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How to Deal With Narcissism

Stephanie has been a lawyer since 1994 and knows her way around a professional office environment.

What is Narcissism?

Like many other psychological issues, there is a range of narcissism from mild to severe. Because of our inherent ego (as analyzed by Freud), a tendency to want to protect, celebrate and honor yourself is normal.

Yet, some people go much farther on the narcissism scale. Depending on the severity and the person's self-awareness, a narcissistic individual can be very difficult to relate to. Not surprisingly, many of their relationships fail. In extreme cases, a relationship with a narcissist can be emotionally abusive and damaging, particularly where children and significant others are involved.

The Mayo Clinic defines Narcissistic Personality Disorder as:

Narcissistic personality disorder is a mental disorder in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance and a deep need for admiration. Those with narcissistic personality disorder believe that they're superior to others and have little regard for other people's feelings. But behind this mask of ultra-confidence lies a fragile self-esteem, vulnerable to the slightest criticism.

After years of sitting in a counselor's chair, I finally asked myself whether I have narcissistic tendencies. I value my friendships, my marriage and relationships with my kids. And I don't want to be that self-absorbed person that can only talk about themselves and seek to control every situation in which they find themselves.

I have also come to certain realizations regarding my parents, siblings and spouse. While I cannot change their behavior, I can change my own reactions. Based on my personal experience, you may be able to deal with narcissism, in mild situations, with the proper tools and approaches.

NOTE: I am not a psychologist. If you are in a relationship with a person that shows symptoms of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (whether a co-worker, lover, spouse or parent), you may wish to seek professional advice.

Narcissists only have eyes for themselves

Narcissists only have eyes for themselves

The Myth of Narcissus: Self-Worship Ends in Tragedy

Narcissism is a term based on the Greek Mythology story of Narcissus. Briefly summarized, the myth tells the tale of a handsome man, Narcissus, who was punished for rejecting the love of a water nymph (Echo). The gods caused him to fall in love with his own image, reflected in a pond. Narcissus stared at himself for hours and hours, days and days.

Unfortunately, the reflection could not reciprocate any love, no matter how obsessively Narcissus worshiped it. Nor could he take a drink of water from the pond because, to do so would shatter the "perfect image" and expose his flaws and needs.

Eventually, Narcissus died of heartache, and a flower grew in his place.

Narcissism Defined

One-Way Conversations with a Narcissist

  • Smile and nod - do not try to "talk over" the narcissist
  • Excuse yourself - perhaps you have an appointment, or simply need to get back home or back to the office to complete a task
  • Realize that you do not "owe" the person any more of your time than you are willing to give
  • Be consistent and firm - a narcissist may continue attempts at manipulation. Stand your ground!
  • No is a complete answer - no explanations are necessary and should be avoided if possible
  • Avoid asking a narcissist for advice
  • The less you say, the less they have to "work with" - do not inadvertently invite explanations or offers of expertise
  • Say, "thank you for your suggestions, I will consider them." Do not attempt to argue your position on the topic of discussion to convince the other person they are incorrect

Dealing with Mild Narcissism

There are several, relatively simple tips on how to deal with narcissism, when it is mild (see right).

A mild narcissist is overly eager to talk about him or herself. They can still usually empathize to a certain degree with others, and may offer to help those in need. This condition can be annoying to others because the narcissist tends to monopolize conversations and often seems to be bragging about themselves, their spouse or partner, their kids, their job and/or their possessions.

A narcissist often takes a lot of photographs of his or her family or themselves, and may document their every move on social networks, via posting, commenting, or uploading links or photographs for others to see and comment. They will interrupt conversations in groups and switch the topic back to them, or to a member of their family or someone they know. Its as if they feel like they have to be talking to be contributing to the discussion!

These people tend to have big personalities - so give them room! You are not condoning their behavior or allowing them to walk all over you. Rather, you may simply recognize the fact that a narcissist has little leftover attention to give you. They usually feel compelled to seek approval of others, which is what they want from you!

