In my 2009 book, “Just Listen” Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone, there was so much attention paid to the chapter titled, “Steer Clear of Toxic People” that it caused me to write my most recent book, Talking to Crazy: How to Deal with the Irrational and Impossible People in Your Life.
But I have a confession to make. I no longer deal with very difficult people. Instead I recognize them early and just say, “no thanks” to them. However, I realize that many of you might not have the luxury of doing that at your stage of your career.
If so, the following Narcissist Inventory may come in handy as a way to identify them early so that when you do reach the point of not being willing to deal with them, you too will just say “no” rather than becoming involved.
To use the Narcissist Inventory, rate the person on a 1-to-3 scale (1 = rarely; 2 = sometimes; 3 = frequently):
- How often does the person need to be right at all costs?
- How often does the person act impatient with you for no good reason?
- How often does the person interrupt you in the middle of what you’re saying, and yet take offense if you interrupt?
- How often does the person expect you to drop whatever you’re thinking about and listen to him or her — and does the person take offense when you expect the same in return?
- How often does the person talk more than he or she listens?
- How often does the person say “Yes, but,” “That’s not true,” “No,” “However,” or “Your problem is”?
- How often does the person resist and resent doing something that matters to you, just because it’s inconvenient?
- How often does the person expect you to cheerfully do something that’s inconvenient for you?
- How often does the person expect you to accept behavior that he or she would refuse to accept from you?
- How often does the person fail to say “Thank you,” “I’m sorry,” “Congratulations,” or “Excuse me” when it’s called for?
To score your inventory, add up the total:
10-16 =The person is cooperative
17-23 = The person is argumentative
24-30 = The person is a narcissist
Okay, okay. I understand. So you can’t just say “no” just yet.
So as not to leave you hanging, here’s one strategy you can try now:
- Identify who he or she is by using the above inventory
- Never expect him or her to not act in a condescending and controlling manner (so you won’t be caught off guard or blindsided when they do)
- When they act in that manner, look them straight in the eye, unfazed, and let them finish whatever they’re saying
- When they finish, pause for two to four seconds (which will cause them to realize their usual M.O. didn’t work on you)
- Then say calmly, firmly and looking into their eyes, “Please repeat everything you said in the last few minutes, especially about what you want me to do, in a normal tone of voice. I have an uncontrollable habit of tuning people out when they are yelling, talking at or talking down to me, and if what you said was important for me to hear, I’m afraid you’re going to have to tell it to me again.”
Of course, if you’re one of those very lucky and self-confident individuals who may take what other people say seriously, but never take it personally, you won’t need any of the above.
By the way, if you are one of those self-possessed, unflappable and fortunate people, you might share it with someone less able to stand up for themselves.