How to Describe a Narcissist to Someone…
*If you want to cut to the chase of this post – scroll to the bottom.
I was looking through the search terms in my stats which bring people to this blog – something I do on a fairly regular basis, often using them to inspire a post, because I’m interested in what interests other people.
I get about 2500 views a day, sometimes less sometimes more, and it boggles the mind because all I’m doing here is rambling about myself, my life, sharing my thoughts (which can be a confusing mess – sharing them is how I tidy them up, although I am using the word ‘tidy’ loosely), expressing emotions, and other oddities.
The majority of the search terms in my stats are focused on Narcissists and Capricorns – both of which seem to puzzle people in equal measure.
yesterday’s search terms
The searches about Narcissists are sometimes similar to those made about Capricorn. I guess you could conclude that Capricorns are the Narcissists of the Zodiac – but that is perhaps a conclusion which shouldn’t be jumped to without a bungee cord or parachute to pull you out if you change your mind or help you land safely on less muddy ground.
The conclusions we make have consequences for us and for others which ripple beyond the moment. They sometimes come back to bite us, particularly when we use them to bite others.
The same could be said about Narcissists
It’s worth keeping in mind that these search terms reflect posts on my blog, things I’ve written about which come up in search results when certain words are used, so they’re a small part of a bigger picture. Capricorns and narcissists bring people to my blog, but they’re not necessarily connected even if sometimes they may be.
A can full of paint isn’t going to fall on your head every time you walk under a ladder, and walking under a ladder isn’t always unlucky… sometimes it is, and those are the times you notice which may lead you to conclude that this action is always unlucky and you’ll get splattered with paint. Someone else might be saved from being crushed by a falling tree because the ladder broke the tree’s fall, and they may conclude that walking under a ladder is lucky. Trying to explain to them that such an action is unlucky may be a difficult task because your facts and perspective, and theirs come from different experiences of a similar thing. Who is right and who is wrong? Can someone’s right be the same as someone’s wrong?
Which leads me to…
At the top of yesterday’s search terms was – How to describe a narcissist to someone
This stood out because it is one of the big quandaries which everyone faces when they have identified a narcissist in their life and want to share that information with others.
If you consider how difficult it can be to first figure out that someone you know is a narcissist…
Chances are you didn’t start with that label, you had to find it.
Unless it found you because someone else described a narcissist to you and what they said fit a person you know and explained issues you were having with and about them. More people are talking about narcissists these days, the subject is a hot trending topic, in the popular lingo… so in theory it should be easy to describe and ascribe.
But it’s not as easy as deciding that someone is a Capricorn – all you need is a birthday. The info on Capricorns is a far easier read than the info on narcissists. And accusing someone of being a Capricorn… isn’t going to be much of a surprise or a problem. The Capricorn isn’t going to argue with you about being a Capricorn (although they might argue with your version of what the sign is like, especially if they have Mars or Mercury in a sign which likes to argue), and no one else is going to say – No, you’re wrong about them, I don’t find this person to be a Capricorn at all!
You’re not going to end up sounding like a crazy person for labeling someone a Capricorn (except to those who think anyone who discusses astrology is crazy).
The common denominator is the man, and he could be the crazy one accusing everyone else of being crazy… or he could simply be the sort of person who attracts and is attracted to crazy people.
Just because you’re surrounded by narcissists doesn’t mean you’re a narcissist who thinks that everyone else is the narcissist… but it could mean that.
It could also mean you’re a narcissist who is surrounded by other narcissists.
Or maybe no one is the narcissist, but everyone thinks everyone else is.
If you had to find the term ‘narcissist’ on your own…
You probably started off by searching the internet for answers to problems you were having with someone which probably didn’t include the term ‘narcissist’. That label came up in the results and when you looked into it, you found that it described the person and the problems you were having with them. You read a bit more and perhaps felt a bit hesitant to accept that they are indeed a narcissist.