Its not a two-way conversation with a narcissist. However, you probably have other friends, family members and co-workers who are better prepared to listen to you. Just make sure you are not monopolizing those conversations!

Facebook for Narcissists

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Signs and Symptoms of Narcissism

  • Talk about themselves almost exclusively- rarely ask about you
  • Delusions of grandeur - they are going to change the world!
  • Lack of empathy - other peoples' problems do not concern them, or they respond to them with irritation and snap judgments that the problems can easily be "corrected"
  • Turn conversations back to themselves constantly
  • Obsessed with appearance (weight, body image, skin, hair, designer brands, jewelry, cars, houses, etc.); some seek plastic surgery to correct "imperfections"
  • Attempt to control others, even down to minor details of life
  • Lack of remorse.
  • Extreme need for attention/admiration
  • Believe that they are uniquely special
  • Tendency to be contemptuous
  • Jealous tendencies and/or belief that others are jealous of them

Narcissistic Personality Disorder

For people that have advanced to the level of Narcissistic Personality Disorder, they may not be aware that they function and interact differently than others.

This fact in and of itself is one of the hallmarks of narcissism: they refuse to believe that they have any flaws. They often erect a protective "barrier" around themselves to insulate themselves from emotions. A narcissist does not want to show any weakness or a tender side. Nor do they wish to be swayed by emotion. This is why it can be so difficult to be in a relationship with a narcissist. Your needs, feelings, desires, and emotions have little, if any, weight.

You may spot a narcissist in a position of authority - whether as office manager, president of the PTA, or chairman of the local arts foundation. They love to be in charge, sharing their "expertise," and controlling the operations of the institution. If you don't revere or adore them, watch out! Heaven help you if you disagree with or criticize them. A narcissist does not wish to have co-workers or committees to work with. They desire a group of "yes" people to accomplish their own goals and aspirations, and to make them look good as a result.

As described by relationship expert and author, Rokelle Learner:

Narcissists are actors playing a part. They are expert liars and, even worse, they believe their own lies. Practiced in dishonesty, they can't tell the difference between their own version of the truth and a falsehood. Narcissists lie to themselves first, and then systematically and often deliberately torture others with their lies. They may take the past and re-arrange it to make themselves look good. They rarely, if ever, admit fault and they never say they're sorry.

Does this sound like someone you know?

Narcissistic Mothers

What if You are the Narcissist?

If you happen to have enough self-awareness that you can admit to having narcissistic tendencies, you will want to work to improve your relationships.

Like they always say, the first step is admitting you have a problem.

Here's how to be a better friend, spouse, parent, child, co-worker, if you are a narcissist:

  • Practice active listening - challenge yourself to ask at least one pertinent question (not "how are you," but a good follow up inquiry when someone updates you on their life)
  • Do not turn the conversation back to yourself - unless specifically asked, stay engaged with the person talking to you
  • Limit your interaction on social networks - if you cannot stop yourself from posting regular updates (2x a day or more), then put yourself on a budget. Only one per day unless it's a general comment about something that has nothing to do with you directly. This includes photos and videos.
  • Celebrate your friends and families' successes - put yourself in someone else's shoes. If you were the one posting or discussing an item, how would you want others to react? Now, do the same for your relatives and friends!
  • Challenge yourself to consider another viewpoint - no matter how small a topic, see if you can open your mind and listen without judgment to another person's perspective at least once a day
  • Avoid certain topics of discussion - a narcissist may get exercised during a discussion involving politics and religion; if the topics come up, listen and enjoy any resulting debates among others that are present
  • Avoid or limit alcohol or drug consumption - its hard to hold back the reins of a strong narcissistic personality when inhibitions are lowered.

Spot a Male Narcissist

© 2013 Stephanie Marshall


Umesh Chandra Bhatt from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India on August 06, 2020:

Excellent. Nice reading

PaulLupa on December 02, 2018:

Great article, very accessible. I see these tendencies in my significant other and in myself. I believe that following these guidelines will really help our relationship. Thank You!

