Conversations From Hell
Jackson MacKenzie describes conversations in his book Psychopath Free as one way that narcissists erode the identities of their partners by conditioning them that they are not allowed to speak about the behavior of the narcissists without grave repercussions and if they want the relationship to continue.
He calls it “word salad,” and lists the following nine warning signs that you’re in one of these dialogues. Almost all of these are present in just this one conversation I used as an example above.
1. Circular Conversations.
You feel as if you’ve resolved something in the conversation, and then a few minutes later you’re talking about it again as if the narcissist didn’t hear any of the arguments you made. They argue their own same points again and again as if they’re in their own reality where they can’t hear you or your words don’t register.
2. Bringing Up Your Past Wrongdoings and Ignoring Their Own.
If you mention any of their bad behavior, they will bring up something you have done to distract you and put you on the defensive.
3. Condescending and Patronizing Tone.
They will remain calm during the conversation, however, you will get increasingly confused and bewildered as they refuse to entertain your words or acknowledge what you’re saying. When you react, they respond as if you’re being unreasonable and use your reaction against you as an escalation.
4. Accusing You of Doing Things That They Themselves Are Doing.
As the conversation starts to escalate, the narcissist will start to project their bad behavior onto you.
5. Multiple Personas
The narcissist will use a variety of tactics and show a variety of sides. You may see anger and insults, tenderness, or they may play the victim card. All of these tactics, regardless of whether they are friendly, neutral or hostile, are all serving the interests of the narcissist, even if the narcissist is appearing conciliatory.
6. The Eternal Victim
The narcissist will often offer reasons for their behavior that lead back to horrible treatment in their own pasts.
7. You Begin Explaining Basic Human Emotions
You may find yourself having to describe how doing the things they have done hurt you and why, and the basic foundations of a relationship like respect and honesty. You think if you can communicate these things, they will stop.
The narcissist almost always blames others for the things they do or makes other excuses. They may blame alcohol, their youth, unfair or biased treatment from others, or other reasons, but they will not and cannot just own up to what they have done, express genuine remorse and correct course.
9. “What in the World Just Happened?”
You leave the conversations feeling drained and as if nothing was accomplished, or as if you accepted a mediocre answer or you are being diminished as the time goes on because you can’t seem to get anything resolved.
In the conversation above, I was so relieved to get anything from him that sounded like an answer to my question after over two hours of texting back and forth and all of the deflection in his responses, that I accepted it.
Now, looking back at the conversation, I can see how what I’d said to him just prior was leading. I had tipped him off with something to say that would pacify me. I’m not even totally sure he was providing it as a response to what I asked or just saw an opportunity to add onto what I was saying and make an empathy grab.
I was so worn out from the conversation and worried that at any moment he would explode into rage or just stop talking to me altogether, that I seized on words that felt like he was finally giving me a response to what I had asked after all that time, and I didn’t even bother digging any deeper into it as he moved the conversation onto other topics.
This was a frequent occurrence.
Then I would wonder why a few days later a conversation didn’t feel settled. Because it wasn’t.
Why Narcissists Never Give You What You Want in Conversations
H.G. Tudor, a self-aware narcissist who writes about relationships from a narcissist’s point of view, explains how narcissists think about these conversations differently than we do in his article, “Why Are the Arguments Never Resolved?”
When we as non-narcissists have these conversations about events with narcissists, we are attempting to align our narratives with them to settle on a version of reality that mirrors what we have experienced.
For example, we may wish to have the narcissist acknowledge something or apologize or stop doing something. This is what happens when two non-narcissists have conversations–they are attempting to come to an agreement.
“The victim does not know that they are in a romantic entanglement with a narcissist… Both have entirely different aims,” Tudor says.