Narcissism and narcissistic personalities.

Like a lot people, you’ve most likely have encountered a few people who are narcissistic individuals. You know the type – the person who is typically described as vain and self-absorbed. They come across as someone that thinks they are extremely important and expect everyone else to be aware of how important they are to the point of obnoxiousness.

Though many people can be selfish and every so often be a little vain, some individuals take it to extreme levels. When these traits and other traits similar to it are a persons defining characteristics they often cause a damaging effect on themselves and anyone who is a part of their life – these traits usually signal a mental health condition known as Narcissistic Personality Disorder or for short Narcissism. 

As with all disorders, the degree of severity can vary quite a lot. They can’t admit being wrong and are hypersensitive to anything that resembles criticism. They want to control how other people see them and can presented in any number of ways. “Narcissists come in all shapes, sizes, and degrees,” says Dr. Samuel Lopes DeVictoria, “He/she may look, by appearance, intimidating and scary to the average person. He could also play the “nice guy/person” whom everyone likes. 

1. Lies and Exaggerations
Narcissists are likely to create lies and exaggerations which is usually about themselves and even about others, and have the tendency of putting others down to make themselves seem better by comparison. Though narcissists often try to make themselves seem superior and “special” by either bragging (directly or indirectly), taking credit for things they shouldn't be taking credit for, and other forms of self-aggrandizing behavior, narcissists tend to focus on making others feel inferior through criticism, and intimidation. Narcissists are are often proficient at distorting facts, character assassinations, and intimidation to boost their self-worth and maintain an image.

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2. Rarely Admit Flaws and Are Highly Aggressive When Criticized
Many narcissists can react poorly when called up on their negative behavior. When challenged, the narcissist is likely to do one of a few things; fight,have a temper tantrum, make excuses, flat out denial, shift the blame elsewhere or just use passive aggression like the silent treatment or resentment. The Narcissist can resort to deflection by using criticisms against their to counter any that was made originally to them to either intimidate or oppress their victim. Some Narcissists view relationships as competitive rather than collaborative team based relationship where one has to be in control or on top of the other.

3. False Image Projection

Narcissists tend to project false images of themselves to the world, in order to hide their shortcomings and insecurities.They give themselves his “trophy complex" where they use people, objects, accomplishments to further feed into their exaggerated personas and self image, similar to self completion theory. Many narcissists like to view themselves as someone who is all-powerful and strong, with their opinion being the one that matters most regardless of who they actually are or what the situation is. In essence, narcissists want others to worship them, these external facades become pivotal parts of their false identity, replacing the real and more vulnerable self.

4. Manipulation and control
Narcissists have a tendency to make decisions for others bend to their own agenda. Narcissists may use people who are acquaintances or even people who are close to cover up any flaws and shortcomings. Narcissists are not above of using guilt, blame, and victim-hood as tactics to manipulate their victimsNarcissists conduct psychological manipulation toward individuals micromanaging and controlling relationships, including their victims how they should think, feel, and behave and they can often become critical, intimidating, and/or hostile toward those who displease them. 

While the narcissist manipulate to compensate for a desperate sense of deficiency (a lacking of self worth of who they really are), this psychological type have an inability or an unwillingness to actually relate to people  as human beings. They have a need to become “special” and “superior” by being less themselves and de-humanizing others.

Interpreting and Reading Body Language

What can be one of the greatest barriers some people have is the inability to detect physical social cues in conversations. Extroverts are usually more prone to develop this skill naturally through years of high exposure to new social interactions, while other more introverted personalities would need more guidance in this area

Sometimes we over-complicate things because we’re oblivious to what for others appears to be so simple they aren’t even conscious of their ability to read these signals. On the other hand we are far more conscious of the words we use, how we control and arrange our words in a particular way to portray our thoughts and emotions in a given moment. 

The idea of body language is to simply have a better understanding of social interactions between yourself and others and to understand your surroundings and what is going on in the minds of the ones around you to the best of our ability.

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It definitely is worth your time to learn about body language, first of all because it's a fascinating topic and by learning body language you can instantly improve your interactions by having a better read on a person or a groups state of mind. Also by taking a new view on social interactions with more of a critical eye on why things the way they are can really change the way you see others and yourself. 

And when I speak about control or a critical eye, the way I see it, it's not about tricks or manipulations (although there are many), but about training your intuition to have a better read on an interaction so you can steer it to a better and more positive direction.

