phrases that shut down narcissists

8 REAL Phrases That Shut Down and Repel Narcissists

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Interacting with a narcissist feels like you’re one step away from total disaster. You’re never quite sure what to say that will elicit the reaction you want—or don’t want. That’s why it’s important to learn language and techniques that are effective when communicating with narcissists.

We’re going to look at eight phrases that shut down narcissists. They’re effective in everyday conversation and are based on many common situations. These are phrases that disarm narcissists and will, hopefully, send them packing. From there, you can set boundaries in place to ensure they stay out of your life going forward.

What Not to Say to a Narcissist

But before we get there, here are some common phrases that are typically used to “shut down” a narcissist:

  • We both have the right to our own opinions.
  • I’m sorry you feel that way.
  • I don’t like how you’re speaking to me.
  • I can accept how you feel.

Do any of these sound familiar? They’re common phrases many articles encourage you to use in conversation with high-conflict individuals. But, they are not effective when you want to disarm a narcissist. They come off as laughable and silly to a narcissist and might incite them further.

Some narcissists, when you say things like this, don’t know how to react because that’s not their way. They’re not thinking in diplomatic or civil terms. So for you to use these phrases makes you seem a little weird and weak in the narcissist’s eyes.

The only caveat here is that if you’re in court or in a legal scenario where you’re being monitored, these phrases can be seen as diplomatic and civil. Otherwise, they will make the narcissist laugh under their breath.

Okay, so that’s what not to do. Here are eight real phrases that disarm narcissists, causing them to repel and shut down.

1. “I’m going to need your help with the bills.”

Narcissists love their sob stories. They’ll say what they need to tug at your heartstrings to extract some money because of a bad situation like job loss. But job loss or other financial hardship is not just because they fell on hard times—it’s because their personality does not allow them to hold down a job!

This is the type of narcissist I call The Moocher. 

If this particular narcissist manages to stick it out long enough to get a college degree, it eventually becomes useless because The Moocher destroys all opportunities in their field due to a sketchy job history and their propensity to quit at the slightest provocation.

They struggle with staying employed because they cannot tolerate authority figures, seeing any sort of constructive criticism or feedback as a personal attack. 

So, they’re not responsible enough to hold down a job, take care of their home, or complete their financial responsibilities. Therefore, whenever you talk about sharing bills or paying their part—they’re going to shut down.

2. “My doctor gave me some disturbing news.”

Many narcissists will just take off at this kind of news. They’re not the kind of people who want to stick around and help you through a health crisis.

There are some, though, who might stick around hoping that you’re sick enough to pass away. They, then, might benefit from your assets through inheritance. So, this news may prompt them to start scheming about what they’re going to do.

However, based on my history of working with victims of abuse in my coaching practice (and my own experiences), it’s clear that they’re not going to be there in your time of need. So, if you share bad medical news, you’ll totally disarm and repel them.

3. “My savings is almost gone.”

Like phrase number one, many narcissists are repelled by any talk of financial responsibility. Some narcissists, however, are well off and use their money to control or manipulate people.

Others get through life by exploiting and stealing from people. If you use this phrase with this type of narcissist, it signals that they’re going to have to look elsewhere for financial support—they’ll need someone else to exploit!

4. “You’re going to be a father.”

Narcissists are not only terrible parents, but they also don’t want the responsibility of taking care of a child. This type of responsibility is not something that most narcissists are looking for.

If you do end up having a child with a narcissist, however, be prepared that they will set your child up for a life filled with trauma. Further, narcissistic parents often spend obscene periods of time grooming and gaslighting their own children so that when their children get older, they can turn them against the other parent. So when you see narcissists who seem like they’re good parents, even though they’re usually awful human beings, it’s nothing more than grooming, gaslighting, and conditioning.

5. “Let’s go on vacation together.”

What does vacation mean to a narcissist? Commitment. And the very thought of commitment repels narcissists—they’re not interested in it! So, a vacation is often not something that a narcissist will enjoy, because it signals too much of a commitment, mainly because it takes away from grooming their other supply.

However, if you are in the middle of the love-bombing period of a new relationship with a narcissist, they might put on a happy face during the vacation. They may work to make it wonderful. But, once the love bomb period is over, they’ll drop you and become indifferent.

6. “I’m letting my ailing mother or father move in with us.”

Narcissists love to be the center of attention. So, if you tell them your sick parent is going to move in, it’s a sign that you are not available to cater to them 24/7—you have other priorities. This is going to trigger that the narcissist can’t get what they’re looking for and they may want to move on.

One exception to this is if the narcissist believes your ailing parent may pass away soon. If this is the case, they may start to scheme and plan, trying to maneuver a way to get money out of the situation.

But given that this is not the most common scenario, a narcissist is not going to be happy about a new arrangement that removes attention from them.

7. “I have a problem and I need your help with it.”

