Sunday, February 25, 2007

Enough About You, Let's Talk About Me

Enough About You, Let's Talk About Me: How to Recognize and Manage the Narcissists in Your Life
by Les Carter
ISBN: 0787980633


I Want What I Want: Manipulative or Exploitive Behavior

Psychologically healthy people generally seek to be genuine, which involves a commitment to internal and external consistency. Simply put, genuineness means that someone's behavior can be trusted as an accurate reflection of that person's inner beliefs and priorities.

Narcissists are not genuine. The ways they publicly present themselves are not necessarily true representations of what they really feel or believe. They are more interested in posturing for favorable reactions than being known as authentic. Rather than understanding relationships as safe havens where openness and transparency can be practiced, they enter relationships looking for ways to coerce others to do their bidding. Narcissists replace fair and honest exchanges with behaviors that manipulate other people so that they can get their way.

One man, Jeff, described how he had learned to be cautious whenever he was in the presence of his sister, Lana. "I'm always watching my back whenever we have family get-togethers," he explained. "Lana can act as if she's your best pal, but I've learned that I can't let my guard down when she's friendly because history tells me that she's just setting me up for some manipulative purpose." For instance, as Jeff's extended family made preparations one year for a Thanksgiving Day gathering, Lana was most agreeable as she discussed her role in providing food. As Jeff put it, "Her cooperation seemed eerie because she has such a strong reputation for being argumentative or contrary regarding these sorts of things." Sure enough, as the Thanksgiving Day festivities wound down, Lana pulled her brother aside and said, "I need to ask a favor from you. My family has planned to go skiing over the Christmas break, and I'm going to need you to keep my dogs. Also, Grandma asked if she could stay with me for a couple of weeks, but since I'll be gone, I told her she could stay with you."

Right then Jeff understood why his sister had been cooperative with their Thanksgiving plans. She had two large, high-maintenance six-month-old puppies, and she did not want to pay to have them boarded. Jeff also knew that Lana often complained about attending to their Grandma's health needs, so Lana clearly did not want to have Grandma as a guest. Jeff realized that Lana had been buttering him up so he would agree to take on the chores she wanted him to do. She failed to consider that keeping the dogs would be difficult for him, given the fact that he and his wife had a newborn son, and that his wife was allergic to animal hair. Lana only cared about her needs and preferences.

The manipulations of narcissists know no limits. Sometimes the exploitive behavior takes on the form of false friendliness, as in the case of Lana's dealings with Jeff. Other times, narcissists will resort to making others feel guilty. For instance, when Lana sensed that Jeff was less than enthusiastic about doing her bidding, she listed three or four favors she had done for him recently. She assumed that if she couldn't reason with him, guilt might be a successful hook. Some even lack a conscience to prevent them from lying or conveying only partial truths. Others manipulate through pouting, giving others the silent treatment, being secretive or stubborn, conniving behind others' backs, or being intimidating. Whatever the means, their behavior indicates that they place no value on open, straightforward communication; their only concern is that they get their way.