Lowell: Prodigy is a production of iHeartRadio. I’m going to talk about Elliot Rodger in the beginning of this episode and play some audio from a recording he made the day before he killed a six people. If you think this could possibly trigger you, you might want to skip the beginning. The Mayo clinic defines narcissism as a mental condition in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, troubled relationships, and a lack of empathy for others.
But behind this mask of extreme confidence lies a fragile self-esteem that’s vulnerable to the slightest criticism psychologist w Keith Campbell argues that this isn’t completely accurate. He’s one of the world’s foremost experts on the psychology of narcissism. He recently released a book titled the new science of narcissism.
Keith is a professor in the behavioral and brain sciences program at the university of Georgia. He argues that there’s actually two basic types of narcissists. Trump is your classic case, a grandiose narcissist. It was tempting to use him as an example for this episode, but Keith discussed it in depth on Joe Rogan’s podcast.
If you want to hear that is episode number 1545. I’m actually more interested in the other type, the vulnerable narcissist they share similar traits, but grandiose narcissists display high extroversion while vulnerable narcissists display low.
Elliot: Hi Elliot. Roger here. Well, this is my last video. It all has to come to this.
Tomorrow is the day of retribution the day in which I will have my revenge against humanity against all of you.
Lowell: Elliot Rodger began the attack at his apartment. He killed his two roommates and their friend one by one. When they got home. Police would later find them with over 100 combined stab wounds at 7:40 PM.
He purchased a coffee from a nearby Starbucks around 9:00 PM. He emailed his 137 page manifesto to 34 people and uploaded the video with this audio to YouTube titled his retribution video.
Elliot: Well, the day of retribution, I am going to enter the hottest sorority house of UCS B. I will slaughter every single spoiled stuck-up slut I see inside there.
Lowell: At 9:30 PM he started banging on the door of the alpha Phi sorority house, but they didn’t answer. A couple of minutes later, a few female students started walking by across the street. He started shooting at them and killed two and seriously injured.
Elliot: I’ve annihilated every single girl in the sorority house I’ll take to the streets and slay every single person I see there, all those popular kids who live such lives of hedonistic pleasure while I’ve had to rotten loneliness for all these years. They’ve all looked down upon me. Every time I tried to go out and join them, they’ve all treated me like a mouse. Well, now I will be a God compared to you.
Lowell: Then he drove down the street and fired into a deli, killing another student.
He crashed into a vehicle, but kept going. He shot three more people who all survived. Then he fired at a Sheriff’s deputy, but missed and crashed into another vehicle. He went on to shoot three more students who all survived before turning the gun on himself.
Elliot: I can’t wait to give you exactly what you deserve.
Lowell: My name is Lowell Brillante and this is prodigy.
Let’s start by defining what personality science is.
Keith: the empirical or scientist. Effort to understand personality structure and function, how it works. Really people have been trying to measure personality for about a hundred years. It’s really, it’s an important tool. Try to understand how people work, if you want to select them or sort them in certain ways.
So the military got really interested in this back in world war one, trying to figure out who’s going to have, you know, be at risk for shell shock. What we now call PTSD and. Businesses got interested in personality, psychology and academics did so there’s a very long history of trying to classify people based on their personality.
Kind of scientifically developed tests and questionnaires and other tools. And
Lowell: how accurate is that now?
Keith: We’re pretty good. Um, we’ve been doing this for so long. There’s lots and lots of bad personality tests out there because they’re easy to make bad ones. So, you know, the internet is filled with bad tests, but the stuff we build in the research tradition are very good tests.
Lowell: A really accurate personality profile will have hundreds of questions. But I can think of something that has tens of thousands of data points on me, social media, but that’s another subject.
Keith: What you find though, is that personality, best case predicts about 10% of what you see in the world. So even though we can measure personality, well, if I want to predict your behavior, it’s only going to tell me somewhat about what you’re going to do.
It’s not going to tell me everything. So they’re good tools, but personality doesn’t predict every.
Lowell: There’s tons of personality traits that people exhibit like messy, egotistical, greedy, cheerful, impulsive, moody patient, sexy, or did I make that one up? Subtle, sweet. And about 200 more.
Keith: When people start looking at personality, they said, what do we call these different traits we’re looking at?
And people came up with lots of different traits. Um, the easiest way to find personality traits is you look in a dictionary or a thesaurus or something, and we have words for traits.
Lowell: Psychologist analyze these and decided they can all be grouped into five categories known as the big five. The big five has an acronym, ocean or canoe.
So two acronyms, it stands for openness to experience conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism.
Keith: When people in the research tradition tried to put these different trades together, they sorted them into buckets. They’re saying, well, you know, be nice and kind, and compassionate and caring and giving and grateful.
