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Communicating with disorder

Trying to solve problems or make any type of progress with individuals with personality disorders can be very difficult.  Virtually every communication is insulting, repetitive, and circular.  They are seemingly unable to stay on topic and have propensities for driving others off topic.  Covering the same ground to no avail can be exhausting for the non-disordered participants, as they tend to push relentlessly for our participation in their arguments.

It is easy to fall into their communication traps and become engaged in their attempts for power.  However, with knowledge and diligence, we can re-train ourselves to successfully stand our ground by controlling our own behaviors.

A few simple steps 

1.  Eliminate emotion from the communication

There are times when we must communicate with individuals with personality disorders.  Often, they see these times as opportunities to abuse, manipulate, and engage us.  If it’s fun to make us angry, they will likely try.  Taking our emotions out of the communication equation, however, will make for less interesting interactions.  So, regardless of what they may include in their communication, we must keep it all business.

2.  Communicate using facts and few words

We should not employ a running commentary on their behavior, our issues with their behavior, or our feelings and wishes.  We should also avoid any type of advice.  We are best served by keeping communication short, simple, and factual.

3.  Stay on topic, communicating only regarding the issue at hand

We tend to write or speak in effort to come to a solution or make collaborative decisions.  We tend to not get anywhere, however, when we are dealing with those with personality disorders.  Frequently, they refuse to answer even direct questions, refuse to directly discuss the issue being addressed, or shift the topic altogether.  Not only are non-responses frustrating and useless wastes of time, but they keep us engaged.  We must learn to communicate regarding relevant material only.

4.  If the other party attempts to shift the topic without resolution, re-direct at once

Naturally, they often try to shift the topic without reaching a conclusion.  Why?  Because a resolution is not what they are looking for and it usually keeps us reeling.  They are not looking to solve matters, in spite of the fact that they will tell us they are.  Rather, the discussion constitutes engagement and opportunity to attack us further or fuel their “supply.”  Resist contributing to this and re-direct them at once.  Do not get lost in their name calling or desire for back and forth.

5.  Communicate stance, but do not repeat

We must say what we mean and mean what we say.  We must resist making threats or presenting ultimatums.  We should make our positions clear in as non-confrontational a way as possible and resist repeatedly covering the same ground with no results.  Typically, we are effective communicators.  Our failure to progress on an issue with a disordered individual is usually not our fault.

6.  Do not waver from that stance due to bullying, set boundaries

Sometimes, if we feel bullied, we may back down in an effort to ameliorate the situation.  That almost never works.  If legitimate facts come to light and we change our positions based on something concrete, that is different.  We need not be bull headed.  However, we should not change our positions simply to keep peace with these personalities.  While under normal circumstances, compromise works well, with them, we will only be seen as weak and they will exploit us at the next opportunity.  And they will see to it that there is a “next opportunity.”  Set boundaries as soon as possible.

7.  Do not worry about what they think

What they think of us will not change.  They view us negatively, and unlike with the non-disordered, our actions will not change that.  Try very hard not to become involved in the debate about responsibility and who is right or wrong.  It is futile.

8.  Do not allow their lies and projection to become part of the truth

Individuals with personality disorders tend to enjoy putting others on the defensive.  That is not a desirable place for us to be.  However, we can choose not to participate.  That does not mean that we should allow their lies to become “facts” either.  We should state the truth once to the audience who needs to hear the truth.  That’s usually enough.  If we carry on for too long, we run the risk of allowing them to alter the “facts.”

9.  Plan ahead for these types of struggles

For the most part, unless being “nice” to us directly benefits them or their cause, it’s safe to say we will not be treated well in these exchanges.  We must accept that and not allow the mistreatment to hurt our feelings or catch us off guard.  Time and a solid understanding of what happens in these exchanges will eventually place them so far away from us emotionally that none of this will matter.

