Saying no to a narcissist

My friend only cares about herself. How can I learn to say no to her? 

If you want to be rid of her, then you’ll need to set some boundaries, says our elder. Here’s how.


Dear EWC

Hi! I’m a sixth-year medical intern, and in the first year I met a girl and our friendship started. From the beginning she always was talking about herself and her family and their honors. Actually, I hated her and I lost touch with her. But after a few terms we have become teammates again – until now. Actually, she has changed a lot. For example, when she sees a boy, she acts completely different and seductively. She wants to seduce one of our professors to marry him and she always talks about him in different ways. And this issue bothers me. Every time I try to ignore her and don’t speak about these things, but she continues and continues and repeats events that happened in the past, like a boy gave her his number and all that stuff. She is an absolute narcissist. My problem is that I can’t refuse her and say no to her. I act like a friend with her but deep inside I hate her, and her behavior really annoys me. I think I’m afraid of being alone, so I can’t express my real feelings. Can you please help me? What should I do?


Folk replies

Your friend is so focused on herself that she neither realizes nor cares how uncomfortable she is making you by saying the things she says. This insensitivity of hers may cause her to have a hard time accepting ‘no’ under any circumstances, particularly if she is accustomed to hearing you always say yes. But if you can’t stand her and want to be rid of her, you will need to be firm with her, tell her ‘no’, and not back down.

You hate this woman, but you say yes to her anyhow because you don’t want to come across as mean. You would be much happier if you could just say ‘no’ to her – so why can’t you? Maybe saying ‘yes’ is a habit for you, a fallback automatic response to requests from others. Or maybe the reason you have a hard time saying no is that your self-confidence is lacking. Being able to say ‘no’ isn’t some kind of personal flaw you were born with, though; it’s a learned behavior and as such, it can be unlearned.

Good parents encourage their children to be positive and cooperative. So, by the time we reach adulthood, it’s no wonder that many of us suffer anxiety at just the thought of saying ‘no’ to someone. This anxiety is caused by our fear of what will happen if we dare to say ‘no’. But the fallout from a ‘no’ is rarely as bad as we think it will be. Trust me: The sky won’t fall if you stay ‘no’ to your friend. In fact, she will probably respect you and your time more if you say ‘no’ to her more often. If you are not used to saying no, it may be difficult for you to do so at first – but it will get easier and easier the more you do it. Saying ‘no’ doesn’t have to come off as harsh. You might say, “I wish I could but…” or “I really can’t because…”

It’s very important to have boundaries, and to let other people know what they are so they don’t overstep them. These boundaries can be emotional or physical or both, but there’s a point at which your line is crossed. Most of us want to be viewed as a team player and supportive of our colleagues, so if your friend asks you to do something you don’t want to do, try saying something like, “I would like to, but I am on overload right now.” Phrasing a ‘no’ this way is straightforward without being blunt. Your friend is a narcissist. When you refuse her, she won’t waste her precious time on you. Instead, she will be immediately on to the next person. She is not thinking about you as much as you think, and whether you say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ really doesn’t matter to her. Saying no gets much easier when you think about what’s good for you and stop worrying about what someone else thinks of you.

I hope this helps. I am always here if you’d like to talk more about this. Good luck!


Friendship #465474

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