By Amanda L. Chan
Chances are, you’ve encountered a narcissist. You know, that friend who somehow manages to revert every topic of conversation back to himself; the colleague who is always bragging about having the latest, greatest ____; the family member who thinks she is hotter, smarter and just generally better than you at everything.
But sometimes the signs of narcissism are a little more nuanced. They’re not always as obvious as media depictions would have you believe. And yes, it’s possible to have some traits of narcissism without having full-blown, clinically diagnosed narcissistic personality disorder, which is when narcissism starts to have a serious, negative impact on everyday life and relationships.
“People are on a continuum — there’s a range of narcissism,” W. Keith Campbell, Ph.D., head of the Department of Psychology at the University of Georgia and co-author of The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement, explains to HuffPost. “Most people are sort of in the middle, though some are more extreme than others.”
When you think about the people you come into contact with every day — whether it be a friend, romantic partner or colleague — do any of the following seem to ring a bell? If so, you may be dealing with a narcissist.
1. They’re likable — at least, at first glance.
Narcissists tend to be great at first impressions, coming across as very charismatic and personable, which is also why they can perform quite well in job interviews. “Often the image you see of someone who is narcissistic at the beginning could be very positive, but over a longer term, it turns out to be more negative,” Campbell says. “So that’s where the surprise comes in — it’s like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is the person I just hired, and now look at what I’m dealing with.’”
2. Not all narcissists are loud and proud. In fact, some are quiet and shy.
While the loud and braggy types are the ones people usually picture when thinking about narcissists, they can actually be quiet and reserved. Zlatan Krizan, Ph.D., an associate professor in the Department of Psychology at Iowa State University, explains that there’s actually two kinds of expressions of narcissism: grandiose, which is where the bragging and showing off is exhibited, and shy, where a person may not be as forthright “or be out there with a bullhorn, but is sitting in the corner, fantasizing about when their day will come, and resenting others.”
That’s not to say that narcissists are always either grandiose or shy. In most people, there’s elements of both shy narcissism and grandiose narcissism. “We like to put people in a box,” Krizan says, “but when you look at how these personality traits present themselves, you see separation only at extreme levels.”