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Published on August 22, 2018

15 Telltale Signs of Narcissistic Behavior (And How to Deal With It)

15 Telltale Signs of Narcissistic Behavior (And How to Deal With It)

Narcissistic behavior ruins relationships. Finding out you’re in a relationship with a narcissist is like discovering you’re on a dead-end street — eventually, you’ll have to turn around and start over.

Until the end, the narcissist in your life keeps taking and taking while you keep giving. It could be a professional relationship, it could be a friendship, or it could be an intimate relationship. Narcissists have no problem engaging people in any of these.

The dead-end street of narcissism is the extreme version. Each narcissist is part of a spectrum that ranges from mild to severe — severe narcissism is pathological, a disorder that, if it goes unchecked, will rage out of control for the majority of a person’s life. Mild narcissism is the kind we come across most often.

Signs of narcissistic behavior

This disorder can be hard to spot; if you’re concerned that someone you know is a narcissist — or you may be wondering if you have narcissistic tendencies — look for these behaviors.

1. They make everything about them.

Here’s the deal with narcissists: they absolutely love talking about themselves. Susan Heitler, a clinical psychologist says:[1]

“Narcissistic functioning at core is a disorder of listening.”

When you’re talking to a narcissist, they’re not really listening; they’re waiting to talk about themselves.

Anyone is guilty of this from time to time, but the narcissist will take the conversation and steer it in their direction consistently.

The narcissist could ask you about your day, but it’s more of a way to start a conversation in which they will become the subject. They also tend to interrupt and change the subject.

On the extreme end, a narcissist will get angry when you try to assert your opinion. The narcissist is always right even if their conclusion is illogical.

2. They want control and power, and they want to lead.

Narcissistic behavior often lands the narcissist in leadership positions[2] because it looks like confidence.

But be careful before you label your boss or your congress person a narcissist. Charisma and the ability to lead are not necessarily signs of narcissism. According to Rutgers University:[3]

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“A politician’s leadership skills often come across as narcissism.”

But statistically speaking, politicians don’t possess other narcissistic traits more than anyone else.

To spot whether your boss or representative is a narcissist, look out for overtly controlling behavior and grandiose statements.

3. They make grandiose statements all the time.

You know a grandiose statement when you hear one. Narcissistic behavior is about using these statements to attract attention and earn other people’s confidence and admiration.

The grandiose narcissist feels entitled. Instead of saying, ‘I still have a lot to learn, but I’m fairly confident I can succeed,’ the narcissist will say something like, ‘I honestly feel I deserve to get a raise more than the other people in my department.”

On the severe side, narcissists who make grandiose statements are prone to delusions of grandeur. They are the ‘best.’ A pathological narcissist believes they can become the most famous person in America (they’ll drop a famous person’s name and compare themselves to that person, or assert they have a personal connection to a celebrity), they are well-suited to rule the world, and other delusions of this nature.

4. They cheat on you.

Narcissists tend to cheat because they get gratification from exploiting others through sexual encounters. Cheating feeds the narcissist’s sense of self-validation and power.

Author Anna Cherry reports that sexual narcissism is directly correlated with cheating.[4]

According to Cherry, researchers did two longitudinal studies and published the results in the Archives of Sexual Behavior. Out of 123 married couples, the partners who did the most cheating displayed the highest levels of sexual narcissism, which includes “sexual exploitation, sexual entitlement, lack of sexual empathy, and grandiose sense of sexual skill.”

5. They manipulate you until they get what they want.

There are two faces of narcissism:[5]:

  • The extraverted, egotistical, and charming type we’ve been discussing so far.
  • And a type that seems completely the opposite — the vulnerable, hypersensitive, anxiety prone narcissist displays a lack of confidence, and may seem introverted, but is actually harboring grandiose fantasies, and will use their vulnerability to exploit others.

Both types of narcissists share the tendency to exploit others by manipulating their emotions.

The extraverted narcissist will charm you and flatter you until he gets what he wants (the pronoun “he” is intentional — psychologist Fred Stinson found that males are more likely to be narcissists.[6] The introverted narcissist will evoke your empathy and pity.

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Both types of narcissists will exploit you to gain emotional, sexual, social, and physical validation. One manipulative narcissist tactic is to tell you they have other options but they still choose you; watch out for that one.

6. They swear at you a lot and use sexually gratuitous language.

No joke — narcissists are more likely than others to be verbally aggressive and confrontational.[7]

Profanity and sexually explicit language tend to draw attention to the narcissist and shock people. They’ll swear more than normal on a regular basis, they’ll cuss profusely when they argue with you, and they’ll use exaggerated gestures to emphasize their point.

In very heated moments, a narcissist will say just about anything to maintain power.

