Have you ever wondered if the person you love has the personality traits of a narcissist or sociopath?
If there were ever a buzz word that has been cast about almost recklessly in the past few years, it might be narcissism. Whenever someone is perceived as ego-centric, having too much self-focus, or hogging attention, they are considered a narcissist.
But what is a narcissist, really?
The reason why the sociopath or narcissist is so successful in getting their victim to succumb to their manipulation is that the narcissist is a master at hitting the vulnerable sweet spot of that person — that vulnerable place where worthiness is overridden by unworthiness.
Like a puppeteer, the narcissist pulls strings with the victim puppet, dolling out morsels of praise and kindness, which are quickly swept away at the first misstep.
Confused, the victim eventually wonders to self and others: “Am I going crazy?” because they imagine the condemnation they receive is somehow justified.
Here are 10 signature traits of a narcissist or sociopath and the counter traits that the person with a narcissist personality hides at all costs:
1. They’re charming
With 100 percent attentiveness, flirtatiousness, and looks that scream, “I can’t get enough of you,” the narcissistic charmer is a shrewd observer of what to do to get you to admit that they “had you at hello.”
The charmer intuitively gets your vulnerabilities and leverages them by showering you with praise, compliments, gifts, or whatever addresses your primary and secondary love language.
When they realize that you’re hooked, they resort to their default position.
This is where the scales tip, and now — although you don’t why — you have to really work for the next compliment, date night, or gushy text.
Uneasiness creeps in and you come to the conclusion that you have to be more loving and attentive if you want to keep this person in your life.
You allow the snarky comments, the caustic barb; you don’t want to rock the boat on this lucky catch that miraculously appeared.
2. They’re confident
They tell you of all their successes both in business and all aspects of life. In their business, they speak of being the CEO at a business that once was part of a Fortune 500 company and boasting of multi-million dollar deals.
Because you’re so trusting, and they’re so self-assured, you don’t verify their past.
They’re highly insecure. Their grandiosity is all smoke and mirrors and once you spend a nominal fee for a background check, you can discover failed business careers, possible lawsuits, and even a changed name.
3. They’re “well-educated”
Within a casual dinner conversation, they mention their time at elite universities, both undergraduate and graduate — Summa Cum Laude — all with the most humble of expressions.
They’re actually a non-degreed student. The narcissist may have taken a couple of courses from a community college or a continuing education course or two.
4. They pass themselves off as intelligent
You’re wowed that you can bring up any topic and they have knowledge of it! You think they’re smart and articulate.
From Cricket to Feng Shui, to their acclaimed success with how to invest in the stock market — and best secure your 401K — they have all the answers.
They’re actually not wise. They don’t know about much. But they do know how to redirect once they’ve exhausted their superficial knowledge base on any subject.
And they know to always come back to charming and distracting you when redirection is required.
5. They’re friendly
Boasting of friends all over the globe, the friendly narcissist tells you they’re adored by many. You’ll hear of lifelong friends in faraway places, and even former lovers who still think they’re fantastic; and with whom they’re still friends.
They actually have few to zero friends. You won’t know this until you try to meet these longtime friends, where your narcissist will have a pocketful of excuses why the timing isn’t right.
He’s out of town; she’s going through a hard time; they’re just too busy.
They swear they can be friends with everyone: They tell you they broke up with their ex, but remain friends because the ex “was really such a good person.”
They’re actually lying, manipulative, and belittling.
They’ve perfected the body language, intonation, and persona of being a person of character. In reality, they broke up with the ex and the ex paid to get them out of their hair.
The narcissist paints a picture of how they get along great with the ex, but the ex actually has a restraining order against them.
6. They’ll tear down your happiness
You are finally so thrilled to be with someone who totally gets you and whom you can tell anything. Because you believe they’re super charming, confident, and intelligent, you can vent away and they’ll listen with rapt attention.
But you start to worry that you’re not good enough.
