We’ve all had run-ins with bossy and controlling personalities who think they know it all about everything. These people look for trouble before there is any. They think it’s their job to tell us what they know and give us a seminar while they’re at it. An hour or two in a room with big-mouth personalities might tempt us to run the other way and never return. But, what do we do if this narcissistic-type personality is a family member? Do we become a victim of their barrages? Do we cut off ties? Or, are there ways we can manage our relationship?
We can point out to them how what they say affects us, but we certainly can’t change them. When we’ve had enough and blown our fuse, these bullies resort to blaming us for being overly sensitive.
Chances are that the way these big-mouths treat us is the way they treat countless others. If they could just step outside and see themselves as others see them, they would be mortified, but something seems to prevent them from doing that. They have to be the only one in the room that is right and in control.
How to Handle a Loudmouth
While big-mouths think they’re being helpful by offering unsolicited criticism or advice, we see it as dominance and disrespect. No one wants to live under the thumb of this type of person. So how do we deal with them?
- Limit your time with the loudmouth. We can set boundaries such as the number of hours or locations we will be near them. We can reduce or eliminate email or telephone exchanges, meet in neutral locations that we can leave if necessary, only meet them if others are with us—generally limit conversation and encounters with them. (Like a dog protecting its turf, we will be out-matched while on the big-mouth’s turf, so we should be vigilant when we are.)
- Limit the amount of time they are in your domain. Never should we give big-mouths a key to our house or office, or welcome them for lengthy periods of time under our roof. During a visit, we can focus on activities where conversation, opinions, and opportunity for criticism are minimized. We can take them out, or arrange for another person to take over entertaining them, to give ourselves a break.
- Keep information to yourself. Offering too much information gives more ammunition for a big-mouth to shoot us down. It’s unfortunate that big-mouths miss much about us because we have to edit ourselves.
- Keep opinions to a minimum. Be prepared, that if we do have an opinion and express it, we may get seven back from the big-mouth, telling us why ours is wrong. Don’t walk into a trap!
- Offer compliments. There’s nothing a narcissist likes more than to feel important and liked. If we can put them in a good mood, they might decide not to attack. Look for something we have in common and comment about something good they do.
- Listen. When sharing our point of view doesn’t work, or when it is thrown back in our face, we learn it is better to say nothing. If we instead, listen to the bigmouth’s banter for as long as we can (without exploding), nodding every now and then, we give her what she wants—an audience. Listening doesn’t give big-mouths something to fight about. We have to just make sure we don’t absorb the garbage and stress unknowingly being dumped on us.
- Use tactical responses. When big-mouths suggest something to us, we can respond by saying “that’s an interesting idea” and that we’ll think about it. We don’t have to take the advice at all (unless it’s good). We can later come back and say, “I thought about what you said, and I won’t be doing it, but it did help me make decisions about what I do want to do.
- Always come up smelling like a rose. It might help if we can see the big-mouth as a “special needs” person who is not worth raising our blood pressure over. Being a peacemaker is much better than being a fighter.
- Take simple shots. Rather than copying the long-winded argumentative opinions big-mouths throw our way, we can toss out strategic comments that show we do know a thing or two. Changing the subject is also effective.
- Take a break. It may become necessary to leave the room when a big-mouth personality gets under our skin. We can excuse ourselves to the washroom, make a telephone call, run an errand, go for a walk, etc. Going out for a walk or getting fresh air can help relieve the pressure that’s been building up beneath us, providing stress relief as we release endorphins. (Don’t worry about leaving a big mouth alone, she will know only too well how to take care of herself.)
- Find the good. We usually can’t change the behaviour of big-mouths, but we can change the way we deal with them. If we look for nuggets of truth in what they say, we may actually learn something from them.
- Let them help. In most cases, big-mouths are bombastic because they want to feel needed. They want to “help,” even if we don’t ask for it. By making others look bad, big-mouths make themselves feel good. They are stuck in a desperate circle of constantly trying to justify their worth with an inflated sense of self.
- Remain unaffected. Unfortunately, all the good tactics in the world can leave us feeling like a doormat. We shouldn’t be afraid to defend ourselves, but unfortunately, with these people, it’s hardly worth the effort. Showing we are unaffected by the big-mouth’s blather, might give them a powerful message.
- Leave when you've had enough. Whatever we do, it’s important to look after ourselves, our family, our mental health, and our stress levels. We don’t need to become an on-going punching bag for a big-mouth know-it-all. If the relationship is excessively toxic, it is better to distance ourselves or terminate the relationship.