What is written about narcissists does not paint an easy picture to look at even if it’s a portrait of a person you know and of a relationship you have or have had with someone.
Accepting that someone you know is a narcissist is not an easy step to take for many reasons. Even though they may tick all the boxes of the criteria which identifies a narcissist, and even though you may have all the proof you need to conclude that this friend, lover, family member, boss, colleague, etc, is indeed a narcissist, you still may be reluctant to accept the conclusion to which the proof points.
Unless you’re a narcissist, then you don’t need any proof to accuse someone else of being a narcissist other than your opinion which a narcissist views as being solid evidence. When a narcissist thinks someone is a narcissist, then they are a narcissist and they have no problem describing a narcissist to someone else. Narcissists tend to be quite adept at convincing others that the person they have labeled a narcissist is a narcissist.
Whereas those who aren’t narcissists tend to find it hard to convince others that a narcissist is a narcissist, and often falter when it comes to describing a narcissist to someone else.
Why is that?
Is it because narcissists excel at telling stories. Their stories captivate their audience, make you laugh, cry, boo, cheer, live an adventure vicariously. They sound like they’ve lived life to its limits and extremes. Their emotions are vivid, no one you’ve ever met feels as much, as deeply, as they do and they can make you feel what they feel. There’s an addictive quality to listening to them.
They can make opening a bottle of water sound more interesting than a trip to the Moon.
Their anecdotes can be legendary because they are focused on making an impression on you, the listener, so they tell you their tales in a way that makes you want to hear more.
Even though narcissists are accused of not having empathy, which is true (they usually don’t have the understanding required to do it), they do have the ability to read people – a bit like a psychic who uses cold reading techniques – which can come across as empathy, especially if you think it’s empathy. They watch their ‘audience’ very closely to know what to say and do to impress them, keep them hooked… how to push the right buttons, or how to push the wrong ones. Pushing the wrong buttons can be as effective as pushing the right ones.
The narcissist needs to control how they are perceived and this entails learning how to affect how others perceive. For them learning about us is a matter of survival. When your survival depends on something you get good at doing it.
Is it because narcissists create such a good facade that they’re the last person anyone would consider to be a narcissist, until they get to know them better… which means knowing the worst side… which can take a long time to discover as narcissists avoid that kind of intimacy. They don’t want people to know them better because then you’ll start seeing what hides behind their Hollywood face.
The silent treatment is often precipitated by you finding out something that the narcissist does not want you to know about them. They’re giving you time to forget it, and giving themselves time to figure out a way to cover their tracks. It is similar to when non-narcissists make a foll of themselves and wish the ground would open up beneath them and swallow them whole. The silent treatment is not as much about you as you may have been led to believe…
It usually takes repeated experiences of the panoply of narcissistic tricks, games, manipulations, excuses, abuses, etc. before a person finally begins to suspect they’re dealing with someone who may have a disorder of the narcissistic type. Even then you will probably doubt your suspicions, second guess yourself, hope you’re wrong about them, and give them the benefit of your doubts.
Realising that the person with whom you’re in a relationship is a narcissist… reflects badly on you. It doesn’t really, but that doesn’t stop us from thinking that there is something wrong with us for having liked, loved, been attracted to, become involved with a narcissist. It’s even harder when the narcissist is a close family member because you’ve been programmed to think that everything is your fault – you’re the one with the fault.
Many search terms are variations on the theme of – How do I stop attracting narcissists? – which could be read as – what is wrong with me that makes me so attractive to narcissists!?!
The truth is narcissists are attracted to you because you’re attractive. They’re attracted to the same things about you which attract non-narcissists, it’s just that narcissists tend to push others out of the way, come on very strong when they see something they want, someone they want. While your non-narcissist is still trying to decide how to say ‘hello’ to you… the narcissist has taken advice from The Romantic Film Hero-Stalker’s Manual and has swept you off your feet, whisking you away to a fantasy land.
