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Last Updated on August 16, 2018

Narcissistic Personality: What Is It and How to Deal with a Narcissist?

Narcissistic Personality: What Is It and How to Deal with a Narcissist?

He asks you for your opinion, but only follows his own advice regardless of what you say.She loves to talk about herself, everything about her is just better than you.  When you try to share anything happy about yourself, she seriously doubts it.

If you know someone who acts like these examples, there’s a chance they might be a narcissist.

What is a narcissistic personality?

Narcissism is a spectrum personality disorder which most of us have.

In popular culture, narcissism is interpreted as a person who’s in love with themselves, more accurately, their idealized selves. Narcissists believe that they are too unique to be understood and that they are so good that they demand for admiration from others.

Psychologist Stephen Johnson writes that,[1]

the narcissist is someone who has buried his true self-expression in response to early injuries and replaced it with a highly developed, compensatory false self.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) describes narcissistic personality as a personality disorder. It is a spectrum disorder, which means it exists on a continuum ranging from some narcissistic traits to the full-blown personality disorder.[2]

Narcissistic Personality Disorder is not very common, but the truth is, we all have some of the narcissistic traits.

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Traits of a narcissist:

  • They have a deep need for admiration and validation. They think they’re special and too unique to be understood.
  • They feel they are superior to other. They achieve more and know a lot more than you.
  • They do not show their vulnerabilities. They fear what others think of them and they want to remain superior in all situations.
  • They are unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others. They want to be the centre of attention and believe that showing emotions is a sign of weakness.
  • They are skilled manipulators and are emotionally abusive. They know how to make use of their charm to take advantage of others to get what they want.

How are narcissists different from others?

Narcissism expert and the author of Narcissism in a Nutshell, Zari Ballard, tried to answer some common questions asked by non-narcissists about what a narcissist thinks and feels from a narcissist’s perspective.[3]

Do narcissists know they are narcissists and are they happy?

We could really care less about how others feel. We enjoy our so called cold existence. True narcissists don’t want to change. We feel in total control of our lives using this method.

Do narcissists know or understand right from wrong?

Narcissists know the difference between right and wrong because they understand cause and effect. There is no “guilty conscience” giving them a clue and they are displaying the symptom of being “indifferent to social norms” while most likely presenting as ‘cold-hearted.’

Narcissists have a very different thinking mechanism. They see things from a different perspective. Unlike non-narcissists and empaths, they don’t have much sympathy and are reluctant to show emotions to others.

Why do people become narcissists?

1. Narcissism is vulnerability taken to an extreme.

The root of a narcissistic personality is a strong resistance to feeling vulnerable with anyone.[4]

Narcissists refuse to put themselves in a position where they feel vulnerable. They fear that others will take advantage of their weaknesses, so they learn to camouflage their weaknesses by acting strong and powerful. The think showing emotions to others is a sign of weakness, so they learn to hide their emotions and act cold-hearted most of the times.

Narcissists live in a state of anxiety because they are highly aware of their emotions and how others think of them.

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Vulnerability aversion, is the root of a narcissistic personality.

2. A narcissistic personality could be a result of a wounded past.

Narcissists are desperate to seek validation constantly because they either didn’t feel worthwhile and valued in the past, or were being paid too much attention as the most precious and unique one in the world.

Faulty or inadequate parenting, for example a lack of limit setting, is believed to be a major cause, and both permissive and authoritarian styles of parenting have been found to promote narcissistic symptoms.[5]

Both parents who fail to see the worth in a child, and parents who spoil and give excessive praise to the child promote narcissism as the child grows. While the former ones make the child feel inferior of others and want to get more attention, the latter ones encourage an idealized-self in the child.

How to deal with a narcissist?

1. If someone close to you is a narcissist, embrace the differences.

There’re different personality types and not everyone will think and act the same as you do. Instead of trying to change others, learn to accept the differences and strike a balance when you really have to communicate with them.

