I mistakenly became friends with a narcissist, who I also work with. I've avoided a confrontation with her, but she keeps prying to find out if I'm mad at her or don't like her anymore, and I feel like eventually I am going to have to explain myself. But how do you tell a narcissist that you just don't care about them without having them explode?
posted by tastybrains to Human Relations (42 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Last year I began working with another woman my age, who on the surface has a lot in common with me -- we're the only 2 in our current position, we're working towards the same graduate degree, we have similar work backgrounds, we live in the same town, and we have similar interests. Since we're both in our late 20's and most of our coworkers have children our age, we started to hang out a lot, both in and out of work. At the time, my husband was spending 3 weeks of each month working in another state, and while I have a good amount of friends, most are 45 min to an hour away, so it was nice to have someone really close to grab a cup of coffee with or go to the gym with.
I knew she was diagnosed as bipolar and had some issues with authority (she routinely pushes the envelope at work, getting "spoken to" regularly, while I tend to be more cautious than I need to). I also became aware that she has never had any close friends for a long period of time, or boyfriends.
I don't know why it took me so long to realize that what I first perceived as confidence was really just batshit insanity. She constantly contradicts herself or blatantly breaks rules, and absolutely throws a tantrum if you do not encourage and support her in everything she does.
A few examples:
She brought a date to a workday, company meeting because there was ice cream and swag, and when I pointed out that it was a little strange to do so and that I wanted to make sure she saw the "employees only" note on the posters for said meeting, she blew up, insisting that I was just trying to stress her out and that a real friend would tell her she was sure she'd get away with it ... and that of COURSE she saw the "employees only" sign and that maybe that was WHY she was bringing a date in the first place, and how could I ever doubt that she would miss such a detail?
Once I asked her, politely, to stop detailing her crash dieting (stuff like "I only ate a banana yesterday, it makes me feel so good to do that!") because I have my own issues with dieting and food, and she started screaming that I was insane because it had nothing to do with me and that I was being selfish to ask her to stop talking about a topic that interested her. I believe my exact wording to trigger her reaction was "You know, I really am uncomfortable discussing dieting, can we please change the subject?"
Another time, she pointed out an overweight woman (who was smaller than me -- as I am also overweight) and said "Oh my God, I can't believe I was ever heavy. I look at people like that, and I just get so grossed out that anyone could be like that. And then I think I used to be almost that overweight, and I just hate myself!" And I said, offended, "Don't you think that is really offensive to me and anyone else you know who is overweight??" And she exploded at me about how I take everything too personally and that a comment she makes about someone else is not a reflection of me.
Anyway, the past year is full of such stories. I simply cannot be friends with this girl, and yet because she is so out of touch with reality, she can't just seem to accept that I don't like her. The last time I tried to explain that I thought it was better that we don't hang out, she started arguing with me about it, and the next day informed me that she had a good talk with her therapist about me and gave me a copy of The Four Agreements (I don't know either).
I feel like almost any outright confrontation is dangerous, because (1) we work together, (2) we go to school together, and (3) she doesn't handle any form of rejection well.
At the same time, I feel like I have to be ready to say something, because she keeps trying to push my boundaries, and whenever I turn her invitations to do stuff down, she says things like "I'm starting to feel offended, like you don't like me!"
I have been so stressed over having to deal with her on a regular basis that my anxiety has become exacerbated, I've lost sleep, had nightmares, and dreaded work (which I otherwise love). Note that I don't really have to see her frequently at work as we work on independent projects, but we are on the same team so there are weekly status meetings and whatnot.
So how do I manage this? She simply does NOT seem to get the hint.
I'm not comfortable bringing my boss into this because (1) she loves said coworker, and (2) this is primarily a personal issue.