There’s always that one person who’s got to be the center of attention. The type who makes it a point to put themselves as the topic of conversation. And the world, by golly, always revolves around them.
Meet the narcissist.
They’re one of the most toxic people out there. And while some are unapologetically brazen about their vanity, others are stealthy about it.
Unfortunately, many of us weren’t ever taught how to deal with a narcissist, let alone spot one. But here’s where you can start:
An incredibly self-centered person can be a pain to deal with. And if you have one in your life, it’s important to know how to protect yourself.
How You Can Spot a Narcissistic Person
Narcissism is unbiased. And someone who holds those toxic traits could be just about anybody — a family member, friend, significant other, and so on. So before learning how to deal with a narcissist, it’s important to learn how to identify one.
For this, we turn to Vanessa Van Edwards, a behavioral investigator with Science of People, author of Captivate: The Science of Succeeding With People, and a body language trainer specializing in science-based people skills. (She also happens to be the trainer of Mindvalley’s Magnetic Charisma Quest.)
In one of her YouTube videos, she shares seven types of those with narcissistic personalities and their traits:
1. Conversational narcissist
This type of person is one who won’t let you get a word in edgewise. “They love, love, love to talk all about themselves,” says Vanessa. “Really, they love to hear themselves talk.”
How to spot one:
- The conversation is typically one-sided.
- They often interrupt and won’t stop talking.
- They’re not engaged with the other person.
Example of a conversational narcissist:
When talking about this kind of narcissist, American Beauty’s Carolyn Burnham comes to mind. (She’s the yapping wife of Lester Burnham, played by Kevin Spacey if you recall.)
2. The straight jacket
This type of person doesn’t deal with rejection very well. So the slightest little disagreement with this type of toxic person and you’ve got yourself a freakout. As per Vanessa, “[A straight jacket] won’t stop trying to convince you that they are right and you should do what they say.”
It’s in their nature — they’re someone who wants to control everything and everyone around them.
How to spot one:
- The need to be in control is incessant.
- They can be charming and usually expects special treatment.
- They can use manipulation, threats, coercion, and any other means until you give in to their whims.
Example of a straight jacket:
Will the real Gaston please stand up? The antagonist from Beauty and the Beast is a great example of a straight jacket.
3. Emotional moocher
This type of narcissist is what’s known as a covert narcissist. Vanessa calls them ‘spiritual vampires’ because they tend to “suck the positivity out of you or bleed you emotionally dry.” They can’t or choose not to see the positive and tend to bring everyone down with them.
How to spot one:
- They present themselves as victims.
- To gain attention, they are quick to cry or state a crisis.
- They always have something sad, negative, or pessimistic to say.
Example of an emotional moocher:
Remember Precious? Throughout the whole movie, we see Claireece “Precious” Jones suffering from the constant verbal abuse at the hands of her own mother, the emotional moocher. Her soundtrack is “wah-wah,”’” like that of a toddler whining.
4. Drama magnet
It seems like some people are beacons for adversity. No matter what, something is always wrong.
“Drama magnets are victims and thrive in the crisis because it makes them feel important,” explains Vanessa.
How to spot one:
- They seek your empathy, sympathy, and support but never heed your advice.
- The need for constant attention is bottomless.
- When those needs aren’t met, they often use guilt trips to get the support they crave.
Example of a drama magnet:
To the drama magnet of them all: Regina George from Mean Girls. Her constant need to give back-handed compliments, start rumors in the Burn Book, and pick at her flaws to get sympathy from the other Plastics is a classic drama magnet.
5. A jealous-judgmental person
“Jealous people are incredibly toxic because they have so much internal self-hate that they can’t be happy for anyone around them,” says Vanessa. More often than not, that jealousy appears as judgment, criticism, or gossip.
How to spot one:
- They’re self-absorbed, arrogant, and need to be the center of attention.
- They often lack sensitivity.
- Everyone is awful, uncool, or lacking in some way, according to them.
Example of a jealous-judgmental person:
The crown for a jealous-judgmental person goes to Cersei Lannister from Game of Thrones. Jealousy is her defining trait. And when someone has something she doesn’t, watch out!
6. The fibber
This narcissist takes cues from the boy who cried wolf.
According to Vanessa, “dishonesty drains us because we are constantly doubting their words.” So when it comes to the fibber, trust your intuition when it’s ringing alarm bells.
How to spot one:
- They tell little falsehoods or major lies.
- When they’re caught in a lie, they won’t come clean.
- When they tell the truth, they inflate it.
Example of a fibber:
Who can forget Amy Dunne from Gone Girl? This fibber spent a whole movie manipulating her ‘disappearance.’
7. A tank
It’s in the name — one that crushes everything in its wake. They’re often aggressive, hostile, paranoid, sadistic, and dehumanizing. They truly lack empathy, which makes decent human connections with them something that’s out of the question.
“Tanks are incredibly arrogant and see their personal opinions as facts,” says Vanessa. “They often think they are the smartest person in the room, so they see every conversation and person as a challenge that must be won over.”
How to spot one:
- They’re always right.
- They constantly put themselves first.
- Anyone else’s feelings or ideas are never taken into consideration.
Example of a tank:
This one goes to Joffrey Baratheon from Game of Thrones. Spoiled and sadistic, he often goes into a narcissistic rage and bullies and kills people to get his way.
How to Deal With a Narcissist
We all have narcissistic tendencies, but there are some who are truly and excessively preoccupied with themselves. And in the United States alone, experts estimate that up to 5% of the population has a narcissistic personality disorder.
