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What do you do when life gives you a raw deal by placing an overt narcissist in your life? I can relate to your despair considering I married one. Overt narcissists can be just as difficult to handle as the other types of narcissists. Why? Their unappealing personality traits.
I mean, how long can you stand someone’s intense arrogance, self-centeredness, manipulative ways, and manufactured self-importance? They will break you down mentally, emotionally, and physically just by having to put up with their attitude.
Coping with a narcissist takes awareness, mindfulness, and well-thought-out strategies. This applies especially if you can’t ignore them forever or block them out of your life. Having attracted narcissist after narcissist into my life, I had to learn how to protect myself from going crazy.
By the way, they love to call you ‘crazy‘, don’t they? It turns out that narcissists lack the awareness to understand they’re the source of the problem.
My job here is simple, and it is to guide you on how to handle the narcissist in your life before they ‘destroy’ you. It doesn’t matter if it’s your lover, spouse, friend, parent, or relative. Taking stock of the situation right away is crucial.
I urge you to not leave without going through all the tips laid out in the strategic action plan below. Included are practical tools on what to do and how to cope with an overt narcissist.
What Is an Overt Narcissist?
An overt narcissist, also called a classic narcissist, is someone who openly shows signs of narcissism. Some are called grandiose narcissist for exaggerating their self-importance.
Narcissism is a diagnosable personality disorder also called narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). True to their name, their overt, ‘open’ or extroverted behavior makes it easier to spot the signs they’re a narcissist.
In almost all instances, they come across as over-the-top, demanding, overbearing, attention-seeking, and annoying. Interestingly, they often possess charming personality traits, which help offset their toxic traits.
In fact, grandiose narcissists use their charming persona to build social networks, and wealth, and climb their way to success. Their ability to connect and dominate helps them get into leadership positions.
Despite all of their social abilities, dating, living with, or working with a narcissist can be emotionally draining.
Overt Narcissist vs. Covert Narcissist
To add a bit more context, the overt narcissist is the opposite of the covert narcissist. Covert narcissists appear as shy introverted or even antisocial.
However, dealing with a covert narcissist is just as problematic. It’s just that they express their narcissism in passive and subtle ways, making it difficult to spot their narcissism.
There is a longer wait period for you to uncover core characteristics such as manipulative, vindictive, and exploitative. By then, you’re already invested in the friendship or relationship.
How Does Someone Become a Narcissist?
Researchers have a theory. According to them, the personality disorder is rooted in childhood experiences, genetics, and parenting styles.
Brian D. Johnson Ph.D. and Laurie Berdahl M.D.’s discussed the childhood link in their Psychology Today article, Childhood Roots of Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
In a nutshell, they attribute the disorder to a failure to develop a secure sense of self (self-esteem) and empathy as a child. Empathy is having a “healthy concern for others” when they are in distress.
Overall, narcissists lack the ability to emotionally connect with others. The deficiency becomes more obvious in adulthood.
Johnson and Berdahl also shared another finding. According to them, children who are unable to form empathy may “overcompensate by needing constant ego boosts from others.” Ultimately, they grow into egotistical and attention-seeking adults.
In fact, a lack of empathy is one of the primary traits of NPD, as outlined in the DSM. The DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) is a guide psychiatrists follow to determine if their patient has a narcissistic personality.
9 Signs Someone is an Overt Narcissist
The signs someone is an overt narcissist are so obvious, they are hard to miss! The signs are related to the traits and behaviors of all narcissists outlined in the DSM. Someone who openly behaves in the following ways may be an overt or grandiose narcissist:
- They inflate their self-importance (grandiosity).
- They give the impression that they know everything (arrogance).
- They demand and control everything around them.
- They act as if they’re special (delusion of grandeur) and deserve special treatment (self-entitlement).
- They set themselves in positions to receive excessive attention, admiration, special recognition, and praise.
- Their conversations center on achieving unlimited power, success, and wealth.
- They overlook or dismiss the needs of others due to self-centeredness.
- They are unbothered when someone is hurt, in distress, or needs help (lack of empathy).