(I’ve never been romantically involved with a narcissist but I have had narcissist friends and parents. My parents made my friends wish that they had my parents too because they romanced my friends – whatever your relationship to a narcissist, there’s always an element of romantic fantasy to it because the narcissist lives in fantasy. They want to embody your ideal and know how to find out what that is, and pretend to be it for as long as they can hold that illusion intact, like a mirage beckoning you further into a desert. They’re your perfect dessert made entirely of sand but it looks like it’s made of sugar and spice and everything nice, and it can be eaten without consequences… but it does have consequences)
There’s a lot written about why you attract narcissists which supports the idea that there is something fundamentally wrong with you – you’re co-dependent, an empath, a people-pleaser, and a plethora of other things which are somehow your fault and fatal flaw. The weakness which the narcissist sees in you and reacts to like Hannibal Lecter.
isn’t he a sociopath with narcissistic tendencies rather than a narcissist
There’s a lot of scare-mongering because… people are scared (and also people make money from people who are scared by offering a form of safety in times of chaos).
Some of what is said is true, but truth is a moveable feast and has many courses.
All those things which are your fatal flaw where narcissists are concerned may also be an asset where non-narcissists are concerned. Be careful that you don’t kill off the good parts of you because a relationship with a narcissist made you see them as bad and only bad.
A narcissist can make ice-cream and chocolate appear to be cyanide, especially when they’re embodying the role of a fitness guru (they do love being gurus). Look at all diets which accentuate the DIE in DIEt, and make people hate themselves for looking like themselves and not like some fantasy version of themselves which is based on some photoshopped image in some magazine that didn’t consider how it would affect those who saw it, and when it was asked to consider that they pointed at other magazines and said – everyone is doing this if we don’t do it too we’ll go out of business.
Want to describe a narcissist to someone… perhaps using societal narcissism might be useful to get your point across, but… debates, arguments and discussions about others things ensue from there and your original intention gets lost.
Besides you may not be at that point in your narcissist awareness journey to be able to discuss things from anything other than a personal angle. The personal angle is a long and hard road, involving many twists and turns, detours through landscapes which may be unfamiliar, uncomfortable and unknown (for now).
You may still have feelings for your narcissist which are caring… while you also want to never to care for them again, wishing perhaps that you could erase having cared for them from your memory. You may have feelings of love, affection, lust, attraction for them which now all seem horrible and wrong to you, you may hate yourself for that because you also have feelings of anger, dislike, hate and repulsion.
This chaos is so painful… you want to bring order to it, stop the pain!
Being involved with a narcissist is a very confusing, contradictory, cognitively dissonant experience… which is why it’s hard to describe a narcissist to someone else.
Unless that someone else has experienced a narcissist themselves, but even then your narcissist and theirs may be different or appear that way because – our narcissist always seems worse than those of others even when the stories of others sound worse than ours. This can be a difficult road to navigate with triggers for you and others along the way like cat’s eyes on a road at night.
Your narcissist is the worst for you – but the narcissist of someone else is the worst for them.
If someone doesn’t have a narcissist in their history… they’ll still probably have someone in their life whom they experienced as a worst person ever to know.
We all have villains in our lives…
Sometimes we’re the villain in our lives.
We prefer to be the heroes in our lives…
villains usually think they’re heroes, even when they know they’re villains.
We’re all complicated, so explaining someone else’s complicated to someone else… is very somplex.
So – How do you describe a narcissist to someone else?
I’ve tried to figure out this conundrum throughout my life when attempting to either warn people about my parents (which always backfired) or having to explain myself to people who my parents were using against me. My parents liked to play the game of – Let’s you and them fight (which is a non-sexual version of Let’s You and Him Fight, coined by Eric Berne).
