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Power move: Not answering the phone

Hello guys,

this is something that I learned from my narcissistic sister. For many many years when I would call my sister who would not answer the phone. That was her way of punishing me because he felt insulted by something I said once (and apologized for it). But narcissistic people almost never forgive, they want their revenge.

Anyway, after many years of working on myself and the relationship I manage to get my sibling to answer my calls. But now she's doing it again.

And she pulled the "I'm busy" power move (she's a mom so she's using this as the "I'm busy" card and framing me as needy):

Her: "Excuse me John, my partner was not here and I had a very complicated day! Can you please call me tomorrow?

Narcissistic people have complicated life due to their mental make-up. Most of the things are difficult, painful or any kind of negative stuff. Anyway, her message sounds all good and fair. But be cognizant she's a narcissistic person who's been playing games a lot. So this time, learning from power dynamics, I invert the dynamics. Actually, usually it's the people who cannot be reached who calls back the person who called

Me: Hello Myriam I understand, I've been quite busy myself! Call me back when you will be available. It's easier. Have a good night!

Her: Ok + "thumbs up" emoji

Her answer is very low investment. I noticed that narcissistic people use a lot the thumbs up emoji. Not only them but I noticed they do it a lot. Just like the "eye-rolling" body language which they do a lot. It's one of their usual way of expressing their feeling of superiority.

Of course she never called me back. Since then, I called her twice. I even tried my brother-in-law without success.

So I understand people are busy and can not answer the phone all the time. However, I think there is a power dynamics of not answering the phone.

Rationale: if it would be an important call for you (money, opportunity, etc.) you would take the call.

What would you do in this situation?

My intention is to talk with my nephews to see how they are and arrange a time to see them. She's been preventing me from seeing them for years indirectly through passive-aggression. However, as I increased my communication skills, I was able to go around her and see them through my brother-in-law.

I've given my family tons of value through gifts, surprises, times I took care of the children. But the relationship still seems one-way. Now I can go to their place and spend time with them, but I'm still not part of their priorities.

They never call me. When I say never, I mean never. So it's always me calling them. As you saw when I try to invert the power dynamics, it's a failure.

So I'm at peace emotionally with this situation (more or less), but I'm still frustrated because I feel powerless. I know that's how narcissistic like for other people to feel.

I've been able to improve the situation and relationship by a large margin, but it is still not where I would like it to be. My brother-in-law is either consciously or unconsciously unaware of my sister's manipulations. He has huge defence mechanisms around this.

Stef has reacted to this post.
Stef

I came to think about this different perspective about life that I have gained. From your example, is that you are on different level in life, in your energy aswell. Narcissitic people have gone through things that they try cope with this mental makeup and its rarley they reach a higher level and in their energy that is sustainable, unless they work with their deep internal conflict that has an makeup over it. There are people in our life from back-in-the-days that stagnate for life and when you evolve past them, some have difficult accepting it as it threaten their ego of their boxed up world view. It can be sad when you been closed to someone, but its a learning oppertunitiy to heal within and learn from the experience so you keep evolving so you will be able to meet other like-minded 🙂

From what I have also observed is that people with narcissitic traits will be okay with you evolving as long as they gain aswell something. But people with narcissistic-disorder is completely in their fragile ego and they will go through life that way.

Lucio Buffalmano, Matthew Whitewood and 2 other users have reacted to this post.
Lucio BuffalmanoMatthew WhitewoodJohn FreemanStef

I had a project partner that I used to work with a lot exhibiting close to what you outlined.
This is in the business context, so I understand that it's easier to walk away compared to family.
She did not want to invest in putting in the work, so I decided to move on from the project.

How to Move Forward From Here?

Thoughts from a third-party.
I may not necessarily have the full context and be the best to advise what to do in these cases.

It's tough emotionally when people play these games.
And also a huge waste of your valuable time.

The issue here is that she is mixed in with your other family members that you care about.
Your brother-in-law and your nephews.

A possible way is to focus on building a better relationship with your brother-in-law.
Not sure how feasible and challenging this is.
After having a better relationship, you could have a more honest conversation with him about your concerns on family matters and some of your sister's behaviour that you are uncomfortable with.