2. Don’t try to change them, focus on your own needs.

Try to understand that narcissists are resistant to change, it’s more important for you to see who they really are, instead of who you want them to be. Focus on how you feel, and what you want yourself to be.

Embrace the fact that there’re different types of personality and the only thing you can control is your attitude and your own actions.

3. Recognize what they do only comes from their insecurity.

Narcissists are quite vulnerable deep inside, they question others because that’s how they can make themselves feel better.

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When you learn that what a narcissist does to you is nothing personal, but something that comes from their insecurity, you know that sometimes they just need a certain amount of reassurance.

This is especially important if the narcissist is someone you have to closely work with, or if they’re your family member. The right amount of reassurance can calm them down and get the tasks on hand completed.

4. Ask them what would others think instead of what’d others feel.[6]

Narcissists don’t feel guilty, but they care about how others think of them deep in their heart.

Clinical psychologist Al Bernstein explains:

There are just things, like other people’s feelings, that narcissists rarely consider. If you have their ear, don’t tell them how people might react; instead, ask probing questions. Narcissists are much more likely to act on ideas that they think they thought up themselves.

If you have to work with a narcissist closely, focus on the facts and ideas, not the emotions.

5. Let go of the need of getting a narcissist’s approval.

You’re not who a narcissist says you are. Don’t let their blame game undermine your self-esteem, and don’t argue with them just to defend what you believe is right.

There is no point arguing with a narcissist just to prove them wrong because they will not give in proving themselves right. It’s more likely that you’ll get more upset when they disagree with you in an unpleasant way.

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Know your own worth and detach from a narcissist’s opinion on you.

6. If a narcissist is hurting you, stay away from them.

Remember, a healthy relationship is two-sided. It’s about mutual respect and it’s based on give and take. But any kind of relationship with a narcissist is likely to be the contrary, it’s about making the narcissist happy and constantly supporting them. A relationship like this will only weigh you down and is unhealthy for your growth.

7. Set a boundary and always keep it.

If you’re setting a boundary, you have to be willing to keep it. When a narcissist sees that you’re trying to take back control of your life, they will try to test your limits, it’s just their instinct to do it.

Be prepared that your boundary will be challenged. Make your boundary clear, have all the actions needed to be taken in your mind.

For example, if you have decided to stop communicating with them, they will likely to show up in front of you just to talk to you. Be brave enough to keep your boundary, don’t back down and get close to them again; or else they will not take your boundary seriously any more.

8. Learn when to walk away.

When a narcissist starts to make you feel uncomfortable and doubt about yourself, it’s time to pick yourself up and give yourself enough respect to just walk away from them.

If you’re in love with a narcissist, you should seriously think about ending the relationship and move on for a better life. If the narcissist is your family member, you don’t have to be cruel to them, but it’s better to keep distance from them.

Reference

More by this author

Anna Chui

Anna is a communication expert and a life enthusiast. She's the editor of Lifehack and loves to write about love, life, and passion.

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Last Updated on May 7, 2019

How to Detect a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

How to Detect a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

Work in any competitive field long enough, and you’re bound to run into a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It’s a powerful image. A shepherd watches over his flock to protect them from harm. He’d chase away any predator that tried to make its way into the flock. A clever wolf wearing the skin of a sheep as a disguise can sneak by the vigilant shepherd and get into the herd undetected.

The story isn’t just a colorful description–it’s a warning to all of us to beware the wolf in sheep’s clothing. They may seem innocent, but they have ulterior motives. They’ll use different tactics to camouflage their intentions.

The person who is kind to you, but undercuts you when you aren’t around is a wolf in disguise. A wolf in sheep’s clothing might pick your brain for ideas and then pass them off as their own to get a promotion. They’re always looking out for themselves at the expense of everyone around them.

Wearing a Disguise Has Its Advantages

People don’t go out of their way to manipulate others unless they’re getting something out of it. Hiding their intentions gives wolves the chance to manipulate other people to advance their own agenda. They know that what they’re trying to do wouldn’t be popular, or it might cause struggle if they presented themselves honestly.

