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Guest Post: 5 Ways to know if your friend is a narcissist

January 26, 2015 | By | 33 Replies Continue Reading

Guest blogger Meredith Resnick asks five questions to help you assess if your friend is a narcissist.

When it comes to narcissism in relationships, a little of it tends to go a long way in causing hurt and confusion. Does that mean you always have to dump the friendship? Not necessarily. But it is important to understand the limitations of the “friend”ship and adjust your expectations accordingly.

Here are five questions to ask yourself to help determine if your friend might be showing signs of narcissism. If you see a pattern, be very careful about the amount of trust, if any, you give this person and learn more about the disease of narcissism and if it might be poisoning your friendship:

When it comes to your secrets or fears, is the person a safe one to tell?

By safe I am referring to someone who tries to put herself in your shoes, who doesn’t judge your feelings, and who doesn’t mock your insecurities—either at the time of your telling, or down the line, to make herself look superior in order to 1) impress others or 2) to secure a kind of emotional dominance in your relationship as a way to make you “need” her more so you don’t abandon her. This is manipulation—and believe it or not it can be difficult to see.

Does your friend do the bait and switch?

Narcissists, in order to avoid abandonment (which is a very profound fear), frequently change their allegiances. The stunning part is how quickly they shift. They might tell you one week that something is absolutely wonderful, but if you disagree they shun you. By the time you agree with them they’re off to the next thing, but not before humiliating you—preferably in public—for not agreeing with them in the first place. The public humiliation may have nothing to do with the actual object you loved or didn’t love, but with their unconsciously perceived rejection of them as an extension of the loved or hated object!

Does your friend know how to give?

Some people are polished askers—others are more of demanders. Either way, when you ask for the same they always seem to refuse, sometimes with a righteous reason why they are “unfortunately not comfortable” with giving, loaning, offering, compromising, helping, supporting, or lending a hand. This is often the case even though what you are asking for is often very close to what they had asked you for—and received.

Where is the love?

Perhaps one of the hardest things is coming to terms with the fact that your best friend isn’t really a friend after all—or, rather, the kind of friend you’d hoped she would be. Friends have compassion; they have empathy. Does this friend mock your feelings even whilst she’s demanded your attention and support when she was experiencing the very same difficulties awhile back? Is what’s good for her off limits for you (when it comes to her supplying it)?

Do you feel yanked?

This is another way of asking if you feel used or manipulated, or icky or duped or even emotionally violated after seemingly benign encounter with your friends. Sure, people get into tiffs, but does the anxiety you feel, and the confusion you experience seem out of proportion to the incident or incidents? Does the “friend” scold you for feeling this way, or for “attacking” her? Is there a pattern to this behavior?


About the author:

Meredith Resnick is a writer, clinical social worker and former therapist. She is is the author of Surviving the Narcissist: 30 Days of Recovery: Whether You’re Loving, Leaving, or Living With One and Narcissism: Surviving the Self-Involved and is working on a new book about narcissistic parents.

Surviving the Narcissist

Surviving the Narcissist

Narcissim: Surviving the Self-Involved

Narcissim: Surviving the Self-Involved

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Category: Narcissists

Comments (33)

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  1. jan says:

    call this venting if you will since the person in question never has the time or patience to acknowledge my needs in the relationship. all roads lead to him regardless. we are far enough into this friendship to realize that everything in the debit column is on my side. it has taken a while to understand all this but the exhaustion this person causes me is palpable. he is interesting to listen to because he does have so many interests but strangely they are all of the me, me, me, variety making one wonder what if any part I have in such a one sided friendship. such people most certainly do exist and are most clever and manipulative so buyer beware, disentangling such a person is painful when you add up all the losses they have inflicted on you over time. forgive them, but I can assure you with all certainty don’t let your guard down with them ever again, they love having you under foot.

