medical professional who has diagnosed them as one. The way to demonstrate they have narcissistic tendencies is to provide documented evidence that demonstrates their behaviour that shows they are a narcissist without actually calling them one. For example, a narcissist lacks empathy, gets what they want at any cost and claims they are the victim when in fact they are the perpetrator. Build your case around showing how they are unreasonable, refuses to negotiate and doesn’t put the children’s needs above their own needs.

2. Demonstrate how they lack empathy - NOT for you, but for the children. The children’s best interest is what the court is looking out for, NOT how your ex is unfair to you. Your evidence needs to provide examples of how the children have been impacted by the narcissist. For example, the narcissist won’t allow the children to go to birthday parties or extracurricular activities if it’s on their shared parenting time. Emphasise how the child was upset; disappointed and how social interaction is so important for your child’s self-confidence and sense of inclusion. Another example, your ex is wanting the children to stay at their place overnight on a school night expecting the children to travel to school each way for an hour. Demonstrate that you have recommended they pick the kids up from school to spend time with them for a couple of hours or take them out for dinner as an alternative so that the court sees you are being child focused in promoting the children having a meaningful relationship with the other parent without adversely impacting the children.

3. Set boundaries with communication – If your ex communicates respectfully, then respond positively and respectively, providing information they have requested or consider a request based on the impact to the children. If your ex uses a tirade of insults, demands or accusations respond with, “until you can communicate respectfully, I will not respond”. This helps to set a boundary that you won’t buy into drama, be spoken to disrespectfully or end up being triggered into saying things that could be used against you in court.

4. Make them feel they have the power of choice – the narcissist will be positional and demand what they want as they do not like being told what to do or told 'NO'. They need to feel they are the decision maker, the one with power to say how things will be, as they like to be the one in control. Table two options that you could live with and enable your ex to choose which one they want, allowing them to feel they are in the power seat when they have actually been cajoled into choosing an option that you are happy with.

5. Remove emotion and make it a business transaction – The narcissist is always trying to goad you into an emotional meltdown to demonstrate how much of a victim they are and have others enable them to get what they want. It is important that you stay calm, emotionally detached and businesslike. Understand what is driving their behaviours, is it fear of losing the children whereby if the children spend a lot of time with you, they may fear the children will want to be with you more than them. They may be wanting to financially ruin you and get as much as they can as have the fear, they are going to struggle to be financially independent. Understand that the narcissist is all about self-interest so pleading with them to be fair to you is a waste of time. You need to negotiate with them where they feel they are the winner, even though you have compromised to a solution that works for you too.

Overall, negotiating with a narcissist is exhausting, so it is vitally important to ensure you recharge the batteries with self-care and have positive support people around you to help you get through the challenges ahead. Stay calm, stay strong and create a solution that makes the narcissist think they are a winner!

Author – Cheryl Duffy, Divorce Coach, Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner, NMAS Mediator & Parenting Coordinator

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