Those all sort of sound the same. And those may be, or a trait we’ll call agreeableness and being curious and clever and creative. And. A little bit weird. Yeah. Those all sound like they go together too. And maybe we’ll call that trait openness. And so what they did was they started putting traits together and it turns out they fit into these big five kind of buckets of traits and what that allows us to do in the field.
If you say, Hey, Keith, I want to understand narcissism. You have this new measure of narcissism. I go well in big five terms, what it really picks up on is a lot of antagonism. Low agreeableness, but it also picks up on extroversion. So it, you know, you can use these big five is almost like an ingredient list to explain.
Personality traits. Sometimes it’s even more specific. So a trait, people talk about a lot is grit or determination, but they use the term grit. And that’s a very specific aspect of a, of a big five trait called conscientiousness. So sometimes the traits we look at are combinations of the big five.
Sometimes there are specific aspects of the big five. Yeah.
Lowell: I remember reading, uh, your section about that. Uh, Angela Ducksworth and um, I feel like, I feel like I’ve reached out to her before, but it’s never get back to me. Um, because she
Keith: she’s, she does great work and it’s not, it’s not meant to be a put down or anything that, you know, that sometimes people come up with things that can be explained by big five factors.
It’s just the way the field works. All these traits are related. And so if we have a really good map, like the big five, we should be able to place any trait you come up with. Everything
Lowell: is sort of on a spectrum. That’s important, right? Because if you’re referring to someone, as let’s say a narcissist, you say, well, everybody has some level of like narcissistic tendencies, but what does it take to actually diagnose somebody with narcissistic personality
So the first is a very important point. And with personality traits like narcissism, really any of them, they exist on a spectrum, meaning that most people are somewhere in the middle and they’re people that are higher, low level. The other thing that’s really important to remember is these traits are trade-offs.
So they’re not necessarily good. Good or bad. Sometimes extroversion is good. Sometimes it’s bad. Sometimes narcissism is good, sometimes it’s bad. So we always think of these things as, as being kind of trade-offs. But what can happen with certain traits is if they become very extreme and inflexible, you can’t really get out of them and they start damaging your life.
But they call it clinical impairment. It can be diagnosed as a disorder. So in the case of narcissism, extreme narcissism, you can’t really turn it off and it starts to damage your relationships. It starts to damage your workplace because you know, maybe taking too many risks or you’re, you’re not learning from your mistakes that can be diagnosed as a clinical disorder and you can get treated.
So narcissistic personality disorder and that’s one or 2% of the population at any one time. It’s, it’s relatively rare. Most of the time we’re talking about narcissism, we’re talking about a personality trait, right?
Lowell: All right. Let’s go over some of the main indicators for narcissistic personality
Typically a combination of three things that are the big indicators. One is this sort of, I think I’m great or grandiosity another is this lack of empathy or lack of loving relationships, not or lack of interest in it. And the third thing that stands up is need for admiration or attention or some sort of positive feedback.
So the most basic kind of description of narcissism can be, I think I’m better than other people. I don’t really like other people that much, but I like other people to tell me. I’m great. So I’m going to figure out how to relate to them in a way that they’re always telling me I’m great. My association
Lowell: with like people who are narcissistic.
And I feel like I’ve only known a couple that maybe could be diagnosed was that. Hey manipulative, and be like, had to always appear like they were, you know, like wealthy or successful or powerful.
Keith: Yes. So you’re hitting two really key points there. One is the manipulativeness when you don’t really care about other people emotionally, but you need them around.
What you do is exploit them or manipulate them. So you get people to act in a way that benefits your own ends. They might be to tell you you’re great. You might take advantage of ’em, whatever the case is. Um, In terms of, I was I, sorry, I lost the second part of my hands. I
Lowell: have ADHD. So that’s pretty common for me.
Keith: I got a little hint of it myself, but so there’s really that interpersonal piece is see the problem. And so you can use people like pawns or. Like tools to get where you want. If you don’t really care about people, you see this recycle pass, you see it with a lot of things. So there’s this exploitative quality to narcissism, for sure.
There’s also a grandiosity, which is, I want to be better than you. I want to have status. I want to have power. I want to have prestige. So when you look for people who are narcissistic, they’re going to look for opportunities. Yeah. High social status that could be being a celebrity. It could be being famous.
It could be being a leader, could be having a really attractive car, could be heavy, attractive clothes. It could be having an attractive spouse, but anytime there’s an opportunity to kind of get status or notoriety or favorable attention people who are narcissistic will go for.
Lowell: I vividly remember an experience I had with someone I believe to be diagnosable.
He asked me to go to Walmart with him, to buy a DVD that would watch. I agreed. And when we got there, he grabbed a cart and slowly started walking down the food Isles. It immediately hit me that the DVD was just an excuse to get me to go shopping with him. Did he think, I wouldn’t realize his deception or did he just not care?
