Have you ever met a narcissist? Have you had to deal with one? If you’re like most people, you’ve been in some type of relationship with one at some point in your life. So, I sought out successful divorce lawyer, best-selling author, and narcissist expert, Rebecca Zung, to share hot tips and insights on negotiating with narcissists. In a world where we’re increasingly forced to deal with narcissists, I thought I’d share her wisdom with you.
According to Zung, narcissists are cunning and charismatic, and often fly under the radar, undetected. In a world where we’re dealing with an apparent pandemic of narcissism, it’s important to recognize tenuous situations with the people close to you to avoid being victims of narcissism.
Before being able to negotiate with a narcissist, understanding how one works is required. While the rest of the world are motivated and driven by lots of different things, narcissists only have one drive: narcissistic supply.
Narcissistic supply is anything that feeds the person’s ego. Most people think of ego in terms of things like money, respect, power, the right friends, etc. But for narcissists, their supply comes from devaluing, debasing, and putting people down … always seeking to make themselves feel superior to others.
This is a critical factor to know when going into a negotiation, according to Zung. A narcissist goes into negotiation thinking, “How can I make this other person’s life as miserable as possible?”, whereas a rational person goes into negotiation asking, “How can I find the best resolution to the matter?” So, when going into negotiation with a narcissist, it’s important to recognize that you’re not even on the same plane.
Negotiating with a narcissist will feel counterintuitive, with only one side wanting a meaningful resolution. The narcissist wants to be in the position where you are the prey, and they control the situation. Zung advocates the SLAY method … Strategy, Leverage, Anticipation and You. Develop a “Super Strong Strategy”, “Invincible Leverage”, “Anticipation”, and lastly, focus on “You” and your own position.
It takes strategy to figure out what form of narcissistic supply is more important for them. The only thing more important than their status is the supply they get from dragging people through the process and making them look bad. One can disarm a narcissist by simply not taking the bait. When they say insulting and degrading things, ignoring and minimizing their remarks is an effective way of disarming them, by making their words meaningless.
Overt vs Covert vs Malignant Narcissism
Overt narcissists tend to be more obvious and direct. They typically have no shame. Even though all narcissists are driven by narcissistic supply, it’s important to know that covert narcissists operate differently. These narcissists are more of the “smear campaign” type, riding under the radar. They often hide behind comments like, “I’m just so concerned about them, they’re drinking way too much,” or, “I’m just so caring. It’s so sad that he doesn’t want anything to do with his family.” The covert narcissists are passive-aggressive, insinuating hostility and demonstrating negative assumptions like, “You don’t want to come to spend time with your family. I understand work is so important to you.”
Covert narcissists often fail to leave a trail until they start getting squeezed. Once the mask starts to come off, and the other side realizes who this person truly is, that’s when the narcissist starts to slip up. Once their narcissistic injury is inflamed, it triggers narcissistic rage, and they start making mistakes (i.e. angry emails, texts, outbursts). If you get them to that point and give them a strong enough shovel to dig their own hole, your work is done.
The malignant narcissist is one that has no conscience whatsoever. They will make false, hateful allegations intended to do real damage (i.e., losing your job). They have no concerns about completely ruining a life. These are the ones that stalk, get violent, threaten to be violent, etc.
It’s important to recognize when you’re in a situation with a narcissist, to not only take the correct steps in negotiation but also to recognize that the words the narcissist spews are inaccurate, for the sake of your own mental health.
Negotiation does not have to be a formal negotiation. There doesn’t have to be a lawsuit involved. It can be as simple as negotiating with your teenagers. The methodology will always be the same, as long as you have a strategy (the ‘S’ from the SLAY model). The first part of your strategy is creating your vision for what you want the outcome to be. This allows you to hold on to the focus of your final goal instead of being sidetracked by the narcissist’s behaviours and constant inflaming.
The second requirement for SLAY is leverage, which comes from creating a summary of lies, inconsistencies, and/or bad behaviour. Finding a pattern to expose the narcissist is great leverage whether in litigation, professional or personal negotiations.
The third requirement of SLAY is anticipation, which ties neatly with the first requirement of strategy. Being two steps ahead of the narcissist will allow you to strategize and plan accordingly. In negotiation, being two steps ahead will always provide leverage as you can anticipate their position and be ready with a response or even cut it off at the pass – i.e. “I’m anticipating that you’re going to take this position; here’s why it doesn’t hold its merit.”
The final requirement of SLAY is to focus on yourself, your position, and your case. In negotiation, if all you have is a good defence, no one is scoring any points. When dealing with a narcissistic personality, it becomes easy to point fingers at how bad the person is. It’s important to bolster your own position to take care of yourself and protect your mindset.
Approaching narcissistic personalities is not something most of us want to go through, yet unfortunately it occurs a lot more frequently than one might think. I hope you find Rebecca’s SLAY method of negotiating with narcissists helpful.
You can access the full interview with Rebecca, Negotiating With a Narcissist, HERE.