However, in the interim, we must stop looking to them for validation or approval.  It is not coming.  Why do we care what someone overflowing with disorder thinks?  When someone distorts most of their surroundings, would we expect them to properly interpret us?  No.  As mysterious as they seem, the majority of their behavior becomes fairly predictable, once we become experienced.  Further, they all operate similarly enough for us to be able to plan ahead to some extent.

Exhausted yet?

This all takes practice.  We should not expect that we are immediately good at this.  Without question, I have made my share of mistakes.  Retrospectively, I look back at some of the ways I handled certain circumstances and wonder what the heck I was thinking.  The truth is that I simply did not know what to do at the time.  I thought that expressing myself would help bring about positive change.  I thought my words would help better explain things.  Not with these folks.  We do nothing more than give them more to twist.  So avoid excess.  Once we learn, we can operate more effectively and in ways in which we know we will be beneficial.


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33 Comments on "Communicating with disorder"

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Donna, I SO very badly needed to read this today!!!!! Thank You! Also Thank You Linda!!
My ex is on a rampage right now because the judge actually has signed the judgement in my favor. I’m tired of actively pursuing no contact and of course any communication involves stonewalling, lies and circularity. It really is a no win in any dealing with them.

Linda – this article is magnificent. To all Lovefraud readers: If you are in a situation where you must communicate with a sociopath, please read this! Linda’s advice will help you tremendously.

Linda, this is a gem of an article, I find the disordered personality’s craving for intense drama and conflict baffling, exhausting and anxiety producing and your advice will be most useful to refer to if I am unlucky enough to have any direct dealings with my disordered abuser or any other PD in future. Many thanks!

Linda,
This is a great article! I wish I’d had it when I was still with spath-it would have spared me so much pain! I tried so hard to understand him and help him change;make him happier so that I could be happier! Arggh! I knew nothing about sociopaths!

This article is great. I had to talk to mine yesterday. One of the last things between us is a car loan in both our names. I generally don’t talk to her but the bank said her phone had been cut off and she was almost sixty days late. I can take her car at 90 days but they were threatening credit damage so I had to send her a note. I followed the guidelines here. And having been here a while I can now clearly see how she is trying to manipulate me. I’m gonna share the exchange. I only email with her (no contact rule) when there is business. This is our first true exchange since last June.

Note – she made a huge deal about changing her last name back from mine and putting it in our divorce decree…and hasn’t done it despite promises to do so during business exchanges as I cleaned up and cut all ties between us aside of these last two lingering things. She also said she would refinance the car. And hasn’t done it. Watch her change her stance during this exchange.

Email One (from me)

(ex-spath)

The Car – (the bank) called 6/25. You know why. If you haven’t already, please pay your bills and seek refinancing options. I will return my key when I have proof my name is off the loan.

Last Name – I checked the public records. You have apparently not changed your last name from mine. Please do so and update your email addresses.

thx

Her response:
(my name)

The car is taken care of. I will refinance it when I have the opportunity. Since you have been speaking to my ex-boyfriend I know you are aware of my situation.

I will change my name when I have the resources available. Do not contact me again.

(ex-spath)

Note about the ex boyfriend: I went to high school with him in another state. He came to me wondering what the hell happened to him when they broke up so I gave him a link to this site, shared my story, and answered his questions in the spirit of love fraud. We agree- she isn’t particularly charming or smart, but the spath shoe fits her perfectly. She uses the same sob story to get in, love bombs you, then recycles the same lies to hide her numerous affairs and shady activities. I am not aware of her situation. I didn’t ask, and no one has told me because I have asked not to be told about her.
She should not have known we talked. She clearly doesn’t know what we talked about, though. I think she is fishing and the remark was meant to throw me off. I didn’t take the bait.

My response to keep her on track:

(ex-spath)

I will happily respect that wish when I no longer have to take threatening calls from (the bank) and when the email that shows up (and the public records) say your last name is “(her maiden name.)”