I always felt like it was kind of easy to see through though. And I thought, well, if they were really trying to be effective at it, wouldn’t they maybe make it less apparent?
Keith: Well, this is the trick. It might be easy to see from the outside if you’re not really part of the whole interaction. So I can see somebody interacting with some nigga, well, that person’s really narcissistic.
Why is this other person falling for it? But if somebody is acting to you in a way. You go, ah, you know what, I guess the thing is with people who are narcissistic, especially more grandiose, they’re often charming, charismatic, likable. When you first said
Lowell: after I got burned.
Keith: Right? So when, when it’s, when the attention is directed at you.
In particular, somebody wants a day at you or work with you or take advantage of you. They can be very likable people, and it’s very hard to see. It might be easy for somebody outside of that interaction to see, but it can be fairly hard for you to see. So people get caught up in these relationships with narcissists all the time.
And the point you just alerted, I made reference to is that often you see the negative consequences of narcissism later on. So you might start the relationship. Hey, this person’s really confident, outgoing. I really liked them. Few months down the line. Oh my goodness. They took advantage of me. They’re talking about my back there.
They’re stealing my ideas. This is not a good person, but I thought they were a good person. That’s kind of a pattern you see with narcissism.
Lowell: I was associated it with a high intelligence in your book. You say it’s not really correlated, but they must have at least a high level of like a social intelligence to be able to do that.
Keith: It people have really looked for that relation with intelligence and they haven’t found it so that, you know, you look across studies and you run a meta analysis. You don’t really see it. The social intelligence is a little different. Um, it’s hard to measure. And so it depends on, you know, how you’re measuring quote unquote social intelligence.
But what you do see with narcissism is you, you do see social extroversion. So there are people, you know, somebody is social and outgoing and there’s obviously some skills that come with that. But I don’t think there’s any evidence that narcissists are more in general, socially skilled. What seems to be the case is they’re likable because they’re confident and outgoing and energized.
And that likability allows them to be, you know, to get into relationships or be promoted or become leaders. So that likability piece is really useful, but that idea that they, they understand social relationships than others. Isn’t really there. My understanding
Lowell: was, or I was always, you know, just of grandiose narcissists, but that’s one of the first things you talk about in your book, which I thought was really interesting is that there’s two different types, basically.
I’m sure it’s unexpected, but could you just like explain what the other type is?
Keith: Yeah, for sure. So mostly what we’re thinking about with narcissism and then in normal discussion, is this more grandiose form, the kind of that classic, you know, actor, politician, Boss narcissism, but there’s this other form which is called vulnerable narcissism, which is this combination of, you know, you think you’re better than other people.
You have a sense of entitlement. You wish people would look up to you, but you’re a little insecure. Your self-esteem is a little low. You’re a little depressed. So it puts you in a real quandary because you know, you, you want the positive attention, but you’re not really able or willing to go out and get that.
And so these, the more vulnerable narcissism is related to depression and anxiety. And sometimes these folks end up in therapy because if you know that they just feel bad about themselves. Um, so it’s a form. We just, we don’t see in the normal world, but if you’re a therapist you’re going to run into vulnerable narcissism a lot more than more grandiose forms.
In the old days, what people thought was that the grandiose narcissists deep down inside were vulnerable. So you’d see somebody that confident business leader, well, deep down, he must really dislike himself and be really insecure. That doesn’t seem to be the case. It seems that there’s just these really confident people and there’s people who are sort of insecure, but still think they’re better than other people and want attention.
They’re just different forms of, of narcissism. All right, we’ll be right
Lowell: back after a quick. For more info or to get in touch with me, visit prodigy podcast.com. You disagree with what’s in the DSM. Is that right?
Keith: I, uh, I think the DSM has some serious problems in that. It describes narcissistic personality as being both having traits of grandiosity and vulnerability.
And it’s a real, it’s a bit of a mess and they’ve tried to change it. Um, and one of the suggestions that, you know, we’ve put out there and others is that they should probably have a specifier meaning, Hey, if you’re, if you’re diagnosed as having narcissistic personality disorder and you’re really vulnerable, we should say.
NPD with vulnerability, or if you have narcissistic personality and you’re really a mean tyrant, really horrible toxic person, we should say NPD with malignant narcissism or malignant specifiers. So the idea is maybe this, this idea of NPD is such a mess that we need to pull pieces out and specified a little more.
Specifically in clinical research,
Lowell: but they tend to not to like to do that. Right. Cause I know, well, at least the example of ADHD, you know, there was add two and then they’re like, well, hyperactivity is just on a spectrum.
