Friday, February 6, 2009

Dealing with a Narcissistic Personality

We all know or have known someone in our lifetime who, no matter what the conversation, turns it back around on themselves. Someone who has done everything, knows everything, their kids are better, their life is better, their home is better etc OR worse than anyone's. I'm not going to say that person is a narcissist but there is a good probability they are. And on that note we probably all have a little of that type of personality, when someone is telling a story we might suddenly interrupt with, "that happened to me once too, ....." rather than letting the other person finish. For most of us its not an intentional action, its blurted out the moment it triggers our thoughts.

Narcissism is defined as a personality so consumed with self that the individual is unable to relate to the feelings, needs, and perception of others. Chronically manipulative and exploitive behaviors are at the core of this personality. While narcissists can initially seem pleasant and engaging, over time they have a knack of generating great anger and exasperation in those who simply want to relate with equality and respect.

Narcissists usually have ulterior motives to their helpfulness or friendliness. They are constantly in "me" mode and usually have pretty much already figured out before they offer their help to you what they will get out of it in return. That's pretty harsh isn't it? However, it's truth, read the definition again, "consumed with self, unable to relate to the feelings, needs and perception of others". I want to keep repeating that because it's important for anyone who has to deal with a narcissistic person to understand that the problem is with them (the narcissist) and not you. Remember part of my site title is "knowledge is power". I hope to give you enough knowledge about narcissism to "empower" you if you are dealing with that kind of person.

For many many years I was subjected to a narcissistic personality in the workforce. I thought I was friends with this person and yet it seemed every time I turned around she had used something I did to either make herself shine or cause me damage at work. I was on a constant roller coaster of emotions, never knowing what each day would bring. I was over worked and stressed and had no idea why things were going the way they were until my counselor explained narcissism to me. People that deal with this type of person on a regular basis tend to feel like they are directly attacking them which isn't the case, as stated narcissist think only of themselves and what they will eventually get.

There are eight main indicators of a full-blown narcissistic personality:
1) They have no ability to empathize
2) They appear to have a sense of entitlement or expect special favors.
3) They exhibit manipulative or exploitive behaviors.
4) They have an inability to receive direction.
5) They have a need to be superior and are haughty or judgemental.
6) They show an unwillingness to deal with reality, are idealists.
7) They have the ability to make initial positive impressions
8) They have an insatiable need for control.

If you know or deal with someone regularly with this traits as I did, you can empower yourself and learn how to deal with this person and protect yourself from frustration and hurt. A narcissist can be extremely mentally abusing without seeing themselves that way.

First: You can't change them, remember they are focused on themselves and that they probably will not respond to even helpful criticism. By definition, the only person's thoughts and ideas they care about are their own.

Second: Establish strong boundaries. Narcissists can be extremely disruptive when they communicate with you. Stand firm on your decisions, don't debate with them. Don't be drawn in by arguing with them that they are being unfair or whose way is the right way.

(The third is a direct quote from "Please God save me from this abuse" written by Les Carter, Ph.D.)
Third: Demonstrate that you respect your own dignity. Often you will feel insulted because a narcissist will so readily discount your value. This can leave you wondering, "What's so awful about me?" Don't let yourself fall into that trap. Recognize that your dignity is a God-given gift, and contrary to the narcissist's assumption, he or she is not the god who gets to make such pronouncements. Spend quality time with friends and acquaintenances who treat YOU with the RESPECT YOU DESERVE.

Fourth: Don't battle the narcissist for control. Again by definition, they think they are always right, it's "my way or the high-way" so to speak. When challenged communication turns into a power struggle. It becomes their goal to decide for you how you should think and act. When/if this happens remind yourself that you are in control of your own thoughts and actions and have just as much right to your feelings, thoughts and opinions as they do. Don't argue with them because they have that right also. Best course of action is walk away.

Fifth: (again quoting from source above) Accept the fact that the narcissist probably thinks you are a fool. Sad to say, the narcissist genuinely believes that he or she is more enlightened than you. True to the nature of narcissism, that person is inevitably convinced that you are a slug who does not understand the way life is supposed to be lived. As you interact with this person, recognize that his or her low opinion of you is predictable, and is part of that person's internal dysfunction.

As I mentioned earlier I spent years in the workforce with a narcissist co-worker/boss, I wish I had been empowered with this information then because I was one of those people that always ended up thinking "what's wrong with me?" Though some of the above may seem harsh in some ways, you have to adapt to a small amount of narcissism yourself to deal with a narcissistic personality. You have to think about YOU and you have to protect YOU, it's a given that they don't and won't.

excerpts from: "Please God save me from this abuse!" Responding to a Narcissist, by Les Carter, Ph.D.