It’s Narcissist Friday!
Is there any way to discover a narcissist before you get into a relationship with one? Are there clues we should be seeing?
Yes, with one caveat. We probably won’t know that a person is actually a narcissist until we dig deeply into that person’s life. Instead, we can identify a “toxic person.” It doesn’t really matter whether the person is a narcissist, you want to know if this person could hurt you. There are signs that many people overlook when they meet another person.
Let’s break these clues into two groups: What you see in the person and what you feel in yourself.
So, first, what do you see?
The narcissist criticizes without regard to propriety. You and I feel like we have to earn the right to share a criticism. The narcissist doesn’t feel that way. He/she will criticize your clothes, your car, your work, anything. You will probably hear him/her criticize others, especially behind their backs. The girl who goes out with a new boy and hears criticism of what she wears or anything else in her life should become very alert. It begins early.
It may be surprising to realize that narcissists are quick and generous with their praises. The truth is that this is a manipulative tool narcissists learn early. They use praise to get people to like them and to disarm any hesitation. It often works. (Remember Eddie Haskell?) If you meet someone who is overly generous with praise of you or others, be careful!
Contrary to what some might think, narcissists are good listeners, at least early in the relationship. They gather personal information to use later. It is always best to be careful about sharing personal things, but if you notice someone asking inappropriate questions about sensitive things, that person might be toxic. If he/she returns to a sensitive area after you stopped talking about it, be alert.
In a recent post I shared about how narcissists cheat. Not only will the toxic person break some rule in your presence, he will probably make you aware of it. You are supposed to understand that he is superior. Letting you see him break a rule will impress you with his boldness and deceive you into thinking you share a secret. Many people like the “bad boy” as long as he isn’t hurting them. But the bad boy might become toxic in a relationship.
Narcissists can be big talkers with big dreams. Sharing dreams isn’t bad, even early in a relationship, but the dreams of the narcissist will revolve around others admiring or submitting to him. He will be a rock star in some area of life so that others will notice and look up to him. But, as you get to know him, you will see that he doesn’t have the courage or determination to make those dreams come true.
The reason the dreams don’t come true will be because others hold him back or fail him in some way. Narcissists have complaints. They are under-appreciated at church, used at home, passed over at work. The reason he was fired at his last job was because the boss wanted his relative to have the position. People just don’t understand her. Life is always unfair to the narcissist.
The failures of the narcissist’s life are someone else’s fault. He will admit to a weakness if it gives him an excuse for failure. He was late because he never really learned to tell time. (Of course, you better not be late.) He forgot the commitment he made to you or to someone else. It wasn’t his fault. The boss had him working late. His mom took the car. His roommate was loud all night. On and on and on.
When the narcissist tells the story, it probably isn’t the way you remember it. He will be made to look smarter or stronger. The others will be made to look more foolish. The excuse won’t be quite true. After the argument, your version is different from hers. You were mean, and she was the victim. But that’s not the way it was. Narcissists see truth as something that can be molded to fit their needs.
And how does that person make you feel?
You walk away from the conversation feeling like you said too much, maybe even exposed things you shouldn’t have. Why did you do that?
You are painted into a corner. You have to answer the way the person wants or you will feel like you are doing something wrong. You have to do what the person wants, or agree with what she says, even if you don’t want to.
You feel like a partner in a crime you didn’t commit. The narcissist lies, and you are put in a situation where you have to cover or agree. You bring the narcissist to an event, and he breaks the rules. Now you feel guilty.
Even at the beginning of a relationship, narcissists can be draining. You are the one who talked the whole time. Or maybe you listened so intently to his talking that you feel exhausted. You worked so hard to present your best that you are wiped out now. Ask yourself why that person drained you.
You come away from a time with this person and you realize that you have said so many mean things about others that you are ashamed. Does that person draw out those comments from you, those feelings?
Not just manipulated, but pushed into things. You didn’t really want to go to that movie. You didn’t want to talk about that person. You didn’t want to wear those clothes. Yet, you feel like that person pushed you somehow. It isn’t easy to explain why you didn’t stand up for yourself, but you just didn’t.
This might surprise you. Narcissists know which buttons to push to make someone feel really special and valued. They know just what to say and how to say it. Sadly, this is just another form of manipulation. If you come away from an early contact feeling like this new relationship is too good to be true, it might just be.
The whole idea of a clue is that it is not proof. None of these, standing alone, proves that a person is toxic, let alone a narcissist. But when you see several of these, in that person or yourself, then you have some red flags.
So what other clues have you realized? Hindsight does help! It may at least help others.