Keith: It is, uh, this diagnosis is a huge problem because the reality with personality is the best way to describe personality is probably the big five traits.
And when any of these normal traits get to be extreme, they’re going to lead to pathology or lead to problems. We have all these clinical terms that we’ve been around for 50 years, a hundred years. And we want to use those two and it’s hard to move back and forth. The problem with that, diagnosing something as a spectrum is when do you make a treatment decision?
So if you say, well, narcissism to spectrum, and I want to get insurance money to treat Keith well, what, when do you draw the lines? So you have to have a line in there to make a diagnosis. So you can’t call everything a spectrum, but the problem is most things are a spectrum. Like ADHD is probably a spectrum, but probably at the extremes that kind of, it makes it hard to operate in certain ways that leads to impairment.
And that’s, you have some sort of treatment come in psychopharm or, or therapy or whatever. And so it’s probably the same with narcissism, but, but the, the, the way the human condition is, and the way clinical medical decision-making are. Don’t overlap perfectly. What is the rates of co-morbidity narcissism?
You see a lot of co-morbidity and this is true for all disorders, because really. You know, if they’re manifestations of basic personality, they’re going to overlap. So what you see with narcissism is there other personality traits or disorders that we kind of think of as cousins that will go together?
Sometimes they call these the cluster B disorders. Cluster B
Lowell: personality disorders are characterized by dramatic, overly emotional or unpredictable thinking or behavior. They include anti-social personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, histrionic personality disorder, and narcissistic personality disorder.
Keith: So there’s the, these different disorders that all share some of the same characteristics. They might share that characteristic of, you know, I just think I’m better than other people, or they might share the characteristics. You know, I really want attention from other people. And so all the disorders seem to line up there.
They, they tend to have these comorbidity issues. The other thing you see with narcissism that can kind of look the same are things. You know, cocaine use or, you know, stimulant use, you could use a bunch of cocaine and be very grandiose, or you could have a bipolar too. So you can have a manic episode where you’re like, I’m the best.
I’m awesome. I’m going to solve all the world’s problems. And if somebody just meets you, they go, ah, Keith you’re really narcissistic and you go, no, really I was really depressed two months ago. This is just a cycle I’m going through. But if you don’t see the whole cycle, you might diagnose it as my personality, but it’s really.
It’s really the, the bipolar that’s going on. So one of the keys, when you talk about a personality disorder is it’s gotta be something that’s stable over time, usually starts when you’re young and it’s part of your personality. You see it your whole life. And
Lowell: it does say that children can, what appears to be like narcissistic personality disorder.
They can definitely grow out of.
Keith: The reality is we can see hints of narcissism or psychopathy or a lot of disorders in younger children. You can see it as old, you know, you can see it in elementary school kids, but it’s really not. Appropriate to diagnose personality disorder and you know, 15 year olds or something, because a lot of 15 year olds are self-centered and a lot of them change.
So really you don’t want to talk about a disorder until people are older, there’s personality stabilized. And that, that the usual sort of, I mean, you look it young kids that are showing off or dancing, you’re looking at they’re running around naked, trying to get attention. You don’t go. I’ll look at that narcissistic kid.
You go with that. That’s just a kid. That’s just what kids do. But as you get older, you know, you become a little more, self-conscious a little more part of the community. You don’t do it as much. It’s just something you don’t want to do with kids is you don’t want to start labeling kids as narcissistic.
We can measure it in children. We have scales to do it, but it’s just not a term. It’s really useful to throw around with kids. I don’t think yeah.
Lowell: With the comorbidity thing. I mean, that’s when I was like, I used to have no problem diagnosing it’s armchair diagnosing people, but like, I guess, because of co-morbidity it just seems like it’s really, that’s why without like, you know, S testing and evaluation, you can’t really do it cause it could be something else.
And, um, that’s like, that’s one thing with Kaczynski is I was really just trying to diagnose him. Um, and, uh, I feel like, you know, it’s just difficult, cause it seems like it’s a couple of different things
Keith: and you know, the reality could be, it really is a few different things that go together because with these disorders, you can look at the genetic correlations and you start seeing well ADHD and bipolar and ma I mean, mania and bipolar and some, uh, maybe addiction disorders, all those things maybe.
Yeah. Connection genetically. So they’re probably related in some way. They’re not really separable that cleanly. And, and so to get the cleanest, um, diagnosis, you, you, you can, you really need good testing. You need people who are good at diagnostics. I mean, good at what we call assessment personality, assessment or clinical assessment.
Doing it yourself is, is fine for at home. You know, I, I don’t, I don’t go around diagnosing people. Do
Lowell: you guys use the MMPI?
Keith: We don’t. Um, There’s some reasons for that one is it’s a little bit dated. There’s an MMPI two, but even that’s a little dated and it’s very, you know, it’s broad scale measurement.