Sentry Virginia from Fairfax, Virginia on April 12, 2015:

I have worked in three large corporations, these traits sum up most Millennial's and the few Baby Boomers you end up finding out protested soldiers back in the day. The Millennial has a twist, they pretend their listening but do not, and the Baby Boomers protesters flat out avoid anything not related to themselves. All other folks you can take case by case.

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on April 10, 2015:

Thank you all so much for the comments! There are several narcissistic people in my family, and I have worked for some top-notch narcissists in the past. At the wise old age of 46, its nice that its finally making sense and I can now "deal" with them without feeling inferior or otherwise lacking. Distance is a great help.

Kathleen Kerswig on April 10, 2015:

Thank you so much for sharing this important information. I've met several people over the years who appeared to have narcissistic tendencies. In one case, I needed to step away from the friendship and pray for them from a distance. Your suggestions at the end of the article are right on point. Great job! Blessings!

McKenna Meyers on April 10, 2015:

Terrific hub, Stephanie! As the daughter of a narcissistic mother, I'm obsessed about the topic. What once caused me a lot of hurt and distress now just fascinates me. I limit time with my mother and can laugh at her narcissistic ways, but it took a long time to reach that point. My mom can say "I'm sorry" but she doesn't mean it; that's because she truly believes she is a perfect person who never does anything wrong.

Barbara Badder from USA on April 10, 2015:

This made me aware of what is wrong with a person I know. I always knew something was wrong, but didn't know exactly what it was.

ArtDiva on April 10, 2015:

"...these people just don't "get it," or see how they push people away." My experience has been, they really don't, and you would think with age, wisdom might set in. And, most, it would seem, are fair-weather "friends", only there to satisfy their needs at the moment, but never around should you need them. This is a popular subject today with yours the second I've responded. Good article and a comfortable non-clinical approach. Narcissistic personalities seem to be all too prevalent in today's world. Makes one wonder, doesn't it?

Dennis L. Page from New York/Pennsylvania border on April 10, 2015:

Thankfully, I've reached an age where the narcissists have been weeded out. Mutual friends are thoughtful, kind, sensitive, good listeners and great conversationalist. Naturally, there are those incidents when some filter into a dinner outing and the majority at the table simply nod, half smile and utter a response. Finally when the narcissist stops to eat everyone else breathes a sigh of relief. I imagine a prerequisite for a politician is narcissism 102.

ologsinquito from USA on April 10, 2015:

Hi Stephanie, congratulations on HOTD. I like how you described the non-malicious type of narcissists, whom are just annoying.

Marcelle Bell on April 10, 2015:

Well done and congratulations on HOTD! I grew up with a narcissist mother so I know a lot of this information far too well. I definitely learned more though and really liked your addition of the video news stories.

Marlene Bertrand from USA on April 10, 2015:

Oh, I sure did learn a lot about narcissists and how to live with them. I like your approach. It is logical and doable. Congratulations on receiving Hub of the Day. This well-written hub deserves to be awarded.

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on April 10, 2015:

Thank you all for your comments! I wrote this hub after being particularly frustrated with several narcissists in my own life. Dolores and Peggy, your personal experiences with narcissists are sad and I often wonder if these people just don't "get it," or see how they push people away. I cannot imagine being that obtuse. Then again, there are some narcissists that have public adoration (e.g. politicians, entertainers, professional athletes) which just fuels the fire, so to speak.

Mary Hyatt from Florida on April 10, 2015:

I think most of us have had these kinds of people in our lives. I do agree most politicians and people in authority fit this description. They are just so "in love" with themselves, it is pathetic.

I avoid these people at all costs!

