How To Spot A Narcissist

Marriage Counseling Insights brought to you by California Psychotherapeutic Resources, Inc.

We all bring a lot of common sense to our relationships. If you’re pretty well grounded, you can probably spot someone who is, shall we say, “self oriented.” In everyday language you might hear someone at a party say, “Wow, that guy is so full of himself!”

A woman being shocked by a narcissist

We know what they’re saying — they’re describing someone who is egotistical and self absorbed. Not pretty. But when does a negative personality trait cross over into personality disorder? In the case of the Narcissistic Personality, you might use common sense and think you could spot someone when they are constantly using I-talk. I, I, me, me, myself, myself.

That’s where common sense falls short. As tempting as it is to see a correlation between I-talk and narcissism, research has revealed there is virtually no connection between I-talk and sub-clinical narcissism. So, if narcissists aren’t rambling on about themselves, what do they talk about? Accoriding to Alice G. Walton, writing for Harvard Medical School, narcissists “may actually talk about themselves less, preferring to make authoritative statements about the way things are rather than how they feel.”

If you want to spot a narcissist, says Walton, look for someone who has “absolute clarity about a situation, and an undying commitment to his or her opinion.”

Aside from having some fun at a party while you and a friend try to spot the narcissists in the room, what value is there in being able to identify narcissistic traits? On a personal level, one partner in a relationship may have to deal with their partner’s narcissism. So it’s good to know there may be more at work if you’re having more than the typical and occasional disagreement. And if you’re a business owner or human resources professional, you might want to brush up on the research behind narcissism because that kind of personality can often disrupt the workplace.

See the full Harvard article here.

Looking for even more information on narcissism? Here are a couple resources I recommend.

Check out Brian Jonhson’s series of videos called PhilosphersNotes. In the video relevant to this discussion (above), Brian summarizes the book, Rethinking Narcissism by Dr. Craig Malkin, one of the world’s leading researchers on the science of narcissism. In Malkin’s book, he talks about:

  • The original Greek myth of Narcissus
  • The narcissism spectrum
  • The concept of healthy narcissism
  • How to develop healthy narcissism in your kids (and by extension, in yourself)
  • The relationship between passion and compassion

Dr. Malkin has also developed a Narcissism Self-Test. The complete test is only available through his book, but he does offer a free abridged version on his website.