And the other thing is it costs money. So, you know, you just in research, we, you know, we don’t have any money, so we try to make our own scales and, and, you know, we share those with each other and, and use those for free because we can’t afford to pay Minnesota for the MMPI. It’s a very interesting scale, you know, as a personality psychologist, because of the way they do it.
And they have some cool questions, like, you know, I like showers more than baths, very odd items that are kind of neat, but, but we just don’t use it much. So back to
Lowell: Elliot Rogers, he seems like a textbook definition of a vulnerable narcissist, which is probably why Keith used him as an example in his book.
It really made me curious how common is this among mass murderers and the episode I did on the Unabomber, he seems to display these traits as well.
Keith: I think it’s a really interesting case where you see some of the. School shooters or, you know, other, it doesn’t have to be school shooting, but any sort of these violent acts where you have somebody who seems like a loner, they’re not necessarily extroverted.
They’re not necessarily engaging in life well, but then they, they write a manifesto or they, they sort of publicly become outspoken and why the world doesn’t work for them. So in the book, I talk about Elliot Rogers, who was a shooter in Santa Barbara and Aila Vista area. Who couldn’t, you know, he couldn’t find a date and then thought the world was sort of stacked against him and went out to, to seek justice.
And there are lots of examples of this. So there’s that vulnerability piece is when you’re sitting at home going, why isn’t the world working? I’m going to write a manifesto about how I’m right in everyone else’s wrong. And what you see in some of these cases, as the people actually act on it. And that the action is a little more grandiose and the Elliot Rogers case.
He’s like, I’m going to show you who the real alpha male is or something like that. And like, not really, but his idea was by going out and killing people, I’m showing dominance. And so I think what you find is sometimes these more vulnerable folks try to be. Sort of actualize their narcissism actualizer dominance in the real world.
And that leads to these, obviously these tragedies.
Lowell: Yeah. So, yeah, cause I guess what I, in episode I did on Kaczynski, I sort of thought that he was possibly, um, on the spectrum combined with, you know, like borderline or antisocial. But I mean, what you’re describing sounds like vulnerable narcissism, I mean yeah.
Keith: him. Yeah. And, and it could be so borderline and vulnerable narcissism are very closely related. You know, they’re kind of cousin traits in a way, um, because they have this. Low self-esteem and neuroticism to go with it. And he could have been on the spectrum too. I mean, you could have that whole combination of yeah.
Lowell: I thought that’s where I thought his issues were. Like he has difficulty connecting socially and I thought that was related to that, but I guess he’s notorious for not allowing psychological evaluations. So I guess it’s basically impossible to know.
Keith: And these are such extreme cases, you know, it’s like, I want to understand athletics by, you know, looking at Michael Jordan and, and, uh, you know, mark Spitz or something.
Well, they, these are very extreme cases and maybe it’s hard to use our normal tools. You know, we have these normal tools and we go, huh, what do we, how do we diagnose this person? Well, maybe the pathology is just really complicated and we don’t have a really good term for it. Cause there’s. Yeah, a bit of an outlier in our sort of normal models.
Don’t they break down a bit when we get to outliers, perhaps.
Lowell: Sure. Well, let’s talk for a second, I guess, about the like less outliers, the more common, uh, issues, which w you know, of course, I guess wouldn’t be categorized as narcissistic personality disorder, just as like maybe some aspects of the traits.
Um, but social media, I mean, you guys have done a lot of research about, uh, how narcism relates to social media. I mean, can you talk a little bit about
Keith: that? Sure. That’s one of those. It was one of those early questions in social media, which is, well, this must be linked to narcissism because you see all these people out there looking for attention and promoting themselves.
And so this, this idea of social media going together with narcissism is something we and other labs have studied for about a decade. Now we find. Uh, pretty good, uh, really reliable pattern, which is that people who are narcissistic on social media have more connections or followers than other people.
And it doesn’t matter if it’s Twitter or Facebook or whatever, if you’re narcissistic, you’re likely to have more connections, you’re likely to be more comfortable taking selfies. You’re likely to take more selfies that show just you, you’re likely to have more attractive pictures of yourself than other people.
So. What happens is that social media becomes almost a very good broadcast channel for people who are narcissistic. And this isn’t meant to condemn anyone. That’s just the way the personality works. It’s like, Hey, here’s an opportunity to get attention. I’m going to use it. But when you turn that on. Why on its head.
What it means is when anybody goes on social media and starts looking at all their friendship networks, narcissism is always going to be overrepresented in their networks because all these narcissists are the ones with all their friends. So when I look at my social network, I see wow, that person’s posting that person’s posting that person posting a lot of narcissism in those posts because they’re the people out there posting their self, you know, self promoting.
