It’s a bit of a buzzword lately and with good reason; it seems that narcissism is on the rise thanks to the increased use of social media and our lives becoming more self-centric than ever. Contrary to popular belief – and probably why it’s used so loosely – narcissism isn’t about selfie-taking-influencers or people with high self-esteem. It boils down to the fact they think of themselves as an amazing human being and others don’t really play a role in the show that is their life. Dr. Lurve gives us the low down on narcissism in a relationship.
Dr. Lurve, how do I know I’m in the presence of a narcissist?
Trust me you’ll know, it won’t take long to establish who might be a narcissist in your group or social setting, mainly because they’ve hijacked what was a nice conversation amongst friends and flipped it into a monologue about their own lives. Narcissists believe they are playing the starring role in theirs and everyone else’s lives because to them, everyone else is boring.
If you’ve just met a narcissist you might not identify them right away; at first instance, they come off as charming, witty and confident and they make the best first impressions for a reason. In the short term, narcissists nail situations like first dates and job interviews because they exude confidence and they work hard to get the other person on their side.
While they show the world they are charming and perfect, they have a whole other side that gives them the notorious namesake, and they tend to show you once it’s too late. Let’s take a look at some of the ways you can deal with a narcissist whether it’s at work, in a social setting or at home.
Option 1: Love them or leave them
It can be extremely difficult when someone you deal with every day is a narcissist and it’s not a situation you can leave so easily. One of the most effective ways of dealing with them is to kiss up to them or don’t say a word, here’s why: narcissistic people thrive on praise and adoration, so if you want to get in their good books you’ll need to nod politely as they tell their stories of achievement and congratulate them where possible.
Exhausting I know, so if that doesn’t work for you and you’re pulling your hair out trying to cope, remember to try not to break their narcissistic bubble and confront them on their behaviour. Once you bring up their ‘weakness’ they go off on you and won’t change a thing about themselves, they’ll just hate you for trying to bring them down from their high horse. It’s not worth the ‘narcissistic injury’ you sustain because you’ll see them all the time; keep your thoughts to yourself and get away from them if you can!
Option 2: Guide them without them knowing
In any relationship, there’s constant back and forth of power whether we see it or not – it’s time to use this power to your advantage with a narcissist. Much like when we learn what’s good and bad as children, learning by association with positive and negative reinforcement, so too can narcissists. By having reactions to certain actions they do, you’re setting the tone for what you believe is good and bad; for a narcissist, they want to feel admired and successful and what better way to do that than reward good behaviour with praise.
When they’ve done something that isn’t good, you know you won’t need to admire them for it. They catch on quickly to what gives them gratification so if you can align your needs with their needs, you’ll have them under your control rather than the other way around. Overall, they realise they can have their needs met by being caring, kind and generous people.
Option 3: Reputation goes a long way
Notorious for wanting their ego stroked, narcissists are always looking for their next hit of compliments. They really care what other people think of them because they want to be known as the most amazing person, so when a narcissist feels shame, especially in front of others, it forces them to do things differently.
If you want a behaviour to change in a narcissist just ask them “what will people think?” because nine times out of ten they’ll overthink a situation and change their attitude or behaviour before the worst-case scenario happens, which is being disliked and ignored. If it’s something that will hurt their reputation, narcissists are more likely to steer towards what others will praise; you can use this to your advantage by changing bad behaviours to positive and lasting behaviours.
Dealing with a narcissist is tricky business; almost like defusing a bomb, narcissists can go off on you at any time if you aren’t careful enough. They’re hard work and high maintenance, but if you want to keep them in your life you should try one or all of these tips and see what works in your situation. Whether you’re dealing with a narcissistic partner, boss, coworker or friend, these tips can work if you play your cards right!