Currently, I have at least three people in my life that probably could (or may already have been) be diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD).
Dealing with these people has proven a challenge but one that is certainly surmountable.
As a brief summary, two of these people are part of my personal life, the other is a professional colleague only. Regardless of the status of each person in my life, their ability to inflict damage has been great and only through measured management of the situation have I been able to get through unscathed.
There are two primary types of narcissist. However, there are obviously much more detailed sub types and variations. The further you dig, the further it goes.
Narcissist 1 (N1)
I have known most of my life and only in the past couple of years have I been aware of the narcissistic nature of this individual. It was only when the mask dropped (when I stopped complying) that I saw the true side. This person appears to be a “Vulnerable Narcissist”.
Narcissist 2 (N2)
I have known for a couple of years and identified this person as a narcissist almost immediately. Any attempt to build a real, positive and trusting relationship was blatantly manipulated. This person appears to be a “Grandiose Narcissist” albeit also appearing to suffer from delusions as their true capabilities are nowhere close to their own self-image.
Narcissist 3 (N3)
I have known this person professionally for years, albeit not closely since my first encounter. This person is quite clever in managing upwards whilst contributing to a consistent undercurrent of discontent throughout teams. Somewhat worryingly, this person is quite aggressive behind the scenes and has a modus operandi of making negative statements about others and if you do not challenge it, it is then portrayed as your opinion to others. Note: You do not have to agree with the person, you only have to omit challenging them for the opinion to become yours. This person appears to be a “Grandiose Narcissist”.
All three of these individuals, despite the differing types of narcissism, have some commonalities:
1. They are completely unaware or uncaring of how they are perceived by others.
N1 has acted concerned in the past about how they are perceived but this is part of the mask. N2 and N3 are unaware because they only care if a negative perception of them is going to have a negative consequence which usually is prevented through aggressive or underhanded behaviour. All three are generally viewed poorly by others, are not trusted and their trickery is obvious. N1 was probably an exception to the rule here as they were generally respected highly until they let the mask slip.
2. They all display contempt for others and believe in their own superiority.
N1 was frequently referred to as a “Sniper” which unfortunately I did not believe until it was too late. The “Sniper” reference relates to someone who hides in the background taking shots at people when they are unaware, usually through being very critical and judgmental. N2 believes that they are more cultured and learned than others and that everyone should serve them. N3 believes they are smarter and more accomplished than everyone else. The beliefs of each narcissist here are actually quite inaccurate.
3. They have never shown true, genuine remorse.
Any regret is feigned to de-escalate pressure and is forgotten shortly afterwards.
4. All have been able to successfully appear emotional with me.
Knowing I am empathetic, they were able to fake emotion to get me on side. Those emotions are not real.
5. All have constructed elaborate lies about people I know (or myself) when things are not going their way.
It appears that those lies are believed by the narcissist when they talk about them. Two of them have even lied directly to me about matters involving me and I am sure they actually believed what they were saying.
6. All three are cowardly and bullying in their behaviour.
7. All three appear engaging and friendly in their interactions with people they have just met.
8. They have no intention of changing.
They will live out their life seeking only what is best for them.
So, how do you deal with a narcissist?
Before I understood what a narcissist truly was, I tried the usual approaches to build or rebuild relationships with N1 and N3. This included reason, understanding and compromise. This was probably the worst thing I could have done. Any reason, any conversation, any attempt at fixing a situation was manipulated. And sometimes horribly so.
Given I was able to identify N2 early based on my experiences with N1 and N3, I was well aware of how to handle the situation.
But in my experience, there are only two things you can do when you are dealing with a narcissist.
The first thing to do is to disengage completely.
Realise that every single interaction you have, whether it is positive or negative only fans the flame for the narcissist. Every interaction is false and is only stored for future use by the narcissist. It can be twisted, manipulated or omitted. Disengagement only means one thing – zero contact. Don’t concern yourself with worry about being rude or feeling guilt. You simply cannot engage with the person. There is no price that makes dealing with a narcissist worth it. Silence is golden.
The second thing to do is to maintain your own self-esteem.
A narcissist’s greatest tool is to damage your own self-worth and then exploit your weakness. Stay strong and remember who you are. Keep your head held high, live your life well and do not let the narcissist wear you down. If you hear negative stories about yourself, let your actions and behaviours show people who you really are. After all, every time your conduct proves the narcissist wrong, you take a little win and they take a little loss. If you keep this path, eventually their lies all show as does your true self too.
All three of these narcissists play zero role in my life. Sure, they are there. Sure, they still play their little games. But these have no impact on me and each one lives a negative lifestyle that I am happy to be out of. Each day, the narcissist gets weaker through continuing to behave poorly, lose relationships and genuinely live unhappily. I get stronger through living positively, happily and without concern for the narcissists I know.