And so. Narcissism is a big force in driving the activity of these social networks. That’s not all of it, but that’s a big part of it. Is it just they’re ego based now for good or for ill?
Lowell: Yeah. And I find that really interesting. I mean, obviously, oh, sorry. My dog might do that too in a minute.
Lowell: Yeah. So just cause you know, you have a lot of connections and posts, a lot of selfies doesn’t mean you’re narcissistic, but you do see it more commonly in narcissist.
Keith: Absolutely. That’s it? You know, people like, oh, you’re narcissistic, if you, you know, if you have a Facebook page or post selfies, no, everybody does it.
It’s normal that both self is this normal to have a Facebook page, but the people who are more comfortable doing it, the people who are more connected are more likely to be narcissistic. It’s just a, it’s like, if you have a, you know, if you say, Hey, who wants to, you know, come up on stage right now? Well, 20 people might want to, they’re not all narcissists, but you’re going to find more narcissism and those 20 people than you will, the rest of the audience.
Lowell: My problem is the reverse. I should probably post on social media more to promote myself. I just. Um, I don’t know. It just, well,
Keith: you’re hitting a really good point there low, which is that part of our modern society is if you got to be an entrepreneur in a way, and you’ve got to promote yourself and people who are narcissistic, find that very comfortable.
Hey, this is great. I get to talk about myself. This is a great part of my job. Other people find it more uncomfort. They just don’t like the attention. It feels, you know, you don’t like the negative. I mean, I’m talking about myself. I can’t, I can’t stand it. You get all these negative feedback. So like, Keith, he looks fat this week.
Yeah. Well, God, I mean, that’s it they’re like, God, you’re so fat as did. I didn’t need to hear that. You know, and then, you know, you get something out there and you get a, you know, 10,000 people telling you you’re fat, this kind of sucks. I should have just stayed home. So it’s a. You need to have a thick skin and you need to be a little bit narcissistic to perform on social media.
And you need that in a lot of ways, you know, applying for jobs, meeting people at a bar, having cocktails, whatever a little bit of narcissism can be really helpful in our society, which is too bad, but just the way it is. All right,
Lowell: we’ll be right back after a quick break for more info or to get in touch with me, visit prodigy podcast.com.
You had a chapter towards the end about how to, how to use narcissism to enhance certain aspects of yourself when you need.
Keith: Yeah, no, those are the, some of the same issues is that, you know, that we’re narcissism really hurts. Is it hurts having loving relationships, other people it’s hard to really connect with your kids when you’re more focused on how your kids make you look, it’s hard to connect with your wife when you really are focused on how your wife reflects on you.
So narcissism does this real interpersonal damage. For close relationships, but where narcissism really excels is in public performance leadership, um, and meeting new people. So sort of early relationships. So you need narcissism to start relationships, to get promoted, to perform in public. Uh, if not narcissism, unique confidence, you need to be willing to do stuff you need to just own the stage.
And that’s a, that’s a hard skill for people to master. And I, you know, what I try to say is you gotta, you’ve gotta be willing to put on this narcissism outfit or use narcissism. Sometimes they say like a tool in your toolbox, you pull your narcissism out, put it on, use it, and then put it away when you go home and see your kids.
So you can talk to them about their day and not talk about yourself. But if you don’t, if you’re not able to do that, to have those skills, it’s very hard to get ahead. Cause you got to put yourself out there cause everybody’s doing it. Yeah. Like the
Lowell: w the one you said about standing up for yourself, like, if you want a raise or you deserve a raise, like sort of ask slash demand, what you,
Yeah. There’s nothing wrong. With asking for a raise, you can absolutely say you’re a successful person. Here’s what you do. Here’s how you perform. You’re a good performer and here’s what you deserve. That’s totally fine. And in fact, that’s what you need to do. The problem is when you, you know, when you’re asking for a raise and you’re like, where’s my raise.
I’m like, where’s your performance, right? Here’s my advice. Anyone listening? Wants a raise to make a business case for yourself and present it to your boss. And don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid. Just say, here’s my business case. Here’s what I’m doing. Here’s why I need more. And I think it’s fair and reasonable and then nothing wrong with that.
That’s not being entitled. That’s just being reasonable. Yeah. No,
Lowell: I really liked that. Oh, where you’re talking about, uh, yeah, like a case, make a strong case, strong value proposition. Um, I wanted to ask about. Let’s say about deal. How did like dealing with a narcissist? I’m assuming there’s maybe a lot of situations where it’s in certain ones that it’s abusive.
You’re like, you just need to get out, but, and when you’re dealing with a narcissist, um, you know, you talk about manipulating them. What you want. And like, could you talk a little bit about that?
