The Little Shaman is a spiritual coach & specialist in cluster B personality disorders, with a popular YouTube show and clients worldwide.
You might have noticed that narcissistic people have a problem with losing. They are almost phobic about it. They will do anything to win, including lie, cheat, steal and even kill in some cases. Everything becomes a competition where they have to somehow come out on top, even basic conversations or situations where others agree with them. They have a huge problem with admitting and accepting that they are wrong or mistaken and they will often go as far as possible to deny facts, proof or anything that contradicts what they are claiming - even if this means they have to venture into arguments that sound delusional or make total fools of themselves.
Conversations with pathologically narcissistic people can resemble high-stakes debates, or prosecutions in a court of law where people are grilled relentlessly over minor details or become lost in semantics and word salad. What was said, explaining what was said, what was meant by what was said, tone, inflection, word choice, motive and more become the focal point of the interaction instead of whatever the actual point was. The point itself is of course hopelessly lost, buried under the two tons of crap the narcissist has heaped on it in the hope of never having to face, acknowledge or resolve anything. They don't want resolution. They want conflict. Every conversation, every argument, every interaction becomes a contest they must win at all costs.
This is extremely frustrating for people. The goal of communication for most people is to understand, to be understood, to resolve conflict, to gain knowledge, to share. None of these things are possible with pathologically narcissistic people, because nothing they are saying is genuine in the sense that most others understand things to be genuine. After a while, you realize that even when you're not arguing, they're just playing you. They are trying to win the "contest" they have created in their mind and whatever they have to do or say in order for that to happen is what they will do or say.
This is why people become so exhausted by these interactions - and why the narcissist doesn't. They are getting supply and a rush from the competition, from the promise of a win. They are playing a game, just like someone who is gambling. It's very similar, in fact. The other person has a completely different goal. They are desperately trying to be heard and solve a problem. They are choosing what to say carefully, they're focusing intently, they are concentrating. This is exhausting. And narcissists sit there soaking it all up and pulling on the arm of that emotional slot machine they are playing with, hoping this time the other person retreats and they can come up with the jackpot win. Even if you are not fighting with the narcissist and just trying to hold a conversation, they are often contradicting, one-upping, condescending, bluffing, preaching, sermonizing, correcting, complaining and confabulating. This is exhausting as well. You may feel like you are always defending, even during seemingly regular conversation and even when the narcissist is not angry.
Because of these things, it's important to understand that it is basically pointless to bother trying to reason with someone who is pathologically narcissistic. All they care about is winning. If they are wrong, if they are mistaken, if they are flawed, if they lose, then they are not perfect. Narcissist believe that if anyone - including themselves - is not perfect, they are worthless. In order to be perfect, a person must be always right, always flawless, always important, they must never fail and they must never lose. The act of being wrong - the act of losing - often triggers a tidal wave of shame and self-hatred for pathologically narcissistic people. To be wrong is to be imperfect. To be imperfect is to be garbage, unworthy of love or anything else. The only way they can counteract or prevent these feelings is to make sure they are never wrong and that they never lose.
Of course, this is ridiculous and unreasonable, and it's one of the reasons dealing with pathologically narcissistic people is so difficult. No one is perfect. No one is flawless. No one is always right. No one always wins. Dealing with a person who is trying to force you to into living that delusion as a reality is torturous and ultimately impossible. Someone has to be to blame when the narcissistic person is inevitably wrong, mistaken or flawed and if it can't be the narcissist, it's going to be whoever is convenient. After all, you can be right unless someone else is wrong, right? You can't win unless somebody else loses. These are people who have nothing of their own. Anything they get must come at the expense of others. Always.
The knowledge that narcissistic people need to win is important, because it helps you to understand what the stakes are during every single interaction with this kind of person. This is someone who too often takes even a simple conversation as a contest they must win in order to prove to the world - and to themselves - that they deserve to live. This type of thing is the only way they can create self-worth, the only power they are capable of grasping. It keeps the self-hatred away. It validates their existence. It sustains them. In other words, this need to win is very, very important. And it's not going away. This is how they've learned to deal with life and get their needs met.
Remember that when you're dealing with someone that you believe is pathologically narcissistic, they are not working toward resolving problems. In fact, what you believe to be the problem is not probably not anywhere close to what they believe it to be. Their way of thinking is not your way of thinking. Their goals are not your goals. Their motives are not your motives. This is a person who, in some ways, operates completely differently than you do. Attempting to deal with a narcissist without truly accepting and understanding that only leads to problems. Reality needs to be accepted here, otherwise expectations are going to be unrealistic and that leads to hurt, disappointment and unhappiness.
If narcissists need to win so badly and the only way they can win is if you lose, perhaps the best decision is simply not to play.