It’s Narcissist Friday!     


Several years ago a man told me that he thought he had “presence.” He felt that people noticed when he entered the room. I have often chuckled at that, mostly because I didn’t think anyone particularly noticed when he was in the room. He simply wasn’t as great as he thought he was. So I sometimes joke about people who have “presence.”

By the way, he didn’t tell me that I had presence. That wasn’t something he considered. Besides, he was talking about himself. I remember that he often used the narcissist’s soft voice, speaking so quietly that people had to work to hear his words. In that way, they focused even more on him and what he was saying. I don’t know if I would call him a narcissist, but he certainly seemed to lean in that direction.

Above all else, the narcissist wants “presence.” If you look at the definition of narcissism and the nine characteristics, you can’t help but see that the narcissist is someone who wants to be noticed and valued. I have shared the definition in this post, but it is good to share a reminder from time to time. Here’s the list from Wikipedia:

A pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five (or more) of the following:
1.      Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)
2.      Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
3.      Believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions)
4.      Requires excessive admiration
5.      Has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations
6.      Is interpersonally exploitative, i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends
7.      Lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others
8.      Is often envious of others or believes others are envious of him or her
9.      Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes
– From Wikipedia

Notice that numbers 1-5 and 8-9 are all about feeling superior or more important, having presence. That’s seven out of nine. The other two are simply the price the narcissist is willing to pay to get this feeling.

The narcissist wants you and me to drop everything and pay attention to him/her. If others are being served, the narcissist demands, “Well, what about me?” If others are being honored, the narcissist might try to get in the way or take the credit. If others are just going about their work, the narcissist might do something obnoxious or mean.

The narcissist wants to be the elephant in the room, the person no one can ignore. He wants heads to turn, strong men to quake, ladies to swoon. Not getting those things, the narcissist might turn heads because of some joke or some need. He might purposely arrive late to a meeting where he is needed. He might generously buy drinks for everyone, or beg poverty to get sympathy. Again, whatever it takes.

Politicians build careers on this presence. Top CEOs expect others to notice it. Preachers expect to be revered. And other narcissists see this and lust after it.

A person with presence stimulates others. He might be able to make you feel like you are important, and you will feel like he is important because of that. She knows how she looks to others and flashes that smile that warms the heart. You open yourself to the person with presence because of their personal power and attraction.

Presence opens doors.

No wonder the narcissist wants that!



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11 responses to “Presence

  1. Fellow Survivor

    From my experience there are those that “Command” attention and those that ” Demand” attention. The ones that “Command” attention are those that for whatever reason have been gifted as leaders. They neither seek nor need the admiration of others.

    Now the Narc “Demands” attention. They interrupt, they speak over not to. If two people are talking and one of them brings up a recent illness or surgery and the Narc is nearby they will have had a worse illness or surgery and you can be sure you will know about it. I’ve seen it happen to many times. Its like to old Monty Python skit where one character says ” they lived in a shack with no water” and the next character says ” oh, that’s nothing, we lived in a shoe box at the dump”

    And then, if there is a room with 100 people talking, you can be sure everyone will notice the narcissists because they will talk louder than everyone in the room.

    I am 4 years removed from my Narc whom I loved. Still bent but not broken by her. I was a bone marrow donor and she hated it because all eyes were on me, which I did not want, but she hated me for that. Doesn’t make any sense at all.

    • UnForsaken

      Yes! Definitely!

      I was rather sweetly asked once about my health by someone. This doesn’t happen very often because I look O.K. We were visiting someone who was recovering from a surgery and it was probably a welcome distraction from their own pain, but my N still had to make the visit be all about himself. Other than barely listening just long enough to hear what I’d say in one sentence – for manipulation’s info sake – he grabbed up the patient’s nearby ball cap and make a joke about how it looked on his own head. It was slightly amusing to see how this resembled a small child, desperate for an adults attention. Such grade school behavior, yet it wasn’t obvious to the people there. Does it ever make sense to be jealous of other people’s boo-boos?!