Keith: Yeah. I’m a little nervous about talking about manipulating people, of course, but it comes up a lot. So as you said, if you’re with somebody who’s abusive or toxic, I’m like protect yourself, get out of the relationship, but you’re the workplace you’ve got your boss.
You can’t really get out of it. Here’s how you can manipulate people who are narcissistic. First off, somebody who’s narcissistic needs to have their ego stroke. They need positive feedback. They need to think they’re a good person. If you’re the, if you can provide that to somebody who’s narcissistic, they’re going to want to keep you around so you can become a yes man or suck up or whatever you want to call it.
Ingratiating. Um, but sometimes that’s the way to, to get what you need from somebody rather than confronting them another way. Uh, that’s a little bit more underhanded is trying to get rid of the person by promoting them out. So you’ve got to be,
Lowell: that’s a funny concept.
Keith: I mean, it’s, it’s, it’s funny, pat.
It’s true. You know, you’ve got the boss, who’s just the Boston, Hal, and you say, you know, you’re the greatest boss ever. You should be at headquarters in Chicago and let me help you get there because you really deserve it. And I’ll just stay here because I’m not as good as you. So that’s one thing, you know, that’s one thing people do.
You know, the other, other wave that people manipulate. That’s a little more it’s. These are a little darker stories. Is there’s this model, you know, become a boring gray rock. You just kind of don’t do anything. And you’re not entertaining. You’re not providing any feedback for the narcissist. You’re not getting mad, you’re not getting happy.
And the, sometimes they’ll just leave you alone. Because you’re not playing their
Lowell: game. Yeah. Boss, that was, you know, always trying to like show off his like wealth and status and stuff. And eventually I just like, just stopped responding to it at first I was like, oh, that’s great. That’s so cool.
Keith: Did it, did it work when you stopped or what happened?
I’m just curious.
Lowell: Um, yeah, I think he stopped reaching out to get that ego stroke as much, but, um, I ended up eventually leaving the company, but, um, yeah,
Keith: but that’s, that’s the case. If you wanted that guy to like you, you would have been as go-to when you go guy. Oh, man. It would have been at horrible life low, but if you walked in, he’s like, God, I feel bad.
And you’re like, Hey, you look great today, Keith, I’d be like, keep this guy. Right.
Lowell: And then you also suggested that since they want to S like associate or people to have a higher status, it’s make it seem like you are really important or valuable to them.
Keith: Oh, yeah, that’s a good point. So part of narcissism, it’s about status, social status.
And one way to get status is by associating with other people who are high in status. So celebrities will do this all the time. Oh, you know, I used to hang out with Bobby DeNiro and they call him Bobby DeNiro, which sounds like you guys are buddies. That goes, ah, you must have a lot of status, Keith. Cause your buddies.
Bobby DeNiro. If you have a lot of status, you can offer that to somebody who’s narcissistic and they can be your friend to get status. That’s a great way to do it. And in fact, with narcissism, if somebody is narcissistic and finds out, you have a lot of status, they’re likely to change the behavior to you, to either try to put you down to get you below them, but likely just to associate with you name drop or et cetera, so they can get some of that status.
Lowell: status and stuff you said right off by like that.
Keith: So, you know, with, with narcissism, when you real, really boiled down the most it’s sex status and stuff.
Lowell: Yeah. Because it’s all about validating yourself. And in which case, I would understand that maybe. The reason why they think there is insecurity and grandiose narcissism, because you need that extra validation.
Keith: mean, in a way, if you’re in any sort of competitive business, you know, you’re always, you’ve always got to go out there and compete every day. So there’s, it’s always been being the best, having been the best, looking, being the most highest status, having the coolest car, that’s always a bit precarious because some guy could go buy another car.
That’s better than you. And you’re always trying to up your own game, so it can be, uh, it’s, it’s almost like a shark, you know, a shark that just can’t stop swimming. That’s the problem with narcissism. Whereas if your goal is love, like, you know, my wife loves me. I don’t have to test that. I know it. I can go away for a week and she still loves me.
You know, I don’t need to work on it. It’s just a different game. And it’s a lot less stressful
Lowell: research. Did you find that people like higher on the narcissistic scale were generally more successful in higher positions of power and like hierarchy?
Keith: You do find that you find, I mean, this is one of the satisfying things in the field, but, but men who are more antagonistic make more money.
I mean, you find it with narcissism, especially that antagonism piece. Um, you find people are narcissistic have bigger congregations. If they’re pastors in Canada, you find they’re more likely to be leaders in companies. They rise to leadership faster, the more likely to be entrepreneurs. So you see the narcissism paying off in a lot of air.