Until such time as these matters are resolved I will contact you as needed to see that they have been attended to, as is my legal right per our divorce decree.

(my name)

She got very haughty with her next response and note her gloating about control. She also changed her story. This is all from the same afternoon, within minutes. Usually she takes days. I think she is bored and looking for a playmate.

Her response:
(my name)

The divorce decree stated if the car became 90+days past due. That has not happened and will not, therefore there is no need for you to contact me regarding this.

Regarding my name change, the Divorce decree gives my the option, not the requirement to change my name. At this point I do not anticipate changing my name in the public records and will continue to be (married name.) This is my choice and not something you have control over. Just because the option is in the Divorce Decree it does not give you a legal right to contact me.

Moving forward I will not respond to any correspondence from you in any form. I wish you the best in your endeavors and I am happy to close the chapter of my life that you were a part of.

Sincerely,

(ex-spath)

Actually 90 days is when I can take the car from her. If I get calls from the creditor and have to make a payment for her I am also allowed to take the car. She glossed over that part since it’s not useful. She is correct about the name change – I asked my lawyer – but she is usually dumb about checking on legalities. I figured two birds with one stone, minimal contact, and she had previously said she would take care of that this spring when she had her totaled car picked up from my house in January (long story – it had been sitting there for a year.) She has chosen not to remember this. I can see the argument she wants to pull me into. And in the past her attitude would’ve angered me. Not now. I was too busy to respond last night but sent this back this morning to firmly reiterate my position.

(ex-spath)

I don’t know or care what your current situation is.
Keeping my last name keeps the chapter between us open, as does having my name on your car loan.
I wasn’t asking for nor do I need your permission; if I hear from (the bank), you will hear from me.

(my name)

I really hate talking to her. She is an ass. But it’s the first time I have engaged her in discussion and not gotten angry. I am somewhat amused, and just kind of surprised her responses were so like the other spath responses I’ve seen and how obvious it was that she was trying to pull me off topic into an argument. She even tried a pity play (I am assuming her situation is bad) and probably was hoping I’d offer to pay for her name change lol. No matter what she says next (if anything) I am not going to respond.

How’d I do?

It sounds frustrating but not sufficinet reason to contact her. You initiated, provoked and concluded this vindetta. It is no business of yours if she changers her name or not. Drop it and turn the car loan over to your lawyer. How did you do? The only thing I see that you accomplished is to convince her not to change her name for spite.

DarthNollidge – Marvelous!!

You did great DarthN, that’s how you did. May the force be with you till she’s permanently removed from your life.

When trying to actually talk to the latespath, not just pass the time of day, he would never look at you. He would just cock his head, roll his eyes, and put up a wall of silence, the subject didn’t matter. It was his way of letting you know your words were worth nothing. Allowing you to stew in your own anger.

He would react the same way escort’s emails if they asked him a question. He would just ignore them. His non response would get to EscortM so deeply that she would eventually email him “I knew you would not answer me”.

It appears that some spaths are masters of silence.

Silence and indifference are the most cruel of all their tools after they have lovebombed you and
chased you into a corner. They are masters of evil and destruction.

This is an amazingly helpful article, and thanks for posting it. I have found recently a very simple way to implement it all, as a central guiding principle: If I’m feeling uncomfortable about a pending or current conversation, I just put myself in a more pleasurable place and opt out of the garbage. I stop dancing the dance. This is my MY life, MY precious time, every moment of it, to be spent as I choose.

There is nothing to discuss.

Sistersister, I like that. For those of us sweating all the what if’s and how do I’s this is a good home base. Another great article here btw. I’m getting spoiled.