      Bless you, Fellow Survivor, for being a donor and doing it at your own sacrifice! You did what was right and did it for others. I’ve seen Narcs do good things, but it’s always for themselves.

  2. Anne Golden

    My ex-husband is definitely a narcissist yet doesn’t fit all these examples. He likes to keep a low profile in general and not be the center of attention. Although it’s very important to him that people at work know he’s a big shot, he lets them find out the hard way. If they have assumed he wasn’t important he lets them embarrass themselves in front of others when they find out his true role.
    Sometimes I think he keeps a low profile because of his secret life on the down-low with men. He doesn’t want to be recognized at gay spas or by other gays. Whatever, my divorce is now two years old and I’m trying to move on.

  3. Whisper

    This behavior is so predictable. My narc husband and I attend a monthly sportsman club. One of the highlights is to listen to a guest speaker talk about his/her business or skill. All eyes & ears are on the guest. Time & time again my narc will interject a comment while the guest is talking. It’s usually subtle & well timed. When the speaker has concluded my narc will raise his hand and launch into a lecture on some related topic. I am humiliated by his behavior. It’s obvious he needs to be to be the center of attention.
    This last month I finally got the courage to talk to him about it. I said, “You might not like what I have to say, but I noticed that every time we have a speaker you take the attention off of the speaker by adding your comments. What you have to say doesn’t add to their program. I think it is disrespectful to the speaker.” He said he would shut up.
    Let’s wait and see.

  4. Cecilia K

    This reminds me of an evening when my elderly mother and I attended a lecture, and after the speaker finished, he invited a special guest to come up and say a few closing words….at least, I assumed it was meant to be a Few words. However, this man went on and on and on and on. Bear in mind, by the time the main speaker finished speaking, I think it was already close to 10:00 p.m. I was ready to go home, and it was about a half-hour drive back home. As I mentioned before, my elderly mother was with me who was normally in bed by this time; Plus, there were a lot of families with young children there, who I’m sure were also anxious to get home, and some of whom had even further to drive than I did.

    No matter. This man just seemed to enjoy the sound of his own voice. He did not seem to care in the least how late it was or that there were lots of young children in the audience. In his mind, apparently, we all Needed to hear what he had to say, but guess what—I don’t remember a flipping word of anything he said. That’s how much of an impact this arrogant blowhard made on me. About 20 minutes into his speech, I was getting so angry; I was of the mind to get up and walk out, but we were in the middle of the room, and it would have been a bit of a spectacle. Or I wanted to blurt out, “Could you wrap it up, please? We’re all rather tired and would like to get home soon,” but of course, I didn’t do that.

    This man also happened to be the president of a fairly well-known Christian organization (at least, well-known in homeschool circles), who since that evening, openly confessed to having an affair and resigned his position with the organization. You probably know who I’m talking about. And I had actually emailed this man a long time before that evening to ask about quoting something from his blog, I think, in a book that my company was putting together. He never responded to my email. I hadn’t thought too much of it until this particular evening,

    His character seemed somewhat consistent between the two incidents…not considering my request important enough to deign (sp?) with a response and not considering the needs of his audience when he droned on for at least 30 minutes, I think. Now, perhaps I’m being unfair; I mean, it’s possible he never saw the email or maybe he just truly had too much to do and forgot about it. I don’t know. But his utter disregard for his audience, then followed by his bombshell confession, made it seem as though I may have been on point with my initial interpretation of his lack of response.

    • Anne Golden

      When this type of thing happens the event organizer or MC should respectfully go up the podium and tell the guy that it’s time to wrap things up. That’s way too late for most people. I think I would have left and not considered the feelings of the narcissist. Maybe he’d get the message if people started walking out.

