Expanding on this
core definition of narcissistic functioing as a difficulty in listening, here’s six signs for sizing up narcissism.
Score each dimension from 0 to 10. Zero is not at all. Ten is all the time.
First assess yourself. Then circle back
to score someone in your life who is difficult to deal with.
The goal: See your and others' patterns clearly. Clarity is a strong
first step toward being able to make changes for the better.
Sign #1: Unilateral listening.
What what I want and what
I have to say are all that matters when we talk together. When we make decisions, what you want, your concerns, your
feelings..these are mere whispers, inconveniences and irrelevancies. When we discuss issues, my opinions are right.
Yours are wrong or else of minimal importance. If you expect to have input, you are undermining me.
focuses on how to dismiss, negate, ignore, minimize, denigrate or otherwise render irrelevant other people’s concerns.
sign of narcissistic non-listening: a tone of contempt instead of interest. Another: frequent responses that begin with "But....",
which is linguistically a backspace-delete key.
Score: 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
SIgn #2 It’s
all about me.
I know more, I know better, I’m more interesting, When we talk, it’s mostly about
me. In conversations, I take up most of the air time. Almost all of my chatter is about what I have done, what I am
If you begin to talk about yourself, I link back to something in my life so that the focus of the
discussion again turns onto me. Maybe that's why people say I suck up all the air in a room.
When I want something, I need
to have it. Never mind how you feel about it; it’s all about me. I’m big and important and you are merely
also here, mostly to do things for me, like a third arm.
Score: 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Sign #3: The rules
don’t apply to me.
I can have affairs, cut into a line where others are waiting, cheat on my taxes, and ignore rules that get in the way of my doing what I want.. Rules are for other people to follow.
from what I call Tall Man Syndrome. They experience themselves as above others, so the rules don't apply to them.
Score: 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Sign #4: Your concerns
are really criticisms of me, and I hate being criticized.
If you insist on my listening and taking your concerns seriously I’m
likely to get mad. Criticism hurts. I can criticize others, and often do, but if you criticize me you’re
hurting my feelings so I’ll hurt you back. And if you say you are at all unhappy, that's a way of indirectly criticizing
me. Since "it's all about me" your feelings must be about what I have been doing.
Narcissists paradoxically manifest both an inflated
idea of their own importance and quickness to feel deflated by negative feedback.
In addition, because they think everything is
about them, they hear others’ attempts to talk about personal feelings as veiled criticisms of themselves.
The clinical term
for taking others' concerns as personal criticism is personalizing. E.g., If she says "I'm feeling lonely,"
her narcissistic friend will hear the self-statement as an acusation, "You don't spend enough time with me."
Score: 0 1 2 3 4 5
6 7 8 9 10
Sign #5: When things go wrong between us, it’s always your fault.
be expected to apologize or to admit blame. I’m above others and above reproach. You shouldn’t have… . Don’t threaten
me with expecting me to say how I’ve contributed to a problem or I’ll get mad at you.
Unwillingness to take responsibility
for mistakes goes hand-in-hand with quickness to blame. This trait may come from confusing the part with the whole. "If I've done one thing that's not right, then I must be all bad."
That's also all-or-nothing thinking.
Whatever the source of the sensitivity to criticism and difficulty admitting mistakes,
the upshot is a tendency to blame others when anything has gone wrong. Blaming and fault-finding in others feel safer
to narcissists than looking to discover, learn and grow from their own part in difficulties.
are quick to blame, they may be slow to appreciate. Appreciation and gratitude require listening.
Score: 0 1 2 3 4 5
6 7 8 9 10
Sign #6: If I’m
angry, it’s your fault.
You made me mad. You didn’t listen to me. You criticized me. You’re
trying to control me. Your view is wrong. So you need to apologize, not me.
I’m not responsible either
for my anger. If I’m mad, it's because I'm frustrated by what you are doing. My anger is your fault. I'm
only made because you ... "
Some narcissists show major charm and social agility. At the same time, these seemintly super-confident folks also can be quick to anger. When
they do become inflamed, they then immediately blame their anger on others.
What are typical anger triggers for people with narcissistic
Critical comments will do it. As I said above, as much as narcissisitc folks see themselves as special, they
also can be remarkably thin-skinned. Any feedback that punctures their belief in total specialness can feel quite threatening.
