5 signs you’re talking to a narcissist

5 minute read

Is there something a bit off with someone you know? Does everything always seem to be on their terms, or maybe they appear uninterested in anyone other than themselves? It could be that this someone has Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), because these are things narcissists do when talking to you!

But how can you tell whether they are pathologically narcissistic or not? Whilst the behavioural patterns of NPD are precisely what cause the damage they are notorious for creating, they also have an upside in that they offer ways of picking up signs of possible trouble when getting to know someone.

This article looks at conversational red flags you can use to save yourself agony of future narcissistic abuse by refusing to let them into your life any further!

Setting the scene

Understanding what lies behind the NPD mask gives you context for their behaviour and why they do the things they do in conversation.

The pathological narcissist is recognisable by a pervasive and marked need for admiration and attention, belief in their superiority and self-importance, and lack of empathy.

Narcissists have a high sense of entitlement expecting others to comply with their needs. They will pursue any means necessary to ensure these are satisfied, including exploiting others.

This set of traits creates all sorts of harm in relationships. Undoubtedly, self-focus to the exclusion of all others precludes the capacity for genuine, healthy relationships. Depending on where the individual finds themselves on the spectrum of narcissism, they may indeed also be abusive.

The good news is that once you know what to look for, it is possible to detect these traits in action giving you the chance to save yourself from letting the narcissist in to your life in any meaningful way.

Conversation is one such situation where the peculiarities of narcissism are glaringly obvious…although the use of the term ‘conversation’ is used verrry loosely here!

Ordinarily, dialogue involves an exchange between people consisting of both conveying and receiving information, i.e.: speaking and listening. For the non-narc, conversation is a two-way interaction, generally premised on mutual interest.

Narcissist or not?

Not so with the pathological narcissist, hence the apparent signs when you are talking to one. Their core belief that everything revolves around them is reflected in uni-directional interaction: the spotlight must always be on them.

Let’s check out how this plays out, arming you with 5 things that may just let you know when you’re talking to a narcissist.

Things narcissists do when talking to you

1.     Oh how they love the sound of their own voices!

Because the narcissist is fixated on themselves, nothing is ever going to be as melodious to their ears as the sound of their own voice.

In the presence of true narcissists, particularly overt ones, you may notice that you barely get a word in edgewise. Instead, you are the recipient of verbal diarrhea, the dumping ground of anything that pops into their heads.

You’ll notice that you provide this dumping service when awareness hits that you’ve barely said two words. In fact, when you scan your memory banks thinking back on past interactions, you realise this is pretty much par for the course.

2.      The lyrics to their melody go like this ‘me, me, me, me’

Not only is air time extremely unbalanced, the omnipresent theme in interactions is ‘me, me, me’. Their day, their needs, their achievements, how special they are, the myriad ways they bless the world with their presence etc.

The torrent of self-praising proclamations mixed up with scathing critiques of others rarely pauses long enough for basic pretence at interest in you to make an appearance. Use of questions such as ‘how are you’ or ‘how was your day’?

'Hello, how are you' and other pleasantries aren't used

If you do happen to smash through their wall of self-obsessed sound with an ‘off-topic’ comment that relates to yourself, as sure as the sun will rise tomorrow, they will bring it back to themselves. Often with a sense of competition & a dose of projection thrown in for good measure.

It might sound something like this. You: ‘I’ve had a hard day, it would be great to talk it through you’. Narc: ‘Hard day? It’s nothing compared to what I’ve had to put up with! You’ve got no idea how rough things are for me. All we ever do is talk about you’.

3.      Listening is not a thing for the narc…unless it serves a purpose

A logical consequence to the verbal diarrhoea and irrelevance of your existence as a party to the exchange, is that listening is not a thing the pathological narcissist need concern themselves with.

This means that listening to you, in the sense of hearing what you have to say in order to relate, is to their minds is superfluous.

Why would they?

The two of you are present together so that you can do your job: to listen and pander to them. Exclusively.

Posturing may take place mimicking what listening looks like in conversation, but the essence of being heard is absent. Ever scratched your head thinking, but I just told you that yesterday or even two seconds ago?

This is the faux-ear at work, most commonly employed when either they are love-bombing or hoovering you into believing in they are caring, supportive people, and there for you in every way (for more on this see How the narcissist hooks you: Hoovering & baiting).

On the other hand, the abusive narcissist CAN apply uncanny listening skills for the purpose of collecting information to manipulate you. This aptitude is essential for crafting their gaslighting strategies, and when using your words against you in smear campaigns (for more on these abusive techniques read 5 ways to counteract the narcissist’s gaslightingNarcissists and smear campaigns: Why they do it & What can be done to stop the narcissist’s smear campaign).

4.      Steamrolling

Because of their unquenchable desire for attention and belief in their absolute entitlement, the pathological narcissist is perpetually unsatisfied and impatient.

This is evident in their bloody-minded dedication to monopolise exchanges through the monolgue approach above, as well as through steamrolling tactics. These pop up when they interrupt you, talk loudly over the top of you, interject your heartfelt sharing moment with more unrelated self-focused diatribes etc.

Sure we all do these occasionally, but the NPD’d individual consistently rolls them out, in an entitled fashion to arrest any deviation from what really matters: focus on them.

5.      Their body language

On top of steamrolling tactics, impatience is detectable in mannerisms. Eagerness to return the spotlight to them if momentarily being shared with you, is as plain as day in their body language.

Fidgeting and general restlessness, huffing and puffing, sighing, looking past you, multi-tasking by playing on devices while ‘relating’ to you, eye rolling, smirking etc.

These are all examples of the narcissist devaluing you, conveying your lack of importance to them to hurry you back to the issue of significance, which is of course, them.

Who will you choose to chat with?

In reviewing these red flags, you may think ‘but I do this or that sometimes…surely writing people off for doing one of these things is a bit harsh isn’t it’?

Yes, we do all succumb to these less than socially pleasing errings every now and then…but we also then swiftly endeavour to stop doing them when we realise this is the case.

We aim to grow and change, evolving better versions of ourselves for our benefit and that of those around us.

This intent we have for others by reflecting outwardly our inner desire to care for them, is however absent for the pathological narcissist. Their conversational style will not change, because neither will their fundamental traits of self-involvement, entitlement, and superiority.

So gorgeous one. Let me ask you this: surely you deserve more than serving as a dumping ground to others?

Make your answer a resounding YES.

Forget about sharing your precious self and any of your finite time on this planet with anyone other than those who contribute to your life in a positive way. Whether they be pathologically narcissistic (or other Cluster B personality disordered), or just plain toxic.

Offer your wonderful self only to people who lift you up and help you live out your best life. Seek these ones out, and refuse entry to those who simply have nothing but pain to offer you.

live your best life

I’d love to hear other things you’ve picked up that narcissists do in conversation in the comments section below. The more we share, the more we teach and help one another in pursuing lives of freedom & joy!

With gratitude,

Maggie x


Note – If you’re reading this article about someone you are already in a more intimate relationship with, these behaviours will be recognisable as well as a bunch of other more intense ones.

Check out the following articles for additional signs that could suggest you are dealing with a pathological narcissist:

10 thoughts

  1. What about the female narc’s “self-aggrandizement” through pity and lies about her “tortured” life at the hands of her hateful, evil famil? These overblown, fictitious tales spin so fast they blur because they are designed to lure the unsuspecting target into her sticky web during the mesmerizing early stages of their relationship? When her stories repeatedly cause your eyebrows to fly off the top of your head, run!

    The other clue is how she treats your children, the one or ones that are not hers. She will fake it early on, pretend to want to play. But those around you not under her spell will see what you don’t! It will show in photos too, when her narc mask slips, but you will refuse to see that also, until it’s too late, until she’s a legal, evil step-mother.

    And if she has her own child, the inequality under one roof will be obvious and heart-breaking, but you still won’t see it. You won’t even see it on when she walks out on you and your three year old little girl who can’t breathe because of a severe asthma attack, a little person who just wants to have fun but knows she’s on her way to the ER again. But the narc will announce her family (the hateful one!) is waiting for her so all the kids can have their Easter egg hunt, and she’ll see her new husband later if “she’s any better!”

    You won’t see anything she does to your children or your family because this evil woman you married has you isolated and controlled. Hers is the only voice in your head. And when the voice of reason tries to intrude, you push it away because with that logic comes the accompanying realization that this spellbinding witch could do the same thing to you that she’s done to others. And you are far too great a coward to be her victim. You don’t even realize you already are.

