13 ways to spot a narcissistic person in your life
Red flags that you're at risk of exploitation
Before I launch into the 13 red flags that can help you identify a narcissistic colleague, friend or team member in your institution, community or friendship group, it’s a good idea to share my definition of narcissism.
Narcissism is more than self-image and recognition. It’s ultimately about gaining and maintaining power, and control - controlling one's own experience by controlling other people's emotional states, experiences, narratives & behaviours in order to protect one's constructed view of reality. Mostly this looks like dominating or diminishing behaviour, exploitation, silencing and other forms that capitalises on an imbalance of power and causes one person in any relationship to sacrifice their needs to serve those of the one with greater actual or perceived power.
Here are some features of narcissistic behaviours that can be present in a single person:
The person is held in high esteem by the institution (workplace, training, family, religious or spiritual).
They suck up or laud those in perceived or actual positions of power and will dominate or denigrate those in relatively less powerful position.
They claim, appropriate or take credit for ideas, results, accomplishments of others who work for or with them (ie. collaborators).
They blame others for failures or setbacks and don’t take responsibility for contributing to the outcome.
They never apologise or provide a faux apology that’s akin to “I’m sorry you feel that way”.
They give inconsistent messages to different people to create drama or controversy.
They do the opposite of what they said they would do and suggest that you misunderstood or misheard their intention.
They denigrate others in the community and no one challenges them.
They dominate group situations with their ideas or feelings and give little space for others to participate.
They believe their approach, knowledge, self is superior to others and shows disdain for others’ success.
They describe all the great things they are doing for others who represent VIP groups, either because the group is considered elite and powerful OR the group is perceived vulnerable or disadvantaged.
Acts as if it is an honour for you to be in their presence.
They spontaneously change the goal posts so you never know what is expected of you or others.
This person will often have allies who protect and justify their behaviour, which is why it is difficult to expose them or hold them accountable. That is, until they upset the person who does have the position of status and power that can influence behaviour change.
What happens when you do spot this person in your personal or professional network?
4 things to do differently:
Eliminate your expectations of ethical conduct
Withdraw any emotional investment in their ability to ‘see’ or value you beyond being a resource to that person. They will not provide you with the validation you seek from them.
Be transactional with them. This means that you focus conversations on tasks and process of doing the task and avoid discussing anything of a personal nature. Do this while still being pleasant and friendly.
Don’t be the brightest person in the room. Be ok with them continuing to have all the ideas and knowledge.
More on ego management with people bent on being in control at all times coming soon!
Thanks for reading and your thoughts on this piece,
Nathalie Martinek, PhD
The Narcissism Hacker
I’ve had quite a few narcissists in my life, and these posts of yours are very helpful. It’s like seeing a map and realizing, ah-- I’ve been there before.
This is a good piece and representative of large scale patterns going on in 2022. Many feel they encounter toxic narcissism from relationships to governments, corporations, institutions today. Not to mention that our slick, media driven and social media-centered environments selects for toxic narcissism.