Congrats on HOTD.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on April 10, 2015:

Fortunately the only person I know who suffers from this disorder is a friend whom we met many years ago. She was definitely the life of the party in a social setting. Unfortunately as we got to know her better, she is unhappy if not the center of attention. Conversations with her are impossible as it is merely one way...coming from her. She definitely does not listen or empathize. Sadly, she is estranged from her own children and grandchildren and is now a recent widow. I feel extremely sorry for her but it is easy to limit our interactions with her. She truly leads a sad and lonely life. Excellent hub and worthy of HOTD. The videos are also excellent. UUI votes and will tweet, pin and share.

mySuccess8 on April 10, 2015:

Building and maintaining good human relationships are vital in any setting, whether at work, at home or anywhere else, for success and happiness. This includes a desire to understand others, and their needs and weaknesses. One personality disorder that requires such understanding is narcissism, which you have explained very well. I learned a lot from this Hub, including your tips on how to deal with narcissism. Congrats on Hub of the Day!

Dolores Monet from East Coast, United States on April 10, 2015:

I think that narcissists can be highly entertaining at parties and other social gatherings, but can be difficult if you have to deal with them in normal life. One of my favorite narcissists suffers greatly. She wants everything her way, wants the constant admiration of everyone. When people don't agree with her, when they question her, she becomes very hurt and angry. She seems to almost manufacture slights. In an attempt to get along, I'll just say, "I'm not going to talk about that." Then I attempt to amuse her and let her know that I do still love her. But it can be difficult.

Sulabha Dhavalikar from Indore, India on April 10, 2015:

Me and my whole family has been a victim of this. And your hub explains it well. I need to read & re-read to get over the harrowing experience of 34 years.


Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on April 10, 2015:

O yes...we do know some of these, don't we? Just yesterday I was entangled with one. Well known suffering from this disorder (which she has no clue she has), she can turn any conversation around so that no matter what you say, her view, her idea, her belief trumps yours. She even takes your idea and makes it her own. It is like being ensnared in a web...I am generally very good at talking through this but I must admit I know she heard not one word of what I was saying. I was so sorry I happened upon her. I feel bad that I wish to avoid her as she goes to the same church I do and that certainly does not seem very Christ-like of me. I do pray over this circumstance.

Well done. Congrats on HOTD

Angels are on the way to you today ps

Mary Craig from New York on April 10, 2015:

Congratulations on your HOTD! Hub well done.

I don't think most people think of Narcissism anymore, but it certainly exists as you have pointed out. You've given some great examples and handled your subject well.

Surprisingly there is an add on this hub page about "3 Signs of Narcissists".

Voted up, useful, and interesting.

DawnM Samora from Akron, Ohio on March 19, 2015:

This was a great article, Stephanie. I have been trying to learn more about Narcissism. I think your article is one of the best I have read on this behavior. I was trying to figure out if a past relationship was Narcissistic. He was verbally and mentally abusive, but also has a lot of traits of Narcissism. These behaviors seem pretty close. I know he sure manipulated the conversation, and I was confused all of the time.

Thank you for this well written article. Take care-DawnM

Brian Leekley from Bainbridge Island, Washington, USA on January 26, 2015:

A well researched and written, informative article. I wonder what the risk is that some will cross the line between diagnosis and judgmental labeling. I expanded this comment in a post at Persona Paper titled "Narcissistic Personality Disorder or More Conceited Than You Can Abide?" Can a term like Narcissistic Personality Disorder be part of the vocabulary of what Marshall Rosenberg calls "professional jackal"?

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on September 22, 2014:

Thank you Audrey - it is extremely difficult... if not impossible... to have a close relationship with a narcissist. I'm sorry for the loss of your friendship. Best to you, Steph

Audrey Selig from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma on September 21, 2014:

Hi Steph - Thank you for this comprehensive look at Narcissism. I know a person with this disorder, and you are right about all the traits and feelings and superior attitude. It is a coverup for poor self esteem and other feelings, as you say. We used to be friends but now I keep my distance. It is such a sad disorder, especially the manipulation. I will read this again to ensure my understanding. I studied this briefly in college but need review. Sharing this hub. Blessings, Audrey

Sebrina Yates from Centre, Alabama on March 14, 2014:

