5 Clues to Spot a Narcissist in conversation


Have you ever walked away from a conversation feeling inexplicably drained and undervalued? Maybe you had hoped to make a connection, find some common ground, or get to know each other, but instead, you ended up feeling insignificant, ignored, sidelined, or even a little foolish. If you find yourself feeling anxious, full of self-doubt, or replaying conversations to try to make sense out of what was said, you might be dealing with a narcissist. I’ve spent the last 20 years researching the deep connection between self-worth and narcissistic relationships. As a coach, an author, and someone who’s lived through these challenges, I know how difficult these interactions can be. In this article, I’ll give you five clues that will help you spot a narcissist in conversation, share personal stories from my own experience to help you recognize these patterns, and provide actionable strategies to empower you in any conversation, making sure you’re always one step ahead.

Clue #1: Topics of Conversation

Have you ever found yourself stuck in a conversation where it feels like you’re just an audience to someone else’s monologue? This is the first clue to spotting a narcissist in conversation: the overwhelming dominance of self-centered topics. When you’re talking to a narcissist, you’ll notice this ongoing pattern—the dialogue orbits around them. They’ll tell you stories of either the hero to be admired or the victim to be pitied. It’ll feel like the conversation is a stage, and they are the solo performer. This can be tricky when you’re an empathetic person like you and me because we’re naturally interested in people, caring, and concerned when they’ve had hardships. We’re happy to celebrate someone else’s achievement. In my experience, I’d often walk away from a conversation not even realizing that the person never even asked about me. For example, I had one family member who told me the same story about how cruel her mother was on her deathbed every holiday. I’d nod my head and wait for the moment where I could share that we both had this in common—my mom had done the exact same thing. But year after year, the same thing: she wasn’t interested in getting to know me; I was just the willing audience. Strategy: Probe and Pivot To directly address and navigate the challenge of self-centered conversation, employ the probe and pivot method. This strategy is not just about finding a way to enter the conversation but also serves as a subtle test to see if the person can shift focus from themselves to genuinely engage with your perspective. First, use a straightforward question to check engagement. Ask something like, ‘Would you like to hear my experience with that?’ This question not only offers you an opening to share your perspective but also serves as a litmus test for their interest in a two-way conversation. If the response is more self-focused talk without acknowledgment of your question, it’s time to pivot. Excuse yourself from the conversation with a polite but firm exit, such as ‘I just remembered I have to do something else. Let’s catch up another time.’

Clue #2: Type of Criticism

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