- They have a tendency to use manipulation to achieve their goals and exploit others.
6 Real-Life Examples of How an Overt Narcissist Operates
The overt narcissist in your life will be more of a problem the closer you are to them. Their romantic partners, children, parents, and employees usually face the brunt of their undesirable traits.
Let’s take a look at examples of how overt narcissism shows up.
1. As a partner who centers conversations around themselves
Practically all of your interactions with them will be dominated by the person. The details center on their daily activities, personal problems, and whatever else.
Talking about themselves all the time goes along with being self-centered. You may leave feeling hurt, unheard, or misunderstood since they often fail to recognize you’re a part of the conversation.
2. As a public figure who brags about his titles and achievements
Right away you know their openly exhibiting overt narcissism if they say “Do you know who I am?” followed by listing their titles and accolades.
If you visit their home, you are bound to see a designated corner decorated with degrees, certificates, and photos to prove every achievement.
3. As a parent who uses their child for praise
It’s not enough for narcissists to brag about themselves. They also use their children as a source of narcissistic supply, which in this case is attention and admiration. They’ll brag about their children’s beauty, talents, and achievements on social media.
The more LIKES and positive comments they receive, the larger their ego inflates. They typically attend their talented or scholastic children’s events to receive recognition as a “great parent.”
4. As an individual who remains unmoved by the plight of others
An empath will naturally run to help someone who’s hurt or in need of help. The overt narcissist will see them and show no emotions for their struggles. The lack of feelings for others’ pain or their needs is a display of a lack of empathy.
Things get even more personal and hurtful if you’re the one that’s overlooked. Their non-reaction may irk you, especially if you ask for help, and they turn a ‘blind eye’.
5. As a friend who distances themselves from you after losing your corporate job
They say you’ll know your real friends when you’re at your worst. The overt narcissist stays connected to people of status they regard as equal or above them. Once you lose your title or status, you’ll lose them.
They can no longer feed off of you or trade on your status. Automatically, they begin to look down on you. Next, they will distance themselves and perform a narcissist discard. To them, you can no longer supply them with narcissistic fuel.
6. As a boss who manipulates a situation to take credit for an employee’s work
Manipulative is a trait that runs across all narcissists. Some, like covert narcissists, tend to be more manipulative.
Narcissists use manipulation tactics to get what they want, e.g., admiration and praise. An overtly narcissistic boss may manipulate their colleague’s thoughts about an employee’s accomplishment at work.
For example, saying they’re the ones who discovered a breach of company data. They’ll make a convincing case by discrediting the employee’s abilities.
For example, saying the person has no knowledge about databases. This turns the recognition and praise away from the employee and onto them.
Your Action Plan for Dealing with an Overt Narcissist
An overt narcissist typically shows up as charming, smooth-talking, extroverted, and knowledgeable. These traits make them desirable.
At the same time, they are self-centered, self-absorbed, opinionated, arrogant, and obnoxious. With all of their positive and negative traits combined, they’re able to attract and keep people interested.
Usually, this works well in their academic and professional world. Things get quite problematic for the classic narcissist in close or romantic relationships.
The way they look down on others lends itself to a lack of respect and mistreatment. These behaviors are considered emotional or narcissistic abuse.
It’s in your best interest to have actionable strategies to deal with a narcissist. A plan is needed especially in situations where you cannot “No Contact” the person, e.g., a narcissistic spouse, parent, or boss.
Confronting the issue and not the individual may be a more effective and emotionally safe way to handle it. The passive approach can help reduce tension while protecting you from the emotional and mental effects of being around them.
1. Know who you’re dealing with
The saying, “Know thy enemy,” is apt in the instance case. Study them by reading or listening to podcasts about narcissism. Learn what motivates narcissistic tendencies that cause you to feel distressed or exploited.
The more you know how they ‘move’, the more you’re in a position to prevent an outcome that is unfavorable to you. Half the work is done once you understand them on a deeper level as well as their motivations.
2. Empathize with them
Narcissism is rooted in childhood experiences with parents and negative situations that cause them to become unfeeling and manipulative. Knowing the backstory can create a sense of empathy vs anger towards them.
