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How to Spot a Narcissist: A Quick Guide for High Achievers, Small Business Owners, and Entrepreneurs

In every business or personal environment, understanding the personalities around you is paramount to achieving success, peace, and productivity. One particular personality type that can be both charming and challenging to deal with is the narcissist. In this blog post, I share some insights around narcissism, supported by research, I will look at how to spot a narcissist and effectively navigate interactions with them. Whether you're a high achiever, small business owner, or entrepreneur, this guide will have some great insights and tips for you.

What is Narcissism?

Narcissism is often misunderstood. It's not just about someone who loves themselves a bit too much; it's a spectrum of personality traits. According to the American Psychiatric Association, Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is characterised by a pattern of grandiosity, a constant need for admiration, and a lack of empathy. While not all narcissists have NPD, these traits can manifest in varying degrees.

Key Characteristics of a Narcissist

  1. Grandiose Sense of Self-ImportanceNarcissists often believe they are unique and can only be understood by other high-status individuals. They might exaggerate achievements and talents, expecting to be recognised as superior without sufficient achievements to back it up.

  2. Preoccupation with Fantasies of Unlimited Success, Power, Brilliance, Beauty, or Ideal LoveTheir minds are often filled with idealistic visions that are far removed from reality. This makes it difficult for them to accept the normal ups and downs of life.

  3. Belief of Being Special and UniqueNarcissists tend to believe that they are special and unique, and can only be associated with, understood by, or communicate with other special or high-status people (or institutions).

  4. Need for Excessive AdmirationConstant admiration is required for a narcissist to function. This need often makes them the centre of attention, seeking validation from others to feed their self-esteem.

  5. Sense of EntitlementThey often expect favourable treatment and automatic compliance with their expectations. Their sense of entitlement can lead to frustration and anger when others don't cater to their demands.

  6. Interpersonally Exploitative BehaviourNarcissists frequently take advantage of others to achieve their own ends. They can be very charming, making it hard to realise their exploitative nature until it's too late.

  7. Lack of EmpathyThey struggle to recognise or identify with the feelings and needs of others, often coming across as cold or unfeeling.

  8. Envy of Others or Belief that Others are Envious of ThemThey often harbour envy towards others or believe others are envious of them, leading to competitive and sometimes malicious behaviour.

  9. Arrogant or Haughty Behaviours or AttitudesArrogance and haughtiness are common, making them difficult to deal with in both personal and professional settings.

Research Insights

Studies have shown that narcissists can significantly impact workplace dynamics. According to research published in the Journal of Business Ethics, narcissistic leaders often create environments characterised by high levels of conflict and low levels of cohesion. Additionally, a study in the Journal of Personality found that narcissism can lead to both positive and negative workplace outcomes, depending on the context and how well the narcissist's traits align with the organisational culture.

Dealing with a Narcissist

  1. Set Clear BoundariesEstablishing and maintaining boundaries is crucial. Narcissists will test limits, so being firm and consistent is key.

  2. Don't Take It PersonallyTheir behaviour is more about their inner turmoil than about you. Keeping this in mind can help reduce personal stress.

  3. Avoid ConfrontationOpen confrontation can lead to escalated situations. Instead, use a calm and factual approach to discuss any issues.

  4. Seek SupportWhether it's through colleagues, mentors, or professional help, having a support system can be invaluable.

  5. Focus on YourselfEnsure you take care of your own mental health amidst interactions with narcissists. Practice self-care and find outlets to relieve stress.

Final Thoughts

Navigating interactions with narcissists involves understanding their traits and behaviours and adopting strategies that help maintain your well-being and productivity.

Check out the video above for 5 things to look out for that could help you spot potential red flags.

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Anthony Laye is a keynote speaker, behaviour expert, and coach specialising in communication skills, behaviour profiling, and influence.

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