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What To Do When You Have To Spend Time With Selfish People

I recently spent a lot of time with someone who was incredibly self-centered. It was an awful experience. Here are some examples of annoying behavior I have experienced with selfish people:

1. Dot refuses to say thank you or show appreciation for anything anyone does for her.

2. When Dot is treated to a luxury hotel in Paris, she complains. “What?! The rooms are so small!” or “What’s with all the old stuff?! Gross!”

3. Caroline gets up very early in the morning and makes noise. ZZZZZZIIIIIIIHHHHHHH! Caroline needs to use the blender at this time, when everyone else is still sleeping.

4. Caroline is asked to be careful opening her car door so as not to hit the car next to us. Wham. Caroline laughs and says, “Good thing both cars are the same color!”

5. Caroline avoids helping clean up after we eat together. Caroline also manages to excuse herself from the restaurant table just before the bill comes.

Do selfish people know they are being selfish?

Most really selfish people are narcissistic. They usually don’t realize what they’re doing. They find ways to blame others for their shortcomings and problems. They’re easily slighted. They don’t seem to consider their own actions and words.

When selfish people find themselves left out, they should not be surprised, but they are. Dot is. Dot can’t see that she’s overwhelmingly negative, unappreciative and inconsiderate.

What to do:

Have a strategy. If someone regularly evades the check, talk about it with her/him ahead of time. Early morning noise? Be very clear that you need to sleep. Complaining and pointing out flaws of the trip? Point out that it kills the enthusiasm for future trips together.

You will not be able to anticipate all of the issues that will arise. You probably don’t think this way. Whatever you do, don’t sit selfish people down and have a long conversation about their narcissism. It won’t help. It won’t change them.

Have compassion. The difficult people in your life have had physiological/trauma/attachment problems that may have contributed to this humanity block. It isn’t your job to fix them.

Find humor. Giggling quietly to one’s self about really ridiculous behavior can sometimes be a good option. Laughter really helps ease stress.

The best you can do is emotionally detach with kindness and then anticipate the inevitable annoyances. Be proactive not reactive.

Take care,

Cherilynn Veland is a licensed clinical social worker, psychotherapist and author living in Chicago. If you liked this post, you’ll love Cherilynn’s book. You can buy  “Stop Giving It Away” from Barnes & Noble. 




What To Do When You Have To Spend Time With Selfish People

Cherilynn Veland, LCSW, MSW

Cherilynn Veland, MSW, LCSW, is a counselor and coach based in Chicago. She has been helping individuals, couples and families for more than 20 years. She is author of Stop Giving It Away, a book about developing healthier relationships with yourself and others. The Stop Giving It Away movement aims to stop the detrimental level of self-sacrifice in which many women live and work. Winner of the 2015 National Indie Excellence Book Award in the Women's Issues category - Stop Giving It Away.

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APA Reference
, . (2015). What To Do When You Have To Spend Time With Selfish People. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 4, 2020, from


Last updated: 30 Sep 2015
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