12 Traits of a Narcissist [Must-Read List]

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Table of Contents

What is Narcissism?

Narcissism is a personality trait where a person has an inflated sense of their own importance. They often need excessive admiration and have a lack of empathy for others. It can manifest in many ways, from seeking attention to believing they are superior to others.

Understanding Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD)

Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is a more severe form of narcissism. It is a mental health condition where individuals have an extreme need for attention and admiration. They often struggle with relationships because they do not understand or care about others’ feelings. People with NPD may act arrogantly, lack empathy, and believe they deserve special treatment.

Prevalence and Impact on Relationships and Society

NPD affects a small percentage of the population, but its impact can be significant. In relationships, people with NPD can be manipulative and controlling, causing emotional harm to their partners. In society, their behavior can lead to conflicts at work and in social settings. Understanding narcissism and NPD helps in recognizing the signs and managing interactions with narcissistic individuals.

Overview of the 12 Traits of a Narcissist

Introduction to the 12 Key Traits

Narcissists exhibit specific behaviors that can be identified as key traits. Understanding these traits helps in recognizing narcissistic individuals and their impact on those around them. Here are the 12 key traits to look out for:

  1. Grandiosity
  2. Need for Admiration
  3. Lack of Empathy
  4. Sense of Entitlement
  5. Exploitative Behavior
  6. Envy
  7. Arrogance
  8. Preoccupation with Fantasies
  9. Belief in Their Uniqueness
  10. Attention Seeking
  11. Sensitivity to Criticism
  12. Difficulty Maintaining Relationships

Importance of Recognizing These Traits

Recognizing these traits is crucial for identifying narcissistic behavior. It helps in understanding the challenges of dealing with narcissists, whether in personal relationships, at work, or in social settings. Awareness of these traits can protect individuals from manipulation and emotional harm.

How These Traits Manifest in Behavior

These traits show up in various ways in a narcissist’s behavior. For example, they might always talk about their achievements, expect constant praise, or disregard others’ feelings. Understanding how these traits manifest can help in identifying narcissistic individuals early and taking appropriate actions to manage interactions with them.

Trait 1: Grandiosity

Definition and Characteristics

Grandiosity is an exaggerated sense of self-importance. A person with this trait believes they are superior to others and deserve special treatment. They often fantasize about their power, success, and attractiveness.

Examples of Grandiose Behavior

  • Boasting about achievements that are overstated or untrue.
  • Expecting others to acknowledge their perceived superiority without question.
  • Acting as if they are more talented or knowledgeable than anyone else.
  • Belittling others to maintain their sense of superiority.

Impact on Interpersonal Relationships

Grandiosity can damage relationships. Narcissists may dismiss others’ feelings, making them feel undervalued. They often dominate conversations, ignore others’ achievements, and expect constant praise. This behavior can lead to conflicts and make it hard for them to form genuine, lasting relationships.

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Trait 2: Need for Admiration

Definition and Characteristics

Narcissists have an excessive need for admiration. They constantly seek approval and praise to reinforce their self-esteem. They thrive on attention and often feel uncomfortable or upset when they are not the center of attention.

Signs of Excessive Need for Admiration

  • Frequently fishing for compliments.
  • Becoming upset or angry when not praised.
  • Seeking validation through social media or public recognition.
  • Feeling envious or threatened when others receive attention or praise.

How This Trait Affects Social Interactions

The need for admiration can make social interactions challenging. Narcissists may monopolize conversations to ensure they remain the focus. They might disregard or belittle others’ contributions to keep the spotlight on themselves. This behavior can create tension and resentment, leading to strained or superficial relationships. People around them may feel used or ignored, which can further isolate the narcissist over time.

Trait 3: Lack of Empathy

Definition and Characteristics

Lack of empathy is the inability to understand or share the feelings of others. Narcissists with this trait cannot recognize or care about others’ emotions, needs, or perspectives. They are often self-centered and focused only on their own desires and feelings.

Recognizing Lack of Empathy in Actions

  • Ignoring or dismissing others’ feelings or experiences.
  • Showing no remorse for hurtful actions or words.
  • Failing to offer support or comfort to others in distress.
  • Making decisions without considering the impact on others.

Consequences for Personal and Professional Relationships

Lack of empathy can lead to significant issues in relationships. Personally, it can result in emotional distance, conflicts, and breakups. Friends and family may feel neglected and unimportant. Professionally, it can create a toxic work environment, as colleagues may feel unsupported and undervalued. This behavior can hinder teamwork and cooperation, leading to poor job performance and dissatisfaction among coworkers.