  2. Kiki says:

    My former BF of 25 years is a narcissist; it took years for me to figure all out. For a narcissist everyone is a threat to their idea of self. Any improvement in my life she downgraded, which I think eventually intensified a mixture of her deep-rooted emptiness and jealousy. She lived in another state, so I just didn’t have a clear picture of how she treated others…and me behind back. She is the type of woman who would blow up, and try to turn the tables, typical narcissist. Eventually I accepted she really was a frenemy, so I simply stopped talking to her, unfriended her with another word. Also typical of a narcissist, I heard from her over a year later in a bizarre text, which I ignored. When her text didn’t receive the attention she desired, she sent a second snotty text, which I ignored again. It all felt awful, but I had to let her go as she was just too toxic. I still miss her her her, but I don’t miss all the negativity. Maybe someday she will evolve and apologize…a friend can dream.

  3. Madhater says:

    So sad to come across a person who seemed so legit and so real, only to suffer and feel pain, anger, regret, contempt, and wasted sympathy on one of the greatest con artit’s of the world. But what was the motive and why me. Why am or was the target of a narcissist? It had to be jealousy. That would make the most sense

  4. jeanine barone says:

    Great guidelines. I think I have great radar in terms of detecting narcissists pretty quickly. It’s all about them.

  5. Alakiki says:

    Narcissist are very, very manipulative, and are experts at telling you what you need to hear to get THEIR desired goal. They can mimic any and every emotion, and you believe them. You will buy everything they sell. They actually appear normal, so thinking a self-absorbed friend is a narcissist is kind of stretch. Narcissist seem GENUINE in every capacity, and usually you won’t know what hit you until they are done with you and what you provided (and even then you will believe in their projected goodness). It isn’t easy to see a narcissist (they are chameleons), but it is easy to think you have experienced one when you have experienced some other misbehavior.

    • Sabrinna says:

      I honestly believe you know when you’ve met one. After the fact, the pain they’ve caused is very evident. At the time, there’s a not-quite-right-but-I-can’t-quite-put-my-finger-on-it feeling accompanied with strong highs and lows of emotion. Over time the fascade wears away, they’ve got you and they know it. They invest less and less energy in faking behaviour.

  6. Sabrinna says:

    A common factor I’ve noticed is ‘N’s mimic expected behavioural norms. They know what responses they should have and attempt to make a show of having them. A ‘friend’ may have just had a disappointment in life and barely begin to express it. The ‘N’ will cut them off with, “I know exactly how you feel…” and then proceed to take centre stage with ten stories of their own, ending with, “At least it’s not as bad as what I ecperienced.” They believe they’re relating and sharing and thus showing empathy when really they’re discounting the other persons disappointment as minor, over-inflating their experience as much more real, cutting the other person off and switching the topic onto themselves.

    We all may do this once or twice during our insensitive moments but the ‘N’ makes a habit of it.

    • Naomi Hately says:

      You are so very right! Their is a “friend” who does this to everyone. I have put up with it for years because I thought they meant no harm, but after awhile it wears you down. But how do you fix it?, telling them ? Or walking away?. You explained it perfectly

    • Naomi Hately says:

      You are so very right! Their is a “friend” who does this to everyone. I have put up with it for years because I thought they meant no harm, but after awhile it wears you down. But how do you fix it?, telling them ? Or walking away?. You explained it perfectly But how do you deal with it to protect yourself from it?

      • Sabrinna says:

        Hi. I tried talking to her very gently about it many, many times. In the end, after 24 years of trying, I left. I wish I’d given up in the beginning. She was so hateful and dismissive of me by tge time I ended the friendship. And to this day, she’s trying to undermine my other friendships by saying that I left her when she needed me the most. This, after 24 years of effort.

        I can’t tell you what to do in your situation. I can only say, I’d run if I wver encountered this again.

    • Naomi Hately says:

      I have a friend who constantly has to out do everyone and draws every conversation back to themselves. If you had a misfortune then they have had it and had it worse, if you do so ring they have to do it. It’s gotten to the point that I find them hard to be around, recently they asked me why everyone seems to not want to talk to her. How do I tell her ….or do I ?

  7. Ruth pennebaker says:

    i highly recommend this book. Meredith is one of the most perceptive writers around.