I have been dealing with a sociopath ex husband for many years. I am at a point where he is constantly disobeying court orders but nobody does anything and I am really thinking I should file contempt charges on a couple of the recent things just to make them court record. I have only filed contempt a few times in the past 8 years but they did nothing. He owes 85,000 in child support owes far more in other orders but is self employed and hides his income like a complete slime. with kids in the middle and this kind of personality it is such a tough place to be and the gaslighting of the kids is the worst. I think he only now shows up to visitation just to torment me. He even tried taking the boys and succeeded with the teenager who I believe is possibly sociopathic as well. I grew up in a private school with morals and values and ethics and empathy for others and I learned it made me the target of this person. I am so scared for my life but nobody seems to understand. I did have one person who taught me about this ordeal he was a therapist with a PHD in forensic psychology and I am forever thankful for him because he believed me. He made sense of it and gave it a name and let me research taught me to think differently and to watch actions double check verify everything and think safe. I wish I still had that therapist in my life unfortunately he retired. He also did meet my ex and was able to explain why my ex only came to so many hours of therapy… I am dealing with a very brilliant smart but deviant evil not many people get it until they do and by that time it is often too late. I pray for all of us who deal with these monsters
I am so torn on this contempt thing should I or should I not? IF he went to jail finally then what happens to the kids with visitation or what punishment will i endure next so hard. I thank all of you here on this site. I came here in 2005 when I first learned what I was dealing with and I seem to go here for people who understand. God Bless you all and help us all through this Much love.

Hopeful, The name you are using says a lot about you! HOPEFUL is what we need to STAY. I know how hard it is sometimes. I have been in 2 marriages with sociopaths. You are right, they are very brilliant and very evil and they don’t care what they do to people. They treat them in whatever way benefits them. So glad you had a good therapist for a while anyway. I had no one who really understood until I found this site. There are some great people here and we DO understand. It is REAL. It is not YOU. And God WILL get you through it like He has everything else! Praying for you!

This reminds me of one time I was dealing with my ex while we were trying to start working out details of the divorce. He asked me to meet him at a local coffee shop. I said I would but at any time if the conversation got out of hand or HE got out of hand I would be leaving. As soon as I got there, he told me where to sit. Stupidly, I did. We had about 2 sentences that were “controlled” and “civilized”. Then he started.. I picked up my laptop and my things and quietly left with no explanation. He knew. We had many more times like that on email and texts. I mostly ignored all of them unless he had a GENUINE need for conversation. Then I would answer only with what I had to say to answer the question and if he came back with a smart or abusive comment, I didn’t respond. It was very hard at times. But it worked!

I think this is excellent advice, and well-written; thanks for sharing it.

The adult children of personality-disordered parents would I think benefit a great deal from these techniques, but the adult children of pd parents have the most difficulty achieving the emotional distance necessary to utilizing them for the very reasons you mention.

I belong to several support groups for the adult children of Cluster B pd parents (and I’m betting that there are some psychopathic parents in the mix, as well) and being able to achieve emotional distance from a parent, even an abusive parent, is amazingly difficult for a lot of us.

Strangely, those of us who were raised by personality-disordered parents are often strongly, unhealthily attached to them; we’ve been subjected to Love Fraud from infancy, conditioned that being emotionally abused, or neglected, or abandoned, or even exploited (physically or emotionally) is “normal” and how love is expressed, because that’s how our parents treated us.

I’d like to direct members of these support groups to your article, share the link to it, so that my fellow adult kids of personality-disordered parents can hopefully benefit from it, at some point.

Babs94540, Can you direct me to the support groups you mention for adult children of cluster B parents? I am the non cluster B parent but am accused of being the crazy one. They say I was a wonderful mother but I changed. I tried my best to be a goood parent but I did change when my adult children fell into his grip and turned on me. I have almost given up hope but would like to know more about the child’s perspective and can maybe contribute to the discussions. Thanks.

Try:
bpd family.com

Section:
[L5] Healing from a Relationship with a Parent, Relative, or Inlaw who has BPD; Personal healing and managing a relationship with a borderline pd family member.

