How's your radar? Can you detect the person who's sucking up all the oxygen in the room? In other words, how can you make sure to dodge the narcissist before you end up in a relationship with one? You may think I'm being a bit extreme with a flippant diagnosis of "narcissistic personality disorder," but I assure you, it's a spectrum disorder and those who exhibit even some of the characteristics can make a relationship toxic.
In my previous post on relieving pressure, I talked about some red flags one should watch out for in initial meetings to avoid bigger problems down the road. Watch out for interactions with those who are:
1) INTERRUPTERS - these people just can't wait to tell you about their thoughts, so they steamroll conversations. You will struggle to be heard in a relationship within an interrupter; this is because your thoughts are never really heard over the other person's internal voice. Interrupters drown out others' input because it may seem threatening, untenable, or simply inferior to their own mindset. This person will have a hard time compromising or being considerate of your opinion.
2) HUMILIATORS/DISMISSERS - these people dismiss other individuals' ideas or approaches using a condescending tone or offensive language/name-calling. Remember that humiliators will not start by dismissing YOU necessarily; they first start by dismissing co-workers perhaps as incompetent when speaking about their day or by calling former partners or friends offensive names when describing previous relationships. Dismissers can even nonchalantly label public figures with offensive names without batting an eye. Just remember that someone who is used to dismissing others or disrespecting servers at restaurants or family members will, inevitably, target you with this dismissive attitude.
3) ENTITLED - folks who feel entitled need the world to bend to them because they believe they deserve the best of everything. Some entitled individuals will mask entitlement by claiming that certain conditions or circumstances have "forced" them to be the way they are--yeah, don't fall for that excuse. Personal accountability means you admit why you want things to be a certain way and take ownership--not deflect by pointing at other issues or people who have forced you to react!
4) EXAGGERATORS - people who exaggerate accomplishments or how others feel about them are not per se problematic, but it's a red flag when exaggerators use an inflated sense of self to describe how they are always right or "that if people only listened to them," everything would turn out perfect. Be wary of someone who makes certain that others need to know they are the smartest person in the room with all the answers. It is difficult to be in a relationship with someone who cannot admit fault.
5) MANIPULATORS - these people think that by bending and twisting any fact, they can get their partner to do as they please. Manipulators crave control and often use emotional blackmail to make someone feel that they owe them. This is when someone says, "If you loved me, you would do this," or "If you respected me, you would not do that," without giving a valid basis for their claim or without being willing to offer something in compromise. Manipulators create one-sided relationships by making you feel obligated to do things, but healthy relationships will lead you to both give and take.
So, how do you know when you are encountering a dangerous personality? Try to watch out for these red flags and stay vigilant. Often, if someone exhibits any one of the 5 above, you will need to address the issue squarely as a concern. The reaction to the conversation itself may give you most of the answers you need.