Circular conversations are very common if you are in a relationship with someone who is a narcissist or has narcissistic traits. Circular conversations are just as it sounds; the conversation goes nowhere and feels like it continually loops around the same point with no resolve. This is a communication strategy employed when a narcissist or toxic person feels offended by what is said or is called to the table for negative behavior. This typically happens when a grievance is brought up and the listener feels too shameful to admit any fault. They begin feeling guilty and imperfect and do not know a healthy way to deal with those emotions. They begin fault-finding as a way to project the negative feelings they feel about themselves onto others.
The receiver is not willing to listen, be accountable, apologize, or change. They are eager to move on from the topic by using any means necessary. They use defensive strategies such as deflecting, making excuses, turning it around on you, calling you sensitive, or apologizing for the sake of moving forward not for the sake of the effect it had on you. Circular conversations also include denial of emotions, minimization, manipulation, and willful forgetting. Furthermore, making excuses and acting like a victim are additional techniques used to deflect. The purpose of victimization is to make the listener feel guilt or feel bad for the speaker. The goal is to get you to excuse the behavior or lay off.When this happens, you may end up going into fix-it mode. You caretake for the hurt of the toxic individual while forgetting or pushing down your own needs. This is unhealthy because it is not your problem to fix.
A narcissistic or toxic person is keen on using your emotions against you. A condescending tone and mocking are tools utilized in circular conversations to get you emotional. The point is to frustrate you, get you off your game, and to have you blow up. They will eerily remain calm while they jab at you. They escalate you to the point of your outburst. When you get upset at the comments and escalate, they use your anger against you. They will tell you to calm down or point out how you cannot control yourself.
This is a ploy to change the subject, make it about you, or get you to stop talking.The purpose of all these toxic maneuvers is to avoid dealing with the conflict at hand. You give up on the conversation and leave feeling confused, hopeless, defeated, and frustrated. This result is ultimately the goal. The hope is that you start to feel so defeated and drained you no longer approach conflict. They are free to act how they want without accountability. You begin to think talking about your problems is pointless so you internalize them. You become accustomed to not talking about issues and begin stuffing your feelings to keep the peace. There can only be so much intimacy in a relationship if you cannot openly talk to each other.
A goal is to throw you off your game and not talk about the topic at hand. The person can try to confuse you with semantics and wordplay. They can also poke holes in what you are saying and act like they do not understand your point. If you walk away from a conversation and ponder what in the world happened, you were in a circular conversation. You no longer want to talk and drop the conversation, which is ultimately the goal. Often you walk away from the conversation feeling confused and think you potentially did not see things the right way. Which is a form of gaslighting and manipulation.
When something happens enough times with the same outcome you have learned to become classically conditioned. Therefore, you summarize bringing up issues as a waste of time because they go nowhere. You would rather enjoy the rest of your night so you stuff your feelings and say nothing. Unfortunately, the result is more resentment and frustration. This ends up creating more tension inside of you and for the relationship. This leaves a wedge in the relationship and more unresolved issues to carry. You must learn to navigate the tactics and bring up your needs assertively.
Disengaging from circular conversations
Do not engage in a conversation with a toxic person if you are angry or tensions are high. Make sure to gauge your frustrations throughout the conversation and disengage from the conversation when you reach a threshold. Everyone has a window of tolerance for what they can handle before being triggered. Male sure you keep your conversations below the window of tolerance and ask for a time out when you feel the conversation start to derail or you feel yourself becoming emotionally charged. This technique does not mean you abandon the conversation but respectfully ask for a beak until you can come back at a certain time when you are levelheaded. In addition, you want to point out what is happening assertively.
For example, you can say, “I see our conversation is going in circles. I would like to take a time out. I would like it if we could come back and talk about this when I am calmer in thirty minutes.” This helps you to feel more empowered and in control of your emotions and the situation. You may think what if they do not respect my time out. The time out should have a non-verbal signal or cue for each person to mutually agree upon before conflict. This time out should be taken before either party goes past the window of tolerance. If both parties are still within the window of tolerance the time out will be respected. When you leave a conversation and pick it back up when emotions are settled this starts to place a boundary on your conversations.
In conversation with an individual who talks in circles, it is best practice to know your main point and facts. When the person tries to deflect, bring the conversation back around to the main point. For example, I can see how my leaving the door open can be frustrating, but I want to continue talking about how it felt when I was left at home alone. You can validate the person even further by saying you are willing to talk about the issue they brought up later just not at the moment. Resolve the issue at hand and do not move into caretaking for the issue the person brought up over your issue.
The best tip to eliminate circular conversations is to employ the “No J.A.D.E technique. This acronym comes from Alcoholics Anonymous as a tool to use with toxic people. This mnemonic device is to remember to not Justify, Argue, Defend, or Explain yourself. If you find yourself engaging in any or all of these behaviors you are playing into the pathological dynamic.