    1. Dear MakennaCharles. Your message is full of (rightful) hurt. My heart goes out to you. I can feel your rage for what this person has put you through. But you know what, anger over what you describe is a wonderful thing. Because you are feeling and processing what you have endured, which is entirely necessary for healing to take place.
      The other thing that I’m getting from your message, perhaps wrongly, is a fair dose of anger directed at yourself. But dear MakennaCharles, is it fair to do so? Is this person not masterful at deception (as described in your message)? If so, can you blame yourself for being deceived? To my mind, the answer must be no. I do understand why you feel how you do. Logic is not sufficient when muddied by the painful and confused emotional damage of abuse. But maybe you might contemplate these questions for a bit?
      May I also point out, that you would indeed not be writing the message you have, if you had not come to a point of seeing straight through the fabrications. Forgive yourself MakennaCharles. You have only been guilty of an open, loving heart. And there is no shame in this. Only cause for celebration.
      Take all that passion & compassion that lives in you MakennaCharles, and give it to yourself for a while. You have much to be grateful for that resides in you.
      You are on your way to your freedom & joy from the suffering. You may not believe this. But you will. Sending you light, love and self-forgiveness, Maggie x

  2. What I get in conversations with my narc is a couple things. If I decide to talk about my day or my kids or friends it’s complete staring out the window. Doesn’t even look at me. I may be telling a funny story and laughing so hard, what drew him to me was how happy I was, and he’ll make no expression at all. Where as normal people would laugh just cuz I’m laughing. I would say how can u not laugh. How is that not funny and his response would be, I’m just not an overly laughing person. Yet he’s constantly listening to Kevin hart radio and laughing. Or of course his own stories. So I stopped sharing stories. Another huge one I’ve learned my lesson on is asking for his advice on something that benefits me or makes me grow. I recently saved my work a lot of money and I’m asking him how I can approach this to maybe get a raise. He then spent the whole time spinning it to how and why I shouldn’t. I used to time him on how long he could talk. Then I started with how long he could talk without me saying anything. I used to ask questions or nod or agree. Normal conversation ques. Anyways, I called him out on his negativity and unsupportiveness when I asked him his advice on how to get a raise. Now this is a man who has inspired me multiple times to ask for what I deserved in terms of my employer and now all of a sudden I shouldn’t. Granted me getting a raise puts my pay higher than his. So when I called him out on it oh boy the rage was enormous and then it was everything I did wrong which also included negativity. So I took this same conversation to an old friend. Told him my accomplishments and what I thought I deserved. And the response was a complete 180. He was supportive and encouraging and gave his opinions.

    Another point, we workout together. I recently had major surgery (of course he deserted me that day and the couple after and came back like nothing happened), and needed six weeks with no physical activity. I just got cleared to start back and so I ask, how should I ease back into this. His response. Slowly. So then I say, I’m kind of looking for more like routines. And still got some other lame response that he can’t think of anything. So I thanked him for his advice and then he told me he loved me. Now this man has 22 inch biceps. He spends 4 hours at the gym 5x a week. Has a huge passion for working out and taught me everything. Other men come up and ask for advice and he goes on and on as he’s done in the past with me. I take his lack of helping me to be on some level he knows when I lose this 10 pounds again I’ll be more confident and other men will come on to me.

    I’m at a point I know I need to get out of this. I’ve tried. But I fail every time cuz I’m so messed up that going hours or days without him sends me in a complete tailspin. It’s seriously like withdrawal. I can go on with so many stories that we’ve all experienced ourselves. I’m not financially dependent on him. We have no kids together. But I just can’t leave him. Or if he leaves me, which happens often, I’m a mess. I’m a very strong independent women. Or at least used to be. It’s still in there. I just need to bring her back out.