Narcissists are not here to help, they’re here to take, exploit, and manipulate. So, if you are calling on them to help you out, they’ll just shut down in response. They may give you a trite, cliché response, but they will not be emotionally invested in helping you.

Helping others takes energy, and narcissists are already directing their energy towards their schemes and betrayals—they are generally not able to shift gears and help you out.

8. “We need to talk.”

This is a signal for any relationship that there’s something going on. But it specifically signals to a narcissist that you are going to confront them. Perhaps you’ve caught them in a lie, betrayal, or affair. Or, they haven’t lived up to their word to pay bills or go get a job. Whatever it is that you need to talk about, this is one of the most effective phrases that disarms narcissists.

This phrase means it’s time for damage control—they need to cover their tracks to keep their sources of supply. It may be too complicated or difficult to do, so they may give up on you at this point.

Moving Forward

These eight phrases are very effective in real conversation because they are, well, real. They reflect the challenges and difficulties that narcissists have in keeping up their act. When you use these phrases, you disarm them and even repel or repulse them.

By using these phrases that disarm narcissists, you’re showing them that you will no longer give them exactly what they want, which will drive them away. Narcissists are always scheming about how to maintain their supply—if they won’t get it from you anymore, they’ll go off and try to find it somewhere else.

But here’s the thing: narcissists almost always come crawling back. So, while these phrases may send them backing initially, it is up to you to set boundaries to keep them out of your life. It is important to do more than just talk to a narcissist, you also need to act. Pair these phrases with tangible action steps to remove them from your life for good.

How Do You Stop The Cycle of Narcissistic Abuse?

Now that you have identified some key patterns, what do you do next? How do you change the cycle in your life? 

First, learning how to recognize narcissistic patterns is essential. 

Even if you feel tempted to “move on,”  you probably haven’t developed a strong radar for detecting narcissism. Insight is the best step for moving forward. Are you truly aware of your triggers? Do you recognize yourself in any of the reasons mentioned above? If so, spend some time reflecting on how you can improve those pain points. 

Personally, when I left my last toxic relationship several years ago, I forced myself to be alone for a long time.  During this period, I did lots of healing work that I outline in The Break Free Program.  I surrendered and accepted that I hadn’t been willing to walk away when red flags began popping up.  I learned my coping schemas and discovered how to overcome my triggers.  I did energy healing, both alone at home and also through energy healing practitioners.  I overcame the financial PTSD that I’d developed from losing my finances and being forced to start over.

These are the same steps you can take.

Then, once I’d integrated all the initial healing work, I went further into rebuilding my inner identity, learned how to be comfortable setting boundaries and saying ‘no’, and finally began to honor myself enough so that if red flags were to pop up in the future, I could walk away and mean it.  (This is how the THRIVE program was born).  

With this work, I watched old beliefs and negative energies melt away as I witnessed all my deepest wishes manifest into real life.  I finally felt motivated to embark on new adventures, allowing my story to unfold instead of just dreaming about it.  I learned to love who I am, allowing myself to attract the most caring people into my life while walking away from drama lovers – and feeling quite alright about it.

And I promise you that even if you’ve experienced horrific trauma and abuse, you can still heal your life.  You can learn to stop betraying yourself and acting out of alignment with your own integrity.  You can learn to get comfortable setting boundaries without feeling guilty.  Like you, I once felt hopeless and afraid that I was doomed, but once I did the inner work and implemented everything I’d learned, my life began to transform in ways I never thought possible.  

This can happen for you, too.  

As always, I truly look forward to answering your questions and comments below.

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7 comments
me says October 4, 2022

Hey Kim,
Can you please write a article about financial ptsd and elaborate on it?
Thanks!!

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Shari says September 29, 2022

You mentioned that you overcame PTSD over financial loss!! Wow!!! That hit a nerve. “He” drained my insurance money from my late husband. I could not believe I allowed that to happen. I always said that would never happen to me. Now Im always saying “I’m so sorry Sam, you worked your but off to give me security and I let it get away from me!!”

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Jannifer says September 2, 2022