Trait 4: Sense of Entitlement

Definition and Characteristics

A sense of entitlement is when someone believes they deserve special treatment and privileges without earning them. Narcissists with this trait expect others to cater to their needs and often feel that rules do not apply to them.

Examples of Entitled Behavior

  • Demanding special treatment in various situations, such as skipping lines or receiving favors.
  • Expecting others to prioritize their needs over everyone else’s.
  • Becoming angry or frustrated when things do not go their way.
  • Assuming they deserve rewards or recognition without putting in the necessary effort.

How Entitlement Creates Conflict

Entitlement often leads to conflict in both personal and professional settings. In personal relationships, it can cause resentment and frustration, as others feel used or taken for granted. Friends and family may struggle to meet the narcissist’s constant demands, leading to strained relationships. In the workplace, entitled behavior can disrupt team dynamics, as the narcissist may undermine colleagues, refuse to follow rules, or take credit for others’ work. This can create a hostile work environment and reduce overall productivity and morale.

Trait 5: Exploitative Behavior

Definition and Characteristics

Exploitative behavior is when someone takes advantage of others for their own gain, often without considering the impact on those they exploit. Narcissists with this trait use others to achieve their goals, showing little regard for their well-being.

Recognizing Exploitative Tendencies

  • Manipulating others to get what they want.
  • Using people for personal gain, such as money, status, or favors.
  • Lying or deceiving to achieve their objectives.
  • Disregarding the feelings or needs of those they exploit.

Impact on Others and Long-Term Consequences

Exploitative behavior can cause significant harm to others. Victims may feel used, betrayed, and undervalued, leading to emotional distress. Long-term consequences for the narcissist include damaged relationships and loss of trust. People may distance themselves from the narcissist, resulting in social and professional isolation. This behavior can also lead to reputational damage, making it difficult for the narcissist to form new relationships or advance in their career.

Trait 6: Envy of Others

Definition and Characteristics

Envy is a feeling of discontent or resentment aroused by someone else’s possessions, qualities, or achievements. Narcissists often feel envious because they believe they deserve what others have. This trait can lead to feelings of inadequacy and hostility towards those they envy.

Signs of Envious Behavior

  • Downplaying others’ successes or achievements.
  • Expressing resentment when others receive praise or recognition.
  • Trying to sabotage or undermine others’ efforts.
  • Constantly comparing themselves to others and feeling inferior.

How Envy Affects Relationships and Self-Perception

Envy can severely damage relationships. Narcissists may become resentful and hostile towards those they envy, leading to conflicts and broken relationships. Their constant need to compare themselves to others can also erode their self-esteem, making them feel perpetually dissatisfied. This negative self-perception can drive further envious behavior, creating a vicious cycle that hinders personal growth and happiness. Envy also isolates the narcissist, as their inability to celebrate others’ successes alienates friends, family, and colleagues.

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Trait 7: Arrogance

Definition and Characteristics

Arrogance is an attitude of superiority manifested in an overbearing manner or in presumptuous claims. Narcissists with this trait believe they are better than others and often look down on those they consider inferior.

Identifying Arrogant Attitudes

  • Speaking or behaving in a condescending manner.
  • Dismissing others’ opinions or contributions.
  • Believing they are always right and refusing to listen to feedback.
  • Displaying a sense of entitlement to special treatment or privileges.

Effects on Social and Professional Life

Arrogance can alienate friends, family, and colleagues. In social settings, it can lead to conflicts and isolation as people may find the narcissist’s attitude offensive and difficult to tolerate. Professionally, arrogance can hinder collaboration and teamwork, as the narcissist may dismiss the input of others and create a hostile work environment. This behavior can result in missed opportunities and career setbacks, as their inability to work well with others can limit their progress and reputation in their field.

Trait 8: Preoccupation with Success and Power

Definition and Characteristics

Narcissists often have an obsessive focus on success and power. They are driven by a desire to achieve high status, wealth, and control, often at the expense of personal relationships and ethical considerations.

Obsessive Focus on Achievement

  • Constantly setting and pursuing ambitious goals.
  • Measuring self-worth by accomplishments and external validation.
  • Engaging in competitive behavior to outdo others.
  • Sacrificing personal relationships and well-being for career advancement.

Influence on Decision Making and Relationships

This preoccupation with success and power can heavily influence a narcissist’s decisions and relationships. They may make unethical choices to achieve their goals, such as manipulating or deceiving others. In relationships, this focus can lead to neglect of emotional connections, as the narcissist prioritizes their ambitions over the needs of their loved ones. Their relentless pursuit of success can create a high-stress environment, leading to burnout and strained interactions with colleagues and partners. Over time, this behavior can result in isolation and dissatisfaction, as their achievements fail to compensate for the lack of meaningful relationships and personal fulfillment.

