Accountability plays a huge role when it comes to any kind of behavior change, but it is especially critical for someone with narcissistic tendencies. We call narcissism a responsibility disorder because at its core is a refusal to take responsibility for one’s actions and a tendency to shift the blame onto someone else.
For this reason, having an accountability partner who is willing to recognize, call out, confront and correct this behavior on a consistent basis is essential for long-term change.
Dr. Hawkins talks about 3 of the most common mistakes people make with narcissists when it comes to trying to hold a narcissist accountable for behavior change. Learn what to do, and what not to do for effective behavior change.
What are the 3 Biggest Mistakes People Make with Narcissists?
Dealing with a narcissist can be an emotionally draining experience. Their behavior can be challenging, and it often feels like they evade accountability for their actions. This article explores three common mistakes people make when attempting to hold narcissists accountable for their behavior and provides insight into what true accountability entails.
Mistake #1: Telling Him He Must Be Accountable
One of the most common misconceptions is that simply telling a narcissist that they need to be accountable for their behavior will result in positive change. However, this approach often backfires. It’s essential to understand that while accountability is crucial, telling a narcissist that they must be accountable is not the same as actually holding them accountable.
Telling a narcissist that they must be held accountable is essentially complaining or confronting them about their behavior. While these actions may be well-intentioned, they rarely lead to meaningful change. A narcissist often deflects responsibility or manipulates the situation, making it difficult to achieve true accountability.
Instead of telling them to be accountable, it’s more effective to focus on creating an environment where genuine accountability can occur. This requires a more structured approach and a deeper understanding of the nature of narcissism.
Mistake #2: Taking on the Role of an Accountability Partner
Another common mistake is when the spouse or partner of a narcissist assumes the role of an accountability partner. This role involves constantly monitoring the narcissist’s behavior, pointing out their faults, and trying to ensure they stay on the right path. However, this approach is exhausting and seldom leads to positive results.
The dynamic that forms when one partner becomes the accountability partner is akin to a parent-child relationship. It creates an unhealthy power imbalance and can exacerbate the narcissist’s manipulative tendencies. This dynamic can also damage the relationship and lead to further emotional abuse.
Rather than becoming the accountability partner, it’s essential to focus on setting boundaries and communicating your needs within the relationship. Seeking help from a qualified therapist or counselor who understands narcissism can provide valuable guidance on how to navigate the challenges of living with a narcissist.
Mistake #3: Involving Friends or Leaders in Accountability
Some people turn to friends, pastors, or group leaders to hold the narcissist accountable for their behavior. While seeking support from your social network can be beneficial, expecting these individuals to be effective accountability partners is a significant mistake.
Friends, pastors, or group leaders are not equipped to take on the role of an accountability partner. It’s unrealistic to assume that they can peer into the narcissist’s life, notice their vulnerabilities, and confront them effectively. This approach can lead to tension, conflict, and strained relationships between all parties involved.
To achieve true accountability, it’s crucial to work with a qualified and trained accountability partner who has the necessary skills and understanding of narcissism. These individuals are trained to ask difficult questions, confront the narcissist when necessary, and provide consistent and transparent support for genuine change.
Understanding True Accountability
Accountability, when done correctly, involves a designated accountability partner who possesses the character, strength, and tenacity to ask difficult questions and confront the individual when necessary. There is transparency between the accountability partner and the person being held accountable. The person being held accountable understands the purpose of these difficult questions and embraces them as opportunities for growth.
In this process, the partner of the narcissist also plays a crucial role in the accountability network. They have a voice and can provide valuable insights and feedback to the accountability partner without assuming a parental or overbearing role. The goal is to work as a team to foster real growth and change.
In summary, the three common mistakes people make when dealing with narcissists are:
- Telling the narcissist they must be accountable without establishing a structure for true accountability.
- Taking on the exhausting and unproductive role of an accountability partner within the relationship.
- Involving friends, pastors, or group leaders in the accountability process, which often leads to ineffective results.
Understanding the nature of accountability and working with qualified accountability partners can provide a more effective path to address and change the behavior of narcissists. It’s crucial to approach this process with patience, empathy, and a willingness to create a supportive environment for growth and change.
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.