To give some real-life examples of actual narcissists I’ve met, here is a list of things narcissists are likely to do:
- Call you at 8 am on a Saturday and say, “What do you mean, you are still asleep? Get up already, I totally need to share this super funny story with you.”
- When you say, “It’s the end of the semester and I’m exhausted,” they respond by saying, “You are exhausted? Let me tell you how tired I am and then you’ll see what real exhaustion is like.”
- When you are comforting a weeping student in your office who has shared that her mother’s cancer has metastasized into her brain, they barge into the office and start sharing a joke they heard recently and really enjoyed.
- When you tell them you are getting married, they burst into tears and say, “How come you are getting married before I do?”
- Make demeaning comments about your new hairstyle, new dress, a recent publication, anything that makes you the center of attention, albeit momentarily.
- Expect you to guess and anticipate their wishes and get very angry when you can’t do that.
- Constantly share stories aimed at demonstrating how they are much better than somebody else.
- Often use the sentence, “But what about me?”
- When they hear that X finally got pregnant after years of trying, they exclaim, “How could she do that to me? I was going to ask her to be a bridesmaid at my wedding this year!”
- Exhibit an insatiable need for compliments, accolades and praise, especially the kind where the narcissists come out as better than somebody else.
- Don’t care who they are competing with for attention. They are as likely to begrudge the attention given by others to a newborn baby as they are to resent the attention offered to a terminal patient on his deathbed.
- Take your things without bothering to ask for permission because they need them.
- Often accuse others of selfishness.
Now that we know how to identify narcissists, the question is, how do we deal with them?
The most important thing is that all of the tantrums, tears, heart attacks, fits of hysteria, headaches, etc. that the narcissist exhibits whenever s/he is thwarted in the attempts to be the center of attention are completely fake. They don’t take place when there is no audience. The narcissistic rage only occurs when spectators are present.
This is why the most important thing you need to do is stop being a spectator. Whenever the narcissist goes into a narcissistic rage or throws a tantrum, you need to remove yourself from the situation (leave the house, hang up the phone, etc.) immediately. Believe me, they will switch off their weeping and hysterics easier than it is for you to turn off the electricity.
Many people mistakenly believe that reassuring a narcissist, offering him or her enough attention and praise will finally sate the narcissist and put and end to the tantrums. In reality, however, it works the opposite way. The more you participate in the narcissist’s shows, the more likely s/he is to repeat and intensify them.
Remember, you cannot help a narcissist change. S/he is very happy and content with being a narcissist. You are the one who’s unhappy with being used, so it’s up to you to remove yourself from the narcissist’s field of vision. A narcissist always has a group of enablers that tolerate the rages, the tantrums, and the performances. Do us all a favor and stop enabling the narcissist in your life.
A disclaimer for people who love to misread: the preceding description of narcissistic behavior had to do only and exclusively with adults. If you have a child who behaves this way, you need to ask yourself what possessed you to teach this form of a dialogue as the only possible one to your own child.