Trait 9: Belief in Being Unique

Definition and Characteristics

Narcissists often believe they are unique and special, different from everyone else. They think that only other special people can understand them or that they deserve special treatment because of their uniqueness.

How This Belief Manifests

  • Insisting they are unlike anyone else and deserve special treatment.
  • Believing that only certain people or institutions are worthy of their association.
  • Seeking out exclusive or high-status groups or activities.
  • Dismissing others’ experiences and opinions as less valid or important.

Impact on Interactions with Others

This belief can make narcissists difficult to relate to and work with. They may come across as elitist or snobbish, making others feel undervalued and dismissed. In social settings, this can lead to isolation as people may find their attitude off-putting. In professional environments, it can hinder teamwork and collaboration, as the narcissist may disregard colleagues’ contributions, believing only their ideas are valuable. This can create a toxic work atmosphere and damage relationships with coworkers.

Trait 10: Manipulative Behavior

Definition and Characteristics

Manipulative behavior involves influencing or controlling others to achieve personal goals, often through deceitful or indirect tactics. Narcissists use manipulation to maintain their power and control over situations and people.

Recognizing Manipulative Tactics

  • Gaslighting: Making others doubt their perceptions or reality.
  • Playing the victim: Gaining sympathy or avoiding responsibility by portraying themselves as the victim.
  • Triangulation: Using third parties to communicate or create conflict.
  • Withholding: Refusing to share information or resources to control others.

Consequences for Trust and Relationships

Manipulative behavior can severely damage trust and relationships. Victims of manipulation often feel confused, betrayed, and powerless. Over time, this can lead to a breakdown in communication and emotional connection. In personal relationships, manipulation can cause significant emotional harm and lead to separation or divorce. In professional settings, it can create a hostile work environment, reduce morale, and increase turnover. Ultimately, the narcissist’s manipulative tactics can backfire, leading to social and professional isolation as others distance themselves to protect their well-being.

Trait 11: Lack of Accountability

Definition and Characteristics

Narcissists often exhibit a lack of accountability, meaning they avoid taking responsibility for their actions and their consequences. They may deflect blame, make excuses, or deny wrongdoing to maintain their self-image.

Avoidance of Responsibility

  • Blaming others for their mistakes or failures.
  • Refusing to admit when they are wrong.
  • Making excuses to justify their actions.
  • Denying involvement in negative outcomes.

Effects on Personal and Professional Life

Lack of accountability can strain personal relationships. Friends and family may feel frustrated and disrespected when the narcissist refuses to take responsibility for their actions. This can lead to frequent conflicts and breakdowns in trust. In professional settings, this behavior can hinder teamwork and collaboration, as colleagues may find it difficult to work with someone who does not own up to their mistakes. Over time, the narcissist’s refusal to accept accountability can damage their reputation and limit their career growth, as others may see them as unreliable and difficult to work with.

Trait 12: Superficial Charm

Definition and Characteristics

Superficial charm refers to the ability to appear likable, engaging, and charismatic on the surface. Narcissists often use this charm to win people over and gain their trust, hiding their true intentions and character.

Signs of Superficial Charm

  • Being excessively polite and agreeable.
  • Using flattery and compliments to make others feel good.
  • Appearing highly confident and enthusiastic.
  • Quickly building rapport and seeming genuinely interested in others.

How Charm is Used to Influence and Control

Narcissists use superficial charm to manipulate and control others. They may charm someone to gain their trust and then exploit that trust for personal gain. For example, they might use charm to secure a job, form advantageous relationships, or obtain favors. Once they achieve their goal, their true nature often becomes apparent, leading to disappointment and betrayal for those who were charmed. This tactic can be particularly damaging in personal relationships, where the initial charm masks deeper issues and manipulative behaviors. In professional environments, it can lead to short-term success but long-term distrust and conflict as the narcissist’s true motives are revealed.

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Coping with a Narcissist

Strategies for Dealing with Narcissistic Individuals

  1. Stay Calm and Objective: Keep your emotions in check when interacting with a narcissist. Avoid getting drawn into their drama or conflicts.
  2. Don’t Engage in Arguments: Narcissists often seek to provoke and dominate. Refuse to be baited into arguments and stand firm in your perspective.
  3. Use Clear and Direct Communication: Be straightforward about your needs and boundaries. Avoid being vague, as narcissists can exploit ambiguity.