They’d pick someone to come and have a ‘talk’ with me, often total strangers to me, they’d tell this person a tragic tale of a poor poor parent who had a very difficult child, they loved the child but why oh why did their child not love them… the person they wound up would then come to me and lecture me without giving a shit about my side of the story (something I only realised after stupidly thinking they actually wanted to know both sides of the story in which they were interfering).
I eventually gave up explaining or warning or talking about my parents to anyone else. Even when I discovered the term – narcissist – in its present form, and knew that NPD described my parents perfectly. I didn’t use it in social conversation, I stuck with saying as little as possible about them – usually what I said was what I knew people wanted to hear or at least what they could handle…
until one day it all came tumbling out (on tumblr – which is where I first started blogging about the narcissists in my life in tentative and cryptic ways).
Blogging about your story with narcissists, describing narcissists through a post… is very different from having to tell people in person, in RL, about a specific narcissist.
People will accept a lot more online, even with the ultra-sensitivity which is a part of online communications, because it is somehow removed from the RL personal – while also being at times more personal than RL personal.
In the last few years I had to attempt to describe narcissists to people in a personal one to one not online scenario…
We can safely conclude that I still haven’t figured out how to describe a narcissist to someone else.
It’s one thing to do it on my blog – I’m preaching to the converted, so to speak. I’m not saying anything you don’t already know because you’ve been there and experienced it yourself. You end up on my blog, read my ramblings, because you’re researching the subject for yourself. You’re researching the subject because you already know about narcissists – I don’t have to describe them to you… and you don’t have to describe them to me.
We describe them to each other… but that’s more for ourselves than for the other. We’re figuring things out by discussing it.
Our personal experiences of narcissists may be similar, different, a bit of both, but we know what the word narcissist means to us, and it will be close in meaning for others too.
Those who don’t know about narcissists, or only know about them through works of fiction, or the works of fiction they think are the personal stories of others (of us when we tell them about something they just… think is us making shit up), who haven’t had a personal experience themselves of a narcissist… may not even be interested in narcissists to bother listening when you try to describe one to them.
If someone talks to me about a subject which doesn’t interest me, about something I have no personal reference point, I may hear what they’re saying but it’ll probably go in one ear and out the other. It’ll only sink in when something occurs to make the information relevant to me personally.
I’ve had people I know socially who also know about this blog make offhand remarks about ‘that narcissist thing’. They’re usually trying to show me that they’ve taken the time to look at my blog, which means they’re interested in me and what I’m interested in… or something like that (one person used the info in a rather narcissistic manner, they were poking me in a place they thought might get a rise out of me to show me how clever they were. Narcissists aren’t the only ones who like pressing people’s buttons)… which is nice of them, but… yes, there’s a but… sometimes it’s better when people don’t try to feign interest in what doesn’t interest them. Just because what interests you doesn’t interest them doesn’t mean that you’ll be any less interested in them and what interests them.
The last thing I want to do is explain something to someone who doesn’t really care about the subject. Describing a narcissist to someone who isn’t interested in narcissists is a climb up a steep hill… which you didn’t want to climb because you were enjoying a walk in the valley, then they asked you to climb that hill, and… both of you are doing something neither of you wants to do.
But what if someone else really wants to know about narcissists?
It’s a challenge to describe a narcissist to someone else. It’s fraught with pitfalls… for you to fall into and get stuck there.
Cutting to the chase… finally!
Some of what to do and not to do when trying to describe a narcissist to someone else:
1 – Don’t hand that someone else a manuscript made of everything you’ve printed out about narcissists from the internet which means somethign to you but doesn’t mean anything to them.
Most people don’t read the terms and conditions of the apps and software they use. Most of us don’t read the instruction manual which comes with the stuff we buy unless we run into a problem while trying to use it – then we tend to skim to the relevant bit.
Hand someone a manuscript about narcissists and they’ll be bored of the subject before you’ve even got to the part you want to discuss with them.
