It’s not all about you: How to communicate with a narcissist

The signs, symptoms and recourse of recognizing and ultimately communicating effectively with a narcissist.

Narcissism is a diagnosable personality disorder characterized by

  • An inflated sense of oneself and one’s abilities

  • Fragile self-esteem that masks a bloated appearance of over-confidence

  • Lack of recognition of others’ emotions and needs

People with narcissistic personalities can have a hard time maintaining close, intimate, emotionally deep friendships and relationships. They often dominate or manipulate the relationships they do have. They can either reject strict authority, or appear to submit completely. Yet, only under the guise of martyrdom. Narcissists can be on either side of neglectful and abusive relationships. Playing both the role of abuser or victim.

Many people exhibit some symptoms of narcissism in different areas of their lives. Not quite within the scope of full-blown narcissistic personality disorder, these narcissistic tendencies can go unnoticed or undiagnosed. Mainly because they can be quite skilled at reading people and providing you what they think you want. Ironically, while they can be self-absorbed, narcissists lack self-awareness. Everyone except them will know there’s a problem. The problem is them.

How do you know if you’re dealing with a narcissist? A narcissist may:

  • Be self-absorbed.

  • Lack empathy.

  • Fail to recognize or acknowledge other’s emotions, or motivations.

  • Embellish their actual abilities, achievements, knowledge, skills and altruism.

  • View themselves as special and deserving of special privileges.

  • Act entitled.

  • Expect to lead while others follow or agree.

  • Use others for their personal gain.

  • Constantly seek attention and respect.

  • Believe they are superior, or better than others.

  • Look down on others, and express such feelings.

  • Envy others’ success or prosperity.

  • Believe others envy them.

  • Appear stubborn, cold and calculating.

  • Be abusive or neglectful.

How can you effectively communicate with someone who is generally only able to process what’s going on in their own lives and minds?

  • Let them think you are focusing on them, but really divert their attention to the emotions and thoughts of others. Giving them outside perspective. When they try to bring their feelings or thoughts back to center, acknowledge, then divert again.

  • Remind them of their responsibility in the causes and consequences of their actions. Not everything is someone else’s fault. Although they will try to make it seem that way. And they cannot complain about the choices they made freely and willingly.

  • Remind them of their responsibility to care for their own ego, and boost their own self-esteem. While encouraging them to support others’ emotional needs, as well. Not necessarily by making someone feel good, or feel anything for that matter, but by providing an open, welcoming, gentle atmosphere for others to dwell.

  • Remind them of the difference between caring for others and trying to control them. What they think isn’t always best. Support and show affection to others. Don’t just peddle advice.

  • Ask them to really listen, not just talk. Think how what is being said affects them as they’re listening. Focus on how the topic of conversation affects others.

  • Be sure to note direct comparisons of their lives, attitudes and actions to those they deem inferior or incorrect in others’ lives. They easily notice flaws in others but rarely notice, acknowledge or take responsibility for their own flaws. If they are doing these things, they probably will put forth a lackluster effort to change them, if any at all.

Narcissism in a relationship or family dynamic can be quite frustrating. It can feel like you and this person are living in two completely different worlds. One made of truth, and the other made of whatever puts them above, beyond and ahead of others. Don’t fret. There is recourse.

If you think you may be dealing with a narcissist, research as much as you can on the disorder and tendencies. Then, investigate some resources. It may just end up being a quirk you need to deal with in a loved one. However, if it becomes problematic in the relationship, and they seem unwilling or unable to acknowledge their potential problem and its consequences, seek professional advice. A psychologist or psychotherapist will be able to help guide and navigate you through these types of potentially turbulent and volatile relationships. Better yet, help you steer clear of them altogether.

Georgia Lee

Georgia D. Lee seeks to empower, inspire, enrich and educate anyone with an open mind, heart and spirit through her most treasured medium - black and white!