  5. UnForsaken

    This is an excellent post. Unfortunately, I believe that many Ns actually choose victims who have presence to steal it from them. My N has a natural presence of his own, but I have a type as well and so does at least one other of his “victims”, and I think he views this as both a fascination and a challenge to his control. Of course this might depend on how you define ” presence”. It might be almost any kind of atmosphere that draws us to someone – good or bad. I think of my Narc’s type as being an “angle of arrogance”. A self-possessed introvert ( non-N ) type could also innocently be look at this way, or as stuck up etc. by some, but it wouldn’t be the same thing at all.

    Perhaps this has been a little confusing to me because their are so many types of Ns. There are both introverts and extroverts, plus all the many different ploys they can pull, aggressively or passive-aggressively. They are so much alike and so different! But at some point, we are bound to stumble on one that has a natural ( but perverted ) resemblance to our own personality and then we are really confused! What we cannot see is that our motivations are entirely different. We are not playing games and we are at least not wanting to fool anyone!

    So, soft-spoken me has been relieved to stay that way and also learn to sometimes speak out and not to worry about it if I sound like any type of N I’ve known as long as I’m looking to God. And I can also stop worrying about whether or not I suddenly become the center attention when I don’t want it…because that doesn’t make me an N!

    Our reason for being ourselves is not a ploy. It’s striving to real genuineness. The important thing is to know yourself – both good and bad, give it to God, and hold your chin up because the truth is far more important than what other’s think.<3

  6. Mary27

    My ex-son-in-law believed in making his “presence” felt. He would regularly arrive a little late for church, then swagger up the middle aisle to sit in the very front. And then put his arm around his wife whom he had been harassing or swearing at all the way to church.

  7. suzanne

    I just love your column and I try to read the featured article each week. At the same time, I’m going through the archives and reading past articles. I am continually amazed by the insights & observations you pass on each week.
    TIhis week, l was really amazed by your comment about the narcissist you were observing who speaks softly so you have to hang on to his every word. My boyfriend’s “best friend”–who’s a flaming narcissist–always has the TV on at his house and always has it way too loud. You can hear the TV in every room of the house and you can never hear anybody talking to you. You always have to say “What?!” really loud or just not try to engage in any kind of meaningful conversation while you’re there. I have never been in a home like this. I have asked several times over the several months that I have known this character why he has the TV so loud, but I never get a real answer. No one else seems bothered by the fact that they can’t hear anybody talking and nobody can hear them. LOL And our host seems oblivious to the bazaar situation that he’s created.

  8. Presence, also known as making an impression, is what Narcissists are all about. While they abuse their wife behind closed doors, and abuse their employees when no one else is watching, they are all too happy to show the world (that is, people who are wealthy and powerful and whose opinions they want to sway), how wonderful they are. It is the definition of hypocrisy. And the Bible has a lot to say about hypocrites.

    Narcissists insist on being the first in line (Tom, my ex-husband, literally pushed others out of the way in order to be first on an airplane), taking the head spot at the table (he sat down at the head of the table first while letting our guests find their own chairs), wearing the most unique attention-getting clothes (Tom literally wears the only men’s fur coat in the very traditional, preppy town of Lake Forest, IL and sports hand-made cowboy boots, jackets with fringe and an $800 handmade cowboy hat), engaging in the most noticeable activities (of course, he took up riding Harley Davidsons as a hobby, which gave him something to talk about endlessly) and arriving late to make a grand entrance (every Sunday, he strolls in 20 minutes late to Christ Church, walks down the middle aisle, and takes his place in the first row behind the pastors). Even after a rebuke, a Narcissist will make his presence known, in a “you’re not going to tell me what to do” manner (after receiving a letter from Christ Church leadership banning him from all forms of leadership, he strolled in the next Sunday and sat in the front row next to the pastors who had written the letter).

    Narcissists are so deluded in their own thinking that they assume they are impressing others with their presence. Sadly, this may be true for some, including many church members and leaders who are “played” by the Narcissist. But for the Christian with discernment who listens to the whispers of the Holy Spirit, a Narcissist’s actions reveal how very much pride and arrogance has taken over their hearts – to the extent that their hearts are so hard that God cannot change them. And that, perhaps, is the saddest thing of all…they will never change.

    Charlene Quint

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