Why behaving like a normal adult around a Narcissist won’t work

25 Nov 2021

“Our lives are all about communicating in an adult way. Sulkers can change with loving, people who teach them how to laugh; laughter is contagious. Please have a wonderful life—it’s Short.” So writes “Bettina Sweet” [really?] in the comments on my post about The Low-Down on Sulking.

Clearly, I am not as sweet a person as Bettina … because I deleted the comment.  You see, I have a real problem with the kind of careless misinformation spread by people who  either don’t know what they are talking about or don’t care.

Approaches like “Sweet” Bettina’s can cause a lot of hurt to everyone but her own virtue-signalling self. That is why I want to take issue with it here.

A Narcissistic relationship is guaranteed to undermine your sense of reality. Narcissists use gaslighting to “prove” that everything that you think, say and believe is wrong.

Things that only aggravate abuse survivors’ wounds

Now, I am not saying that Bettina is a Narcissist. I have no way of knowing whether she is or not. But she has does embody  a few of the regrettably common things that can wound already wounded people:

1) she omits all consideration for the fact that she is talking to survivors of a profoundly damaging emotional  experience.

2) she sets herself up as a little font of wisdom with her oh-so-sweetly patronising  sign-off: “Please have a wonderful life – it’s short.”  It only takes her one little sentence to position herself as wiser than thou as well as mellower than thou.

4) she has failed to assess the significance of sulking in the context of an abusive relationship.  A little, light sulking might fit somewhere on the continuum of normality and, certainly, not everyone is a pinnacle of maturity in their intimate relationships at all times.

However, abusive, narcissistic sulking – aka The Silent Treatment – is weapons grade sulking and it is used, deliberately, as a weapon of massive destruction.

Narcissists have no wish whatsoever to be talked – or loved – out of their sulking. They sulk because they know that it is an effective way of exerting power over you.

Narcissists make war not love in their intimate relations. They have no intention of changing that practice because it works for them.

5) Bettina has felt free to share her pearl(s) of woefully unhelpful advice about how best to solve the problem that you don’t have. Be very conscious of people that do that. First, they redefine the problem that you actually have as something quite trivial and then they offer you a sweet little homespun solution which is about as helpful as saying “muggers just need a good hug”.

The purpose of weapons grade sulking

The kind of sulking that you have experienced in your abusive relationship is anything but amenable to reason, or a little cajoling and humor.

My experience has been that I could – occasionally – laugh my Mr Nasty out of a sulk temporarily. But he would then revert to the sulk with an even more heightened sense of grievance and the whole experience would last even longer and be even more wounding.

Narcissistic sulking is all about regaining control of the relationship which is why laughing them out of it is never a good idea.

How free advice can affect you

The key problem with all the Sweet Bettinas of the world is that, when they come at you preaching sweet reason  and –endlessly recycled –  homespun wisdom , it can be very destabilising for you.

Since your intuition was disabled early in the relationship, you can lack a sense of deep conviction about the rightness of your own thought processes. Your intuition, ideally, would have been your internal compass. Without it, you have to find another way to navigate the challenges that you face.

What you have to do when you can’t fall back on Intuition

So, what do you do?

You end up having to rely on trying to do what The Reasonable Person would do.

Things that the mythical Reasonable Person would do include:

1) Attempting that old communication standard: “When you do X, I feel Y…”

2) Trying to persuade the Narcissistic sulker to see your point of view.

3) Making allowances for the hurt that must be driving them to behave the way that they have.

4) Trying to love them into the kind of wholeness that you feel they deserve but currently lack.

5) Taking on sole responsibility for magicking a dysfunctional relationship with an emotional toddler into a healthy adult relationship.

6) Shouldering the blame for the failure of the relationship.

And, as if that weren’t enough, you are trying to do this when you are greatly distressed by wounds that  likely stretch all the way back to your childhood.

The problem with the Reasonable Person approach

The Reasonable Person approach is does not work with a Narcissist. Narcissist have contempt for Reasonable People. They love to prove how much smarter and more powerful they are than Reasonable People. They see Reasonable People as a soft target.

So, you see, people like saccharine sweet Bettina have nothing to offer you.

What is to be done with people like Bettina – and we all know that there are plenty of them around?

That is when it pays to apply the magnificent resource that is “No Contact”.

You see, the mythical Reasonable Person might try to explain to Bettina why her advice is a very bad idea. You could also try that old, “When you said X, I felt Y…”approach. But somehow, I don’t think Bettina would stick around to listen when she can get more satisfaction for her two cents by finding someone else to bestow it on.

There is no communicating with some people

You might do better to learn the lesson that there are some people you just cannot communicate with.

Communication is a fine and precious thing when you have some chance of being able to get your point across. Where you cannot either because you might just as well be talking to a wall or where you have more important things to focus on than random people’s misinformation, then no engagement is a far better option. It will spare you a lot of wear and tear on your already stressed nervous system.

And in case you are wondering whether going No Contact means that you, too, are sulking, No Contact and Sulking are totally different thing.  Sulking, as stated above, is used by abusers to regain control of a relationship, (It is also used, at times, in a far more modest way by people who feel so hurt or angry that they cannot find the right words to say because they have temporarily reached the end of their adult resources  – in which case it is devoid of the malevolent charge of an abusive sulk/Silent Treatment.)

You go No Contact when

No Contact occurs when you look at a situation and say, “You know, it is pointless for me to persist in this relationship because:

  • I cannot get my voice heard
  • It is causing me distress
  • It is not worth my time and energy to keep banging my head against a brick wall
  • The other person does not have, nor ever will have, my best interest at heart
  • This serves only to exhaust me.
  • There are no circumstances in which I need to continue communicating with that person.

No Contact is you closing a door that needs to be closed. Once and for all.  You don’t  waste your time going back and reopening it to see if something has changed because nothing has changed.  That wasn’t a relationship behind that door. It was the junkyard of the other person’s making.

No Contact means acknowledging that whatever it was is OVER.

Grey Rock

And then there is Grey Rock, what is sometimes called the art of deflecting abuse. Grey Rock is the technique of disarming the Narcissist and spoiling the fun of people who like to bestow their unsolicited opinion on you. It is a powerful technique that can break the cycle of living in fear of how to manage fear, criticism and judgement. It allows you to deal with and overcome the fear of attack from wounding people, when you cannot go No Contact with them.

It is also one of my favorite topics to teach as it helps abuse survivors to reclaim their power

On December 4th I am going to be running a live workshop  about How to Be A Grey Rock Star  which will teach you how to

  • Take back your power when dealing with a Narcissist
  • Get rid of the endless drama of your interactions with them.
  • Stop being frightened of what they might say, do – or even think.
  • Remain unaffected by their stories of their wonderful life without you in it.
  • Co-parent more confidently
  • Negotiate more effectively with them and
  • Generally reduce stress and anxiety, freeing up mental energy for all the other important aspects of your life that can get neglected.
  • Offer new skills for dealing with difficult people in general.

The workshop will be recorded so, if you can’t make the live event, you don’t have to miss out on a single moment of it.  Plus, even if you do make the live event, you can go back and revisit it so you can get the new materials in it fully “under your belt”.

Healing from narcissistic abuse requires a lot of mind and heart-shifts as well as learning new information and techniques. How to be A Grey Rock will offer you all of these and more. Check it out here.

And unlike Sweet Bettina, I have spent more decades than I care to remember perfecting my own Grey Rock technique and the last 10 teaching other abuse survivors to become  Grey Rock Stars . I hope that you’ll join with me in becoming a Grey Rock Star.


Annie Kaszina, international Emotional Abuse Recovery specialist and award-winning author of 3 books designed to help women recognise and heal from toxic relationships so that they can build healthy, lasting relationships with the perfect partner for them, blogs about all aspects of abuse, understanding Narcissists and how to avoid them and building strong self-worth. To receive Annie’s blog direct to your Inbox just leave your details here.

4 thoughts on “Why behaving like a normal adult around a Narcissist won’t work”

  1. The reasonable person approach works only for reasonable people and not everyone is a reasonable person. I wish I knew this a couple of years ago when I got into a relationship with a “charming” coworker who turned to be a very volatile, abusive and narcissistic man. I had to work with him for a while after I broke it off with him. He was was very unreliable, got into conflits with other coworkers and was eventually finally dismissed from work. He even attacked me at work after his dismissal because I dared to finally tell him politely I don’t want to have any kind of contact with him and I still hear such pearls of wisdom about him from my enabling boss. So infuriating!

    • Unfortunately, all horribly true.

      Sadly, most of us learn it the hard way because we are taught to trust anything and everything other than our gut and our own experiences.

  2. It seems like Bettina doesn’t understand that sulking and the silent treatment are tools of abuse for the narcissist. It’s a horribly abusive way they exert control over others. Laughter isn’t contagious when you’re dealing with a Mr. Nasty because when you’re happy that’s when they attack and try to make your life miserable. They are not happy when you’re happy. They are miserable when you’re happy and they set out to make you unhappy too. They always have to level up and that means putting you down, squashing your happiness, stomping your goal and dreams, and belittling your accomplishments.

    • Absolutely true.

      You always have to worry about someone who doesn’t understand the first thing that they are talking about and isn’t remotely aware – or concerned that there might just be something that they are missing.


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