People Management

People to avoid at work: N…

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Have you ever met someone who feels superior (not necessarily backed up by evidence), takes everything for granted and asks for constant admiration? Someone who does not feel responsible even when the world around is on fire? Someone who is never modest and cannot take any criticism? If so, you’ve met a Narcissist.

This person may pass off as spoiled, requesting full and undivided attention all the time. While exhausting the people around, this sort of person is experiencing authentic, intense emotions and a distorted self-image.

The surface

Usually charming, displaying expensive clothes, cars or accessories, the Narcissist is a pathological liar. One that may pass a polygraph test because he believes the stories he’s telling as they come from a disturbed misinterpretation of a situation. For example, a meeting in which the audience may have been despiteful or even ironical, he will present it like: “I knocked them all out, they were so astonished, they couldn’t find their words”. He focuses only on success and power, even by association: “I am not a millionaire (yet), but I hang out with millionaires” (co-branding).

He feels god-like, but any god needs worshipers (admirers) to exist. As in all religions, the worshipers are the ones responsible for anything that brought about his wrath. Other people’s feelings are unimportant. Emotions are for the weak and they deserve to be despised.

No empathy and no remorse. In romantic relationships, the narcissist displays extreme jealousy, usually looking for a dependent or vulnerable (un)significant other. Sexually he’s insecure and may be inclined towards BDSM. The male narcissist is misogynistic and looks to destroy the self-esteem of his partner. He may have multiple affairs and not struggle to hide them, because those affairs confirm his superior status (“I am desired”). Women, as well, are animated by hate.

Telling him you don’t agree with his opinion or that a shirt looks bad on him will inflict a “narcissistic wound”, real or perceived. Lack of praise is insulting or a form of criticism (a sort of “silent aggression”): “How dare you?”. This will trigger his fury and result in some form of attack, normally out of proportion and aiming to humiliate the other person. The reaction may be explosive (insult or violence) or passive (plotting for revenge). If you feel physically threatened, the only way to deflate the situation is to praise the narcissist.

The victims of his attacks reflect his own weaknesses and he will accuse them of the things he does: ignoring other people’s feelings, being manipulative or unworthy of trust. His behaviour will always be justified: “I did it because I was angry / tired / exhausted / sad”.

These people often end up alone, broke and marginalized.

The depth

Although acting superior, the narcissist despises himself and most likely has a low self-esteem. The Fake Self projection is a coping mechanism originally developed while facing an abuse (emotional or physical) or neglection. It’s a mask put on for society; one which consumes his intellectual and emotional resources, fearing his cover might get blown. As with any role, the more you play it, it enhances the dissociation from the Real self. The bigger the discrepancy between the image we project and how we really are, the higher the chance of developing depression or anxiety.

These people fear rejection and abandon. Their closed ones tend to respond to this insecurity and need of attention by expressing more love. But the more you love or help a narcissist person, the bigger the backfire (because it makes him more dependent of your admiration).

Normally, each human should have a healthy dose of narcissism which should be all about loving ourselves and not make us dependent of admiration. We all want good things for us and, in the absence of pathological behaviours, we aim through our actions to obtain things that are good for us. The pathological narcissist doesn’t care what happens to others. He finds poor excuses in mottos such as “survival of the fittest”, “dog-eat-dog world” or “the big fish eat the little fish”. 

For the Narcissist, being authentic equals being vulnerable (emotionally). Deep inside, he feels weak and unworthy of affection, fears abandon, but tries to cover it either through charm or intimidation.

Key takeaway

The narcissistic spectrum can range from a few traits to a full personality disorder. This type of person will not look for help because he/she doesn’t feel that anything is wrong and anyway the therapist is an inferior being (like anyone else) who can’t possibly help him due to this inferiority.

Placing such persons in command is a bad decision. Narcissists cannot build relations based on trust, cannot work in a team, can’t accept feedback and cannot cooperate. Everyone is responsible for what “he” needs as well as their own needs: “All for me and I for none”.

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