How to Spot an Undercover Narcissist
Humans in general are great at keeping things about themselves private, from feelings to personality traits. While smartphones and social networks are making these secrets more open, narcissists have and always will love being out in the open with everyone's attention on them.
They have nothing to hide. Or, do they?
We all know how annoying it is to socialize with a narcissist. If they're not too focused on themselves to even participate in the conversation, they're monopolizing it by bragging about how great they are. When you're around one, it feels as though everything revolves around them.
With personality trademarks such as being prone to arrogance, expressing feelings of superiority, and a need for others' admiration, narcissists aren't typically shy about their desire to be the center of attention. As you know, narcissists love to talk about themselves—and they do so way more than the average person.
Yet not all narcissists wear their self-love on their sleeve. Many appear normal and well-balanced at first glance. As the number of narcissists in the world increases daily, it's only becoming more difficult to decipher who's in love with themselves and who just really likes to share on social media, according to San Diego State University professor Jean Twenge.
One of the easier ways to ferret out a hidden narcissist is to look for subtle signs that indicate someone is only looking concerned about their image. Narcissists struggle to maintain relationships because they don't like to reign in their selfishness.
In her research on narcissists and empathy, psychologist Erica Hepper notes that for true narcissists, protecting the self is of utmost importance. This personality type won't let anything interfere with their ultimate goal of perfecting their image.
As a result, when faced with failure or criticism, Hepper points out that narcissists will avoid taking the blame. Instead, they will siphon it onto others—and that includes their "good" friends. Although they constantly seek attention, narcissists do not want to be involved in anything that might make them appear lesser to others.
Take notice of your friends' reactions to your suggestions. Undercover narcissists might react aggressively when criticized, or suddenly get snippy when they believe they are being rejected. Even the smallest bit of advice could make an undercover narcissist irritated.
Everyone loves telling stories about their friends—but anyone who prefers anecdotes that show their buddies in a bad light is probably a narcissist.
According to psychology researcher Stacey McGregor, narcissists love to include their friends and lovers when they share their accomplishments. Unfortunately, they aren't doing so to congratulate everyone; they're merely using their besties as a tool. This tactic paints the narcissist as the center of the story, highlighting their greatness and showing friends' shortcomings.
For example, did your coworker's retelling of yesterday's meeting focus on how you butchered your boss's name? Chances are, your coworker is using you to show how intelligent he or she is—and how dumb you are.
As Hepper found in her empathy research, narcissists cannot relate to others. They feel no need to relate to others or behave in a sympathetic manner when friends make mistakes. Instead, those mistakes become fuel that fires up their self-esteem.
Think narcissists can only feel pride? Think again. Surprisingly, narcissists give away subtle signs that they feel guilty about their bragging tendencies.
McGregor's aforementioned research argues that although narcissists love chatting about their accomplishments, they use more shame-related words than other personality types. Narcissists also tend to use shame-related words in tandem with pride-related words, utilizing the two types together when speaking.
This almost imperceptible difference in word choice can help you pinpoint which of your friends has a guilty conscience about their prideful attitude. The next time you head out to brunch with a group, listen carefully to who follows up their bragging with words like mortified and fault.
Tired of hearing about your friend's never-ending designer purchases? We know that narcissists love to talk about the awesome things they have (and of course, how much better they are than ours). However, narcissists hiding in plain sight offer up clues that what they own might not be enough to keep them happy.
When a narcissist feels they aren't quite measuring up to those around them in term of status, they begin mentioning money. In the same study, McGregor and her team found that when they perceive a potential threat to their standing, narcissists are quick to talk about cash.
Remember, they always need to be number one, so anyone who threatens that importance will cause narcissists to react in a slightly new way to preserve their self-esteem.
The next time you hear someone switch gears mid-conversation from their new car to how much they spent on said car, they aren't trying to share their finances with you—they're actually using money to make themselves feel better.
We're all a little narcissistic; after all, who doesn't love attention? But you might want to be wary of those who exhibit these small clues, for they could turn out to be your most fickle friends.
With these tips, you can look beyond what's on the surface and listen carefully for signs someone is hiding a self-involved personality. Of course, if you're guilty of the above behaviors, you might be the narcissist of your social circle—and in that case, watch what you say!