They cannot perceive the intended meaning of your words. They cannot interpret or view you in a particular way. In a way which might be typically desired or expected. They cannot listen or give you their attention. They cannot take notice of you or act on something that you have said. They cannot respond to your advice or your request. They cannot give you the opportunity to state your case. They cannot be alert or ready to hear what you have to say.
When you are talking to the narcissist, it might seem as though they are listening to you, it might seem as though they are given their attention to what you have to say. They might even be looking right at you, nodding their head as though they understand what you are saying. As though they are able to perceive the intended meaning of your words, or interpret or view you in a particular way, in which you might desire or expect from them. It might seem as though they are listening to you. But then they will respond with something that has no connection to anything that you just said. Or they might hear one part of what you were saying and then come to an incorrect conclusion or the opposite of what you were saying.
The narcissist is not listening to what you are saying. When they are upset, it impairs their ability to hear what you are saying. When they are experiencing an unexpected result or situation, it weakens their ability to hear or understand you. Depending on how unhappy, disappointed or worried the narcissist is in that moment, it will it will dictate their ability to listen to what you are saying. If the narcissist is really upset, or if they are experiencing a narcissistic injury, there will be nothing you can tell them, there will be nothing you can say. Talking to them will be a waste of your time and energy, because they cannot hear you.
It may seem as though this is a conscious or intentional act and some narcissists may do this to avoid the responsibility. But it will also happen because the unexpected result or situation the narcissist is experiencing in that moment is so overwhelming, and has such a strong emotional effect on them. They become buried or drowned beneath a huge mass of their own emotions, until it blocks everything else out. Nothing can flow through from the external environment and all they are left with is their own emotions.
It might seem as though they are trying to change the topic of the conversation, or they are trying to ignore you, but what is actually going on beneath the surface is that they can't even hear you. They cannot listen or pay attention to you, because they are too caught up in their own emotions.
If you observe them closely, you may notice that while they are not listening to you, they are listening to something else. They are listening to something that only they can hear, they are listening to their irrational and unreasonable feelings. Which leaves them unable to speak intelligibly, unable to communicate in a way that is clear enough to be understood. So now you might have difficulty understanding them. You might have difficulty perceiving the intended meaning of their words, while it makes perfect sense to them in their minds. In their minds you're the stupid one for not understanding them and it only makes them more upset and annoyed when they realise that you don't understand them.
It makes perfect sense to them. In their minds, their feelings are facts. However they feel, that becomes a fact. That becomes something that is known or proved to be true. They cannot view their feelings in a way where they are not influenced by them. They cannot recognise that their feelings are temporary and not logical or reasonable. They view their feelings as facts. They relate the facts to their feelings. Normal people don't get upset unless something unfavorable is done to them. But the narcissist is already upset without anything being done to them. They assume that because they are upset, you must have done something to them. They become completely certain that you must have done something to cause them to feel that way.
The narcissist is detached or disconnected from their feelings. For so many years they've refused to admit the truth or existence of their feelings. They have avoided any activity of thinking about their own feelings or behaviour. So now they no longer identify with their own feelings. They can no longer establish or indicate that their feelings belong to them. They may feel as though what they are experiencing is coming from something outside of them. They might accuse you of thinking a certain way about them or being against them. This happens because they are projecting their self-loathing on to you. They are projecting their very strong feelings of hatred for themselves onto you, and they begin to feel that you hate them. They cannot identify that those feelings of hatred were already there within them. They cannot identify that their feelings have nothing to do with a situation.
This is why it is so easy to trigger a narcissist and cause a narcissistic injury. Their feelings of self-hatred are already there. If you say one wrong word or just look at them a certain way, which they might misperceive as hostile or threatening, it will surface their feelings of self-hatred and they will believe that you caused them to feel that way. They will believe that you hate them or that you are attacking them. Even though it has nothing to do with you, or anything that you have done. They can even distort meanings and misinterpret what you are saying, so they can perceive it as though you hate them or you are trying to attack them, just so they can validate their internal experience. They will then blame you for their own feelings. The feelings that existed even before any engagement with you. But because they were denying the existence of those feelings, they were not fully aware of them.
When you try to communicate with them, you may feel as though you are navigating a minefield, where anything you say could potentially be perceived as an attack on them. Anything you say or do could bring their feelings of self-hatred to the surface. When the narcissist is upset there is nothing you can tell them. They cannot hear you. It doesn't matter how logical you might be or how much evidence you have, all they care about is their feelings. Because in their minds, their feelings are facts. If they feel a certain way, that's your fault and you deserve to be punished. They cannot self reflect or look within. They cannot identify that their feelings belong to them. Their feelings are too painful for them to deal with. Narcissists are very weak, fragile people. They cannot deal with the truth, they cannot deal with reality. They spend their lives doing everything they can to deny the truth and to escape from reality.