How do you cope with narcissism? Did you know that you must learn how to “play the game” in order to survive? For a lot of people, this is tricky.
The topic of sociopathy and narcissism are by far the most popular topics on the web to date. Why? Because so many of us live, work, or exist with a narcissist at one point in our lives.
Last week we focused on the basic signs of a narcissistic personality. This week we’ll focus on ways to cope with people who exhibit traits of narcissism.
It’s almost inevitable to meet a narcissist in your neighborhood, at work, in the grocery store, at the movies, or even at your doctor’s office. In fact, some research claims that narcissism affects about 6% of our population (1 in 16 American adults). Although this is not an overwhelmingly large number of people, it is still a lot of people. From a clinical point of view there is probably much more narcissism than we are aware of and/or are able to accurately identify in daily life. Almost anyone in today’s world could be considered a narcissist by a loose definition. Sadly, most people describe narcissism as “extreme selfishness.” But it includes a “disordered” way of engaging with other people, especially once they are found out.
Thankfully, those of us who study psychology for a living have found ways to identity the narcissist. It’s important that you are able to:
- Ignore their “best” efforts: A narcissist thrives on the ability to influence, control, or “move” you in any way they can. If you ignore them, you will see a major change in their behaviors toward you in a negative sense. You may see them act out in rage or anger, threaten, make accusations, or attempt to intimidate you in some fashion. No matter what, ignore their best efforts. You will come out on top. The moment you “lose your place” and begin to respond to their petty attempts at controlling or harming you, you lose the battle.
- Minimize or downplay unnecessary anger: Anger is often at the core of a narcissist’s behavior. They may be angry because: they believe they are not capable of accomplishing things, they fear other’s finding them out, they fail at everything they do, they are being eaten alive by their voids, they see no one wants to be around them, etc. etc. etc. Don’t let their peppy, positive, and overly confident attitude fool you. For many of them, their lives are empty unless they are in a position of “power,” a position in which they feel needed or wanted, or have lots of money and/or attention.
- Rise above: The narcissist is often very immature, especially when they feel slighted or “betrayed.” They lack the ability to engage in mature and equal relationships that are healthy. Why? It is possible that a narcissist’s poorly developed ego and lack of identity is to blame. A lack of confidence and self-efficacy can also cause them to display immature and uncanny behaviors such as: rage, envy, competition, or shallowness within multiple relationships. We must keep in mind that the narcissist will often take competition too seriously, express envy in a way that destroys relationships, and demonstrate rage in inappropriate situations.
- Avoid retaliation: As much as you may want to retaliate and show the narcissist that you can play their game a whole lot better than they can, don’t. It’s not worth it. It’s a waste of time. They won’t get it. You will ultimately feel defeated. Let reality and the unhealthy nature of their behaviors and attitude catch up to them. It won’t be very long until the next situation comes and knocks them off their feet. The problem with the narcissist is that they often create their own problems because of how they think and behave. The arrogant and self-centered narcissist often creates tension in situations they could ultimately benefit from. Have you ever seen a person, because of competition or envy, destroy a beautiful 20+ year friendship? Have you ever seen a really good wife “resign” from her marriage because her overbearing husband became so caught up in competition and controlling that he outplayed himself? This is the narcissist.
- Compliment with intelligence: Some narcissists are so emotionally void that they thrive on compliments. They fish for compliments. They try so very hard to earn the respect and attention of others. They also may come across as a hard-worker but instead are seekers of attention and prestige. These kind of people may take your ideas, compete with you unnecessarily, and seem to everyone around them to be a dedicated person to whatever they put their mind to. While there are some perfectly normal and impressive people like this, there certainly are narcissists who fit this description as well. Some narcissists will fish for compliments, strive to achieve for compliments, or work really, really hard only to garner the respect of onlookers or avoid their own emotional, relational, or familial chaos. You can compliment them as needed and don’t be surprised if they start treating you nicer for doing so. It’s all apart of the under-developed ego. I suggest you keep to yourself as much as you can and avoid their need for constant reassurance. A few statements from you every now and then is enough to keep you afloat.
- Avoid them altogether: Narcissists come across as emotionally void individuals who have a tone of hang-ups. If you don’t need to be around a narcissist don’t be. It is not healthy for you. If you have learned that you have been a friend to, a family member to, or have worked for a narcissist, try your hardest to make it work but don’t be manipulated. Narcissists can often be too emotionally unstable to truly be a friend, a family member, a team-player, a confidant, etc.
Trying to cope with a narcissistic individual can feel like one of the most emotionally overwhelming tasks you will ever have to overcome. But there is hope if you choose your “weapons” wisely and proceed with caution.
Stay tuned for one last article next week on how we should or could perceive the narcissist.
As always, I wish you well