You’re more likely to find a narcissist in the C-suite than on the street, research suggests.
That’s because the traits that make narcissists so difficult to hang out with or date — including a constant need for validation, a willingness to control people, and a ruthlessness in getting their needs met — happen to make them super effective at rising up the ranks.
To help you figure out if you (or perhaps your boss) are a narcissist, we combed through the psychology literature looking for patterns of narcissistic behaviour. We also spoke with Joseph Burgo, Ph.D., a psychologist and the author of “The Narcissist You Know.”
Here are common signs of narcissism.
This is an update of an article originally written by Vivian Giang, with additional contributions by Drake Baer.
Burgo says some narcissists are bullies -- and one of their most troublesome traits is their tendency to be a sore loser and a sore winner.
For example, when they lose in a sports match, they might try to humiliate the referree. When they win, they might gloat excessively or act abusive to the losing party.
The kind of people that Burgo calls 'grandiose' narcissists always hold a grievance against the world.
They typically feel entitled to something better, and think they're not getting the recognition they deserve from others.
Psychologists talk about the 'two faces of narcissism.' On one end there's the hyper-aggressive, super-loud Donald Trump type. But there's a softer form of narcissism, too. It's called 'covert narcissism,' which is denoted by introversion, hypersensitivity, defensiveness, and anxiety.
'Both shades of narcissism shared a common core of conceit, arrogance, and the tendency to give in to one's own needs and disregard others,' Scientific American reports.
Many narcissists are know-it-alls, and have a hard time getting along with coworkers and friends because they refuse to believe they could possibly be wrong about anything.
Burgo has observed that these narcissists walk around with a marked sense of superiority to others and have a 'my way or the highway' approach to decision-making.
Psychologists Nicholas Holtzman and Michael Strube from Washington University in St. Louis found in a study that subjects who scored higher in narcissism are argumentative and curse more than their modest counterparts.
They also tend to use more sexually explicit language.
'Narcissists typically enjoy leadership positions since they are able to dominate others and fulfill their need for constant positive reinforcement.
'A narcissist monk would not be good, but to be Kanye West and a narcissist is fantastic,' said University of Western Sydney psychologist Peter Jonason, an expert on social psychology.
The 'very fact of having a feeling in the presence of another person suggests you can be touched emotionally by friends, family, partners, and even the occasional tragedy or failure,' says Harvard Medical School psychologist Craig Malkin.
That's why narcissists abhor them.
Feeling an emotion 'challenges their sense of perfect autonomy,' he continues. 'To admit to a feeling of any kind suggests they can be affected by someone or something outside of them.'
As a result, narcissists tend to change the topic of conversation when feelings come up — especially their own.
After 34,653 face-to-face interviews, psychologist Frederick Stinson found that men tend to be more narcissistic than women across their lifespans.
Narcissism is believed to peak during adolescence and decline with age.
Anita Vangelisti, a psychologist at the University of Texas in Austin found that narcissists typically prefer to keep the conversation centered around themselves 'making exaggerated hand movements, talking loudly, and showing disinterest by 'glazing over' when others speak.'
Burgo also identifies a group of narcissists he calls 'seductive.'
These people fall in and out of love quickly and easily, often with people they don't know very well. They think their partner is absolutely perfect -- a complement to their own perfection -- until reality sets in, they realise their partner is flawed, and they end the relationship.
Through his research, Campbell found that the four-month mark -- the apparent satisfaction peak in any dating relationship -- is typically how long it takes for someone dating a narcissist to see their true colours.
Narcissistic people intentionally put down others in order to maintain a high positive image of themselves.
'Seeking admiration is like a drug for narcissists,' said Mitja D. Back, a psychologist at Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany. 'In the long run it becomes difficult because others won't applaud them, so they always have to search for new acquaintances from whom they get the next fix.'
This also explains why narcissists typically maintain only weak relationships.
Narcissistic men and women have different ways of choosing friends.
Women choose male friends with high social status so they can feel a sense of worthiness. Guys choose bros who can 'wingman' for them when they're trying to pick up girls.
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