While that narcissistic friend, relative or romantic partner may come across as a "know-it-all," people with an overly inflated self-image often have relatively low social intelligence skills. If you spend time with a friend who talks primarily about himself and you don't want to end the relationship, dealing with the situation is a must. While you shouldn't expect your interactions to change immediately, adopting a few sensible strategies can help you better handle the relationship.
If you expect that your friend or partner will suddenly stop talking about himself simply because you point out his behavior, think again. When dealing with a narcissist keep your expectations for his actions realistic, suggests psychiatrist Judith Orloff writing for Psychology Today. You already know that he talks about himself way too much. Your friend or family member may not have the emotional self-recognition to understand that he is negatively impacting you and your relationship. Instead of believing that you'll turn him around, be realistic and either accept his ramblings or limit the time that the two of you spend together.
Don't Be a Critic
When someone is a true narcissist, she'll respond better to suggestions that benefit her, according to Dr. Orloff in, "How to Deal With a Narcissist." Telling your friend or partner what you need -- in this case, for her to stop talking about herself -- isn't likely to do the trick. A 2013 study published in the journal, "Personality and Individual Differences," found that narcissistic people had poor perspective skills. Instead of expecting her to see your point, note one of her positive attributes and turn the conversation by saying something like, "you always know so much about world politics. Let's talk about the situation overseas."
Even though your boasting friend may seem like he's full of himself, narcissistic people tend to crave approval from others, report Roy F. Baumeister and Kathleen D. Vohs of the Case Western Reserve University's department of psychology. In "Narcisssim as Addiction to Esteem," Baumeister and Vohs note that narcissists typically have strong needs for others to regard them highly. Your friend or partner's constant chatter about himself may come from a need for acceptance. While you might not change his behaviors, you can handle your friend's attention-seeking actions by listening to him and letting him know you appreciate him.
Ignoring your friend when she goes on and on about herself isn't likely to work. If she won't stop her self-centered behavior, responding in a cold manner may actually make her amp up her narcissistic talk in an effort to force you to listen. If you aren't ready, willing or simply can't walk away from the friendship or relationship, try changing the subject. For example, your roommate constantly gabs about her fabulous sense of style. As she's talking about her fashionable new outfit, slickly change the subject to your favorite celebrity who wore a similar dress.
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- Science Direct: Personality and Individual Differences: Mirror, Mirror On the Wall, Which Form of Narcissist Knows Self and Others Best of All?
- Psychology Today: How to Deal With a Narcissist
- Case Western Reserve University: Department of Psychology: Carlson School: Narcisssim as Addiction to Esteem
- Forbes: 5 Ways to Shut Down a Narcissist
Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.