It’s Narcissist Friday!
SOMETIMES YOU HAVE TO BE LOUD TO BE HEARD!
I just wanted that statement to stand by itself. We are discouraged from writing in all caps these days. People say it’s obnoxious and intrusive. It seems demanding and, generally, uncool. People who write in all caps only demonstrate their inability to control themselves. At least that’s what THEY say!
So why is it that the people who seem quite willing to use triggers, insults, and strong words to get under our skin seem so offended when we react to their provocations? Could be a couple of reasons. First, they want to set us off so we will look bad to others. Second, they know the truth: being loud does get attention.
You know what I mean. Husband and wife go out to eat. The complaining and criticism start right away. Little jabs here and there and everywhere. Finally, BOOM! Someone is loudly reacting. Right there. In the restaurant. What did the other people think? Here’s another: the family gathers at mom’s for the holiday. Again, the criticisms and put-downs start. More and more and more until, BAM! Something hits the fan. Someone loses it. Now it’s a big mess and everyone knows whose fault it is. But, of course, they don’t really know, do they?
So, yes, narcissists will push your buttons until they get a reaction. They seem to get a great deal of pleasure from that reaction. They also succeed, usually, in making you look bad. In the mind of the narcissist, making you look bad makes him/her look better. Don’t ask why. It never makes any sense. And the narcissist will make a big deal of how bad you looked.
There is obviously a certain amount of control in this. The narcissist expects that you will be more subdued, more submissive, next time. The poking and prodding serve to humiliate and defeat you. On the job, the narcissist makes his/her comments and does little offensive things regularly. At home, same thing. The narcissist will invade your space, criticize your methods, make jokes about you, and do whatever it takes to get you to react. Why? Because each time you lose it, you pull back a little more.
You see, most of us were trained to be aware of what others think of us, but not in the same way the narcissist was trained. We were told to be quiet and non-obtrusive. If people noticed us, especially doing something inappropriate, we were taught to feel ashamed. “Be neither seen nor heard—unless doing something worth seeing and hearing.” We weren’t always told to be quiet. Sometimes we were told to perform. But our performance could only be appropriate when we were told it was appropriate.
Now, do you notice that the narcissist does not seem to have the same standards? The narcissist learned that being loud and obnoxious often worked to an advantage. People noticed. And people who get noticed get ahead. That’s what the narcissist thinks. Consider the television advertisements that everyone hates. Too loud. Too dumb. Too obnoxious. But they work. You remember that car dealership. The narcissist knows these things. He/she decides when to perform. The narcissist forces himself into the limelight.
And, secretly, all of us who were told to be quiet, who learned to repress our performance, admired the bravery and initiative of the narcissist—even if he was obnoxious.
But there can only be one performance at a time. The narcissist has to keep all the rest of us quiet. So, just in case, he/she teases, pokes, jabs to remind us that being quiet is still better than reacting. The narcissist knows that you will get the attention if you are loud, so he has to keep you quiet. To do that, he constantly reinforces your fears by working to get you to explode. You can be loud if you are out of control. That way you and everyone else will think you are doing something inappropriate.
So, the thing we must learn is how to be loud and appropriate. If being loud is not necessarily bad, then the problem is our lack of control. Anger, confusion, embarrassment, foolish words and actions—these reveal our lack of control. Retain control and loud will work for you.
Here’s what I mean. You are sitting next to the narcissist at a business meeting when he puts his finger in your coffee. (Not as far-fetched as you might think.) You normally have two choices. You can ignore it and throw your coffee away later. You can jump up, interrupt the meeting, and scream obscenities at the narcissist. You lose in both cases. How about some version of a third option? You slide your chair back and say, “Excuse me, I have to get another cup of coffee. Bob just stuck his finger in mine.” Then you calmly walk over to get a new cup of coffee. Now who looks like a fool? Not you.
I should warn you. The narcissist will fight back. He may lie. But maybe someone else saw him do it, or he has done it to them. Let him lie. You don’t have to say anything more. If the narcissist is your boss, you may have to be more careful. You still have options, however. Just keep your anger and disgust under control. Don’t be afraid to speak loudly enough so others hear. Even bosses are supposed to be under authority. Inappropriate touching, racist or bigoted jokes, deprecating humor—these should not be part of the workplace. Even if you can’t file a complaint, you might be able to speak loudly enough against the behavior for others to hear and understand. Speaking up might help you control the situation and, at least for the moment, the narcissist.
As always, count the cost. Don’t worry about what others will think. But if the narcissist is abusive, either as a spouse or a boss, then you have to be more careful. If you are in an abusive situation, where you are afraid, you have to find a way to get out. Please be careful.
Some of you might appreciate being reminded of this post ( https://graceformyheart.wordpress.com/2013/12/27/the-anti-narcissist/ )” on this Good Friday. I wrote it for Christmas, but it certainly explains the purpose and power of what we remember these days.