Published in The Huffington Post 02/27/2017 11:49 p.m. ET. Narcissists are practiced at hiding their true face to the world and initially can be quite charming and skilled at honing in on targets for seduction. But careful observation and an understanding of narcissistic personality disorder will enable you to spot a narcissist. 

Whether you’re wondering about a new love interest, friend, or boss, or you’re looking to understand someone you’ve known for a while and have concerns about, here are seven sure-fire ways to suss out the narcissists from the genuine people of character. 

1.  Lacks Empathy

Perhaps the most defining characteristic of the narcissist is a lack of empathy for the feelings, needs, and perspectives of others. As far as the narcissist is concerned, others are merely props or extensions of himself to be manipulated for his purposes. Signs of empathy are good listening, reflecting back compassion and concern, validating other people’s feelings, being willing to apologize and take responsibility, remembering and asking about others’ lives, and acting on behalf of others’ needs even when it is inconvenient or difficult. Consistent behavior to the contrary is a Narcissist Alert!

2.  Is Arrogant and Grandiose

To hide a fundamental sense of unworthiness, the narcissist adopts a grandiose false face. On the surface, she may be skilled at attracting and influencing others, but her need to assert her superiority makes her arrogant, competitive, rude, and explosive or vindictive when threatened or “crossed.” She is prone to bragging, name-dropping, and making grand displays. Your best tactic with such a person is to avoid confrontation and walk away.

3.  Attracts Excessive Attention

Narcissists thrive on attention, which in psychological terms is referred to as their “supply.” Because they suffer from a core emptiness, they seek attention from others as a form of validation. While we all have social needs, narcissists demand a level of attention far beyond that of “normal” people, resorting to all manner of manipulation to get it. The narcissist figuratively sucks all the oxygen out of the room. To gain attention, extroverted narcissists typically dominate conversations, while covert narcissists play the victim. Either way, narcissists are always vying for attention. The narcissist father, for example, may bitterly resent attention given to his own children and punish his spouse and them if he is not appeased (read more about narcissist parents).

4.  Demands Adulation

Mere attention is not sufficient for narcissists. Their larger-than-life persona makes them feel entitled to the best and most of everything, particularly admiration and special treatment. At home they demand subservience and adoration without earning or returning it, and in stores, restaurants, hotels, and the like, they expect the best “service.” If the narcissist feels overlooked or deprived (often by treatment that others would regard as normal), she will not hesitate to cause a scene, lash out, or sulk punishingly.

5.  Flies into Rages

Because the narcissist is believed to harbor a fundamental emotional wounding thought to have occurred early in life (“narcissist injury“), he is highly sensitive to any hint of criticism or judgment. His extreme defensiveness and sense of entitlement make him unwilling to take responsibility, instead deflecting and projecting blame onto others. If he feels threatened, the narcissist will unleash a violent counterattack, flying into an explosive rage that far exceeds regular anger and that may become physical.

6.  Abuses Social Media

It’s not difficult to spot a narcissist online. Users of social media by and large want to show a good face, but the narcissist seeks to project perfection and outshine her peers. She tends to post often, and always shows idealized images of herself and her life. She regularly features flattering closeups of her face or images that highlight her best physical qualities. When she posts images of family members, they often appear more like lifestyle accessories. As long as she looks good, she will present photos of others that may be unflattering. To appear popular, narcissists attempt to collect large numbers of “friends” and “followers” even if the vast majority are surface acquaintances or strangers. They may also use social media to highlight their favored “golden child,” while ignoring their scapegoated child (read more about the golden child and scapegoat).

7.  Lacks a Moral Code

To bolster their extravagant egos and shield themselves from unbearable feelings of vulnerability, compassionless narcissists will rationalize just about any behavior. They are always looking to gain the upper hand, and their toolkit is strikingly consistent from one narcissist to another. The narcissist’s bag of tricks includes some or all of the following:

  1. criticizes
  2. competes
  3. violates boundaries
  4. manipulates
  5. terrorizes
  6. lies
  7. blames
  8. shames
  9. belittles
  10. ridicules
  11. denies
  12. projects
  13. gaslights
  14. deflects accountability
  15. plays the victim

Spot a Narcissist? Be Aware

Now that you have a better idea of how to spot a narcissist, it is essential to keep in mind that they do not play nice or fair, and they are loyal to no one but their own agenda. They may initially seduce and lavish idealized attention, but one way or another they will betray your trust if you make the mistake of offering it to them.

Julie L. Hall is the author of the forthcoming memoir, Carry You, about life, and a few near deaths, in a narcissist family (read excerpts). Her articles on narcissism regularly appear in The Huffington Post.

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Featured image courtesy of tommerton2010, Creative Commons.