Lowell: I thought that lack of empathy would be a big advantage. Um, in the sorts of scenarios,
Keith: it can be a big advantage because if you’re in a position where you’re trying to manipulate or, uh, you know, use people. That, that empathy allows you to do it. So if you’re in a company and you have to make employee changes and, and cut 20% of your workforce, if you don’t have a lot of empathy, it’s a lot easier to do.
If you really care about people and love people, it’s almost impossible. So when you find these really. I guess they change agent leaders. You know, we, they used to have nicknames like chainsaw Al Dunlop and neutron Jack Welch, because they’d go in and just destroy places. Take people out. You need to have a lot of psychopathy or a lot of narcissism just to do that.
The other place you see narcissism is, is surgery. You know, you talk to surgeon. That you know, people do brain surgery, other really high risk surgeries. They kill people. They don’t mean to do it. They don’t want to do it, but you give, you have a 90% surgery, you know, one out of 10 times that person’s not waking up and you have to be able to come back to work the next day.
If you don’t have some callousness, if you don’t have the ability to distance yourself from that, you can’t be a surgeon. So sometimes this, this lack of empathy allows you to do things that most people couldn’t do. Like cut somebody’s heart open or downsize a large company. What about
Lowell: this is interesting to you?
Like interests you, or you think would interest other people.
Keith: I’m kind of a nerd. And what’s interesting to me about narcissism is just the way the whole ego and personality work, how people are, are, you know, able to use relationships and status and buy cars and do things online just to make themselves look good.
So I find that very interesting. The other aspects of it, I think, are these more applied aspects, like in certain areas of the world where narcissism pops up, like social media, we talked about or leadership, and I think that’s pretty interesting. Just how important it can be for those areas. Yeah.
Lowell: I mean, that’s why it’s interesting, interesting to me as well, but I imagine it’s big for like our understanding of how
Keith: the mind works.
So there’s this. You know, how, how good are you as a person? Are you better looking than other people? Less good, lucky. And are you a better leader or worse leader? And with narcissism, what you see are people who think they’re better at all those things. It’s important. So you got a dog
Lowell: it’s fine when you’re talking, but not when I was like ender.
Shh. I just wanted to, um,
Keith: I love the name
Lowell: ender. Oh yeah. Big, big science fiction fan. Nice. So I want to finish with, uh, what D like what don’t we know about the disorder, like, I guess, new areas of research that we’re trying to explore.
Keith: That’s such a great question. I think what we understand is we have a pretty good still photo of what narcissism looks like.
We can measure it. We kind of know how the pieces fit together. What we don’t understand. To the level I’d like is how it works day to day. And what would be ideal is when we start being able to measure people using their phones and, and sort of this high density recording of their behavior over time, we’ll see how narcissism is.
I mean, just the way it’s more nuanced and in reactions, does it go up and down? You know, when you start an interaction, is your narcissism low and does it get high or does it start high and get low? There’s just going to be a lot of interesting dynamics. And when we have better tools, we’re going to be able to see those.
And we just can’t see them with the tools we have. They’re just too low resolution. Great. That’s really
Lowell: interesting. I’m excited for that for sure.
Keith: Oh yeah. Yeah. It, big data applied to individuals is going to be, I mean, there’s a lot of, a lot of risk with it, obviously from the privacy stuff, but it’s, it’s really cool from the academic side, but what people take away from your book, I really wanted people to understand narcissism.
In a way that it wasn’t just a one dimensional pejorative or negative trait, but it was something more complicated. And I also wanted to sneak in a little bit of a personality psychology course in there. So anybody who, who read it, uh, learned a little bit about personality science. I probably snuck too much into it and made the book too boring, but I, I can’t help myself.
Oh. I thought it was great.
Lowell: And I think it would be, you know, people who are potentially partnered or dealing with a narcissist in their day-to-day life. It’s really, really useful information.
Keith: I hope all the tools are there. I really, you know, one of the things I don’t try to do is tell people what to do.
I just, I I’ve just been around too much. I don’t know what to do. And so I don’t try to tell other people, but I try to give them all the tools they can have, so they can go talk to a professional and they kind of know what they’re doing when they do it. Where should I
Lowell: direct people? Do you want like social media or just recommend your book?
I mean, I’ll definitely recommend a book regardless.
Keith: You know, I guess w Keith campbell.com. I’m not, I’m not a great self-promoter Lowell. Please recommend the book. Okay. Yeah, sure. No, but I just usually tell people if they want to bike at a local bookstore, try to keep them in business.
Lowell: Thank you so much to w Keith Campbell, his book is titled the new science of narcissism. I really appreciate it. If you could pick it up at a local bookstore. Anywhere other than Amazon really special. Thanks to best Grossman. Prodigy was creating Bruce by me, Lolo Berlanti the executive producer is Tyler clang more podcasts from iHeartRadio visit the iHeartRadio app or wherever you get your podcasts.