Some narcissists are obviously obnoxious, offensive and obstinate. Others, however, present as attractive, appealing, easy-going people. It’s not until a direct confrontation occurs that their narcissism becomes obvious.
Summon up the courage to tell him (or her) that he’s being self-centered and he’ll either continue doing whatever he was doing as if you hadn’t said anything at all or he will become irate. “Me? Me? Self-centered? How do you think that makes ME feel?”
Though all narcissists are not cut from the same cloth, they do have many traits in common. Here are the most typical ones:
1. Narcissists find it hard (if not impossible) to truly appreciate the validity of another's point of view. They imagine that others think and feel the same way they do. And if they don’t, something's wrong with them.
2. Narcissists need constant validation from the outside. Admire and respect them and they do fine. Find fault with them and watch out! Grandiose narcissists will strike back venomously; closet narcissists will shrink back into their cave.
3. Narcissists often display a façade self based on impressive and admirable traits. What’s wrong with that? Nothing, if it weren’t mere window dressing. Their façade self is fake, covering up a real self that's insecure and vulnerable.
4. Narcissists view others as extensions of themselves. The narcissist sets the standards of behavior and does not tolerate opposition – especially if your viewpoint requires him to respond in ways he doesn’t wish to.
5. Narcissists believe that they are entitled to special treatment. Whether it’s a “stupid” law, or a “dumb” demand, narcissists feel that they shouldn’t have to go along with the pack and conform. They believe they are of higher status; therefore why adapt just to please someone else.
6. Narcissists use money to help them feel special. Status items such as expensive clothes, cars, homes, dinners and trips are essential ways that a narcissist enhances his ego. Spending money, if you have it, is one thing; spending money, if you don’t have it, is another. Regardless, a narcissist believes that he deserves the best. And easily fools himself into believing that the money will be there in the future, even if it’s not there right now.
7. Narcissists may make a show of being generous by being big tippers or taking care of bills. Look closely, however, and you’ll see that their generosity is based upon establishing a reputation for themselves as a VIP.
If you discover that you are living with a narcissist, what can you do to make your life easier? Read on.
It may seem weird to say “discover” that you’re living with a narcissist, but it’s true. Many people don’t realize that their partner (or parent or adult child) is a narcissist, discovering it only after much time has elapsed. Why isn't it obvious at the very beginning?
1. Narcissists are great masters of disguise, describing their behavior in the best of terms, (i.e. I’m only doing it for you!) Hence, it may take awhile for you to ‘get’ what’s really going on.
2. Though narcissism has a bad rep (egocentric, egotistical),narcissists also have positive traits. Indeed, they may be quite charismatic and charming. Hence, it may be hard to believe that narcissism is driving their behavior.
Once you recognize narcissistic behavior, you need to put into practice these traits.
1. Know What You Will Tolerate and What you Won’t
Trust your own judgment. If he (or she) is spending recklessly, know what you will tolerate and what you won’t. That doesn’t mean that all spending has to be done your way (unless you’re 2 narcissists battling it out). But it does mean that you don’t tolerate the narcissist’s explanation for free-spending (i.e. Hey, you only live once.”) And you take necessary steps (whether he likes it or not)to protect your financial future.
2. Bolster Your Own Self-Esteem
Do not expect your narcissist to build up your self-esteem when he has just helped tear it down. That is something you must do for yourself. Spend more time with people who think well of you. Get involved with pleasurable activities that bolster your ego. Be kind to yourself.
3. Know when You’re being ‘Gaslighted’.
When your narcissist says something, then later denies saying it or claims to have said something different, you can begin to doubt your own sanity. Were you listening? Were you dreaming? Is she nuts? Am I nuts? What’s going on here? Your narcissist may be doing this maliciously to throw you off balance. Or, she may simply be responding to her need of the moment, forgetting what she previously said.
4. Develop a Positive Support System
It may be hard to be honest with others. You may feel embarrassed, especially if you've been covering for your narcissist for so long. Nevertheless, see if there’s a trustworthy friend or family member with whom you can share what’s really going on. Also, consider seeking the help of a professional who will be able to offer you objective feedback.
5. Don’t Tolerate Denigrating Emotional Outbursts
At times you will be upset with each other and need to let off steam. But “how” one lets off steam is vital. If you're being spoken to with disdain and disrespect, stop the action. Make the issue, HOW you are being treated. Express your disappointment. Demand an apology. And if necessary, walk away, letting it be known that you’ll be happy to pick up where you left off when you’re treated with respect.
6. Learn the Skills of Negotiation
Just because your narcissist wants something, doesn’t mean she needs to get it. Just because she expresses herself forcefully, doesn’t mean you fold. Everything is negotiable. You just need to know where your power lies. Then you need to convey it and enforce it. The skills of negotiation will empower you in many areas of life – today and in your future.
7. Accept that you are not going to do a total makeover of your narcissist’s personality. Nor should you want to. If your relationship is that bad, consider splitting. But, if there are redeeming traits, see if you can work together to create “family rules” of acceptable behavior.
Living with a narcissist is not easy. But putting into practice these 7 rules will make things more manageable for you.
Linda Sapadin, Ph.D is a licensed psychologist, international author, success coach and media guest. Her specialty is helping people build competence, enrich relationships and overcome self-defeating patterns of behavior.
Dr. Sapadin’s bi-monthly newsletter, PsychWisdom, provides topflight advice on enhancing relationships, enriching communication skills and cultivating personal growth. It’s available FREE by subscription at www.PsychWisdom.com.
The “Six Styles of Procrastination E-Program”, a powerful, effective, affordable alternative to coaching.Take a self-assessment quiz. Learn what fuels your procrastination. Meet peoplr like yourself who learned how to overcome their self-defeating patterns. Discover a tailor-made change program for each of 6 personality styles (perfectionist, dreamer, worrier, crisis-maker, defier, overdoer).
Two editions are available, one for adults and one for college students. For more information on the E-Program, go to www.BeatProcrastinationCoach.com
SPEAKING AND MEDIA
Dr. Sapadin is a warm, engaging speaker, known for the richness and originality of her ideas. She is the author of 4 self-help books on overcoming procrastination and mastering fear. These books were published in the USA, Japan, Korea, Canada and Australia.
Her expertise has been utilized by business and educational organizations, including the Smithsonian Institution and the American Psychological Association. She has appeared on The Today Show, National Public Radio, Voice of America and a host of other TV and radio programs. Her work has been featured in major newspapers, magazines and online publications, including The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, Psychology Today, Men’s Health, and WebMD.com.
Books Published by Dr. Sapadin
- The Six Styles of Procrastination E-Program Take a Self-Assessment Quiz. Learn what fuels your procrastination. Discover how to change your patterns so you reach your goals. 2010 www.SixStylesof Procrastination.com
-Now I Get It!: Totally Sensational Advice for Living and Loving is a collection of 62 inspiring, empowering and entertaining columns. (Outskirts Press, 2007)
-Master Your Fears: How to Triumph Over Your Worries and Get On With Your Life© (John Wiley, 2004, also published in Korean and French.)
-It’s About Time! The 6 Styles of Procrastination and How to Overcome Them© (Viking/Penguin, 1996, also published in Japanese) with Jack Maguire
-Beat Procrastination and Make the Grade: The 6 Styles of Procrastination and How Students Can Overcome Them© (Penguin, 1999) with Jack Maguire
-101 Great Ways to Improve Your Life: Chapter Title: Overcoming Resistance: What’s Stopping You?© (Self-Growth, Inc. 2006)