I did no’s 3 and 7 with my siblings recently. My younger sibling who I realize is just as cruel, twisted and abusive as our narc father, when I asked for help, seemed to relish at my temporary situation. My partner who was the sole income earner at the time could not send me money coz all banks were closed the whole city was in total lockdown due to Covid. No online banking. He was getting paid sure but couldn’t send money. Before this our mother passed from terminal cancer where I couldn’t get a job after moving back from overseas to care for one of my adult children who was sick, and then coz I had to travel to care for Mum when she was diagnosed with cancer, helping 2 other siblings care for her, but the abusive one who lived nearby never visited while I was there. Then after Mum died I found out my investment property (our home before we left and will return to), got trashed by tenants. I was trying to fix it up while waiting for insurance payout. My abusive brother proceeded to make his demands about paying me back – ok no worries- sure. But speaking to me like I was 6 years old and never handled money in my life. He repeated the instructions 5 times increasing his aggression and condescending tone. Then proceeded to drum into me how wonderful he was that he never needed a loan when his business went bust. Thing is when this happened he had a 2nd job AND access to his money to pay the bills. The banks were not closed and he wasn’t in severe lockdown restrictions where the Govt was dropping food every 2 weeks because all shops in a 100km radios were closed. I did explain the situation but obviously Covid lockdown was beyond his understanding. After going on about how. wonderful and capable he was and kicking me in the guts (figuratively) he then demanded my husbands number so he could rub his nose in it. I knew that was a waste of time coz my husband would’ve just told him where to go. My husband knew my brother was a jerk way before I wanted to admit it. I told my brother I was worried we may need to sell the house coz we will miss a payment. He laughed and said he’d get a loan with another brother and buy my house on the cheap. The conversation was now going round in circles as he was becoming more condescending and cruel. I realized he was never going to help because he previously refused to help with doing yard work despite me willing to pay him the going rate. I hung up. Immediate text from him like a wounded spoilt child who had a toy he was breaking, taken away. I text him he could’ve just said no and that I would understand and leave it at that. But no he had to go and be cruel and vindictive like Dad has always treated me. He gloated he is his fathers son and proceeded to justify his behavior. That was my wake call. The only contact we’ve had for the past 20 years was his drunken and stoned late night phone calls asking me for money to buy a cafe with him and getting angry when I wouldn’t say yes. Yet he wouldn’t give me any details except the location – just give him 20 grand up front with no information. He’d keep asking me and our siblings but never provide a business plan or anything Then I found out how he ‘runs’ a business when he told me. I realized He would drink it all away or let others do it. Another sibling told me to sell the house – in its current trashed condition that I’ve got no ties to the country anyway – yes I saw a side to her I did not expect. And that my husband is never there to help me. I outlined twice in 28 years. Once when we first moved overseas and he had to go first to set up the new apartment in a new country so it wouldn’t be terrible when I arrived with 3 kids and a baby. And the telephone company had cut off my phone 3 days before I requested them to, 3 days before I left as I was moving out of our house. And the second time was when he was in strict Govt lockdown due to Covid. As asked my sibling do you expect my partner to defy the Govt, leave his apartment to go looking for a bank that are all closed anyway. To then get arrested and deported and lose his job. And my other child who was there with him what about her? Of course silence. I said I don’t think twice in 28 years and 1 of those is beyond his control, is saying my partner is ‘never’ there to help me, my sibling just reiterated “its seems he is never there when you need help”. Gaslighting that is. Only in a crisis do you see the real nature and quality of people. I did end up getting help to tie me over until lockdown ended from friends and new found ‘family’. People who are mature rational thinkers well beyond their years. One in particular who amazed me that she at 24 could understand the predicament and respected me and kind enough to offer to help. Yet she had never had the life experience to begin to understand What I was going through at the time, but didn’t need to as she had one basic skill that some of my siblings are sorely lacking or don’t have – empathy. But that does not surprise me as our father has none whatsoever and never has. Blood can never be thicker than water when it is tainted and thus diluted by narcissism. Water is far thicker than blood when it is enriched with respect kindness and empathy.

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Karen says May 4, 2022

Once you say the wrong think in their eyes then thats the end of the conversation the shutters go down the civil calm talk ends and the rage starts. The person has formed that opinion right or wrong and the conversation ends in rage or stops speaking and this is what happened to me. I tried to explain but was not aloud to finish the conversation the said person had their mind made up and was not interested in peace making at all not even for the sake of her child our grandchild. I was screamed at and told fff hated me. At that point I sadly had to walk away because nothing I said would have made a difference she was in a rage.

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    Clint says May 27, 2022

    Hi, it will always be the same. I have lived it for over 20 years, I was always subdued and accepting that I was always wrong. I only learnt 3 years ago that nearly my whole life was manipulated, and I started using tips from sites like these to stand up for myself. It has been horrific, the rage that is thrown at you, it is hard to live. It is impossible to be yourself when you are part of their life. There is nothing you can say, the more you express yourself, the more of an idiot you are in their eyes. Now, I walk away, there is absolutely nothing you can do very sadly. Nothing at all. For peace you must accept their way, and if you don’t like it, the highway. To stand up for yourself causes fighting, my children who have grown up suffering mental abuse from their mother, they are older now, and are so strong, they know what to say to keep the home calm, they know what to not to talk about in front of her. We tip toe all the time to keep the peace, we all know that its not how families should live. So, in the back of your mind, know that you are right, and take strength from the fact that you now see through their intimidation, and don’t show fear. Just say Ok, and change the subject, it helps.

    Reply
Jean says May 3, 2022

How do narcissists all over the world have the same tactics, use the same phrases, and have the exact same goals? I’ve heard the term “narcissist’s playbook” and I’m wondering if it’s because they’re simple or is there some secret cabal that they join when they break their first person, like some sick rite of passage?

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