7. They argue with you constantly.

Severe narcissists are always right — always. As your relationship with a narcissist progresses, the veil drops, and he or she begins to stop saying what they think you want to hear. Then, arguments grow more frequent and more intense.

There’s no winning the argument because, again, narcissists do not respond to logic. The only time they do is when it serves their purposes.

8. They are in and out of relationships frequently.

While studying narcissists in relationships, psychologist W. Keith Campbell noticed a trend:

Their relationships peak after about four months, then they’re typically over.[8] People in relationships with narcissists report a high level of satisfaction for the first four months, and then a quick decline. This reflects the narcissistic tendency to exploit people until the good times are gone.

After four months, the argumentative tendencies, the prevailing need for control, the infidelity, the exploitation, and overall shallowness spell the end of the relationship.

9. They pay too much attention to physical appearance.

Simine Vazier and other researchers note that:[9]

“Narcissists are more likely to wear expensive, flashy clothing, have an organized, neat appearance requiring a lot of preparation, and (in females) wear makeup and show cleavage.”

Narcissists typically score higher in evaluations of physical attractiveness, and narcissistic men tend to go for women who are considered good-looking.

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Narcissistic men spend more time working on their muscular definition, while narcissistic women spend more time preening. This explains the short-term nature of romantic encounters with narcissists. The immediate attraction is there, but the emotional aspect proves frustrating.

10. They change the subject when emotions come up.

In particular, grandiose and extraverted narcissists do not want to discuss their emotions with you because it puts them in a position of vulnerability and weakens their power over you.

If a narcissist does bring up their emotions, it’s disingenuous. They’re using an emotional appeal to get closer to you. The emotion they identify could not be farther from how they’re actually feeling.

11. Their eyes glaze over and become distant when you’re talking.

They might nod, say “uh-huh,” and “yeah,” and act like they’re listening, but you can tell by their eyes that they’re not. You’ll notice the glaze, the distance, when you’re talking about your own experience or about anything not related to the narcissist.

The narcissist glazes over because they are indeed not listening to you. They’re thinking about what they’re going to say. To listen to you is to give you a modicum of control.

12. They are a terrible sport.

No one likes to lose, but when the narcissist loses, they’re unable to accept it and walk away. If they win, they rub it in.

You’ll know the difference between a normal person’s competitive impulse and that of a narcissist by just how excruciating it is to compete with the narcissist, no matter what the outcome. Once you tally the score, you’ll understand that the narcissist is more in it for domination than fun.

13. They love to cross your boundaries and break rules.

This is a certain sign of narcissistic behavior:

When you assert a boundary, they break it.

You ask them not to have anyone over while you’re out of town and they throw a party. You tell them not to touch your hair — they touch it. They may make unwelcome sexual advances that count as harassment. They also look for social norms and rules to break, almost as if it’s a game. They don’t tip, they run red lights late at night, they make fun of a handicapped person behind their back.

This is about building an image of superiority and autonomy.

14. They collect trophies and status symbols.

Even if it’s a story about a celebrity, a rock star, or an absolutely perfect party (at which the narcissist was the star), the narcissist dwells in a world of status symbols.

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Sleek, cherry-red sports cars, guitars on walls with autographs on them, selfies in stunning locations, gorgeous, scantily clad women hanging on the arm — these are the stereotypical hallmarks of the narcissist, but watch out for more subtle ways in which the narcissist converts everything they do into a trophy.

15. They absolutely worship that perfect person in their life.

Although the narcissist will paint themselves as superior to others — which can come off as pretentious — they will also find a person to worship.

The narcissist’s idol represents perfection in their eyes. This is someone they want to emulate and it has a lot to do with their childhood. Childhood emotional neglect (CEN) can be a cause of narcissism.[10] It’s not uncommon for the narcissist’s idol to be a status or sex symbol.

How to deal with the narcissist in your life

Don’t put up with it. If you play games with the narcissist, or expect that you can change this person by appealing to their humanity and emotional intelligence, you’re playing right into the narcissist’s plan. Rather, be calm and firm and call them out; assert yourself, your autonomy, and the validity of your emotions.

Here’s a detailed guide on how to deal with a narcissist:

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

Access the resources at your disposal. There are some useful books to help you learn to deal with narcissists:

10 Powerful Books That Can Teach You How To Deal With Narcissists

The narcissist needs professional psychological help, which includes a diagnosis. If you’re in a relationship with this person, offer to attend couple’s therapy with them, but not before they’ve taken the Narcissistic Personality Inventory.[11] Even if they manipulate the Inventory, it’s important that they see a counselor.

If they don’t work on changing, their relationships will continue to fail. Even the narcissist can change, but they must step away from the mirror and face who they truly are inside.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

[1]Psychology Today: Are You a Narcissist? 6 Sure signs of Narcissism
[2]Personnel Psychology: Narcissism and Leadership: A Meta‐Analytic Review of Linear and Nonlinear Relationships
[3]Rutgers University: Is a Career in Politics Right for Me?
[4]Fashion Beans: The Most Common Traits and Characteristics Found in People Who Cheat
[5]Paul Wink, Institute of Personality Assessment and Research, University of California, Berkeley: Two Faces of Narcissism
[6]Psychology Today: How to Spot a Narcissist
[7]Psychology Today: What do Narcissists Sound Like?
[8]Psychology Today: How to Spot a Narcissist
[9]Journal of Research in Personality: Portrait of a narcissist: Manifestations of narcissism in physical appearance
[10]PsychCentral: A Surprising Cause of Narcissism
[11]Open Psychometrics: Narcissistic Personality Inventory

More by this author

Daniel Matthews, CPRP

A Certified Psychosocial Rehabilitation Practitioner with an extensive background working with clients on community-based rehabilitation.

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Last Updated on November 5, 2018

8 Powerful Reasons to Love Your Enemies

8 Powerful Reasons to Love Your Enemies

We’ve all got our enemies; people who take pleasure in causing us pain and misery. Sometimes, the development of an enemy is due to certain differences in your characters and events have led to that. Other times, some people end up hating you for apparently no reason at all.

Regardless of how you got this enemy, as opposed to the paradigm of fighting fire with fire, consider the following reasons and see why you should actually appreciate your enemies. This article will show you not only how to not be bothered by your enemies, but how to actually foster love for them.

Read on to learn the secret.

1. It’s a practical lesson in anger management

To be honest, your enemies are the best people to help you understand your sense of anger management. When it might be true that your enemies have a way of bringing out the worst in you as regards anger, it is also true that they can help you in your quest to have that anger managed. You can’t get truly angry at someone you love and it is only in that time when you get truly annoyed that you learn how to manage it.

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Anger management is more effective when it is in practice and not in theory

Your enemies are like the therapists who you need, but actually don’t want. Inasmuch as you might want to hate them, they provide you an opportunity to control the anger impulse that you have.

2. It’s an opportunity for healthy competition

You might not know it, but your enemies make for great rivals as they help harness the competitor in you (sometimes, you might not even know or bee conversant with this competitive side until you come across an adversary). You get the right motivation to compete and this can go a long way to spur you to victory.

However, while doing so, it is also essential that you remember not to become a worse version of yourself while competing. Working against an adversary is tricky, and you need to ensure that you don’t cause harm to yourself or your morals in the process. Healthy competition is all you need to get out of this.

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3. Their negative comments can help you make a breakthrough

It is true that your enemies never really have much good to say about you. However, in as much as they might be talking out of a place of hate, there might be some truth to what they’re saying.

To wit, whenever you hear something mean or nasty from an enemy, you might want to take a step back and evaluate yourself. There is a chance that what this enemy is saying is true and coming to face that fact is a major step in helping you to become a better person overall. This is another testament to the fact that enemies can be therapists in their own way.

4. Enemies can also be powerful allies

Loving your enemies can also mean making an effort to interact and make peace with them. In the end, if you are able to establish some common ground and patch things up, you’ll have succeeded in making another friend. And who doesn’t need friends?

This can also help you in working with people in the long run. You get to hone your inter-personal skills, and that can be a big plus to your ledger.

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5. It gives you the ability to realize positivity

In a multitude of negativity, a speck of positivity always seems to find its way through.

Sometimes, a knowledge of the fact that you have enemies will also help you to focus on the many positives and good things that are in your life. A lot of times, we neglect what really matters in life. This can be due to being overly concerned with the enemies we have.

However, it is also possible for this acknowledgement to spur you to take a step back and appreciate the goo things (and people who surround you).

6. There might just be a misunderstanding

Sometimes, the reason why you have an enemy might be something very innocuous. You might not have known the cause of this fractured relationship and your enemy will help complete the picture.

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Simply approaching them will help you to understand the reason for the fracture. This, in turn, can help you to work towards healing your relationship moving forward. Misunderstandings happen, and you need to be able to work around them.

7. You learn to appreciate love as well

A constant reminder of the fact that there are enemies will also help you not to take those who love you for granted. Love and hate are two opposing emotions and it is possible for one to momentarily overshadow the other.

However, while you’ll always have enemies, there will also always be people who love you. These people need to be appreciated for what they do for you. Never let the hate projected to you from your enemies take the place of that.

8. Do you really need the hate?

The truth is that enemies bring only toxic emotions and generate bad reactions from you. If you’re truly to live a prosperous life, you can’t really be carrying all this baggage around.

Hate is bad and you should try all you can to get rid of it. It is a well-known fact that nobody can get really far in life while carrying a lot of emotional baggage. Well, hate is the biggest form of emotional baggage there is.

Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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