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challenging a narcissist

What Happens When Challenging a Narcissist?

Dealing with a narcissistic individual can be challenging, especially when they believe they should never be challenged or disagreed with. Dr. David Hawkins, the director of the Marriage Recovery Center and the Emotional Abuse Institute, sheds light on the dynamics of challenging a narcissist and the importance of navigating such interactions with care. So let’s explore the behaviors of highly narcissistic individuals and discuss effective strategies for handling these challenging situations.

Understanding Narcissistic Behavior

Narcissistic individuals often exhibit a sense of entitlement and superiority, believing they should not be challenged. Dr. Hawkins likens this behavior to the immaturity of a six-year-old. This emotional immaturity can manifest in various settings, from marriages and workplaces to extended family situations or even within religious communities. The real test of this behavior, however, is when genuine frustration and encounters occur, revealing the depth of their emotional fragility.

Challenging a Narcissist: Common Reactions

When challenging a narcissist they may respond with dismissiveness, anger, or even disrespect. Their unwillingness to tolerate dissent stems from a profound emotional immaturity that has likely persisted for a long time. Unlike emotionally mature individuals who engage in introspection and personal growth, narcissists avoid challenging situations and prefer to live in a bubble of self-entitlement and grandiosity.

Why Narcissists Develop This Way

The development of narcissistic behavior is rooted in profound emotional immaturity, possibly stemming from early life experiences. Growing up requires facing challenges, understanding why certain situations trigger emotional responses, and engaging in introspection. Narcissists, however, lack the emotional resilience needed for this growth, leading them to navigate the world with a constant plea: “Don’t challenge me.”

Responding to Narcissistic Challenges

  1. Self-ValidationThe first step in dealing with a narcissist is to recognize and affirm your own thoughts and feelings. Self-validation involves internally processing your emotions, determining what you think, feel, and want, and valuing yourself in the process. This emotional strength is crucial when dealing with someone who believes they cannot be challenged.
  2. Declaration of ThoughtsWith self-validation in place, individuals can confidently declare their thoughts and feelings to those around them. Whether in a marriage, workplace, or any other relationship, expressing agreement or disagreement comes from a place of self-affirmation. This step involves practicing the use of this emotional muscle consistently.
  3. Asking for AcknowledgmentChallenging a narcissist doesn’t necessarily mean expecting agreement. Instead, it involves asking for acknowledgment. This step should be approached carefully, but it allows you to express the importance of having your point of view recognized. By asking for acknowledgment, you are asserting your presence and the validity of your perspective without demanding conformity.


Challenging a narcissist is no easy task, considering their thin skin and temperamental nature. However, with a foundation of self-validation, declaration of thoughts, and the careful seeking of acknowledgment, individuals can navigate these encounters more effectively. It’s essential to recognize that challenging a narcissist requires strength, resilience, and a commitment to one’s own emotional well-being. By embracing these strategies, individuals can assert themselves in the face of narcissistic behavior, fostering healthier relationships and personal growth.

To learn how we can help, reach out to us at (206) 219-0145 or info@marriagerecoverycenter.com to speak with a Client Care Specialist

Also read: Why Do Narcissists Feel Superior

About Dr. Hawkins:

The internet is inundated with hyperbole and misinformation about narcissism, leaving many people confused and hopeless. Get the facts on narcissism and emotional abuse from someone who has been researching, writing about and treating narcissism and emotional abuse for over a decade.

Dr. Hawkins is a best-selling author and clinical psychologist with over three decades of experience helping people break unhealthy patterns and build healthier relationships.

He is the founder and director of the Marriage Recovery Center and the Emotional Abuse Institute which offers education, training and counseling for people who want to break free of, and heal from, emotional abuse. Whether the perpetrator of the abuse is your spouse, partner, parent, boss, friend or family member, we offer practical advice for anyone trapped in a toxic, destructive relationship.

In addition to narcissism & emotional abuse, you’ll learn about the lesser known forms of abuse, including covert abuse, reactive abuse, spiritual abuse, secondary abuse, relationship trauma and much more.


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