If you think that this drama is not worth your attention and time, walk away from it altogether.

My Own Similar Experience

In my own experience, I have observed the following behaviours:

  • Only answering the phone when it is convenient for her
  • Cancelling or shifting appointments at the last minute to suit her convenience
  • When I address these inconveniences, she uses the family excuse
  • Lot of "I'm busy" power moves
  • Uses "ok" a lot to show low investment (same as John; no thumbs up emoji though)
  • Types "hi" and expects you to invest in starting the conversation
  • Promises future value but does not follow through on commitments
  • Expects you to give value while she minimises investment

Quote from John Freeman on February 15, 2021, 8:00 pm

Her: "Excuse me John, my partner was not here and I had a very complicated day! Can you please call me tomorrow?

This strikes a chord with me because she often does this to me as well.
No regard for my time and schedule at all.
And she uses the family excuse.

I had a conversation with a friend over the phone.
He was dealing with a manipulative woman in a business context who always uses this family excuse as well.
We all joked it will be weird if men use this excuse as well.
As men, we are expected to compartmentalise our lives: business and work.
Maybe not so relevant in your case.

What I wanted to say is that there are similar women who use these tricks.
They try to frame themselves as important and expect people to revolve around them.

Lucio Buffalmano has reacted to this post.
Lucio Buffalmano

Hey John,

In no particular order:

  • I'd have cut that message even shorter

From:

Hello Myriam I understand, I've been quite busy myself! Call me back when you will be available. It's easier. Have a good night!

To:

All good, good night!

  • Consider she might really feel busy

Albeit some people make a big fuss out of being busy, over-burdened, "about to go crazy", some do really feel that way.

  • Not picking up: power move , but also can be something else

It can definitely be a power move, and it definitely weighs on the power dynamics.

I remember my nephew when he was in primary school, his phone was ringing and asked why he wasn't picking up, he replied "she had to pick up when I called her".
It became a running joke and it made me think if he wasn't more like his uncle, than his father :), but a funny example of picking up / calling back power dynamics.

Still, keep in mind there might be a host of reasons. Just for one, more people than you might think have an issue picking up the phone to talk, and that ranges from social anxiety, to introverted folks who need warm-up, to simply "being out of state" and potentially happy to see the call, but not feeling being "in the good enough state" for it.

  • What would I do

Frankly, I'd personally stop calling her.

Bar that, consider switching to audio texts, which are a good in-between.

As soon as your nephew is old enough for a phone, you can also go straight to him.

Some other "games" are possible to make her more likely to pick up the phone, but getting into games isn't the best option in my opinion.

Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?

Types "hi" and expects you to invest in starting the conversation

Man, few things irk me like the "hi" and nothing else :).

I'd call up and go immediate assertive on that:

Hey, did you need to say something?

Let her reply, potentially address her reply.

Then:

Oh, and please, the next time you have something some, please say that and don't "hi me" anymore.
You're not a 13 YO shy girl, are you?
So cut out the shy teenager ping, and speak up when you gotta speak up

A bit strong of course, adapt to the situation and the relationship.

Matthew Whitewood has reacted to this post.
Matthew Whitewood
Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?

Lucio, thanks for the tips on dealing with low investment folks.

Types "hi" and expects you to invest in starting the conversation

Man, few things irk me like the "hi" and nothing else :).

Same boat here : )

The issue is when I called her in my example, and she didn't pick up.
Then she chose to text back 10 minutes later.
But she texted in much greater detail, which is good.

Oh, and please, the next time you have something some, please say that and don't "hi me" anymore.
You're not a 13 YO shy girl, are you?
So cut out the shy teenager ping, and speak up when you gotta speak up

A bit strong of course, adapt to the situation and the relationship.

I love this response.
Had to laugh at the "13 YO shy girl".
Calling out the game in the open.

Frankly, I'd personally stop calling her.

I can say from my personal example that this works.
I stuck to texting, going more assertive, and also matching the investment.
She ended up calling more often.

Lucio Buffalmano has reacted to this post.
Lucio Buffalmano

I love this response.
Had to laugh at the "13 YO shy girl".
Calling out the game in the open.

Yeah, that's a strategic power move, purposefully exaggerated.

If you just say "don't hi me anymore" it feels like you're being thin-skinned and getting angry out of nothing.

You might get a reply like "why are you getting so upset about a text", and then you're battling a tough frame.

By saying "you're not a 13 YO shy girl", you over-state the case just enough so that it doesn't seem like you're over-reacting.
With that frame, sort of a frame-shock, it's more likely they'll at a loss of words and your point will sink in big time.

But if they say the something, you still got a stronger frame to re-state:

Her: Why are you getting so upset about a text
You: Because it's a 13 YO text and I expect some level of maturity. If you're a business partner, text your business-relevant query, leave a text message, or call. "Hi" does nothing, except wasting my time.

 

Matthew Whitewood has reacted to this post.
Matthew Whitewood
Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?
Thanks to all for your answers. I appreciate the value of this community as a self-development group.
Quote from Matthew Whitewood on February 16, 2021, 2:34 am

A possible way is to focus on building a better relationship with your brother-in-law.

That is what I did and this is how I was able to see my nephews again. However, he's not contributing much. He's kind of in his own bubble, not really interested about me or my life. He respects me for how I behave with and how I invest in my nephews, though.

They try to frame themselves as important and expect people to revolve around them.

Yes, I noticed that. When some of these manipulative women have children, that gives them more power. That is the case with my sister. She is at the center of her family.

Quote from Lucio Buffalmano on February 16, 2021, 2:49 am

All good, good night!

Definitely. If I understand it well: invest less?

  • Consider she might really feel busy

I agree. That's what I wanted to convey by "Narcissistic people have complicated life due to their mental make-up. Most of the things are difficult, painful or any kind of negative stuff." They view everything as complicated so they create problems around them and they do experience these difficulties. Their perspective creates a difficult reality. I empathise with her about this. It is what is happening for her.

  • Not picking up: power move , but also can be something else

It can definitely be a power move, and it definitely weighs on the power dynamics.

I remember my nephew when he was in primary school, his phone was ringing and asked why he wasn't picking up, he replied "she had to pick up when I called her".
It became a running joke and it made me think if he wasn't more like his uncle, than his father :), but a funny example of picking up / calling back power dynamics.

Still, keep in mind there might be a host of reasons. Just for one, more people than you might think have an issue picking up the phone to talk, and that ranges from social anxiety, to introverted folks who need warm-up, to simply "being out of state" and potentially happy to see the call, but not feeling being "in the good enough state" for it.

Yes, here it's important to have more details about her. She speaks on the phone when it's convenient for her. When she has to ask my mother to take care of the children, etc. You have to understand that for about 12 years, she NEVER (not once) answered one of my call. All this to punish me. I know it might sound crazy but it's true. She actually said that she would not take my calls anymore because we had an argument over the phone and she did. But at the time I was not aware of all the narcissistic personality disorder. It's only in the past year because I improved my relationship with my brother-in-law and that I gave so much value to her family that she HAD to pick-up the phone. I think maybe 3 times in the past year. Otherwise she never answers. I can tell you I'm 100% sure it's a power move. She ostracized me from her family, making me work to get close to them. That's her game. I know it. The thing is that I need an ally to break it and my brother-in-law is too passive and too oblivious to her games for this to happen. Moreover, he has more to lose than to gain.

  • What would I do

Frankly, I'd personally stop calling her.

That's what I did in the past 12 years.

Bar that, consider switching to audio texts, which are a good in-between.

That's a great suggestion. I'm going to follow it.

As soon as your nephew is old enough for a phone, you can also go straight to him.

Definitely. He is old enough and has a phone but did not pick-up I don't know if he has rules or something or no credit. I'll have to ask

Some other "games" are possible to make her more likely to pick up the phone, but getting into games isn't the best option in my opinion.

Yes, however I really am powerless in this situation. It's like when a parent kidnaps a child from the other parent. That's how I feel. She's blocking me access to my nephews (who love me and whom I love) for her own selfish reasons.