  8. tanja says:

    I have known this one “friend” since kindergarten. She is a narcisst. Everything changes. She can call me and tell me of bad situations etc, but that could change in the next hour. She is very fickle. She may want to see me but only because she is hurt with her boyfriend etc and then the next day, say as if everything is cool, i am not coming not realizing that I may have really wanted to see her as well. She does not consider my feelings at all. It is just all about her.

  9. HeatherL says:

    Some great guidelines. Thanks for sharing.

  10. Van says:

    I’ve been interested in narcissism for the past several years since I had to cut off communication with my father. Subsequently, I realized he was a narcissist. In particular he would point out other people’s weaknesses to justify his bad behaviour, manipulate family members into taking his side against others, make constant demands without showing genuine interest in others, and vilify anyone who stood up to him.

    I worried that I was also a narcissist. I have trouble listening well, sometimes talk about myself too much, and tend to put down loved ones when I’m irritated. I asked my therapist about this.

    “You’re not a narcissist. I’ve never seen any evidence that you lack empathy for other people,” she said. “Self-absorbed, maybe. People who have experienced trauma often need to be self-absorbed in order to recover.”

    I went through a period of emotional trauma some years ago, and although my family wasn’t directly involved, they didn’t help either. For years I’d been distracted by their interests, longing for empathy, rather than simply getting on with looking after myself. Since I stopped answering my father’s phone calls two years ago, I’ve been better able to take responsibility for my own needs.

    It was important for me to distinguish between being narcissistic and self-absorbed. Self-absorbed people may be preoccupied with themselves, and it can hurt their relationships, but they know how to put themselves in another’s shoes and can grow better at considering the real needs of others.

    A true narcissist is incapable of empathy. Such a person probably realizes his world revolves around himself and wants it that way.

    • Amy F says:

      I disagree that true narcissists lack empathy. People who lack empathy (among other things) have anti-social personality disorders. Narcissists lack perspectives, they have difficulty seeing the POVs of others and that they are not the center of everyone’s worlds. Narcissists often grew up with overindulgence and an overexpression of their own importance in relationships. Many are only or favored children of well meaning parents. They may appear selfish on the surface, when they really never learned how to delay gratitude or accept disappointment. Some grew up learning that they can rely one no one other than themselves and have overcompensated by learning to only think of themselves as a defense mechanism.
      Everybody has some narcissistic traits, we need to or we wouldn’t have any sense of self. When those traits get in the way of relationships, education, career, that’s the difference between a disorder and having a few quirks.
      Chances are if you’re worried you might be a narcissist, you probably aren’t. The nature of narcissists problems are that everyone else is the problem.

      • Sabrinna says:

        I have met four narcissists. None of them were only children. One was a woman with a twin brother. One was the oldest of two. One was the youngest of two. One was the middle child of 5. You’re grossly generalising an extremely convoluted condition.

        • Kiki says:

          Sabrinna – I agree.

        • dw77 says:

          I agree with Sabrinna as well. The narcissists I have known are not only children. They are, however, all children of very manipulative, critical parents, or downright abusive parents. They seen to be the kids who probably had symptoms of reactive attachment disorder, though this is clearly not universal.
          Also, every one I have known has low or no empathy, but some have learned to fake it very well. Yet, in unguarded moments, they reveal their callousness. I think low empathy is very much a part of narcissism – the ability to treat people very badly and really think only of the self is a great indicator of empathetic deficit.

      • GraceW says:

        Okay, I have a question: If narcissists lack perspective, i.e., the ability to see someone else’s POV, how can they have empathy? Isn’t empathy the ability to imagine or understand how someone else is feeling by imagining yourself in that person’s place?

        • Sabrinna says:

          I personally believe ‘N’s are incapable of empathy. They are, however, very clever and have learned how to mimic behaviour that gives the impression of empathy. They have learned what behaviour rewards and what behaviour punishes and they’ve learned how to use rewarding behaviour to manipulate others into centralising the ‘N’.

