This is How to Respond to a Passive-Aggressive Narcissist

Jun 06, 2020

For many of us, family get-togethers can be a real pain in the you-know-what. How wonderful it would be to have a perfect, happy family with no issues. But human beings live messy lives, and we do so many things the wrong way before we have sufficient wisdom to know the best approach. 

Not long ago a friend of mine asked me for advice on how to deal with a passive aggressive, frankly narcissistic text she received from her father about her upcoming visit. It was obviously coming from a place of hurt, and yet there was a lot of care in there, and also aggression and manipulation. It was clear that there were some deeper issues. This was a family in need of boundaries.

I didn't tell my friend exactly what to do, but I did give her a basic framework to think about the problem. I suggested she should wait a bit before she responded, because we always want to make sure that we are responding rather than reacting.

1. Gratitude.  The busy and messy state of so many of our lives means that sometimes we don't take the time to think about all the things that we're grateful for. Your family back home (family of origin) may sometimes seem to have nothing but time to think about all the ways you act ungrateful towards them. What they perceive as an antagonistic disregard for them may really just be you living your life. As you decide upon your approach for interacting with your family, try to think of the things that you are mutually grateful for. Thinking about all of the mutual needs and shared happiness you have is a good approach for cultivating gratitude.

2. Boundaries. Nothing clarifies boundaries like forgiveness. To forgive someone means to let them off the hook, or to cancel a debt he owes you. That said, you are the owner of you. You make your own decisions about your life and your time, and 'No' is a powerful word available to you and you decide when to use it.

3. Say Yes to the Good, No to the Bad. Be humble and eager to take in the good from others. Help them draw it out if you have to. Begin healing connections with your support system. Likewise, if these boundaries are new, you can avoid situations with people who have abused or controlled you. Be aware of your pull toward hurtful situations and relationships.

4. Love. Love with freedom. Love because you want to, the way you want to. Boundaries do not mean stopping love. Just the opposite, with boundaries you are gaining the freedom to love. Practice purposeful love and giving to increase your freedom.

Let's talk more about how to protect yourself from a narcissist.