Whether you meet them at the office or at family reunions, you’re bound to come across highly self-centered people at some point in life. These types of people rarely seem to listen, but always seem to talk, whether they're bragging about accomplishments or sharing long-winded tragedies from their daily lives. When possible, it’s best to avoid these kinds of people. But when you have no other options, a few strategies can help overcome this social challenge.
Understand Their Mentality
When faced with difficult people, the first step is generally to understand where they are coming from, even if you find it difficult to relate. Self-centered people might seem confident or even socially successfully, but under the surface they often suffer from fragile self-images and feel incomplete, suggests Roya Rad, who has a doctorate degree in clinical psychology, in "How to Deal with Self-Centered People," a Huffington Post article. Often due to their limited empathy, these people have trouble maintaining close friendships or long-lasting romantic relationships. With this in mind, approach these people with compassion, rather than contempt.
Establish Social Boundaries
Even after you understand them, you must be on your guard. Establish boundaries during your interactions with self-centered people, suggests Rad. For example, they might ask you for too many favors, expecting you to meet all of their needs and wants. Be willing to say no, so they don't begin to walk all over you and your schedule. In addition, whether you want to offer them criticism or defend yourself against theirs, Rad suggests that you keep your messages direct and concise. After all, they won't listen to your words for very long unless you're praising them.
Don't Boost the Ego
Don't back them up on their arrogance, says Rad. For example, if a self-centered person tells you a long-winded story about their corporate ladder climbing, you might listen politely, but hold back on too many compliments. Rather than instinctively feed their ego, don't be afraid to react sincerely. If you are impressed, briefly mention so. If you are not impressed, you don’t have to say anything. Unless you want them to continue on with listing their achievements, avoid asking too many follow up questions.
Don't Expect Change
In some cases, you might feel the need to be closer to a self-centered person. For example, a close childhood friend might seem like someone you should naturally grow close to, but his self-absorbed traits could tend to keep you at a distance. At times, self-centeredness can become such a strong personality trait that a person has limited potential to change, suggests psychologist Irene Levine in her Psychology Today article, "Problems Getting Close to My Self-Centered Friend: What Can I Do?" Instead of hoping to change the person, accept their personality quirks and remember to stay assertive. When it comes to emotional intimacy, you might have to look for other social options.
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Mitch Reid has been a writer since 2006. He holds a fine arts degree in creative writing, but has a persistent interest in social psychology. He loves train travel, writing fiction, and leaping out of planes. His written work has appeared on sites such as Synonym.com and GlobalPost, and he has served as an editor for ebook publisher Crescent Moon Press, as well as academic literary journals.