      • Jane says:

        Actually, lacking empathy is one of the diagnostic criteria of narcissistic personality disorder. Their lack of empathy and exploitation of others is on par with antisocials. The only difference is that Narcissists are very needy for other people, while Antisocials aren’t as much.

      • LaTrice says:

        First off Amy, I disagree with what you’re saying about narcissists do express empathy-which to me is NOT true! Again, they do lack empathy, because they’re determined just to get what they want from the people that love and care about them, and if things don’t go their way, they will continue to be manipulative. No matter how worse things could get, narcissists care about no one else but themselves, and will continue to use people for their own personal gain.

        I know that I don’t have narcissistic traits, because I’m NOT that kind of person. Unfortunately, no one knows the reasons why people are narcissists, and we will NEVER know the reasons behind their actions.

        • Sarah says:

          Latrice, you are so right! The fact that you inquire or worry that you may have any “N” traits proves your aren’t a narcissist. Someone who is narcissistic has no insight about their behavior.

      • Sarah says:

        Amy F, you are greatly misunderstanding narcissism.

        Granted, we all have a level of narcissism (called healthy narcissism a.k.a. self worth and self esteem).

        What the author is referring to is Pathological Narcissism (full blown NPD) in addition to unhealthy narcissistic traits. People like this HAVE NO EMPATHY. They may have a glimmer of fake sympathy but it falls short of real empathy. It actually comes across as phony.

        NPD/Unhealthy Narcissists actually expect to be the center of everyone else’s world. They really expect to be considered first. As children, I can assure you that they do not grow up in overindulgent households. They grow up in traumatic ones.

        The benchmark of any personality disorder is lack of insight. BTW, anti social personality disorder is “a pervasive pattern of disregard for, or violation of, the rights of others” which is an entirely different animal than narcissism. They lack a morality chip in their brain.

        I don’t mean to sound like a “know it all.” I do however feel it is important to fully understand what is going on. You cannot change someone with the “bad kind” of narcissism. They will make your life miserable!

        Van is spot on because of a parent having NPD. I also have a parent with a milder form of NPD.

        Amy, please read the DSM-V (Diagnostic and Statistic Manual) which describes clinically what NPD and ASPD really is as supposed to your interpretation.

      • Henry says:

        The narcissist I know was definitely not an only child, nor did she have a spoiled or affluent life. She was dirt-poor and has extreme abandonment issues. Narcissism has very many different looks, but very similar patterns. Not being argumentative, just pointing out a different example.

  11. Roxanne says:

    Maybe I’m fooling myself, but I don’t think I’ve had any N’s in my life in any measurable way. I certainly see some people I know (not well) who seem to have an overabundance of drama in their lives.

  12. Amy F says:

    I define narcissists as: people who believe the words and behaviors of others should revolve around them, as if the earth was the center of the universe instead of the earth being one of many planets that revolve around the sun.

    For example:

    A narcissist will be insulted you skipped her birthday party due to the flu. If you really cared you would have shown up anyway.

    A narcissist will prioritize herself over everything else in your life.

    A narcissist won’t care that you have different needs than she does: introverts who expect extroverts to cater to their needs, extroverts who expect introverts to change to meet their needs,
    people who expect others to read their minds, know what they want or “should have known”.

    • Sabrinna says:

      Gotta disagree with part of this. When an introvert requires personal space they’re not expecting anyone else to change. Their extroverted friends are free to be extroverts elsewhere. Extroverts often misread introversion as depression and will be concerned for their friends wellbeing, encouraging them to participate.

      The other examples can just be moments of selfishness or thoughtlessness.

      N’s have a ‘me, me, me’ in every facet of their being. They’re smarter, faster, better, more experienced, more successful, more misunderstood, more victimised, more special, more deserving etc than everyone else. It’s like stepping onto the set of ‘Friends’ except instead of 6 main characters, there’s only 1 with 5 bit-part, fascinated listeners holding onto every word uttered by the N.

  13. Alexandra says:

    This was very helpful as I consider getting back in touch with a friend from high school whom I haven’t seen in thirty years.

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