In healthy relationships there is a shared back and forth exchange of thoughts, feelings and experiences. There is a sense of being cared about and a genuine caring for another person. Conversely, unhealthy relationships have one person doing all the emotional work and often surrendering their personal needs and rights in exchange for the other persons love.
When we are mindful and pay attention to our feelings, it is easy to distinguish which people have a strong sense of self verses those that are self-centered and not capable of participating in a reciprocal involvement.
For example, think about the way you feel after an interaction with certain people. If you feel nourished, and valued, you’ve probably encountered someone with healthy self-esteem.
However, if the conversation leaves you feeling ashamed, confused, self-doubting, or invisible, it’s highly likely you’re dealing with a narcissist whose motto is “Me first!”
Learning to spot the following traits of a narcissist can protect you from mistaking this person for a friend:
- Everything’s all about them
- They have a grandiose sense of self-importance and entitlement
- They crave admiration and attention
- They are a legend in their own mind
- The world is reflected in their image
- They lack empathy
- There is a limited capacity for unconditional love
To find out if you’re dealing with a narcissist, ask yourself the following questions which are found in the book entitled, Emotional Freedom: Liberate Yourself from Negative Emotions and Transform Your Life by bestselling author Judith Orloff, M.D.
- Does the person act as if life revolves around him?
- Do I have to compliment him to get his attention or approval?
- Does he constantly steer the conversation back to himself?
- Does he downplay my feelings or interests?
- If I disagree, does he become cold or withholding?
According to Dr. Orloff, “If you answer “yes” to any of the questions, it’s likely you’re dealing with a narcissist. My professional advice: don’t fall in love with a narcissist or entertain illusions they’re capable of the give-and-take necessary for intimacy. In such relationships you’ll always be emotionally alone to some degree. If you have a withholding narcissist spouse, beware of trying to win the nurturing you never got from your parents; it’s not going to happen. Also, forget about having your sensitivity honored. These people sour love with all the hoops you must jump through to please them. Ultimately, they’ll break your heart and steal your freedom.”
Naturally, we want to keep ourselves away from this and other destructive personality types but sometimes the relationship is temporarily unavoidable, as in the case of a current boss or co-worker.
Therefore, if a narcissist is draining you emotionally; Dr. Orloff offers a few techniques to achieve your desired outcome and get your power back as follows:
Keep your expectations realistic.
Enjoy their good qualities, but understand they’re emotionally limited, even if they’re sophisticated in other ways. Accepting this, you won’t continue asking something of friends, family, or coworkers they can’t give. Consider this definition of insanity: when you repeat the same actions but expect a different response.
Never make your self-worth dependent on them.
Don’t get caught in the trap of always trying to please a narcissist. Also protect your sensitivity. Refrain from confiding your deepest feelings to someone who won’t cherish them.
Show how something will be to their benefit.
To successfully communicate with narcissists, the hard truth is that you must frame things this way. Instead of saying to your employer, “I’d prefer to work fewer nights,” say, “I can bring in more revenue for your company during these hours.” Basically speak to what means something to them.
Ultimately, we know we can’t change or fix other people but gaining knowledge is an important step toward identifying unhealthy characteristics and protecting ourselves accordingly.
Be discerning with whom you spend your time with, and how much you disclose to those around you.