    1. Dear Narc addict.
      Thank you for sharing with us all your story, and also some of the things you’ve picked up in ‘conversation with the narc’. Although I hate that you have needed to share it as it means you have experienced what you surely don’t deserve, your telling your story will resonate for others trying to figure out what is going on.
      It sounds like you are onto it. You know what is going on. And now that you are onto it, you are wrestling with your inner stuff. I could’t agree with you more – it is an addiction. It is precisely like withdrawal, because it IS withdrawal.
      The chemical reactions that occur from the trauma bonding, and intermittent hits of love bombing from the narc, are the drug. It is very difficult to break this, but gorgeous one, you can do it.
      You are in fact already on your way. It comes when you are fully awake to the pattern of this. It comes when you realise, ‘hang on, when I look at all of this, maybe 5% of the time (if I’m being generous) is made up of what I crave: the love bombing; and 95% is hell on earth’. Heard of 12 step programs? Well, when you then say OK, that 95% is a lot of the time. AND you get real with yourself in no longer diminishing the impact of that 95% on your life. It’s when you can finally say ‘because of this situation, my life has become unmanageable’. Then you have two choices: 1. Go with the addiction knowing your life is no longer your own because of the narcissist. Or, 2. Decide to do whatever you need to do to withdraw knowing this is the only way to get your life back.
      Which will you choose dear Narc addict?
      Please choose you.
      You’ve got this. A thousand times over, you’ve got this. I’m not denying how very hard it will be. It will be hard. But are you not worth it? Buckets of self-belief, courage, strength, dogged determination, chocolate, light & love to you gorgeous one. Maggie x

  3. i dont know if im a narc, i have somehow not too good relationship
    but when i willing to talk about it, i said to my ex with alot of “i…… i…… i……..” she felt little bit mad, cz i used much of those words

    am i consider a narc with it, mean the way i talked to her?
    she said that i only care my own feeling with those words
    and consoider that i never think about how she felt….

    1. Dear am i narc? What do you think? You are clearly doing research about whether you might be or not. Which suggests that this would be of concern to you if the answer were yes. Dear am i narc?, this in itself suggests that it is unlikely that you are. Another clue in your message that indicates the same, is that you state a) you are not too good with relationships, and b) are willing to talk about it. In these words you are taking accountability for stuff that could be improved, and demonstrating openness to growth. Taking responsibility, acknowledging yourself as imperfect (yet entirely gorgeous being I am sure), and willingness to discuss these to improve your relationship and yourself are not markers of narcissism. They are the opposite. Have you read and ? It might be worth reading these and asking yourself what you think. Dear am i narc?, be gentle with yourself. There isn’t a person on this planet who is beyond working on improving the way they relate to others. Not. One. Person. We are all on this same journey of learning and growing. And the fact that you are gorgeous one deserves kudos and respect. High five to you am i narc?. Light & love to you. Maggie x

      1. thankyou that you really concern about narcissist, cz i really dont know am i a narcissist , my ex always said “dont you think all of the conversation was always about you”
        i only want to share my feeling, yet she missconcept that i only care about my feeling
        it really makes me confuse, as a man.

        yet i always say “im sorry cz i almost ruin everything”, i do my best to apologize
        and now i hope that she got someone who could love her more than i ever done, someone who really care about her, and someone who she could rely on

        now id like to learn about human behavior
        not to judge them, but to understand more about the reason of way they behave
        you seems already success on recovery from psychological abuse
        thankyou, for your article….. it helps me to understand some people with those traits
        and i hope with your article you can help anyone who suffer a narcissistic abuse

      2. Dear am i narc?, thank you. With every word it is clear you are caring man. Expressing yourself and acknowledging how you feel is necessary. Kudos for having the courage to do so. Sending you all you might need on the journey you are on, and that you get speedily to the place you want to be. Light & love to you am i narc?. Maggie x

  4. Am I married to a Narc? I was on this site to try to help a friend who both she and I believe that she is married to a narc. She is getting ready to file papers for legal separation from her narc husband. But in reading this article sign number 5 especially resonated with me and my situation with my husband. When I try to share with him about things that are important to me his impatience is detectable right away in his mannerisms and he doesn’t even try to hide it. His eagerness to turn the conversation back to what he is interested in is as plain as day. Like the article states, he starts fidgeting, hugging and puffing, sighing, looking past me, multi-tasking by looking at something on his computer, etc. It is very rude. My husband does all of these things to me!!!

    1. Dear Am I married to a Narc? It would seem that given you were researching for a friend you rather than yourself, it may not be relevant to you. We must remember that we all have a level of narcissism within us. It’s about whether it is within one in a healthy dose, or whether one is at the other end of the spectrum where it becomes toxic & abusive. Perhaps it might be Am I married to a Narc? that you could be working on challenges with your husband that are within the relationship (which is entirely normal) rather than it being abusive? Of course, the pickle is to know which one it is. Which is when I come back to you stating you began reading for your friend. What do you think is happening for you? You will know deep down what is more relevant for you. Listen to your inner voice & take steps from there. Light & love to you Am I married to a Narc?, and bless you for supporting your friend. Maggie x

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