You must be tired of them. They’re everywhere. Narcissists. And if you think there are more of them than ever, you’re right. Research shows we are experiencing a narcissism epidemic.
In data from 37,000 college students, narcissistic personality traits rose just as fast as obesity from the 1980s to the present, with the shift especially pronounced for women. The rise in narcissism is accelerating, with scores rising faster in the 2000s than in previous decades.
Even music is getting more narcissistic. And what do most people on Twitter tweet about? Themselves, of course.
(And as for selfies…well, do I really need to link to any research about narcissism and selfies? No? Thank you.)
Now, we all have a little narcissism in us and these days we have a lot more than we need around us.
Let’s learn more about what narcissism is, how to deal with narcissists—and even a bit about what to do if you feel you’re becoming one yourself.
You have entered the selfie-free zone. Let’s get to it…
What’s the Deal With Narcissism?
As Jean Twenge and W. Keith Campbell explain in The Narcissism Epidemic, it’s a myth that narcissism is just “high self-esteem” or that underneath it all narcissists are insecure and overcompensating.
Narcissists believe they really are that awesome—and you’re not. (The latter part doesn’t matter, narcissists don’t think about you much at all, frankly.)
How can you tell if someone is a narcissist? It’s easy; just ask them. Research shows narcissists feel so good about themselves they don’t mind admitting it.
And narcissism can be quite beneficial in the short term. They make fantastic first impressions. In job interviews and on first dates, narcissists get results. And in youth, being a narcissist makes you happier.
Narcissists are more likely to become leaders and narcissists who obsessively work hard are more likely to get promoted. But the stuff that works for them so well in the short term proves lethal in the long term.
That job interview is great but University of Pennsylvania professor Scott Barry Kaufman explains that after three weeks people regard narcissists as untrustworthy. And narcissists might become leaders, but they’re not good ones. And when prestige isn’t on the line, most narcissists don’t work that hard.
From The Narcissism Epidemic:
…college students with inflated views of themselves (who think they are better than they actually are) make poorer grades the longer they are in college. They are also more likely to drop out. In another study, students who flunked an introductory psychology course had by far the highest narcissism scores, and those who made A’s had the lowest.
Awesome first date? Yeah, but relationship satisfaction with them shows a big decline after four months. As adults, narcissists aren’t happy. And if you’re around them, you won’t be either.
From The Narcissism Epidemic:
A recent psychiatric study found that the biggest consequences of narcissism—especially when other psychiatric symptoms were held constant—was suffering by people close to them.
So how do you deal with them? Here are five strategies from scientific research:
1) The Quick Answer: Don’t
I’m going to get grief for this being the first solution, but it is by far the best answer and one that we should all take to heart more often.
Narcissists lack empathy, they usually don’t work hard and in a few weeks to a few months they make the people around them miserable. And narcissism is very hard to change. So, if at all possible, just stay away.
Some will say, “But I’m smarter than they are. I can change them!” Stop it, now you’re being narcissistic.
If you dig ’80s movies, you might remember War Games. What did the computer realize about thermonuclear war? The only way to win was not to play.
What do rational people scream at the TV when watching haunted house movies? “GET OUT NOW!”
When there’s blood all over the living room, furniture is floating through the air and ghosts are speaking to you in Latin, smart people don’t prepare to battle the undead, they get out immediately and make an angry phone call to their realtor.
As M.I.T. negotiation professor John Richardson says: never start with, “How do I make this deal?” Start with, “Should this deal be made?” With narcissists, the answer is usually no. It’s not worth it.
O.K., before the Internet commenters tear me apart for the obvious answer of “Don’t deal with narcissists,” let’s move on.
There are plenty of times where we just don’t have a choice. You may have a narcissistic boss, co-worker,or family member. Luckily, there are answers…