I believe I'm married to one. Don't know how to fix him or make things better. He has sucked the life out of me. Things he does nothing wrong. In no position to separate. Just cry a lot and feel alone. He is also an alcoholic. Any advice

Paula from The Midwest, USA on March 14, 2014:

What an interesting read on Narcissism. It is good to share the information, because some people may become more aware of it, which would be a wonderful thing. Whether in themselves, others or maybe both! Some people almost (key word almost) seem incapable of being any other way, but deep down you have to know they don't want to be a narcissist. Or I would hope that would be the case anyway. Thanks for sharing a great hub!

robertpalmisano on January 10, 2014:

Well maybe I should LOOK MORE INTO THIS .I see a few things here that point to me............Being a little Narcissus in my own right.

Yves on September 08, 2013:

Great article. My problem is that when dealing with a narcissist, I am not in the least bit clever. I just say what I feel, and then all hell breaks loose. This is why I am very grateful to have come upon this suggestion of yours:

Say, "thank you for your suggestions, I will consider them." Do not attempt to argue your position on the topic of discussion to convince the other person they are incorrect.

This is a tough one for me to do, but since I have a narcissist in my family, I will try to use your advice. In truth, my brother uses this method all the time, and it works like a charm. That being said, I have a passionate nature, which sometimes gets the better of me in these types of social interactions with Jerks!! Oops, there I go again. ;)

Up & useful. Thanks for the sound advice.

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on August 02, 2013:

Thank you DDE - Narcissism can damage relationships and hurt other people. I appreciate the comment, Steph

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on August 02, 2013:

How to Deal with Narcissism, right on and is true you have made great points here on such behaviors

ForrestDrake from Canada&USA on July 09, 2013:

Epidemic of narcissism? I would like to see some numbers to back such statements. Narcissism (as actually any psychological condition) is difficult to measure and any such statements will be only subjective...

W1totalk on July 04, 2013:

There are a number a narcissist about me. Good article to relate to. Thank you.

stessily on April 20, 2013:

Steph, Your presentation of dealing with narcissists is helpful, interesting, and also entertaining. These two pointers seem to be especially effective for staunching the narcissistic monologue:

"No is a complete answer - no explanations are necessary and should be avoided if possible"

"Avoid asking a narcissist for advice"

Although I do not enjoy being around narcissists, I did enjoy reading your article.

And I chuckled over one of your comments: "I am so happy to be freelance now so that I am away from some particularly narcissistic bosses. Lawyers!!"

Kind regards, Stessily

Frangipanni on February 21, 2013:

Great article . This really opened my eyes. Thanks for sharing. Voted up and following.

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on February 10, 2013:

Thank you! I agree that dealing with narcissism is an art. And not one that most artists choose by themselves. Hope that this hub helps someone. All the best, Steph

Dianna Mendez on February 10, 2013:

Great subject and you covered it so well. Your advice and suggestions are so interesting and will help many who know someone with a view of narcissism. It must be difficult to live with someone with this view of life. Voted up++

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on February 07, 2013:

Hi Amy,

You are correct that the only thing you can do in the throes of a narcissistic relationship is to manage your own reactions and behaviors. Chances are that the narcissist will never believe or recognize that he or she has such faults. We cannot change them.

I am sorry you are having difficulties, but it sounds like your approach is sound. Avoid the life-sucking personalities for sure!

re: Facebook - yes! :)

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on February 07, 2013:

Yes, Kathi, it is indeed a deep problem. I didn't realize how much living with narcissistic family members affected me until several years of therapy. Best to you, Stephanie

Kathi Mirto from Fennville on February 07, 2013:

Immediately, a few people in my life come to mind when I think of narcissism! The videos were very helpful to understand this deep problem from different perspectives! Great job bringing a touchy subject to light! Kathi :O)

Amy Becherer from St. Louis, MO on February 07, 2013:

