9 Ways to Starve a Narcissist of Attention

Ignoring them isn’t good enough.

Politics aside, we can all agree that Donald J. Trump is a narcissist. When he doesn’t get the attention, he thinks he deserves — a mind-blowing amount, he strikes out, has a meltdown, or acts outrageously. He’s never been one for taking the high road, and he appears to be incapable of showing any grace.

On the surface, it may seem as if narcissists are like regular people — they might have their moments where they go over the top, but that’s just them being emotional or feeling things deeply.

Words that describe narcissistic behavior include arrogant, cocky, manipulative, selfish, demanding, and self-centered. They’re not known for being generous (unless used as a ploy,) considerate, or empathetic.

However, narcissists aren’t like you or me. If you have to deal with one or witness one on the news, it’s a good idea to be able to identify their narcissistic behavior, know how to deal with it so that you’re not affected, and how to handle their manipulative ways until you can get them completely out of your life.

The best way to take away a narcissist’s power is to starve them of the incredible amounts of attention they crave.

Narcissists have an excessive need for attention; if they’re not the center of attention at all times, there’s a problem. It would be impossible to be around a narcissist with their overwhelming need to be center stage if they weren’t so charming and captivating.

It’s the narcissist’s ability to draw you in and fascinate you where the real danger comes in. Once they’ve got you hooked, it’s hard to get out of their web. And if you think the narcissist is just going to let you be, you’re wrong.

Narcissists need people to be enthralled by them so that they can feed off the attention and reverence. But once the facade has worn thin, and you start to see the narcissist for who they are, how do you get out from their grasp.

You must stop giving the narcissist what they need, but how do you do that?

Don’t react to their compliments.

For a narcissist to get you to want to be around them again, they go for what works for them. They live for compliments and praise and figure it will work on you too.

Slathering you with compliments is nice for a momentary ego-boost, but you know that the narcissist’s praise is empty and ultimately unfulfilling.

If you have to respond when they praise you, give them a throwaway thanks as if you have several things of greater importance to you other than their approval.

Starve them of gratitude and reciprocal praise.

Don’t share anything with them about your life.

Any personal information you may give a narcissist immediately becomes ammunition, which can be used against you. They’ll file that information away, only to be used at a later date.

When we share details of our lives, we create a bond and an intimacy, which isn’t what you want with a narcissist as their motives come from selfishness, not genuine interest.

Starve them of your secrets, deep thoughts, opinions, and personal history.

Don’t let them be your puppet-master.

Narcissists like to test people, and it strokes their ego when people do anything to please them. Don’t accommodate them. If they need you to do something for them, even if it’s small or no trouble at all — don’t do it. Try to refuse them with the least amount of fuss possible.

Know that the more you do for the narcissist, the worse it will get. Toxic behavior escalates quickly for a narcissist and taking advantage of people is one of their talents.

Starve them of putting their needs over your own.

Don’t get emotional.

Narcissists are emotional vampires, so they love to get a big emotional reaction out of people.

Narcissists have a talent in knowing how to trigger people. They want you to get upset so that you’ll lose your composure and make it easier for them to step in and manipulate you.

Starve them of your self-control.

Don’t take them seriously.

When a narcissist makes big promises — and they do all the time, don’t acknowledge it. They may feel compelled to make bigger promises that they don’t intend to keep.

Promises for a narcissist is another way to keep you on the hook. If they actually come through with their promise, brush it off.

There’s no such thing as a gift with no strings attached to a narcissist. There are enough strings attached to crochet a large scarf even if you can’t see them. The narcissist will always try to collect on their gifts that you never asked for or wanted.

Starve them of your need to reciprocate.

Don’t try to see things from their perspective.

You’re a compassionate person, and you hate to see anybody in pain. The narcissist’s feelings may be genuine to them, but it’s not your responsibility to help them heal.

Don’t hypothetically put yourself in their shoes.

We all go through bad times, have hard days, and feel like the world is crumbling around us. However, only toxic people use the help others give against them.

Starve them of your empathy.

Don’t show any interest in anything they have to say.

Narcissists are like those old-timey salesmen in the 1950s — all they needed was to get one foot in the door, and they could sell anything to anyone.

Narcissists know what you like and your favorites, so when they come to you and want to talk about something your passionate about, don’t engage. They only want to prove to you that they’re a good person who cares about you and is interested in the same things as you are.

Starve them of your engagement.

Don’t gossip with them.

When a narcissist shares intimate details of another person’s life with you, it’s another way they use to bond with you. The narcissist wouldn’t normally spill someone else’s secrets (yes, they would), but they think you’re special (no, not really, but the more people adoring them, the better.

Gossip, whether malicious or not, is never a good idea. You don’t want to lower yourself down the narcissist’s level. If they’re trash-talking about other people, they’re probably gossiping about you too.

Starve them of your openness.

Don’t be a participant in their drama.

What better way to get all eyes on you than being in the center of a lot of controversy and drama. Narcissists feed on drama and having people react. The bigger the audience, the more validated the narcissist feels.

You never want to reinforce someone’s bad behavior by focusing on it. The best thing you can do is to ignore them, but in a way that doesn’t feel as if you’re making an effort — you don’t care enough to put any energy towards ignoring them.

Starve them of your interest.

You weren’t put on this earth to be an energy source or emotional support for a narcissist. If you keep giving them your attention and engaging with them, their toxic presence may stay in your life for a long time.

If you stay emotionally neutral, uninterested, and unengaged, the narcissist will turn to someone else to get their needs met.

It’s not your fault, narcissists are the way they are, and it’s not your responsibility to fix them. When dealing with a narcissist, your only responsibility is not to let them destroy you as a means to get the attention they desperately need.

The Innovation

A place for variety of stories from different backgrounds

By The Innovation

Official newsletter of The Innovation Take a look

By signing up, you will create a Medium account if you don’t already have one. Review our Privacy Policy for more information about our privacy practices.

Check your inbox
Medium sent you an email at to complete your subscription.

Christine Schoenwald

Written by

Writer for The Los Angeles Times, Salon, The Startup, Tenderly, Fearless She Wrote, MuddyUm. Christineschoenwaldwriter.com

The Innovation

A place for a variety of stories from different backgrounds

Christine Schoenwald

Written by

Writer for The Los Angeles Times, Salon, The Startup, Tenderly, Fearless She Wrote, MuddyUm. Christineschoenwaldwriter.com

The Innovation

A place for a variety of stories from different backgrounds

Medium is an open platform where 170 million readers come to find insightful and dynamic thinking. Here, expert and undiscovered voices alike dive into the heart of any topic and bring new ideas to the surface. Learn more

Follow the writers, publications, and topics that matter to you, and you’ll see them on your homepage and in your inbox. Explore

If you have a story to tell, knowledge to share, or a perspective to offer — welcome home. It’s easy and free to post your thinking on any topic. Write on Medium

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store