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    They’ll be able to do what they want with less interference if they put on an act. By the time people figure out their true motives, the wolf has what it wants.

    Signs That Someone Is a Wolf in Disguise

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        1. They live to take power instead of empowering others. A wolf uses people as stepping stones to get the things that they want. They don’t care what happens to anyone else.[1] A wolf at work might make you look bad during a presentation to make themselves look amazing in front of the boss.
        2. Wolves seem sweet on the outside, but they’ll show you their teeth. If wolves revealed their true identity, people wouldn’t associate with them. They develop a friendly or kind persona, but they can’t keep up the act 24/7. Eventually, they’ll reveal their aggressive tendencies. A wealthy person who likes to break the law may make sizable charitable donations to convince people that they are kind and thoughtful. These donations largely keep them out of trouble, but if someone calls them out, they destroy that person’s reputation to stifle the criticism.
        3. They manipulate through emotions to get what they want. Wolves know that they can get ahead by appealing to your emotions. They find out what you want and need, and they give you just enough to keep you quiet and compliant. Imagine that your boss is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and you want to ask for a vacation. She might try to play on your guilt and feelings of insecurity to get you to skip vacation or take fewer days off.
        4. A wolf will charm you first. Wolves are experts at manipulating the people around them. They appear interested in whatever you’re doing, and you’ll get the impression that they care. After they get you where they want you, they do just enough to keep you on the hook. This is the coworker who may start out being your friend, but they end up dumping responsibility onto you. When they see that you are growing frustrated, they’ll surprise you with something to charm you some more. Then, they’ll continue to do whatever they want.
        5. Their stories are full of holes.  Calling a wolf out is the surest way to make them squirm. When this person tries to come up with a story, it won’t make much sense because they are improvising.[2] The classic example of this is the significant other that you suspect has cheated on you. When you ask them why they came home so late, they’ll either become upset with you, or they’ll make up a weak explanation.

        How to Spot a Wolf

          Know What’s Real So You Can Spot the Phony

          Do some homework so that you have as much of the story as possible before you work with them. Research how they respond in certain situations, or give them hypothetical problems to see how they respond.

          A job applicant might tell you that she’s always positive and thinks of herself as a team-player. That’s what every employer wants to hear. During the interview you ask applicants to work in groups to solve a problem to see how they handle the situation. The applicant “positive team-player” is bossy and negative. You’ve spotted the wolf.

          A wolf will tell you something that ultimately benefits them. Gather evidence that proves or disproves their position, and see what happens. Chances are, when you choose the side that supports their agenda, they’ll act like your best friend. If you disagree, they’ll become aggressive.

          Spotting a potential wolf–especially if you are one of the sheep–can present you with some challenges. If your gut tells you that a wolf is lurking among all the other sheep, pay attention, and make sure you take the next step.

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          Ask Questions, the More the Better

          There’s nothing wrong with asking questions to uncover the truth. The safety of everyone in your group is at risk. Since wolves often make up stories, you may be able to call them out when their tales lack details.

          When they state an opinion, ask “Why do you think that?” or “How do you know it’s like that?” They’ll have trouble coming up with enough information to pull off the lie.

          Since wolves are always pretending to be something they aren’t, they don’t usually have a clearly thought-out reason for what they say. In a debate, they won’t understand the root of an issue.

          They may also tell you what they think you want to hear, but when pressed for more information, they won’t have anything to add. Their knowledge is superficial. No matter how much you try to encourage discussion, they will not be able to carry on a conversation about the subject.

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          Wolves Are Everywhere

          As much as we want to believe that everyone has the best intentions, it isn’t always the case. Some people only do things to benefit themselves, and they don’t care who they hurt in the process.

          Wolves in sheep’s clothing can be found in almost every setting. You can’t get rid of them, but if you can spot them, you can avoid falling into their traps.

          Reference

          [1] Association of Biblical Counselors: Three Ways to Spot a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing
          [2] Power of Positivity: Beware of a wolf in sheep’s clothing

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