Thanks for a great article Linda! Just wish I knew all this 20 years back. From age 28 to 47 I have spent endless days and nights engaging in “conversations” with my P without getting anywhere, actually ending up even more exhausted and confused than before the conversation; and yes, it was common for him to provoke me into anger just for his pleasure by calling me a prostitute or some such loving things whenever there was relative peace and calm in my life…and the cycle of my agitation, reaction, fight (war), misery, insults etc would start all over again…NOW I see it all, and have gone no contact for a year…Thanks again Linda for summarising all this so very beautifully..

stronger,
I know the feeling!I spent more than 25 yrs engaged in such conversations with spath;never realizing that it was for nothing…that is except for spath’s gain…his thrills.It totally exhausted me mentally and physically!Finally,I realized that I couldn’t help him and gave up,shortly before walking out.I’ve been NC for 9 monthes and it brings peace and healing!

Much appreciated article – it was this very topic that brought me back full force to posting again. I think I ameliorated. I know I acquiesced, lost the upper hand, and that alone started the vicious inside cycle spinning into high gear.

State the facts and no more. There is a pattern I’ve noticed with Mr Creepy, and that is: I stick to the facts, over and over again, say for weeks on end, and then he finds a moment “Can I discuss this with you in private on Skype”? Then that skype call turns into a nightmare. So I came up with the following: “No. Please refer any and all inquiries to the regularly scheduled meeting times”. That keeps me in a room with four other people, and keeps it focused on business.

Phew…..

Hurt,
How positively wise,that you decided all conversations with him be kept to the meeting times! I love it! That was such an easy way to put an end to that crazy scheme of his!And what relief for you!

Good article. I thought it is good advice for dealing with people at work, who ‘twist’ things. You know the ones who take information and let their imagination run wild, telling others their twisted version to make you look small and make them look big. You never know since others won’t tell you, since then they expose the other person’s lies, so they keep quiet. It seems whether at work or dealing with any control freak in our lives, we have to keep our own agenda. By only dealing with facts, (as said in the article) it keeps us safe. Our feelings are ours, and others do not need to know our feelings. Once the disordered person knows your secrets, (or feelings) he has a form of control. When dealing with him, don’t give him control of the relationship or conversation, but keep YOUR own agenda in mind. And made sure until you get your agenda met (child support, etc.) HE GETS NOTHING, NO support emotionally or financially. Don’t let charm allow others to walk all over you. Charm is a way to deceive you as you voluntarily go off to la-la land dreaming about the perfect relationship, when he is incapable of even having a relationship.

That’s exactly what I did Pattywack!! I took myself to la-la land and then landed back to reality with a thump strong enough to break bones!!!!…He is totally incapable of having any relationship and I allowed myself to be carried away by the charm rather than look at the true substance of the man.

Pattywack – great points! Yes, when they know what we feel, they have access to tools for manipulation.

At least in my own case, in retrospect, I think that my own self-deception was involved in how much damage my Cluster B pd (and possibly psychopathic) mother was able to do to me.

I wish I’d been able to “wake up” earlier in life and really see the reality of just how toxic our relationship was. But I didn’t want to see it.

Instead, I would sink into the comfort of convincing myself that “Its not that bad” and “Mother doesn’t really mean it when she says those things to me” and “underneath it all, my mom really does love me” when none of those things were actually true.

Self-deception is just as bad as the deception by the psychopath, seems to me, at least in my own situation.

The problem with communicating with an s-path is that it’s very easy to be pulled into a mire of self-doubt. How easy it is to become frustrated, angry . . . even abusive in return! Before I know it, I am in despair and wondering if I have the personality disorder. I try to keep my communications succinct and to the point. He (my s-path husband) never tires of hearing from me. When I call, he immediately picks up. He can go from fake and cheerful to horribly cruel in a second. The only reason we are connected is that he’s made it his business to take my youngest son and grandson under his wing. I can’t reach these two people, the two people I have the most concern about, without going through him or driving to his house. The above article is very helpful. I must keep conversation short, to the point, and not take the bate. It is so difficult to do this that I fully understand the “no contact” principle. He feeds on my emotions.

