- Words like “narcissist” and “narcissistic” are casually thrown around; however, they actually pertain to a serious personality disfunction or even disorder.
- Individuals with narcissistic traits (which sometimes signify a personality disorder called narcissistic personality disorder) are self-centered, boastful, and arrogant.
- They can have a serious impact on those around them, especially those they spend ample time with, like their coworkers and family members.
- If you work with a narcissist, you can cope by keeping your distance, censoring yourself, and being prepared to defend yourself when needed.
- If you live with a narcissist, you can cope by being honest, helping them implement healthier behaviors, and establishing clear boundaries.
- In any case, you shouldn’t take it personally when you feel offended or disrespected by a narcissist; you aren’t the problem here.
The word “narcissist” has become a strange insult that’s thrown around without a whole lot of warrant: a kid at school tells his classmate to “stop being such a narcissist,” when he beats him in Jeopardy; a group of coworkers describe their boss as narcissistic when he cuts down their lunch time; a woman calls her husband a narcissist when he splurges on a new sweater.
While this vocabulary is often used to offend, the reality is that this word denotes someone who has a serious problem… with being extremely self-centered. These are the people that make everything about themselves—the ones that brag every chance they get and honestly think they’re better than most. Now, some narcissistic individuals have their egotistical tendencies under control, but others have a more serious problem: a disorder rooted in their narcissism. When narcissism proves to severely and negatively impact one’s day to day living, they’re diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder.
While everyday claims or accusations of narcissism are probably unprecedented these days, you do likely come in contact with narcissists on the daily: at work and maybe even at home. This can be difficult to deal with, but it is possible to make it easier on yourself.
4 Tips for Dealing with Narcissists at Work
You know that one coworker who takes all the credit for a group effort? The one who exploits your weaknesses, lies if it’s to their benefit, and constantly claims to be “the best”? Yeah, that’s narcissism in action… which I know can be difficult to deal with. Fortunately, you can make your work life a whole lot easier if you follow these tips to cope with the narcissist in your office:
1) Keep your distance.
A narcissist probably isn’t the best person to collaborate with, if you can help it. These individuals are known to capitalize on others’ weaknesses and do whatever it takes to come out on top. So, if you’re able, stay as far away from this person as possible. Pick a different partner, ask another coworker for help… steer clear of the narcissist.
2) Censor yourself.
If you do have to work closely with the narcissist in your office, be careful of what you do and say around them. They are always on high alert—ready to twist and turn what you’ve said or done if it benefits them. For example, say they ask you how you feel about the new boss and you respond with, “I think they’re still getting the hang of it!” Instead of taking this innocent statement for what it is, they tell the boss that you think they’re unfit for the job—which ruins your good standings with him. To avoid situations such as these, censor yourself whenever you’re in close proximity to the narcissist.
3) Be prepared.
Get ahead of the game by preparing for a narcissist’s attack. First, be emotionally prepared: breaking down after getting into a screaming match with them will only make matters worse. Learn how to constrain yourself. Second, prepare to defend yourself professionally: if you must interact or collaborate with the narcissist, try to make sure someone else is around to witness what goes down. That way, they can vouch for you if the narcissist tries to say you did or said something that you didn’t.
4) Don’t take it personally.
I know it can be tough not to take a narcissist’s actions personally, but it truly isn’t about you or anything that you’ve done. Their selfishness and egotistical tendencies are rooted in insecurities and the desire to be the absolute best—even if that means taking others down in the process. So, when you’re having a difficult time dealing with these individuals, just remind yourself that you’ve done nothing wrong… it’s all about them and their insecurities.
4 Hacks for Handling Narcissists at Home
It’s one thing to put up with narcissists at work, but dealing with them at home where you’re supposed to destress and feel comfortable is a whole different challenge. You may live with a narcissistic brother, parent, or significant other—whatever the case, these hacks will help you better cope with their troublesome personalities:
1) Be unapologetically honest.
Because you have a closer bond and relationship with these individuals, it’s not a bad idea to talk to them about their narcissistic habits. Explain to them the effects their narcissism has on other people (including you), and see if you can’t get them to consider making a behavior change. This is more likely to work with narcissists who fall on the lower end of the spectrum who aren’t completely set in their ways.
2) Offer to help them change.
If your talk with them goes well, offer to help your brother, sister, mother, significant other (or whoever) make some beneficial changes. For example, you could start pointing out their selfish actions, demeaning words, and eventually help them identify this behavior on their own. Once they’re able to do that, they can work on actually changing or controlling the narcissistic behavior.
3) Establish clear boundaries.
Whether they’ve acknowledged their narcissism and agreed to change or not, establishing clear boundaries is important. Tell them you won’t put up with their ridicule, their insults, their lies, or their criticism. You can even give them an ultimatum if you need to—say, “Hey, if you treat me this way them I’ll have to take a step back.” Doing so is effective, as it demonstrates the effect they have on their loved ones.
4) Don’t take it personally (again).
It’s especially difficult not to take a loved one’s harmful actions or words to heart. That said, their narcissism is no different from your coworker’s: it’s not about you or anything that you’ve done to them, it’s about their agenda and their personal insecurities. Do your best to remember that the next time they do or say something that really hits you hard.