The immediate response will be to issue blame.
Telling anyone what to do, or sounding even somewhat like you are telling them what to do,
also is likely to provoke irritation. Pretty much everyone prefers autonomy (unless the two people have an agreed-upon
boss-worker or similar relationship). Narcissists however tend to be hyper-sensitive about feeling controlled.
Any request therefore to a narcissist is at risk for sounding to them like a demand and therefore triggering irritation.
who is narcissistic to do something your way rather than theirs is particularly likely to sound to them like you are telling
them what to do. Their anger in response, of course, is your fault.
Score: 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
SCORE: ___ What does this score indicate?
The interpretations below are based on my clinical
hunches, not any scientific testing. They're meant just to give you a general indicate of what your quiz suggests.
Scores that total
5-10 probably indicate normal human fallibilities with room for improvement. No one is perfect. If you think you are
perfect, and scored therefore below 5, you might check again. Be sure your scores do not indicate a narcissism of excessive
belief that you are perfect, another potential sign of narcissism
Too much narcissism in your habits would be indicated by a total score of
10 to 30. Pay attention to your "narcissism lite" and you may fairly easily be able to lower that score considerably.
A total score
of 30 or higher spells significant narcissistic habits that probably do not serve you well. Time to make some serious habit
to 60 would indicate to me severe problems with narcissism. With thisunderstanding of why your relationships become distressed, hopefully you will commit yourself to some serious personal growth.
Again, note that
these score interpretations are based on hunches, not an experimentally validated scoring system. They are meant as
a personal heads-up, not a clinical diagnosis.
What are your options if you are uncomfortable with the score?
The bottom line is that "narcissism"
is basically habit-patterns, and habits can be changed. Awareness of your narcissistic tendencies is a strong first step that
can empower you to notice and fix slippages.
You also might want to check out my blogpost on overcoming narcissism and borderline personality habits.
if you are using this checklist to score how narcissistic someone you know may be?
If someone you interact with regularly
shows narcissistic patterns, it's not up to you to change them. Better for you to focus on how you yourself can change
the dance you do with that person.
For instance, you can choose that you will no longer let yourself be intimidated or controlled by fear of anger. Just gracefully leave the situation for a cool down period (“I need to get a drink of water.”), and then
return for a calmer second-go at the conversation.
When you have something important to communicate with a narcissistic loved one,
what can help? Be sure to follow the rule of talking about yourself, not about the other person. See my post on 6 sentence starters for sensitive discussions for illustrations of how to follow this rule to more effectively be past the deafness wall.
Having trouble getting your views heard? You can choose to speak up a second or third time about your concerns to increase the odds that your concerns or viewpoint
will eventually get heard.
You can ask, after sharing a concern, “So what made sense to you in what I said?”
You can digest
aloud what makes sense in what your partner said, and then make a second attempt to say your viewpoint. Once your partner
feels heard, the odds go up that he or she will mirror your good hearing habits.
And becoming a master at win-win problem-solving can
put you in aleadership role for situations in which you need to make a decision together so that your eventual plan of action heeds both of
your concerns. This earlier post on win-win decision-making may help so that your partner feels that s/he has gotten what s/he wants even though your concerns also have been responded
to in your plan of action.
Almost everyone tends to behave less narcissistically when they are happy. Most of us tend to become
increasingly narcissistic as anxieties prime the pump of anger.
Anger promotes the sense that “What I want is
holy, and what you want is irrelevant.” That's why it's so vital that in important conversations you stay calm.
Talking about sensitive issues in calm good-humored wayswithout arguing has the highest odds of
leading to mutual understandings instead of the narcissism trap.
The bottom line? For a happier life and more gratifing relationships, especially if your
scores indicated some narcissistic tendencies, tame these trends with better skills. Narcissim is not like height or eye color. It's a behavior problem. Upgrading your listening and shared-decision-making
skills can make a huge difference!
Susan Heitler, PhD, is a Denver clinical
psychologist specializes in treatment of relationship difficulties, anger, narcissism and bpd. Her bookThe Power of Two and interactive
website,poweroftwomarriage.com (which is for singles
also) teach the skills for relationship success.