One of the most frustrating things about living, loving or working with a person with the symptoms of Narcissistic Personality Disorder is their lack of accountability. Everything that goes wrong is always someone else’s fault and no matter how good a debater you are, they will continue to twist and turn their way out of the argument, even if they have to swear the sky is green.
This can be extremely frustrating to live with and was a puzzle that took me a long time to learn how to deal with.
When you want to hold sway with someone (not just a person with narcissistic tendencies) the equation works something like this …
The stronger your rapport with the person (and the more positive the connection between you) = the more likely they will be to listen.
So considering this: since a narcissistic person hates it so badly when anyone tries to hold them accountable, attempting to make them admit to their shortcomings or mistakes will only break rapport, and so in the end it’s probably best to forget about even trying!
But that doesn’t mean you need to give in to their bad behaviour – the trick is that instead of trying to hold them accountable (which won’t work anyway) consider making them face the consequences of their own bad behavior.
And rather than playing judge and jury – or mother superior – instead try a little humility …
“I don’t know how to sort out our finances and I can’t see where our money is going and so I have opened a separate bank account and hired an accountant to come in and look at it.”
“I am worried about you, but I don’t know how to help you (with your porn addiction) and I am scared that it is hurting our sex life, so unless you’ve got some ideas and you can start seeing how much this is hurting you – I am going to need to talk to our doctor and see if they have any ideas to help you.”
“I can’t be late for work again and so I am sorry I can’t drop you off today.”
“I don’t know how to handle you when you get so angry at me, and so from now on when you get angry I am going to need to get someone who knows know how to handle angry people (the police?) here to come and talk to you. I don’t want to get you in trouble, it just scares me and I don’t know how to handle it.”
Or there may be other situations where there is nothing to say – you simply need to stop protecting them.
Now sure they will probably still get angry when you use these kind of scripts, so you will need to play this carefully and use your own judgement. These type of conversations are usually safer in a public place – like a park or restaurant, and you need to make sure you are not bluffing!
They won’t like what you are saying, but if you show concern for them and let somebody else play the bad guy, you are keeping your connection strong at the same time as building the boundary. Then if your warning has no effect, step out of the way and let life teach them the lesson they have coming.
As for holding people accountable for what has happened in the past – my advice is that instead you make the decision to forget it.
If you didn’t know how to set the boundary back then, rubbing their face in it now is not going to do anything but make them resent you. If they owe you something, hire a debt collector (if you need to) and step away from the adversarial role – while someone else does the dirty work. Otherwise be kind to yourself and forgive them, while making sure you are prepared – with better scripts – next time.