“Selfish people never cease to amaze me.” “Narcissistic people are unattractive, to say the least.” “Selfish people annoy me.”
These are statements I have heard in response to my community presentations on relationships. Quite frankly, I can agree with them all.
I see most of my clients on a weekly basis. The number one complaint they often present with is that someone they know (personally or professionally) is engaging in behavior that undermines them, overwhelms them, or undercuts their values. Discussion typically revolves around how to identify the behavioral patterns of people who display narcissistic and selfish behaviors. We also discuss ways to cope and redirect these people.
This article will discuss some of the tips I share with clients which are tips supported by research and my own experiences.
Selfishness really seems to have its roots in the term narcissism. It is a behavior that is both genetic and environmental. It is maintained by innate tendencies and influenced by temperament as well as external learning from parents and others throughout child development. I’m of the firm belief that selfishness can also be influenced by poor family/social values or minimally expressed values by adults throughout a child’s development. In other words, children who are raised in an environment of selfish gain and lack of values are more likely to become selfish. For example, children who are raised in an environment of constant pursuit of material wealth (without the pursuit of strong values) are likely to develop into selfish, narcissistic adults.
Research suggests that selfishness is based on an individual’s own emotional and psychological needs. In many cases, the selfish person has many of the same traits as someone who is narcissistic. The attitude is that of a “taker” and not a peace-maker. The attitude may also be passive-aggressive, sly, and unfair. Most individuals who display selfish personality traits hardly ever think of how they influence or affect others around them. The ones who do often learn how to cover their selfishness with superficial charm and kindness.
The world revolves around them and them only. Some people display behaviors that you would never imagine. The behavior of someone who is selfish is based on untruths and lack of ability to consider the well-being of others. It can be detrimental, to say the least.
Have you ever been in a relationship with someone (or a group of people) who care nothing at all about your thoughts, feelings, and perspective? Below I list a few ways to cope and suggest trying at least 1-2 of these “techniques”:
- Move along: Sometimes the best approach when dealing with a selfish person is to move along and disengage. Gordon B Hinckley said “happy is the man who can brush aside the offending remarks of another and go on his way.” Keep moving. That’s the best approach to someone who has no clue as to how they are affecting you, using you, or dominating your space. My great-grandmother used to tell me “if they are rude enough to suffocate you, don’t feel bad correcting them.”
- Ignore them: Ignoring means the minimization of one’s unlearned actions or statements. When someone ignores you they are showing that what you are doing or saying means nothing. For people who are selfish or narcissistic, ignoring serves this same purpose. The sad part is that a narcissistic person may either get angry or attempt to make life uncomfortable for you as a way to retaliate against you for showing up who they really are. In cases like this, I suggest you try to get out and move on. There are no teaching opportunities for vindictive, disloyal people like this.
- Avoid confrontation: It makes no sense at all to allow a selfish person who pulls you into an argument. Selfish people who have narcissistic traits will almost always look for ways to defend themselves or justify their actions. They don’t want to be wrong. They don’t always see themselves. Therefore, you will never have a fair argument unless the person has some self-insight.
- Rise above: Rising above will include ignoring them, modeling better behavior, and avoiding confrontation. Rising above means not falling prey to their tactics, ingenuine behaviors, or manipulation. Not all people who display selfish tendencies want to always get over on others. But for the most part, they do. Their need to get over on others is often reinforced by getting others to do what they want. Don’t do it.
- Stick to the facts: Individuals who display selfish behaviors or who are narcissistic rely on using emotions to either control or avoid accountability. Stick to the facts of what they have done and show them a record of their behaviors. You certainly don’t want to point out things you cannot prove.
- Avoid feeling indebted or responsible: When you begin to feel you “owe” the person something and you truly don’t, you know then that you are being entrapped by a selfish individual. Self individuals have a way of making you feel you owe them what they feel they are strongly entitled to. Avoid feeling this way. Remind yourself that you owe them nothing.
- Re-assess your boundaries: People who are selfish and narcissistic are often detached emotionally and psychologically from the needs, beliefs, and values of others. They are entitled. They believe everything should belong to them if they ask, persist, or dominate. Stay true to yourself and set firm boundaries that remind them that you are a separate human being with feelings and thoughts. Make it known through your boundaries that you do not mind being open-minded or sharing but you will not conform for their benefit. Who truly benefits if you fall for everything someone says to you or does?
- Use opportunities to educate: Education truly is power and I’m sure you have noticed, if you have been following me for the past 6 years, I stand on this principle a lot. Educating others is the only way to help a misguided world. Although the entire world is not misguided, most of it is and it is up to those of us who have an identity to educate those who do not. When you encounter someone who is selfish and narcissistic, the best approach is to remind yourself of your values and always be ready to answer the person with an educated response. Every opportunity can be an educational one until that person (if they ever) begin to see the error of their ways. You certainly do not want to stoop to their level and offend them or come off as arrogant. But you do want to teach as much as you can.
- Model: Modeling adherence to values and ethics is important. People who are narcissistic and selfish have a weak self-image, typically lack education and self-identity, and care nothing about other people and their comfort level. The individual may attempt to deceive you into believing they are “fair.” But watching their behavior closely is key. When you find out who they really are, model the right way to be.
- Remain true: Remaining true to yourself is the best approach you could ever take. The selfish person most likely has a weak or no identity at all. As a result, you can teach a great lesson about identity and remain true by modeling awareness of identity. If you know who you are you can teach them to find themselves. When you know who you are, what you stand for, and why, you remain in a strong position of authority. However, this doesn’t mean that arrogance and close-mindedness should occur. It just means that confidence and self-assurance can be powerful when used correctly.
Looking forward to hearing about some of your stories. Please share your tips on how you have overcome those who have no awareness of their dominance.
As always, I wish you well
All citations and reference are embedded in this article.