I just read a story on College Misery that reminded me about a topic I’ve been planning to discuss for a while. In the post, a prof shares a story of how his students were writing a final exam when, five minutes before the end, they heard a very loud bang on the unlocked but closed door. The prof went outside and discovered a student who mistakenly arrived late for the exam and vented his frustrations in this uncivilized manner:
Having made an error that was entirely the result of inattention or sloppiness (the schedule is perfectly clear), he then interrupted a room full of people who were stressed and trying to concentrate. HIS problem was so important he couldn’t wait even 5 minutes to have it addressed. Those other people obviously didn’t exist for him, and nor did the concept of taking responsibility for his action.When I said, “I don’t see how this problem of your own creation justified interrupting everyone else’s exam,” it was like I was speaking an entirely foreign language. Other people don’t matter, and he wanted attention right then. 5 minutes be damned. Opening the door and coming into the room quietly be damned as well.
The student in this story is a perfect example of a narcissist. I now want to share with you how to identify narcissists in your life and how to deal with them productively.
A narcissist is a person for whom other humans exist only as spectators in his or her never-ending performance. The idea that other people might have thoughts, wishes, and desires of their own that have nothing to do with the narcissist and don’t serve the narcissist’s purpose are intolerable to her or him. When a narcissist is in a situation where s/he is not the center of attention, s/he:
- gets bored (if you are dealing with a mild case of narcissism);
- gets upset (a moderate case);
- gets angry (a severe case.)
A narcissist is likely to go into a rage whenever s/he discovers that, yet again, the world has not bent over backwards to accommodate the narcissist. In the story I quoted, this rage took the form of a student hitting the door as a way of attracting attention to himself.
A narcissist is always searching for a way to make other people useful to him or herself. When people are not directly engaged in servicing the narcissist, they become very annoying.
[To be continued. . .]