It’s Narcissist Friday!
Some of the most shocking and hurtful things come out of the mouths of narcissists. They seem to have no difficulty saying cruel things.
I know the old saying: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Yeah, that’s not true. If you have lived with or been in a close relationship with a narcissist there have almost certainly been times you wished they had thrown a rock at you rather than saying what they said. The bruise from a stick or rock will eventually heal and fade, but those words can ring in our ears for a long time.
And it isn’t always criticism. Sometimes it is simple rudeness. The way the narcissist treats the waitress or the checker at the store, for example. I know several people who work retail. The stories they tell of how people comment on how the store employee is so stupid or poorly dressed or overweight or whatever. The narcissist doesn’t care if he leaves the checker in tears or gets the waitress fired because she can’t function after his comments.
Pushing into line, commenting on the people around him, making crude noises, laughing and pointing at people, some narcissists do these things so casually that it seems they are just rude people. Offending others means nothing to them.
Yet, they don’t always act rudely. The narcissist will probably be able to shut the rudeness off in an instant around certain people. The waitress is fair game, but the boss at the next table hears nothing but respect.
But why? Well, some narcissists just see others as so far beneath them that they get pleasure from hurting them. Some like to rile people, set them on edge to see how they will react. It might even be you the narcissist is watching as he/she is rude to others.
And some use their rudeness as a type of “force shield.” It protects them from connecting. Who wants to connect with someone who acts like that? Narcissists often keep others at a distance. Sometimes certain people seem like they might be useful, so the narcissist won’t be rude. At least until the usefulness is drained away.
Some use their rudeness as a way to communicate superiority. Most people will back away from rudeness. Push into line and others will just step back. They might think you are rude, but they won’t say anything or challenge you. The narcissist knows this and uses this to communicate his disdain for others. By saying something that hurts or by challenging an etiquette rule, the narcissist sets himself apart from others. He/she might think others will be impressed.
The sad thing is that we live in a culture that almost honors rudeness. We reward the rude person not only by stepping out of their way and not reacting, but by accepting the idea that they are somehow better than we are. We might not like it, but we internalize it and believe it. When the rude person refers to our weight, we might be offended, but our pain comes from agreeing. When someone criticizes our work, or pushes in front of us, we tend to value that person more. No, we don’t like it, but there is something about aggression that we find attractive and valuable.
I have often been amazed at how people will speak highly of a teacher or leader who is just rude. That teacher thinks those people are fools who need to be educated. That leader thinks his people are sheep who need his guidance. They put others down by being rude in word and action and the result is more dedicated following. When you see it, it is a shocking and disgusting phenomenon.
So, what do you do? You probably spend a good amount of time apologizing. To the waitress or your mother or your friend or anyone. You hide your face in embarrassment. You try to make things better by explaining what he meant, when you know he just meant to be rude.
But listen, don’t accept rudeness as superiority. The narcissist is not superior. He/she is rude. Rudeness is bullying. Bullies are not superior or better. Bullies don’t deserve honor and respect. You might want to get out of the bully’s way. After all, the bully will hurt you if you don’t do what he/she wants. If you can avoid being with the bully, do it. The rude person is not attractive or desirable. The rudeness reveals what the person is made of.
In a world where the bully cannot hurt you, you might tell the waitress, “Oh, he just wants you to think he is better than you. He isn’t.” You might even refer to the narcissist as a bully. Of course, most people don’t live in that world. Most people would pay a high price for such honesty.
Whatever you do, don’t give excuses for the narcissist’s rude behavior. You may tell the waitress you are sorry, but don’t try to make the bully look better. He isn’t sick or tired or handicapped. He is just mean-spirited and rude. Yes, you sympathize with his victim, and you can say that or show that, but you don’t have to run interference for the narcissist. Let others see him as rude.
Before I close this, I have to say that not all who are rude are narcissists. Some are tired or sick. Some are just being thoughtless. I have been rude, and I would guess you have too. Sometimes we caught ourselves in time to apologize to our victim. Sometimes we realized our rudeness later and felt regret. You and I and many others are rude by accident or carelessness. The narcissist is rude on purpose.