Conflict Resolution,  Personality

Narcissists; How to Identify the Self-Centered, Self-Interested, Egotistical, Arrogant, and Conceited Among Us

Lisa and Geraldo divorced about three years ago. Geraldo was outraged, and let me make one thing perfectly clear, no one rejects Geraldo, ever, without paying a price. They currently share custody of their two adolescent sons, and Geraldo controls everything he can; the money, the pick up and drop off times, the good night calls, the food and the clothes… it must all be supervised according to Geraldo’s needs and desires. Everyone marches to the beat of his drum.

The most recent problem started with Thanksgiving. It wasn’t his turn to see the boys, but his parents were in town, and he got Lisa to agree to a schedule change. I think it is important to note here, that Geraldo gets everything he wants sooner or later. He doesn’t “get” Lisa to agree, he harasses her until she agrees. The problem was that the boys came to his house in the early afternoon, and he had been expecting them for the entire day. He was disappointed, angry and not about to forget the injustice inflicted upon him. In the spring, when it came time for each parent to sign a release for the children to take a church sponsored trip to England, he refused to sign. He was very clear as to why he wasn’t signing; it was because he had been disappointed Thanksgiving morning.

The stunning thing to me however is that he feels absolutely justified in his action. A trip to Europe is clearly equal in importance to his hurt feelings. The boys missed the trip.

Geraldo behaves like a Narcissist. Narcissists are only minimally capable of seeing a point of view beyond their own. They lack empathy. And to make matters worse, they believe that the rest of us are obsessed with thinking about them as well. This is part of the reason that Narcissists get so grumpy when they feel disrespected. The ability to imagine our perspective is simply not there.

Here’s another example. Several years ago, my friend Allen bought a business with his good friend Roberta. While they both invested the same amount of money, Roberta had no intention of being involved in the business; she just wanted to be called the CEO. She liked the title. The corporation attorney suggested otherwise, and Roberta had a meltdown. I know some of you are thinking, “How can that be?” Trust me, it can. This is a true story. Her emails were vitriolic, verbally abusive and just plain mean. Allen apologized, and agreed to let Roberta have the title, but the damage was done. Roberta was inconsolable. It is impossible for her to understand that Allen meant her no harm, and she has been verbally expressing her anger, both publicly and privately, for close to four years.

Several things make having to deal with a narcissist difficult, starting with the fact that any self-respecting narcissist will never admit having made a mistake. That’s way too ordinary. Give up expecting her to take responsibility for her part in a problem, and for heavens sake, DO NOT EVER disapprove of her. You will be in for a good long explanation as to why you are wrong.

In addition, don’t even bother trying to be understood. It isn’t going to happen. The primary objective when dealing with a narcissist, is to keep them from draining you dry. Decide exactly what it is you want from the arrangement, and if at all possible, be sure to get it in ADVANCE. Dr. Albert Bernstein said it well,

“The most important thing to remember is that narcissists are not thinking of you at all.”

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