Written by: Anna (creator of Echo’s Corner)
If you have had a past with narcissists or have come across a few that you have realized to be difficult, it is a good goal to develop tools in spotting a narcissist before they get too close. A lot of times it is pretty obvious, yet before judging someone, it is always wise to gather some data. First of all, look at your own triggers. For example if you are having a conversation with someone you suspect is a narcissist try to sense if you are being drawn to them a little too closely than you normally would. Do you feel as if you need to fill space, give to them constantly, or minimize yourself? If you speak out about yourself or say an opinion do you feel like you am being too much or fighting? Your triggers are big signals for fishing out the narcs. Once you know how a narcissist operates and how you respond to them it is helpful in figuring out what kind of relationship this will be to keep yourself healthy as well as what boundaries to set. Then, turn the spotlight on them.
There are two major dead giveaways for spotting a narcissist. The two things all narcs share is possession of similar motives in life and relationships, as well as a lack of an emotional world. Let’s focus on the first one. The one thing every narcissist has in common is their motive: themselves. You can tell a lot of what they are saying and doing is perpetuating their image of the grandiose self. Narcissists blend in really well with everyone else but once you get to know them you realize that they operate differently. They can do really nice things, such as offer you something that you want or need when they have but you don’t, but instead of their motive being “I’m glad that person got something they needed or wanted” it is more like “I am so great for doing that”. Really gauging their motive may take some time and more than one interaction to really perceive. In the end, as well all know, it is all about them.
The other dead giveaway is a lack of an emotional world. Narcissists are very good at fitting in and knowing what to do or say in relationships but their emotional world of feelings and emotions is very small, if not close to non-existent in some. Narcissists do not have the ability to put themselves ins someone else’s shoes and offer them the support that they really need, especially when it comes to empathy. They struggle with expressing themselves or engaging in deep conversations. At some points, they may make one feel worse than they already do.Or invisible.Once you ask for something from a narcissist, it is hard for them to give instead of just receive. This characteristic can be determined through time or at the right time; when you find that you are the one now that needs comfort and support.
Other characteristics are: 1.) Immaturity- they are always blaming other people or griping about others 2.) Lack of intimate and long-term relationships 3.) Excessive admiration of oneself and status 4.) Need for constant admiration or sympathy 5.) Explanations on how others view they as great/how much others like them.
One specific technique to test is to correct them on something minor and see how they respond. I once had a guy come by and see a place I was renting. We had a dog in the house, and he referred to her as a he. I corrected him and felt iciness in return. I decided to collect more data and went into another technique and make a joke and see if the other person receives it in any way. I made three and got nothing back. Maybe they weren’t actually that funny. But cordially there is an affirmation of where a person might be coming from. There was nothing. These were two tip-off signs that made me aware of what I could be dealing with.
In the second case of a narcissist who is very seductive, you might feel as if they are eating up and understanding everything you are saying. In another example, I was out one night when this guy that was in our group of friends decided to focus all of his attentions on me. It was overwhelmingly flattering; he had the gift of zeroing in on the smallest aspects of someone and showing divine interest. I realized, that night, even though I might have been getting showered with praise and attention from him he did not give much of himself to be received by me. Therefore, the interaction fell flat. A player? For sure. A narcissist? Maybe. It could be the first part of their interactions with others: to idealize, to devalue, and then discard.
Another common funny pattern with them is that they are terrible gift givers. It has almost always felt to me that the narcissist believes that they have given you such a wonderful gift and long for credit instead of wanting you to enjoy the gift. Narcissists have always given me gifts that I have never wanted or liked. For example, an old narcissistic friend of mine gave me a piece of jewelry (that I would never wear) and a book of poems (I’ve never liked poetry). Yet, it was a style and interest of hers. Sure, it is hard buying a gift for someone as well as really nailing what they would like but it is different when the gift is either something that the narcissist would like or want to be praised for doing.
Now take these techniques with a grain of salt. Narcissism has its set of patterns yet, each individual is different so the reactions might be varied. The idea in these examples is to look for authenticity and reciprocity from the other individual. Sometimes, it takes a really long to get a sense of someone. In those times, it is helpful to forgive oneself for not knowing sooner, or not figuring it out at all. Hopefully, with a little bit of practice it will be easier to spot who is a narcissist and who is not. That way we can surround ourselves with people that really love us as much as we love them back.