Timely Advice for Dealing with the Narcissist in Your Midst This Festive Season…
Have you ever struggled to know how to react when, year in and year out, a particular friend, work colleague, or family member, consistently manages to buy you the tackiest or least appropriate gift? Well, according to recent statistics on the prevalence of narcissism, chances are you’re not alone, and disturbingly, even after years of knowing a partner, relative or friend, the narcissist in your life will continue to choose the gift most likely to wind up in the back of the closet, or the charity bin!
No matter what the occasion, no matter how well you think this person knows you, or how long he/she has been in your life, anecdotal evidence would suggest that a narcissist can almost always be relied upon to get gift selection completely wrong. Remember that hideous ornament, tacky bauble, or that “trophy” gift you received last year, that was deemed by the narcissist “the most special gift of all”? This likely resembles what narcissists everywhere are shopping for this Christmas. Be it the most hideous scarf you’ve ever laid eyes on, the meaningless trinket you received last year, or that over-the-top, shiny, blingy gift that impresses everyone but you, it is very rare for the narcissist to choose something you will truly value or be able to make use of. According to the literature on narcissism, it is a curious behavioural trend linked with those with narcissistic personality characteristics, that due to the relative superficiality of many of their relationships, they are guaranteed to give gifts that lack any real meaning, and overwhelmingly they wind up missing the mark when it comes to choosing the right gift for others.
It comes down to the fact that narcissists perceive and relate to those around them in an ego-driven, self-serving way, or predominantly in relation to the way that their own ego or self is affected by their interactions with the other person. They are notably unable to actually choose a gift that is relevant, or likely to be personally valued, even for those seemingly close to them. Perhaps this is due to the fact that they do not truly know or understand others, and/or develop a deeper awareness of their likes or dislikes, beyond what they perceive about others in relation to getting their own needs met. Therefore, the majority of the time they go for the “tokenistic” or “trophy” present, which invariably has little personal meaning for the recipient. It merely reflects a superficial view of what they assume that person will appreciate, what will seem most impressive to others, or what will simply “fit the bill” for the occasion.
Yet, when dealing with a narcissist during this season of gift-giving, it is vital to keep in mind that they have an insatiable need for admiration. If they perceive any hint of disappointment or lack of appreciation demonstrated by the recipient for whom they have selected a gift, you will know about it… Even the slightest hint of displeasure is likely to inflict significant damage to the narcissist’s fragile ego, and this situation is never going to end well. As you may well realise, the narcissist is well-rehearsed in storing your “personal offences” against them to use as future ammunition or emotional leverage- maybe not today, or next week, but you will suffer for the perceived injury you have inflicted at some point! Beware, because a generous serving of guilt is likely to be served up and readily inflicted on you. Depending on which level of bullying your resident narcissist is prone to, it could take the form of pouting or sulking, or loaded statements such as “So and so loved his/her present, but I guess there is just no pleasing some people!” or the more direct “You never appreciate anything I do, I just can’t get it right when it comes to you, you’re never happy”. Furthermore, when it comes to those who bruise their egos, narcissists have longer memories than the narrative to The English Patient, and they are just as long- suffering in playing the drawn out role of the victim.
Indeed, the narcissistic gift-giver (especially a family member or someone who is very familiar with you) will rapidly launch into martyr / victim mode, where you are suddenly THE WORST PERSON in the world. It comes down to the fact that narcissists are skilled in the art of “projection”, or blame shifting, whereby they will readily, and sometimes aggressively, defend themselves against their own self-doubts, feelings of guilt, or generally unpleasant thoughts or feelings, by attributing them to others. At the core of it, the narcissist is super sensitive to criticism and rejection, so he/she will go on the attack if there is a perceived threat to the ego.
So in successfully navigating the emotional minefield that potentially accompanies Christmas with a narcissist in your midst, take heed! Smile widely, hold said gift up proudly for all to view, show it off, try it on (immediately if possible), and do your very best to demonstrate how much you “really love it”. The key is to keep the narcissist’s fragile ego intact. Deflate or injure the narcissistic ego and you will pay the price; feed the narcissistic ego and everyone is happy, and yuletide peace will be guaranteed this Christmas!