Thank you, Steph, for holding up the mirror to narcissism. Your comprehensive, enlightening list for signs and symptoms is a 'must read' for those still trying and failing to have discussions with someone in the throes of this disorder. I relate to your article and have discovered some of your suggestions on my own after the frustratingly futile attempts to converse with someone who is contemptuously "always right and knows it all." I stop, give him the look, and have, as a result, vowed to never open the door to his univited presence again. Telling him "no, I am busy" only forestalls his inevitable insistence on my audience with yet another surprise visit, which I do not have the time or desire to entertain. The problem is that he cannot find any audience more than twice, so my proximity and initial naivete regarding narcissism drives his ego here again and again. My only recourse is avoidance that now means I don't answer the door. So be it. He sucks the life out of those unlucky enough to bored by his self-importance.

Thank you, Stephanie, for your valuable information. No wonder I don't enjoy Facebook!

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on February 06, 2013:

Yes, CarNoobz, I have suffered from that mis-perception too. It truly comes down to the principle that you must love and respect yourself internally (not dependent on your accomplishments) or others may not respect you, either.

Indeed, valuing your own time is not rude! Cheers, Steph

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on February 06, 2013:

Hi adrianeds,

That is truly tragic! Unfortunately, it sounds like the first child completely invested all of his self-worth in sports. Without being number 1, he feels worthless. I hope that he considers psychological assistance. Learning to value oneself is not only necessary for the individual, but extending out to relationships. You truly cannot love another person, if you do not love yourself. Sending good thoughts, Stephanie

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on February 06, 2013:

Hi Dexter, Thank you! I love exploring both sides of topics. Narcissism is a personality trait we can all recognize. Seeing it in ourselves and adjusting our actions accordingly can be beneficial to everyone. Best to you, Steph

CarNoobz from USA on February 06, 2013:

"Realize that you do not "owe" the person any more of your time than you are willing to give"

That's the best advice ever, Steph! I grew up feeling unable to tell people "no", not being rude, etc. It took me YEARS before I could hang up on a telemarketer or close the door on a vacuum salesperson. So I think this advice here is really excellent.

Valuing your own time is not rude =)

adrianeds on February 06, 2013:

A fantastic concise hub that tells it as it is, we have a member of family a young man that suffers with these symptoms. He was brought up and treated like a "God" as he became older he thought he was above everyone, he would only interact with who he wanted, when he wanted and as he wanted. Now he is 21, what has happened his brother has overtaken him in sport, he is two years younger, while he was in college all was ok, now his brother is home he can't cope. For the past two months he has been bad virtually suicidal in nature because he is no longer the no 1, he feels second. When like this his parents just can't cope, throughout his childhood he was no 1 being 2nd just won't do at all. Thanks for this hub it's excellent, fantastic.

Dexter Yarbrough from United States on February 06, 2013:

Hi Steph! This is one of the most informative hubs I have read. I especially like how you provide information and advice for those that are or may be a narcissist. I really love fair, and balanced information and you certainly have presented it well!

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on February 05, 2013:

Well, I think we all do a little bit! LOL - Cheers, Steph

daskittlez69 from midwest on February 05, 2013:

I think I might suffer from Narcissism ;) Thanks stephhicks68

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on February 05, 2013:

Yes. Good points. We all may have these tendencies, but to be self-aware is a big step. Can improve relationships overall. Cheers, Steph

Alecia Murphy from Wilmington, North Carolina on February 05, 2013:

I haven't noticed too many narcissists but I think everyone has a narcissist trait about them. But there are some people who just never understand it's not all about them. I think just taking a moment to see how fortunate you are to be where you're at in life is good enough to make many realize that being a narcissist is more trouble than it's worth. Great hub!

Stephanie Marshall (author) from Bend, Oregon on February 05, 2013:

Exactly Bill! I am so happy yo be freelance now so that I am away from some particularly narcassistic bosses. Lawyers!!

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on February 05, 2013:

Good suggestions, Steph, and nice job of defining this behavior. I have a couple of them in my life but I severely limit their interaction with me. Life is just too short to have it dominated by another person.

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