Setting Boundaries and Protecting Yourself

  1. Define Your Limits: Clearly establish what behavior is acceptable and what is not. Communicate these boundaries firmly and consistently.
  2. Stick to Your Boundaries: Enforce your limits even when the narcissist tries to push them. Consistency is key to maintaining your boundaries.
  3. Limit Contact: When possible, reduce interactions with the narcissist. This can help protect your mental and emotional well-being.
  4. Seek Support from Others: Build a network of supportive friends and family who understand your situation and can offer advice and comfort.

Seeking Professional Help and Support

  1. Therapy and Counseling: Consider individual therapy to develop coping strategies and build resilience. A therapist can also help you understand your experiences and emotions.
  2. Support Groups: Join support groups for people dealing with narcissistic individuals. Sharing experiences with others can provide validation and practical advice.
  3. Legal Advice: If necessary, seek legal counsel to protect your rights and interests, especially in cases involving custody, property, or workplace issues.


Narcissists exhibit a range of behaviors that can be harmful to those around them. The 12 key traits are:

  1. Grandiosity
  2. Need for Admiration
  3. Lack of Empathy
  4. Sense of Entitlement
  5. Exploitative Behavior
  6. Envy of Others
  7. Arrogance
  8. Preoccupation with Success and Power
  9. Belief in Being Unique
  10. Manipulative Behavior
  11. Lack of Accountability
  12. Superficial Charm

Importance of Awareness and Understanding

Understanding these traits is crucial for recognizing and coping with narcissistic behavior. Awareness can help you protect yourself and make informed decisions about your relationships and interactions.

Encouragement for Further Learning and Support

Continued learning about narcissism and its impact can empower you. Seek out resources and support to better navigate relationships with narcissists and maintain your well-being.

References and Further Reading

Academic Articles and Research Papers on Narcissism

  1. “Narcissistic Personality Disorder: Diagnostic and Clinical Challenges” – Journal of Clinical Psychology
  2. “The Dark Triad of Personality: Narcissism, Machiavellianism, and Psychopathy” – Personality and Individual Differences

Books and Publications on Narcissistic Personality Disorder

  1. “The Narcissist Next Door” by Jeffrey Kluger
  2. “Disarming the Narcissist” by Wendy T. Behary
  3. “Narcissistic Lovers: How to Cope, Recover and Move On” by Cynthia Zayn and Kevin Dibble

Online Resources and Support Networks

  1. Psychology Today: Articles and resources on understanding and coping with narcissism.
  2. Mayo Clinic: Information on symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
  3. Support Groups: Online communities like Reddit’s r/raisedbynarcissists or local support groups for people dealing with narcissists.


What words can destroy a narcissist?

Words that challenge a narcissist’s inflated self-image can be particularly impactful. However, it’s important to use caution and prioritize safety in any interaction. Some phrases that might upset a narcissist include:

  • “I don’t need your approval.”
  • “You are not the center of the universe.”
  • “Your behavior is unacceptable.”
  • “I can see through your facade.”
  • “You are not as important as you think.”

How does a narcissist treat his wife?

A narcissist may treat his wife in various harmful ways, including:

  • Manipulation and Control: Using tactics to dominate and control her actions and decisions.
  • Lack of Empathy: Showing little to no understanding or concern for her feelings.
  • Criticism and Belittling: Regularly criticizing and belittling her to undermine her self-esteem.
  • Isolation: Limiting her interactions with friends and family to maintain control.
  • Gaslighting: Making her doubt her perceptions and reality to keep her dependent and confused.

How to shut down a narcissist?

Shutting down a narcissist involves setting firm boundaries and not engaging in their manipulative tactics. Strategies include:

  • Stay Calm and Assertive: Remain composed and assertive without showing emotional reactions.
  • Set Clear Boundaries: Clearly communicate your limits and stick to them.
  • Avoid Arguing: Do not engage in arguments or power struggles.
  • Use Neutral Language: Respond with neutral, non-emotional language to avoid feeding their need for drama.

How to control a narcissist?

Controlling a narcissist is challenging and often not advisable. Instead, focus on managing your interactions with them. Here are some tips:

  • Set and Enforce Boundaries: Be clear about what behaviors you will and will not tolerate.
  • Limit Contact: Reduce interactions as much as possible to protect your well-being.
  • Seek Support: Get help from friends, family, or a therapist to navigate the relationship.
  • Stay Informed: Educate yourself about narcissistic behavior to better understand and respond to their tactics.

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