How to spot a narcissist, and deal with them

Clue: chances are you aren’t one.

We all know at least one. People with narcissistic characteristics make up some 15 per cent of the population. But here’s a proven fact that you may have guessed – most are male.

Julie Hart, head psychologist and director at The Hart Centre, told that while only 1 per cent of the population suffer with the extreme Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), many can display different severities of the personality traits that make up the disorder.

“There’s a huge level of degrees from one extreme to the other but I would say, probably, up to about 15 per cent of the population have some degree of narcissism in them and that around 75 per cent of those will be male,” she said.

So what about spotting them? Well, here’s a handy checklist provided by Julie to help you “diagnose” the people around you.

• An exaggerated or grandiose sense of self importance

• A preoccupation with fantasies of extraordinary success, power, beauty or love

• A belief that he/she is special or unique

• An intense need for admiration

• A delusional sense of entitlement

• A tendency to exploit others without guilt or remorse

• An absence of meaningful empathy for others

• A tendency to be envious

• An arrogant attitude

Here’s some more info about them.

Narcissists thrive in big, anonymous cities, entertainment-related fields, and leadership situations where they can dazzle and dominate. The classic example often used is Kanye West, who’s well-known for his self-important social media rants and causing controversy among his peers (who could forget that Taylor Swift takeover).

But what about self diagnosing? That’s where it gets trickier but Julie had this to say: If you have ever found yourself wondering whether you’re a narcissist, chances are you’re not. Apparently even considering the idea that you might be less than perfect means you don’t fall into that particular characterisation.

“A lack of insight is one of the characteristics of narcissism. So it’s a good sign if you can identify some of these qualities in yourself because it means you’re relatively healthy psychologically.”

And there’s more…

Narcissists’ language and demeanour is often geared toward one objective: to maintain power in an interaction. And while we all show some of the traits from time to time, it shouldn’t be a concern unless you’re at the more extreme end of the spectrum. Worried that you or a partner may be affected? The Hart Centre has a 100-point Narcissist profile here to help you understand more.

And then there’s this little gem from the book The Narcissism Epidemic by Jean Twenge and W. Keith Campbell:”A recent psychiatric study found that the biggest consequences of narcissism—especially when other psychiatric symptoms were held constant — was suffering by people close to them.”

Try this inkblot test to see if you’re either a narcissist, psychopath or neither.

So if you have a narcissist in your life, how do you manage them?

If there is no avoiding them, because they’re your boss, your dad, your partner, then here’s some interesting advice from a US clinical psychologist and author Albert Bernstein which can be summed up as “suck up”: “There is no way around this. If you want to communicate effectively with narcissists, you have to admire them, their achievements and their toys as much as they do. Typically, this won’t require any great effort. They’ll be more than happy to come up with reasons to congratulate themselves. All you have to do is listen and look interested.”

Other advice includes getting them to worry about what other people think because while they can lack deep empathy, they do like to look good in the eyes of others. Psychologists have suggested that if they think they might look bad to others they may just temper their behaviour.

If you want to cure a narcissist, maybe give up now and instead learn to live with them because, remember, they probably have no idea they are one, they’re just totally awesome.

Sound familiar?

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