Dealing with a narcissist can be frustrating and upsetting for all kinds of reasons, not least of which because calling them out for their behaviour doesn’t tend to lead to any meaningful growth or change, and an apology from a narcissist usually sidesteps accountability. But there are techniques to navigating these interactions in a way that will minimise the harm to your own mental health and wellbeing.

Ramani Durvasula, a psychologist and licensed therapist, wants anyone who is in a narcissistic relationship to stop saying one phrase: “You make me feel.”

It’s a way of expressing yourself that has many permutations, like ‘when you say that, you make me feel guilty,’ or ‘when you do that, you make me feel angry.’ All of which grant agency to the other person in the conversation.

“Stop giving away your power,” says Durvasula. “Nobody has the power to make you feel. You feel. Maybe in response to them, but you feel. That phraseology has a real risk of turning you into having more of a victim mindset, rather than being a person who is in full self-possession of your feelings.”

A healthier response, explains Durvasula, would be to say something like: “I hear you. This situation is hard. I feel [insert emotion] right now.” There is a subtle but meaningful difference in the way you express your emotions.

“Your feelings are yours,” she says. “When you say ‘I am feeling,’ you’re not giving them the power of having constructed your feelings… When it comes to relationships and communication, starting with ‘I’ when trying to make a point, especially about feelings, is always safe, because it steers you towards empowerment and ownership of your beliefs and behaviours.”

This distinction matters for a couple of reasons. It means that you’re owning your feelings, it removes you from that victim mindset, and it takes away the other person’s power — which in the case of narcissists, means taking away a trigger that they can use against you.

“Don’t get me wrong, they’re still gonna gaslight you,” says Durvasula. “They’re gonna invalidate you and minimise your feelings, but they were gonna do that anyway. Now, at least you’re owning it, and that’s a much healthier place to be in all your relationships.”

This article originally appeared on Men’s Health US.

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