If you’re unsure if the person is a narcissist, Vanessa advises to ask yourself this mini-quiz, featured in Dr. Judith Orloff’s book, Emotional Freedom:
- Does the person act as if life revolves around them?
- To get their attention or approval, do I have to compliment this person?
- Do they constantly steer the conversation back to themselves?
- Do they downplay your feelings or interests?
- If you disagree, do they become cold or withholding?
If your answer is “yes” to at least two questions, you’re more than likely dealing with a narcissist.
Now, cutting them off or walking away is one of the most effective ways to get away from the emotional trauma or abuse of this toxic person. However, this may not be an option if you’re related to them or work with them.
Dealing with a narcissistic…
If you’re not ready to leave or if leaving is absolutely not an option, here’s how to deal with a narcissist in your life.
When a leader displays toxic traits, it can be a great advantage to know how to deal with a narcissistic boss. Here are a few tips you can use:
- Understand your self-worth. Remember that you got hired for a reason; your skills and knowledge are what got you the position in the first place. And when you’re feeling worthy of yourself, you start to realize that your actual value is in your hands and no one else’s.
- Take time out when you need it. You can’t control others, but you can control your emotions and actions. So when tension starts to rise, excuse yourself and go outside for some fresh air.
- Get outside support. Many companies provide mental health support of some kind. A trained professional can help you with self-reflection and develop a sticks-and-stones attitude.
Being buddies with a narcissist isn’t easy. However, it is possible. And here’s how to deal with a narcissistic friend:
- Stop focusing on them. A narcissist feels the world revolves around them, and you might find yourself pushing aside your own needs to keep them satisfied. While you can’t change the other person, you can move your focus away from them and on to yourself. Constantly remind yourself that you, too, matter.
- Set your boundaries. They often cross a lot of boundaries. More often than not, they’re not aware of them. So be assertive in your communication when telling them what is not okay.
- Help them get help. Remember that narcissism is a disorder, meaning it develops over time. So if you have someone in your life who’s showing these toxic traits, then it stemmed from somewhere. You can suggest that they reach out for professional help.
Boyfriend or girlfriend
Being in a relationship with someone who’s narcissistic can truly be frustrating. But before you throw your hands up and head out the door, try some of these tips for how to deal with a narcissistic boyfriend or girlfriend:
- Understand where they come from. Narcissists tend to hide their shame and insecurities by highlighting only what they want people to see. And if their weaknesses are revealed, they try to deflect by making the other person look or feel inferior. Vanessa says, “It can be helpful to try to understand if there is a deeper weakness they are trying to hide.”
- Don’t internalize hurtful comments. Sticks and stones, right? That’s so much easier said than done. When negative words are thrown at you so often, you may tend to believe them yourself. So practice the power of self-talk to better channel your inner voices.
- Speak up for yourself. People with these toxic traits often like to be commanding and watch others squirm. When you fight, they fight back harder. However, you owe it to yourself to communicate effectively and explain to them how their actions impact your life. So try to do so in a calm, gentle way.
Being married to a toxic person can be tricky. If separation or divorce is not an option (or not yet one), here’s how to deal with a narcissistic spouse:
- Learn to recognize the triggers. Because narcissism is a mental health disorder, there are often triggers that enable them to act out in negative behavior. As a narcissism expert, Vanessa suggests identifying what those are so that you can minimize their occurrences or prepare mentally for the reactions that will ensue.
- Build your self-esteem. Narcissists tend to knock other people down. It’s known that they can engage in verbal or emotional abuse. So it’s important to not count on your spouse to boost your confidence; instead, learn to do it on your own. (There are plenty of self-esteem classes out there that you can join.)
- Help your partner build their self-esteem. As it’s not your spouse’s job to boost your confidence, it’s also not yours to build theirs. However, according to Vanessa, narcissism is due to insecurity or trauma, so it would help you to empathize with them. Mention things that they’re doing well or things you appreciate about them. This could also be a reminder for you of the things you love about them.
When the toxic person is of flesh and blood, it’s important to set foundational boundaries to not sacrifice your well-being or relational ties. Here are some tips on how to deal with a narcissistic family member:
- Don’t accept harmful behaviors. There’s a certain level of feeling safe when it comes to family members, and narcissists will take that to their advantage. Gaslighting, verbal abuse, emotional manipulation, and what have you are all the techniques toxic people use to get their way. Make it clear that you won’t put up with any of these behaviors.
- Prioritize self-love. Love doesn’t start with other people’s affection toward you; it starts with you. Self-love will lead to realizing your worth, value, and happiness. And these are things that a narcissist cannot have control of, no matter how hard they try.
- Unlock your magnetic charisma. While many narcissists can be charismatic, you, too, can use your charm to flip the script. Charisma has many benefits, including being emotionally intelligent and excelling at communication. And with these skills, you can set your boundaries with confidence and level up your relationship with the narcissist in your life.
Great Change Starts With You
When you’re learning how to deal with a narcissist, it requires some finesse. And learning about the dynamics of human behavior can help.
There’s no formal education required. Instead, you can head over to Mindvalley, where you can learn to do so in the Magnetic Charisma Quest with Vanessa Van Edwards.
You’ll learn how to show up to your interaction with purpose. And you’ll learn to use your charm to build trust, likability, and credibility when you want to.
“Anyone can learn to be more charismatic and it will help you in every area of life,” says Vanessa. And that “anyone” includes you. Welcome in.