2 – Try not to appear ‘crazy’ – you may feel crazy because your narcissist drove you to that destination, but…
use some intelligent if reluctant empathy, uncomfortable memories of those times someone has tried to tell you about something or someone but it was just a stream of incoherent words punctuated by rants, sighs, crying, and other things like that.
People switch off when they can’t understand you, when you’re overwhelming them, when they’re hungry and what you’re feeding them isn’t food and nourishing for them.
When you seem to be a maverick who doesn’t play by the rules which are familiar and make them feel safe…
3 – Make sure the person you’re talking to isn’t distracted by personal urgings – like getting as far away from your emotional overload as possible.
Are they stressed out by a personal issue. Would they rather talk about themselves and what’s concerning them. Busy. Need to pee or pooh. Ill. Tired. Hungry.
Basically, ask yourself, do they have the time necessary and needed to dedicate to you and this complex subject or describing a narcissist to them, or are you trying to talk to them while they’re pulled in many directions by a million other things.
4 – Don’t use emotional blackmail – I listened to you about so and so therefore you owe me and you have to listen to me about this so and so. I was there for you when… so now you have to be here for me. I supported you, believed you, etc… do unto others… just because you did something for someone else doesn’t mean the other person will do it too for you.
You’re you, they’re them.
Emotional blackmail can work… but it will work against you more often than it works for you.
It works for narcissists… and we hate them for it!
5 – Just because something works for a narcissist doesn’t mean it’s worth doing too. But it might be.
don’t expect people to feel the same way that you do about narcissists
6 – Try to make your information entertaining. This is taking a leaf out of the book of narcissists. They get their points across even when the whole story is far-fetched because it entertains their audience.
That someone whom you want to describe a narcissist to is a person but also an audience. Just as you are a person and an audience when someone wants to describe something or someone to you.
Find out what your audience wants, what they listen to, watch, what interests them, what they understand – give it to them when trying to get your point across.
7 – Keep it short. People have a short attention spans, life is full of distractions…
They want sound bites, quick answers to problems, cake now (they don’t want a lecture on how cake is made, how the ingredients were grown and gathered, how the recipe came to exist, nor do they want to watch you make the cake or wait for it to bake – they want cake now!
You like it when you want cake now and get it.
Remember yourself when others are trying to tell you something when you’re trying to tell someone else something. There will be similarities…
If they’re giving you time – appreciate the time they’re giving you. Don’t expect more from them than they can give – you don’t like it, do you, when people do that with you?
Sometimes what you have to say… well, you can handle it but others can’t at this time. Respect that – you’d want the same kind of respect from others, wouldn’t you, if they wanted to describe something or someone to you which you’re just not ready to understand.
8 – Taking in information about a narcissist is taxing – no one likes paying taxes or things which are taxing.
Narcissist are taxing and having a relationship with them can be far worse than paying taxes because their taxation system… doesn’t even seem to benefit them even when you think it does.
The narcissist sucked all the energy out of you.
It exhausted you to process everything you’ve learned about narcissist.
Just talking, thinking, about them can be draining… if it drains you and you have a vested interest in working through it, imagine what it’s like for someone who has no vested interest in it.
9 – Perhaps the best way to describe a narcissist to someone is to keep the description in context with the experiences of that someone – people tend to understand what they already know, what they can personally relate to. It’s also what keeps their interest.
If they believe in aliens, then they’ll accept your tale of being abducted by an alien more readily than if they categorically do not belief in aliens.
So if someone else really wants to know about narcissists and wants you to describe them – get them to help you do it.
The more involved they are in crafting your description, the more likely they are to understand the subject even if they have no personal experience of narcissists – who knows, maybe they do but they never connected the dots, they never connected a difficult person in their life with the term – narcissist.
And the more you have to take your time crafting your description because you need or want to share it with others, the more you’ll need to explain things for yourself… which will require that you clarify things for yourself and that may be far more useful than describing a narcissist to someone else.