Want to know if you're working with a narcissist? Judging by the number of readers of a recent post about how narcissists tend to purchase items that make them stand out, plenty of people do. (Plenty of people want to know if they're working with a psychopath, too.)

So if you're trying to get a sense of how self-aggrandizing, assertive, eager to take charge, and willing to manipulate others an employee, vendor, or supplier might be, here's another simple approach. 

Just look at their faces: Research shows that grandiose narcissists have thicker, denser eyebrows.

What makes a narcissist "grandiose"? According to Dr. Ronald Riggio, professor of leadership and organizational psychology at Claremont McKenna College, writing in Psychology Today, "Grandiose narcissists have a flamboyant, assertive, and interpersonally dominant style. They're more likely to attain leadership positions, have an inflated sense of self, be overconfident in making decisions, and unlikely to learn from their mistakes." (Wait. That sounds like me.)

Further, grandiose narcissists tend to strongly agree with statements like "If I ruled the world, it would be a better place," and "I like to show off my body." (Never mind. I strongly disagree with those two statements.)

In the study, participants were asked to look at pictures of people who had been identified as having assorted degrees of narcissism. They were pretty good at picking out the narcissists.

When the researchers removed the eyebrows from all the photos, the participants were unable to pick out the narcissists. Then, when researchers just showed photos of eyebrows, the participants were once again able to pick out the narcissists--just from their eyebrows.

Then (maybe just for fun) the researchers photoshopped eyebrows from photos of non-narcissists onto narcissists, and vice versa...and the eyebrows still told the narcissism tale.

Why does that matter? According to the researchers,

"The ability to identify dark personality traits at zero-acquaintance provides particular value for avoiding exploitation and manipulation. The increasing incidence of narcissism underscores this value.

"Fortunately, people can accurately judge others' narcissism based on how they act, what they say, what they wear, and what their faces look like. Here, we isolated the facial features that explain the last of these, finding that narcissism judgments principally depend on targets' eyebrows."

Or, in non-researcher-speak: If you're concerned about whether a co-worker (or worse, boss) is likely to be manipulative, overconfident, and self-aggrandizing--check out their eyebrows. 

But more importantly, pay attention to what people say and do. Narcissists need to feel like they're superior to other people; that's why what they say and do is often intended to place themselves above others.

And that's why working with someone who may be a narcissist isn't really a problem. All you have to do is factor that in to the way you treat them. Praise them a little more often. When they go on a little too long about what they're thinking or feeling or doing, be understanding.

Do what emotionally intelligent people do: empathize with and adapt to the people around you.

After all, narcissists just want to feel better about themselves--maybe to a greater degree than others, but still.

Wanting to feel better about yourself isn't a bad thing. 

And neither is helping people feel better about themselves--especially those who are especially driven to satisfy that need.

Published on: Jun 5, 2018
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