Posts Tagged 'narcissism'

There’s a Wolf in that Sheepskin!

SheepWouldn’t it be nice if difficult people were labeled clearly with helpful hazard warnings so you could simply avoid involvement?  But they are not, and in fact, covertly aggressive, controlling, and narcissistic people are deceptively charming at first.  It can take being stung repeatedly to realize that the abusive behavior was not a mistake.  The damage is done before you know you have been targeted.

Early detection of a toxic partner, boss or comrade is not really that difficult.  I have tangled with bullies and worked with their targets enough to know that controlling people invariably tip their hand and, subtly but surely, show their true nature early on in a relationship.  Mixed in with the charm, are fleeting antisocial behaviors which we tend to dismiss as anomalies.

Instead of dismissing odd, out of character behaviors, consider them red flags; warnings to watch a person’s behavior more closely, paying more attention to actions than to words.  A feeling of confusion is the early warning sign that you have perceived inconsistent behavior.  If you feel confused around someone you do not know well, that person’s behavior bears watching.

Toxic people are usually short on empathy and you may see occasional evidence of this.  When a new person in your life fails to respond to your remarks or does not listen to your end of the conversation, they are likely to have a bit more narcissism than the norm.  This doesn’t make for rewarding relationships.

Watch for facial expressions that are not appropriate to the conversation, such as smiling while hearing about another’s misfortune, rolling the eyes dismissively, or turning red in the face and looking angry in an ordinary conversation.  These can indicate hostile feelings.

Attend to any confusing behavior or inappropriate reaction.  When a hiring manager snaps at you during the interview, your new friend is critical, or a date claims he’s interested but shows up late without phoning, don’t write it off as odd.  Question why you are seeing unfriendly behavior in a situation which should be friendly.

Disrespect indicates a lack of empathy.  If a hiring manager wants a decision on the spot in the first interview or a blind date pushes to come to your house, your needs are not being respected.  Disrespect can also take the form of criticism from people who have no business criticizing you. And really, most people have no business criticizing you.  Making assumptions about you can also be disrespectful, such as presuming to know what you think or acting as if you have a closer relationship than you do.

To more quickly evaluate someone you have just met, ask appropriate questions about their relationships to elicit information about whether they empathize with others.  Watch for expression and attitude as much as what is said as you ask how your date gets along with his mom, or how the employees felt about the reorganization.

Follow up on your suspicions.  Always feel justified in running background checks on anyone you date.  If you interview for a job, see if you know someone who has had experience with, or heard gossip about, the company or the reputation of the manager you would work with.

See whether the confusing behavior is really an anomaly before dismissing it.

Will the Meek Inherit the Earth?

There is a subset of our population who are only out for themselves. They compete rather than collaborate. They are exploitative, envious and arrogant. They feel they are special and entitled – even to that which is yours; and they lack empathy so they don’t understand or care why others don’t like their behavior. They may have narcissistic personality disorder or they may have narcissistic traits. My grandmother would have called them “just plain naughty.” Whatever the label, if you get entangled with one of these lovely people, it can make your life Hell.

Those of us who are nice guys (and gals) are deluding ourselves if we think we can win these people over with loving kindness, for they see it as weakness. But it is equally mistaken to think we must sink to their level or play their game. It builds bad karma and most of us do not have it in us to act that way, (thank Heaven.) Besides if you are a nice guy (or gal,) you certainly cannot win at their game. These people value only those who can help them and respect only those whom they fear.

It is best to avoid or repel these people, but most of us end up bumping up against a narcissistic person on the job, in our families or we discover we’ve been dating one for weeks but couldn’t tell. We all have some degree of narcissism. I have read estimates that around 4% to 20% of the population could be significantly narcissistic. Based on the effects of narcissistic business managers and politicians, I would guess that close to 100% of the population have been victims.

The best way to avoid a narcissist in personal interactions is to be strong and have very healthy boundaries. Just as the way you carry yourself can make you less likely to be victimized on the street, it can make you less appealing to a narcissist. Like a predator on the prowl, the narcissist wants easier prey – someone with self doubts whom they can manipulate or use. Many of us have not been raised to have healthy boundaries and when an exploitative person finds the chink in our armor we are vulnerable. But boundaries can be learned and the anger that results when we have been used or manipulated is a great building block for healthy boundaries.

In fact, as a good gal myself, I believe it is the responsibility of those of us who would play fair, to make it more difficult and unrewarding for the narcissistic among us to pursue their selfish ends. I have watched the narcissists in my life think twice about bothering with someone who is psychically and emotionally strong. I have also seen them back off from me as I learned to manage my thoughts and feelings in ways that make me powerful.

If we are strong and difficult to manipulate, we will condition the selfish among us to behave more like good citizens. Perhaps over time, we could make narcissism a losing proposition!


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