My husband and I have gone “no contact” with our only child. It has been the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. I hadn’t heard from him in almost 4 years and than I get a “congratulations you’re grandparents” email from him! (congratulating us on an illegimate child he had! Though never hearing from him when he abandoned his wife, etc! Too much to list! There has been a 14 year history of ying and deceiving with him!) Everything you list in your article is true and can be done though you have to really be on guard because the SP is so very good at what they do. It is so much harder to sever your connection with a child than a spouse. My son is my flesh and blood and I truly believe it is so very different severing the connection/ties with a child. I feel like my heart has been ripped out. I am having to do what is so unnatural for a mother-not have him in my heart. It is a vicous circle. We can’t be in his life because of what he is and what he has done. But than my heart aches for my love for him. I know this can’t be so we are back to having to try and forget him. It is so unnatural-and very painful…I am always crying and questioning if we are taking the right stand in separating ourselves from him. It is destructive either way..

Heartbroken Mom of 1 – I am so sorry that you’ve had to make such a difficult decision. You are in my thoughts. I hope you and your husband can find peace.

Dear Heart Broken Mom of 1-

I have walked in your shoes. My son and I have been estranged for 5 years. I didn’t think I could ever feel joy in my life for the first 3 years. When it’s the child you adore, the anguish is suffocating and every dawn renews the cycle of depression. It’s yet another day with the deliberate absence of your child. Thank the good lord you have a husband to share this grief with.

My son’s father is a psychopath. All they say about a genetic pre-disposition is true and it is heartening to see that this knowledge is becoming available to the public. It is also true that a genetic pre-dispostion does not have to exist for this disorder to rear its ugly head.

Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do to change the mindset of an adult son. If he had little to no “affective empathy” by the time he was 8 years old, it’s unlikely he would gain it, and his behavior would simply reflect this gap in his morality to a greater and greater degree as he aged. Had you had the benefit of the knowledge that exists today about raising at-risk kids, you may have been able to do something, but you didn’t, and you can’t go back in time.

Lying, cheating, stealing, bullying, etc. are many of the horrid behaviors that I’m sure you’ve been subjected to. And having him in your life will simply subject you to more. Unfortunately, it is unlikely that he will ever change, but it’s for sure, enabling him by being there for him despite his behavior will only put you at risk. It will not cure him. Only he has control of whether he will ever improve.

I’ve come to realize that nothing is forever in life. We can lose our children due to accidental death or illness. Unfortunately, some of us lose them because of the genetic or emotional issues that exist. Grieving the loss of a child who continues to live is enormously painful, and ongoing. The death of a child is finite. The loss of a living child renews itself day after painful day. The good news is that he seems healthy, and you love him. It’s okay to feel that love in your heart at the same time that you understand that you can’t put yourself at risk by being around him.

You may want to keep in contact with your child’s child. It’s unlikely that your son will for very long and the baby is your grandchild. You may feel better by making a difference in the baby’s life. If you’re unable to do so, it will be yet another loss that you will need to grieve.

My heartfelt condolences for your loss.

Jm

Heartbroken, I walk in your shoes too except my son’s father is disordered too….It’s anguish pure and simple. Their behavior reflects everything a good parent teaches their child not to do. Lie, Cheat, Hurt others….that’s my pain!! Deeply acknowledging that we have NO control over them or over their choices is the only way. It is so so difficult to do!!!

Great advice, much of which I learned the hard way! Boundaries are the key- decide what you are willing to put up with and what you are not and then stick to it! Flexibility is only seen as a weakness by the spath. If they get you to give in, they only see you as a fool.

I don’t see why you shouldn’t issue ultimatums- either you change or I’m outta here. What’s wrong with that? For me, it was my ticket to freedom.

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