If you want to learn more about body language...

Donald Trumps speech style - what may have helped him win and influence the American nation.

Donald Trumps speech style

If you were asked the unlikely question of "Who is Donald Trump?" One of the possible answers you could give would be, "The President of the United states - and a controversial one at that." But what is most controversial about President Trump is how he addresses large crowds and responds to anything anyone says to him. It's unlike any President that's preceded him. Or any other politician for that matter. 

One of the reasons Donald Trump is so seemingly unique is due to his unorthodox speech style. From an objective stand point he uses very straight forward and simplistic language to get his points across - though not always coherent but it is very straight forward and much easier to absorb what he is saying for anyone who doesn't often keep up with a lot of politics or do not fully understand it.   

Some also say he speaks with brutal open honesty which has helped him win his Presidency while others say he has little composure and low impulse control which can may often attribute to his need to use aggressive language when put on the defensive or just simply disagrees with whoever he is against. What we'll speak about is what aspects of his speech style has helped win over the people of America and ultimately influence the nation to win his Presidency.

His simple outspoken conversational style.
It's no secret that Donald Trump doesn't seem to come across as someone with a sophisticated and large vocabulary when comparing to other politicians and if anything his way of speaking since being in the political arena comes across as even surprisingly simplistic. Coupled with him often just speaking his mind and not seeming to be as measured with his words like other politicians this in itself has made him stand out tremendously because he just doesn't seem to want to fit the mold of how a politician would typically act and behave like and this build a sense of intrigue whilst at the same time being easy listen to due to his seemingly small vocabulary.

He frequently uses quick punchy phrases which really makes anything he says easy to comprehend and remember. Similar to how advertising campaigns use mottos to keep their brands memorable and easy to associate with. For example Kit Kat – “Have a Break, Have a Kit Kat” or KFC – “Finger Lickin’ Good”.

Some of Donald Trumps own memorable phrases:

"I will build a great wall—and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me—and I’ll build them very inexpensively"

"We don’t have victories anymore. We used to have victories, but we don’t have them. When was the last time anybody saw us beating - let’s say China - in a trade deal? I beat China all the time. All the time"

"Rocket man is on a suicide mission."

Incoherence and confusion

Due Trump's speech style being so unorthodox and disruptive, this means that the audience is forced to pay more attention to making sense of his of what he is saying. And because of this that means that the listeners are more likely to be influenced and persuaded. Though this isn't fool proof but effective nonetheless.

The majority of Trump sentences are essentially sentence fragments where two or more unrelated thoughts are thrown into one confusing sentence. Words are arranged in a way that not everyone can grasp, even if you have a good command of the English language. (“There is no collusion between certainly myself and my campaign, but I can always speak for myself, and the Russians, zero”). - quoted from President Trump himself.

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The use of repetition.

Our brains are excellent pattern-seekers and because repetition breeds familiarity we tend become accustomed to what we are regularly exposed to - be it a song we hear on every other radio station or a movie trailer we see on every other television channel or maybe it's a slogan we may often hear such as "Red Bull - it gives you wings." This can be described as the mere exposure effect which is written in more detail here.

George Lakoff, a graduate professor of cognitive science and linguistics at the University of California – Berkeley, explained that the brain is made of a vast amount of interconnected neurons that form circuits similar to a network, and these carry out every single word or thought we have. When these circuits are activated by words or the things we see, they become stronger, and if repeatedly activated, they can become permanent. To be put simply - by repeating something to someone you are training them to think a certain way.

In Trumps case he punctuates his speeches with repetition. It helps to bring his point across without the risk of his messages being forgotten and can also serve as a way to keep his messages memorable. Also it’s also a delaying tactic, giving him time to think of the next thing he needs to say. 

Some of Donald Trumps own repetitive phrases:

“That’s wrong. They were wrong. It’s The New York Times, they’re always wrong. They were wrong.”  

"I went to an Ivy League school. I'm highly educated. I know words. I have the best words, I have the best, but there is no better word than stupid. Right?"

"(on fellow candidates) All of 'em are weak, they're just weak. Some of them are fine people. But they are weak."

Book Review: The Lucifer Effect How Good People Turn Evil.

