The Little Shaman is a spiritual coach & specialist in cluster B personality disorders, with a popular YouTube show and clients worldwide.
This article expands on not explaining to the narcissist by giving you a tool to help remember this. It can be hard not to keep explaining to someone who does not seem to understand, especially when we are encouraged by the narcissist's occasional epiphanies where they do seem to understand. However, the truth is that they don't understand, nor do they care on any real level. They will do what you want only as long as they have to in order to get you to do what they want, and that's it. There is no understanding and no compassion for your needs or wants. It's all about them. If there is a true change, then it is likely motivated by the fact that their old way of behaving was not working for them anymore. It has nothing to do with other people or understanding that they are hurting anyone. This is why we say to stop explaining. It's pointless and they are not listening to you anyway.
So along with not reacting emotionally, it's important to remember that trying to give rational explanations to narcissists is generally not recommended because they are not rational, especially when they are upset or angry. If you are having trouble with not explaining to the narcissist, a tool you can use to help remind you is an acronym borrowed from AL-ANON: J.A.D.E. It stands for Justify, Argue, Defend, Explain. Just as when you are dealing with an alcoholic or an addict, when you are dealing with a narcissistic type of person, you want to remember NO J.A.D.E. No justifying, no arguing, no defending and no explaining. Getting sucked into a trap where you are simply doing these four things over and over again is frustrating and exhausting. More importantly, it's pointless. It doesn't go anywhere. It simply feeds the narcissist's need for attention because you're not being heard. In many cases, they have simply turned the conversation around on you to take the heat off of themselves. Even if you were not talking about anything they did wrong, there is always heat on them because of their inner dialogue and the nonstop self-hatred they feel. Playing into this does nothing but feed into their disorder.
Justifying is giving the reasons why something you did - or didn't do - was right or OK. You already know that this isn't going to matter to a narcissist. They will never think the thing you did was OK or right no matter what you say or what reasons you have, so why even bother? They have their mind made up as to why you did what you did - if you even did anything - and that's what it is. They believe feelings are facts, and you cannot communicate with someone who believes things work that way because that belief is illogical. Feeling like you have to justify your behavior puts you on the defensive, and makes the conversation all about how you supposedly did something wrong. Remember: justifying your behavior is not necessary and it's pointless anyway. It's just another tactic to put you on the defensive. Simply listen to their accusations if you must but don't react. You can respond if you really need to - such as the conversation is about something that cannot be avoided, like visitation with children - but don't justify your behavior and don't become emotional.
Arguing is trying to persuade someone - usually with reason and logic, as in a structured debate. It can also mean arguing as in fighting. Either of these things is counter-productive when dealing with narcissists. They will not be convinced, persuaded or talked into things and fighting with them is totally useless. They see it how they see it. They are inflexible and unable to listen to reason because it does not match up with how they feel. You are not going to get through to someone with this mindset, so don't waste your energy. And if they just want to fight, let them be the only one. There is an old saying: offense is not given, it is TAKEN. So if they want to hand out offensive things, just refuse delivery. You'd be surprised how easy it is to do that once you decide their feelings are their problem, not yours.
Defending is of course, exactly what it sounds like: defending yourself or your actions. Justifying and arguing are often used to defend actions. It is a very natural response, but like so many other things when we are dealing with narcissistic people, the natural response is not the correct response. When you become defensive, the conversation becomes about you and what you supposedly did wrong. It gets tangled, deflected and hopelessly broken to the point it cannot move forward because now it's about something else. Narcissistic people are champions at this. When you catch yourself defending, stop and get the conversation back on track. If there is no conversation that needs to be back on track, then just stop.
Explaining has already been covered in Stop Explaining to The Narcissist, but just to remind everybody: explaining to someone who believes feelings are facts is pointless. You are describing a rainbow and they've been blind all their lives. Your understanding of things is not anything like their understanding of things. You might as well be speaking a different language. State your point or conclusion one time and that's all. If you don't absolutely need to be having the conversation, it's probably a good idea to simply end it and walk away. Endlessly explaining is pointless, exhausting and it won't matter anyway. If you have to tell someone the point or reason for something more than twice, it's doubtful they will ever understand it. And in the narcissist's case, they don't want to anyway. It's too important to them that their version of things be correct.
So, remember: NO J.A.D.E. No justifying, no arguing, no defending and no explaining. This takes practice and self-control because it's such a natural response and because in most areas of our life, when we explain things, understandings are reached and problems are solved. With narcissists, however, this doesn't work. Nothing works, so do yourself a favor and save your breath. Use it to talk with people who are actually listening.
lily on December 19, 2017:
I like the fact that you put your words there,it's always useful to remember all this, so I will remember JADE. Thanks again for your work.