“I love talking about being me. I’m an influencer simply by being ME!” ― Anonymous
“It’s not easy being superior to everyone I know.” ― Anonymous
“Some people try to be tall by cutting off the heads of others” ― Paramhansa Yogananda
The DSM-5 defines Narcissistic Personality Disorder as “a pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts.” In our highly individualistic, materialistic, and status-driven society, narcissism is a pervasive and often destructive phenomenon.
Many chronic narcissists communicate in ways to demonstrate their false superiority, conceit, and entitlement, and to manipulate, exploit, and control relationships. Here are eight common traits of a narcissistic communicator, with references from my books How to Successfully Handle Narcissists and A Practical Guide for Narcissists to Change Towards the Higher Self. Some people may occasionally be guilty of the traits below, which might not be a major issue. A chronic narcissistic communicator will habitually engage in one or more of the following machinations. They remain unaware of (or unconcerned with) how their character flaws and relational shortcomings affect others.
(Narcissistic communication does not always mean the speaker is a pathological narcissist. Some people simply have poor communication skills. However, if an individual continues to communicate in the following ways even after becoming aware, and persists in marginalizing, invalidating, and/or manipulating others, there’s a good chance you may be dealing with a narcissist.)
1. Hoarding Conversation Time
“My partner’s idea of having a ‘great talk’ is one where he does the talking, and I the listening. ― Anonymous
Healthy conversation is a two-way street, with each party taking turns speaking and listening with mutual interest. A narcissist communicator allows little or no space for others. They dominate and hoard conversation time by focusing primarily on what they want to talk about (holding court), while paying little or no interest to other people’s thoughts, feelings, and priorities. In a real dysfunctional sense, the narcissist communicator is self-centered and self-absorbed.
2. Controlling Conversation Topic
“That’s enough of me talking about myself; let’s hear you talk about me.” ― Anonymous
In addition to hoarding conversation time, narcissistic communicators also tend to control and direct conversation topics. They focus on what they want to talk about, the way they want to talk about it, with little or no consideration for alternate views. Other parties in the conversation are not treated as equitable communication partners. Even when the other person manages to get a point of view in, the narcissist communicator may listen briefly, acknowledge little or none, and change the topic right back to her or himself.
3. Frequently Interrupts
“My father’s favorite responses to my views were: ‘but…,’ ‘actually…,’ and ‘there’s more to it than this…’ He always has to feel like he knows better.” ― Anonymous
A clear sign of a narcissist communicator is the tendency to constantly interrupt when you’re speaking. This is done either to cut you off in order to put the attention (and control) back to him, or to correct, judge, minimize, and/or invalidate what you’re saying. By frequently interrupting, the narcissist communicator also reinforces her or his false sense of conceit and entitlement.
4. Unempathetic Listening
“You’re sick? But what about driving me to the mall?” ― Anonymous
Since narcissists focus mostly on themselves, many are notoriously poor listeners. Signs of poor listening include the aforementioned traits of hoarding time, monopolizing topics, and being rude with interruptions. Significantly, narcissistic communicators often show a remarkable lack of acknowledgment or validation for what the other person has said, even when what is shared is important, personal, and/or vulnerable. Little or no regard is shown for who you are as a human being. This striking lack of connectedness with others often explains why many narcissists have few genuinely healthy and loving close relationships.
5. Excessive Aggrandizement & Self-Praise
“My fiancé and I each drive a Mercedes. The best man at our upcoming wedding also drives a Mercedes.” ― Anonymous
“She likes to drop the phrase ‘I’m a lawyer’ into every social conversation, no matter how irrelevant.” — Anonymous
“My mom used to love dolling me up in cute dresses, even though I was a tomboy by nature. I think she felt that when I received compliments for my appearance, she looked good in reflection. It boosted her self-worth.” ― Anonymous
Face-to-face or in social media, narcissist communicators often enjoy flaunting, bragging, humble bragging, or dramatizing their supposedly envy-worthy lifestyle, praise-worthy achievements, attention-worthy dramas, and status/trophy-worthy relationships. Communication becomes s living advertisement and billboard of oneself.
Unfortunately, such grandiose exhibitionism frequently betrays a hollowness within, beset by insecurities, uncertainties, and fear. One may compensate for emptiness on the inside by boosting oneself superficially on the outside.
“What my mother displays in public and how she really is are very different.” ― Anonymous
6. False Superiority Complex
“Once again I saved the day - without me they’re nothing!” ― Anonymous manager
“He thinks he is a god because he’s a doctor.” — Anonymous
Having a false superiority complex is one of the most toxic traits of narcissism, whether it is extroverted (arrogant conceit) or introverted (quiet smugness). Since narcissism is often a desperate attempt to cover-up inner inadequacy (what Thoreau calls “quiet desperation”), some narcissists cannot feel good about themselves unless they put others down. To this extent, the narcissist may pathologically feel compelled to marginalize, judge, belittle, minimize, make-fun of, and/or discriminate. Without targeting victims to be their “inferior”, many narcissists feel like nobodies.
"If someone treats you bad, just remember that there is something wrong with them, not you. Normal people don't go around destroying other people." — Author unknown
7. Know-It-All and Unsolicited Advice
“You can actually look attractive if you put on some make-up.” — Anonymous man to woman
“I don’t want to meditate for so long. I think you should…” — Student to teacher at the start of meditation retreat
Since many narcissists believe they know better, they may frequently expound and pontificate as a “know-it-all” to prove their self-imagined importance. A related type is someone who offers boorish and unsolicited advice, even when highly inappropriate. In both cases, the narcissist violates boundaries by imposing their offensive pathology upon others to satisfy their egocentric and insecure needs (narcissistic supply).
8. Manipulation or Using Others as Extension of Self
“My ex-boyfriend rarely showed interest in me - unless he wanted something from me. ― Anonymous
This final characteristic of narcissistic communication is also one of the most destructive, where one communicates to manipulate and exploit others for selfish gain. Types of narcissistic manipulative communication include positive manipulation (i.e. insincere flattery, false promises), negative manipulation (i.e. blaming, criticizing, shaming), deception and intrigue (i.e. lying, excuse-making), strategic helplessness (i.e. victimhood, guilt-baiting), and hostility and abuse (i.e. temper tantrum, intimidation, coercion). Chronic narcissists do not relate. They use.
For tips on how to deal with narcissists, as well as how narcissists can change for the better, see references below.
© 2020 by Preston C. Ni. All rights reserved worldwide. Copyright violation may subject the violator to legal prosecution.
Ni, Preston. How to Successfully Handle Narcissists. PNCC. (2014)
Ni, Preston. A Practical Guide for Narcissists to Change Towards the Higher Self. PNCC. (2015)
Ni, Preston. Understanding Narcissism’s Destructive Impact on Relationships — An Indispensable Reader. PNCC. (2018)
Bursten, Ben. Some Narcissistic Personality Types. The International Journal of Psychoanalysis. (1973)
Buss DM, Gomes M, Higgins DS, Lauterback K. Tactics of Manipulation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol 52 No 6. (1987)
Mayo Clinic Staff, "Narcissistic Personality Disorder: Symptoms." Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2016)
Johnson, S. Humanizing the Narcissistic Style. W. W. Norton & Company. (1987)
Johnson, Stephen. Character Styles. W. W. Norton & Company. (1994)
Ornstein, Paul (ed). The Search for the Self. Selected Writings of Heinz Kohut: 1950-1978. Volume 2. International University Press. (1978)