The Lucifer Effect, a New York Best Selling book written by research psychologist Professor Philip Zimbardo  highlights an uncomfortable but honest observation regarding human nature: That even the most seemingly ordinary, up-right and good person can become a perpetrator of evil. When we're trying to understand behavior that is destructive, irrational and malicious we often direct our focus primarily onto innate characteristics or personality traits which would have lead to such behavior, while ignoring any circumstantial factors which would have shaped such behaviors. Similar to the Fundamental Attribution Error which you can read more about here.

What Zimbardo hypothesized is that it is possible for external situations and systems to become key influences of  change in behavior and that they can often override a persons morals and values and be a corruptive force in extreme circumstances. The analogy of Lucifer within this book was that he was God’s favorite angel, but due to Lucifers fall from grace when he challenged God’s omnipotent authority, Lucifer was transformed into the forever recognized symbol of evil, Satan. This is the idea of people turning from good to evil.

In The Lucifer Effect, the Stanford Prison Experiment in 1971 is the ideal starting point for Zimbardo as he recalls from first person accounts on how the events of the experiment unfolded. He describes how he and the other researchers set up a simulated prison in the basement of one of Stanford University's academic buildings and then selected 24 students to participate and play the roles of both prisoners and guards. The students he said were chosen from a larger group of 70 volunteers and were chosen specifically because they had no criminal background, had no psychological issues or medical conditions. The student volunteers agreed to participate during a one to two-week period in exchange for $15 a day.

Lasting only a premature six days due to the experiment having to be stopped early Zimbardo describes in gripping detail how the students began to sink deeper and deeper into their roles and how they as guards became abusive, and the prisoners begin to show more signs of extreme stress and anxiety as their time in the experiment went on. While the prisoners and guards were free to interact in any way they pleased, the interactions became hostile and malicious. The guards began to behave in ways that were aggressive and abusive toward the prisoners while the prisoners became passive, depressed and show signs of anxiety.

He writes that even the researchers themselves began to lose grip of the situation and lose sight of their objective whilst potentially leaving the students open to psychological damage. Zimbardo, who acted as the prison warden, repetitively overlooked the hostile behavior of the jail guards until graduate student Christina Maslach voiced her concerns as to the conditions in the simulated prison and the morality of continuing the experiment. Zimbardo aptly draws out every bit of emotion and drama involved in the experiment in 1971, which keeps the  reader in awe every step of the way. The Lucifer Effect is brilliantly written, intriguing, and keeps you emotionally engaged throughout reading it. In reference to the end of the experiment Zimbardo beautifully quotes in his book "Only a few people were able to resist the situational temptations to yield to power and dominance while maintaining some semblance of morality and decency; obviously, I was not among that noble class,"

The book doesn't stop there.

In the remainder of The Lucifer Effect, Zimbardo goes to show how important the concept of the Stanford Prison Experiment is and extrapolates that to some of the more horrifying real world events in recent times, such as the abuse at the hands of agents of the US at Abu Ghraib, the genocide in Rwanda and the rape of Nanking. He discusses how the insidious and corrosive effect of power often leads to the creation of a corrupt system corrupting the people involved.

The prison study of Abu Ghraib in Iraq is used as an example. Zimbardo became thoroughly involved in the aftermath of Abu Ghraib when he was asked to be an expert witness for Sergeant Ivan Frederick, one of the accused who inevitably stood trial for alleged prisoner abuses. Through his research into what transpired at the Abu Ghraib prison, Zimbardo was able to gain insight into what it was like for the soldiers who spent long weeks working shifts within a military prison, and although the accused was eventually sentenced to eight years hard time in another military prison, Zimbardo was able to document the failures in leadership that led to many of the abuses and states that the military system itself was the leading proponent and should be to blame for the conditions in which such atrocities could take place.

In conclusion, there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Much of the book has much of a darker sombre feel to it compared to other books due to the descriptions of how ordinary good people can perform evil acts. The final chapters of The Lucifer Effect offers us a lighter tone reminding us that some people are able to resist situational influence and can have an unbending resolve against peer pressure and systemic evil. Zimbardo gives examples of such unique individuals which include Christina Maslach, the graduate student who spoke up to Zimbardo to end the Stanford Prison Experiment, and Private Joe Darby, the soldier who blew the whistle on the atrocities that took place at the Abu Ghraib prison.

If you want to learn more about The Lucifer Effect and read other book reviews about it...