The hard truth is there isn’t much you can do to help someone be less self-absorbed. You can suggest therapy, but ultimately the work is their own to do. “You don’t want the goal to be making someone less self-centered. You want to frame the goal for yourself to get clear on what your boundaries are for yourself,” Birkel says.
Boundaries are key, he says, “so when you’re with that person, you continue to have a voice, and say what you need and want even if they’re not happy about it.” It might upset them in the moment, but in the long run, it’s healthier for both people in the relationship to express themselves.
So that might mean directly telling them how their behavior makes you feel or asking for a different dynamic when you spend time together. Make your communication clear and cogent, Neo notes, taking time to plan your script beforehand if necessary. And to protect yourself, she suggests being prepared to face some pushback from this person–the whole point of self-absorption is that they generally won’t have your back, and it’ll probably take some convincing to get them to budge. “Expect bad behavior,” she says. “Don’t go in innocently thinking everything’s going to be fine—because you’re going to be disappointed.”
Once you’ve set your boundaries firmly, hold to them. And if they don’t like that, they’re ultimately not someone you want in your life, Birkel says. “It’s a good litmus test to set boundaries with people like this, because it will help you decide to what extent you want them in your life.”