Like a slow drip, the denigration drops in so subtly and eventually fills you with a reservoir of shame and disempowerment. And it happens when you experience the slightest elevated mood or tone that had nothing to do with the narcissist.
Could be something successful at work, and wham! You hear an icy comment: “I didn’t realize it was too much to ask you to pick up the dry cleaning on your way home from your coveted job. You forgot. Again.”
7. They claim to share your beliefs
Whether you’re religious, spiritual, or value family above all else or work above all else, they will agree wholeheartedly with whatever you value. If you are faith-oriented, they become a new member at your place of worship at the first opportunity.
No one is more pious than the narcissist, and they will tell you (probably a lie) how their childhood experience with religion shaped the integrity and soul of whom they have become today.
They’re actually without values. It’s all part of the show to reel you in to mirror whatever you hold near and dear. They believe in only one higher power: Themselves.
8. They’ll pretend to be inclusive
Claiming the more the merrier, the narcissist tells you to have everyone join you for dinner, at your home, or out to a party.
As the saying goes, it’s all fun and games … until they see you’re having fun without them being the sole reason for your elevated mood.
They’re actually experts in alienation. If you are at a party and wander off or leave their side for more than five minutes, there will be a consequence down the road.
Next time you want to get together with family and friends, there will be an excuse, a hiccup, a feigned illness, or a fight brought on by the narcissist who wants to alienate you from anyone else who makes you feel good about yourself.
Your friends and family gently point out a red flag or two, but you ignore these well-meaning and loving people, because you’ve been emotionally captured in the narcissist’s web of manipulation.
9. They claim they are a person of integrity
They go to great lengths to illustrate and prove how benevolent they are; how loyal and trustworthy they are to all their many friends.
The person with a narcissistic personality disorder will share stories of how they’ve supported their friends, which is intended to bring tears to your eyes. And then you wonder, “How could I be so lucky?”
They’re deceptive. Their moral compass is nonexistent. Myopically, they will stop at nothing to get their own needs met. They fabricate stories of the kindness they’ve extended to others, which you accept because you’ll never meet these supposed friends.
The narcissist will keep you at arms’ length from their friend network, which is, in reality, an illusion. While they’ll speak of being deep-rooted with old friends and communities, they are more often on the run.
They’ve been outed by their past cons, and like a nomad, will go to a new place to begin a fresh charade.
10. They are dynamic and adventurous, especially with sex
They wow you with romantic getaways they know you’ll love, as well as giving you amorous attention.
They whisper sexual fantasies to you on the plane ride to your vacation, where they drop hints of their prowess as a lover. You want to join the Mile High Club right then and there.
They’re actually incapable of fulfilling your needs. You are left with their whispered words that vaporize in the air. The narcissist cannot experience connection, and so they place all of the responsibility of that eerie sense of disconnection onto you.
The feeling of emptiness in you is so palpable that you spend a little more time with your looks, exercise more, all the while second-guessing yourself about your own sexuality.
You think maybe you are too rigid, and that’s why your partner wasn’t into you.
If you check their phone or computer, you might discover porn sites and virtual communications with other would-be lovers, with the same words they whispered in your ears. When you confront the highly addicted-to-stimulation narcissist on these illicit communications, they’ll dismiss them as meaningless.
After all, how are they supposed to be sexually fulfilled when you are sexually subpar?
Ultimately, the narcissist creates a dynamic where the onus of responsibility always comes back to you.
It’s up to you (and perhaps the help of a counselor) to recognize, identify, and avoid the emotional fault lines.
It’s up to you not to fall prey to manipulation and remember: If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Poppy and Geoff Spencer, M.S., CPC, are certified relationship counselors, nationally syndicated writers, and certified in Myers Briggs. They’ve been interviewed on NBC, ABC, CBS, Bustle, and Popsugar, about their relationship expertise. Follow them on Twitter for more relationship advice.