Does your boss micromanage to an irrational extreme? Is your spouse hypercritical and under-complimentary? Does your friend require more of you than he or she is willing to give in return? Do you have a controlling and demanding person in your life? Someone for whom you can’t seem to do enough? If so, you may be in a relationship with a narcissist.

The word “narcissist” may bring up images of someone who grandstands for attention and who is always ready to take credit and shirk blame. That, however, may be a limited concept of this complex personality pattern.

In his book, “ Enough About You, Let’s Talk About Me; How to Recognize and Manage the Narcissists in Your Life,” author Les Carter, Ph.D., gives a fuller picture of narcissistic behaviors. More importantly, Carter also gives practical suggestions for those persons in relationships with narcissistic persons at home, in the workplace and in social circles.

Narcissists, according to Carter, have an “insatiable need for control.” That means they have to be viewed as “top dog” in any situation. In a sense, they lack imagination. They can’t imagine not being in control and they can’t imagine not being seen and dealt with as superior.

Ironically, their postured superiority masks their feelings of inferiority. These feelings are so deeply rooted even the narcissist isn’t aware of them. In fact, narcissists lack awareness about themselves and how others experience them.

According to Carter, traits of a narcissist include:

  1. in inability to empathize (although they may be good pretenders and even deceptively charming)
  2. manipulative or exploitative traits (remember, the narcissists’ motto is, “what’s in it for me?”)
  3. an inability to receive direction from others (taking direction from others would mean someone was superior to them)
  4. an inability to admit mistakes
  5. an inability to weigh facts objectively (narcissists are always focused on what is best for them independent of any factual evidence or the needs of others)
  6. Narcissists expect everyone else to do what they want. In addition, narcissists believe they are always right; therefore anyone who disagrees with them must be wrong. The narcissist’s perspective makes a healthy two-way relationship where there is give and take impossible.

All the above means persons who are married to, work with or socialize with narcissists often find themselves perplexed, confounded and eventually angry. They often live in fear of relentless criticisms and demands from the narcissists, who may employ a variety of tactics from overt hostility to passive aggressive behaviors to pressure them into submission.

While Carter holds out little hope for the narcissist to change, he does give multiple tips for persons in relationship with them:

  1. Forget about “winning over” the narcissists in your life. It is futile to try and get the narcissist to understand your point of view. They are simply not invested in any opinion other than their own.
  2. Practice “delicate detachment.” Respond with your mind, not your emotions. It is easy to “get hooked” by personal attacks from the narcissist, and want to obtain respond in kind. No matter how angry the narcissist gets, stay cool.
  3. Don’t cater to a narcissist. The more you do, the more they expect.
  4. Make sure you have plenty of healthy relationships in your life.
  5. Be consistently assertive. The narcissist in your life may not acknowledge your rights, but you can acknowledge them for yourself. Maintain your boundaries.

(First published as Stephanie Hittle’s Health Care Today column and used her by permission of the Dayton Daily News.)

Disclaimer: Information provided on these pages is general in nature and should not be used in place of individual counseling.