Putting their undesirable traits in context may make you feel less hurt or offended. You don’t necessarily have to tell them you understand or empathize. They will feel criticized and attacked if you refer to their shortcomings.
3. Manage your interaction
Dealing with a narcissist who has an overinflated ego is a job in itself. They can be a bit much, honestly.
You may have a hard time limiting your interactions if you’re an empath. Because you emotionally connect with others, you tend to listen and offer emotional support.
Actively managing your physical and emotional interactions will help prevent them from overwhelming or taking advantage of you.
Find out if you’re an empath.
4. Stick to your boundaries
A sweet-talking, manipulative narcissist can make you overlook your personal boundaries. They also like nothing better than when they can do whatever they want without pushback.
Keep enforcing your boundaries by letting them know when you’re not okay with something. For example, changing the subject or ending the conversation when you’ve had enough of them talking about themselves.
5. Starve their ego
You already learned this type of narcissist and know their top needs. Recognition, admiration, attention, and praise top of the list. These needs are required to prop up their ego.
Providing them with those examples of narcissistic supply will only reinforce their attention-seeking behavior. Flip the script on them by taking away these very things they thrive on.
6. Don’t let them ‘get to you’
Of course, they ‘get to you’ with their obnoxious, self-absorbed, and annoying ways. Keep your feelings to yourself. The moment they see they have an effect on you, they’ll feel powerful.
It may seem odd that narcissists thrive on other people’s discomfort, especially when they’re the ones causing it. The tendency links back to their delusion of grandeur, or believing they have special powers.
7. Avoid telling them about themselves
They won’t listen or care to change. Unfortunately, their sense of superiority and immense arrogance causes them to dismiss you. “Who are you to tell me about myself?” is something my grandiose ex-husband used to say.
I really annoyed him, when I was only trying to communicate my need to have a balanced, not one-sided, relationship. He was an institutional leader at the time, and I was a law student.
In his eyes, he was on a pedestal, and I was beneath him. That is how narcissists with grandiose personalities treat people.
8. Remove yourself from their space
Recognize the level of power you have over the situation. You can simply walk away and cut off their ego supply. If you can’t physically leave because you’re at work, for example, practice emotionally disconnecting.
Narcissists NEED attention and compliments and hate it when you ignore them. It leaves them feeling inferior. The longer you keep using this strategy, the less they’ll come around you.
9. Stay close to your support system
A relationship with a narcissist is cold and lonely. You’re very much on your own, most of the time. They do not value anyone else above themselves. Hoping they will meet your emotional needs is like expecting pigs to fly.
Learning to self-soothe and staying in touch with people who give you their time and attention, and value you, can help bridge that gap. Think of this strategy as one way to care for your mental health.
10. Seek support from a mental health professional
Coping with someone who has a narcissistic personality can be emotionally exhausting. A counselor, social worker, or therapist can function as someone to listen and validate your experience.
These individuals can teach you skills to cope with the emotional and mental challenges of living or working with a narcissist.
Final Thoughts on the Overt Narcissist
It’s not their fault you aren’t having a positive experience around the narcissist in your life. Things should get better once you begin applying the tools to managing your relationship with them.
It would have been nice if you could discuss how their actions affect you. However, they are too self-absorbed to worry about your feelings.
Narcissists generally lack self-awareness. This is the type of awareness needed to see themselves through the eyes of others. They are dead set on the false image they have of themselves.
Their huge ego also won’t let them accept their unhealthy attributes are a source of discontent and unhappiness in their surroundings.
Finally, if you’re not afraid to go toe-to-toe with the narcissist, 17 Ways to Make a Narcissist Really Fear You is packed with interesting ideas.
And if you're looking for articles about narcissists and narcissism, be sure to check out these blog posts:
- Narcissistic Injury: Definition, Causes, and How to Deal with It
- 20 Warning Signs You’re Dating a Narcissist
- 19 Weird Things That Narcissists Do to Manipulate People
Finally, if you want to identify YOUR personality type, then take one of these 11 personality tests to better understand what makes you tick.