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.
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’?
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 gaslighting, Narcissists and smear campaigns: Why they do it & What can be done to stop the narcissist’s smear campaign).
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.
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!
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: