How to handle holidays with a narcissist

Your mother wants to tell you how wrong you are for, well, everything involving your kids. Or your aunt wants to pry into your love life -- and insult you about your single status. Maybe it's a friend who needs to one-up you about everything (you just went away for the weekend? She's planning on taking a luxurious tropical vacation. And flying first class). Or, your sister needs all the attention on her -- and throws a fit when she doesn't get it.

While only 6% of the US population is thought to actually have narcissistic personality disorder, narcissism is really on a spectrum.
    "I think all of us have people in our family that meet some of the criteria for being a narcissist," says Karyl McBride, PhD, licensed marriage and family therapist and author of "Will I Ever Be Good Enough? Healing the Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers." (Learn the signs someone you know -- or even you! -- might be a narcissist.)
    When you're heading out to all the holiday parties and gatherings this year, you don't have to run away from your narcissistic mother, uncle, or family friend. Here's how to face them head on:

    Don't fight back

    The holidays are about spending time with loved ones and getting all the fuzzies from doing so. Sadly, narcissists love to gossip and put people down behind their backs.
    "It's their way of making themselves bigger and better than everyone else," says McBride. A good comeback when they tell you that they don't like so-and-so because oh, gosh do you see how she dresses/acts/looks: give the person she just panned a compliment. Say, "Oh, I think she's super smart with the way she runs her business," or "she's always been a really great friend to me." End scene.

    Stroke their ego

    Narcissists have a way of holding onto a grudge. (Remember, everything is about them -- and they remember being slighted even in the smallest ways for a long time.)
    "My advice often strikes people as cowardly, but there is no value in standing up for yourself or trying to explain," says Burgo. The best option is to avoid them entirely if they're still mad at whatever happened at the holiday party two years ago, but if that's not possible, try to make them feel good about themselves, he says. What's going on with their job? What else do they have planned for the holidays?

    But don't always give in

    One time you should stand up for yourself is when your pesky relative wants to give you a bunch of unsolicited advice, whether about your job, love life, or diet.

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    "Most people feel like this takes their power away, so I don't think you should put up with it," says McBride. Still, set a boundary with "kindness," she says. Say something like, "I understand that that's what you'd do, but I have my own way of handling my own life." And, in the future, keep the convos superficial -- don't divulge info about yourself. Good topics: football, the weather, and the news.

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