SWEET RELIEF TIP #1: Rely on Positive Reinforcement, Avoid Criticism

Just like the rest of us, a narcissist prefers positive attention like praise, recognition, and compliments. The bids for positive attention involve things like telling you about their latest accomplishments or ideas in the hope that you'll take up the invitation to admire.

Yet, if positive attention isn't forthcoming, negative attention will satisfy. A narcissist invites attention - of any sort. If the invitations for positive attention go unheeded, a narcissist will make bids for negative attention. And, it's really pretty easy to provoke the negative. Humans tend to get on each other's nerves all the time. When you're already irritated by the common frustrations of dealing with a narcissist, it's difficult not to take the bait into criticism, nagging, or conflict.

Unfortunately, giving your narcissist negative attention provides a sort of sustenance to to him but exacts a toll on you. Providing the narcissist in your life with negative attention is a drag on your energy, your day, your experience. It reinforces your bond with the narcissist in your life. It's easier to manage a person who's happy due to positive attention, and much harder to manage a person inflamed by negative attention. If you take the invitation to go negative, the narcissist's reactions will be less predictable, and it will take time to calm things down. You may end up suffering consequences you'd prefer to avoid.

If providing compliments or affirming attention feels impossible, you have two options. You could provide positive feedback about things related to the narcissist (but not about the narcissist directly) like his car or exercise habit or clothes. The second option is neutrality. Just be quiet when you might usually like to point out a missed agreement, a missed communication, or some other disappointment or frustration. Keep your upsets to yourself or your journal, or share them with a trusted individual who will listen but not fan the flames.

So Tip #1: Voice the positive, stay quiet about the negative. If you can't find anything positive to say, then look for something neutral your narcissist can interpret as positive.

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