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How To Deal With A Narcissist: 5 Secrets Backed By Research


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Good line: "Don't fight narcissism. Starve it."

As Twenge and Campbell explain in The Narcissism Epidemic, it’s a myth that narcissism is just “high self-esteem” or that underneath it all narcissists are insecure and overcompensating.

Narcissists believe they really are that awesome — and you’re not. (The latter part doesn’t matter, narcissists don’t think about you much at all, frankly.)

How can you tell if someone is a narcissist? It’s easy; just ask them. Research shows narcissists feel so good about themselves they don’t mind admitting it.

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Here’s how to deal with a narcissist:

  • Don’t. Think haunted house. Get out of there first chance you can.
  • Kiss Up Or Shut Up. If they’re your boss or they have power over you, fighting makes it worse.
  • Know What You Want And Get Payment Up Front. Don’t assume they’ll play fair.
  • Ask, “What would people think?” They want to look good. If they think they’ll look bad, they’ll behave.
  • Be Dexter. If the dark side of The Force has you, channel your need to look awesome into helping others.

In the long run, narcissists almost always lose. We see plenty on TV, but those are the very few that got lucky. And, trust me, they’re not all happy.

Stay away if you can, otherwise you will be victimized by them or, even worse, you will become one of them. When I spoke to Stanford professor Bob Sutton, he told me his #1 piece of advice to students was this:

When you take a job take a long look at the people you’re going to be working with — because the odds are you’re going to become like them, they are not going to become like you.

And if you spend more time with good people you will become, um, good-er. Here’s Yale professor Nicholas Christakis:

We’ve shown that altruistic behavior ripples through networks and so does meanness. Networks will magnify whatever they are seeded with. They will magnify Ebola and fascism and unhappiness and violence, but also they will magnify love and altruism and happiness and information.

Every chance you get, surround yourself with people who are good to you. And be good to them.

Don’t fight narcissism. Starve it.

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