Grandiose Narcissism: How To Spot And Handle It?

A narcissist realizes they are the most important person in a room. A grandiose narcissist makes sure everyone else in the room knows it.

Grandiose narcissists are a special kind of narcissist. They waste no time declaring that they are not only better than you but also flawless. The problem is, these people don’t know how to feel good about themselves without being at the epicenter of attention.

Narcissism of any kind is unhealthy and may have links to other mental health issues, and this is especially true with grandiose narcissism.

How To Spot A Grandiose Narcissist?

We know very little about a narcissist’s everyday behavior, and a grandiose narcissist is difficult to spot. They might seem like any other extroverted person passionately telling stories in a group.

But there are several science-backed telltale signs when they’re in the midst of a narcissistic episode.

The key traits of grandiose narcissists are overconfidence, impulsivity, distrust of experts, and shifting of blame for poor decisions.

A large body of research indicates grandiose narcissists are characterized by high self-esteem, a sense of personal superiority and entitlement, overconfidence, a willingness to exploit others for self-gain, and hostility and aggression when challenged (Miller et al., 2017).

The grandiose narcissists are in love with a grandiose image of themselves. They believe they are entitled to everything and deserve a better life than everyone else. They are obsessed with prestige and power and frequently treat others as their servants.

Here are some signs of a grandiose narcissist:

1. Routinely Declare Their Grandiosity

Narcissists, by definition and nature, have an unrealistically inflated sense of self-worth and self-importance. They genuinely believe they are unique and entitled to special treatment.

Grandiose narcissists take it a step further. In any social situation, they routinely declare how superior they are to others, how unique their talents are, and how they are above ordinary recognitions.

In psychology, grandiosity refers to a mental health condition that makes people overestimate their abilities or characteristics.

Grandiose narcissists are more likely to manipulate others through lying, cheating, and stealing (for example, recounting other people’s achievements as their own), as O’Reilly & Doerr showed in 2020.

They frequently throw around the names of powerful and rich people to impress others. They emphasize how much more they contribute to society than anyone else.

However, their achievements and influence are often exaggerated and falsified versions of the real happenings.

Surprisingly, despite their belief in their superior intelligence and leadership qualities, research shows they often do no better, and in some cases perform worse, than non-narcissists (Guedes, 2017).

Grandiose narcissist
Grandiose Narcissists Routinely Declare Their Grandiosity

2. Are More Impulsive In Their Actions

Narcissists are more impulsive than non-narcissists. Vazire and Funder (2006) believe “impulsivity is one of the defining characteristics of narcissism.”

Narcissists strongly like to approach their goals. This often involves being insensitive to the negative repercussions in making choices, as Littrell et al. in 2020, and Malesza & Kaczmarek, in 2018, found.

When making decisions, the impulsive nature of narcissists may cut short their search for information and potentially result in worse decision quality.

The impulsiveness of narcissists can also be manifested in their promiscuous sexual strategies (Reise & Wright, 1996). For example, narcissism correlates with an ex-partner’s reports of relationship infidelity.

3. Ignore Experts & Attack When Questioned

Grandiose narcissists don’t like advice. Several studies show narcissists have low trust in experts.

In three studies, Kausel and his team of researchers showed that narcissism was negatively linked to advice-taking (Kausel, 2015). Kausel suggested that because narcissists judge their skills and intellect as superior to others, and are less concerned about people’s feelings, they wilfully ignore advice from experts.

When facing challenges, narcissists ​are more likely to respond with hostility, as Boeckler et al. discovered in 2017.

In 2015, Blinkhorn found that grandiose narcissists frequently respond with animosity when questioned because they feel they are not being recognized as superior.

Narcissists avoid taking responsibility for failures and find people to lay the blame on. However, their decisions are always made boldly, even when poor in quality. Many political and organizational leaders have this streak.

When challenged or confronted with failure, narcissists tend to shift the blame on others. As Selle et al. discovered in 2019, narcissists are more likely than non-narcissists to claim credit for successful outcomes but blame failures on other people.

4. Seek & Reach Top Leadership Positions

The world sees this as a positive side of narcissism. Narcissists are more likely to work hard obsessively to reach the uppermost ranks. They often make great organizational leaders.

Steve Jobs and Larry Ellison are two of the best examples of narcissistic leadership, both known for being emotionally isolated and highly distrustful.

According to research, grandiose narcissists frequently seek out and acquire positions of leadership in companies. Nevertheless, their tendency to pursue their own interests at the expense of the larger community can undermine their organizations, as Jonason and Nevicka found independently in 2018.

Grandiose narcissists frequently emerge as top leaders and managers, earning more, rising to positions of power, and achieving success in their careers (Hirschi & Jaensch, 2015; Spurk, 2016).

There are several reasons proposed for their effectiveness as leaders. Rosenthal and Pittinsky (2006) suggest they have charisma and vision that are vital to effective leadership. Mathieu & St-Jean, 2013 propose it’s because of their boldness and self-confidence, they are effective when circumstances demand change.

Gerstner et al. (2013) showed that narcissistic CEOs were more aggressive in investing in new technology, while Chatterjee & Hambrick (2007) found they make hostile acquisitions more.

5. Have A Higher Need for Risk-Taking

G-Narcs knowingly take up greater risks. As the stakes increase and the chances of losing rise, they become more active in placing a bet, whereas non-narcissists are more inclined to quit the same bet.

They risk more but do not perform better. In 2004, Campbell and the team found that grandiose narcissists tended to place more bets, and riskier bets, due to their overconfidence. They also lost more than non-narcissists.

According to one study, narcissists are more inclined to depend on their intuition rather than data or experts because of their overconfidence in their own judgment (Littrell et al., 2020).

Grandiose narcissists are more interested in seeking projects that offer a chance to prove their superiority and are more sensitive to approaching desirable outcomes (Buchholz et al., 2019).

6. Live In Their Fantasy World

We can easily make it out that grandiose narcissists are living in and speaking from a self-created fantasy world. Their “lived experiences” are mostly fantastical stories about their superhuman strength, high-level intelligence, and exceptional handsomeness.

They often spin tales of having had uncountable riches which either they gave away or people duped them out of.

Their “exclusively secret” stories are about how they helped powerful people achieve their power. Most of these stories are made up, and they duly ask the listeners to maintain the secret.

Living in a fantasy world shields them from the harshness of the real world. Their imaginary world has them in control of everything. It protects them from feeling insecure and empty, realizing the truth behind other people’s criticisms, and making a proper sense of their present condition.

They feel secure inside their fairy-tale bubble and get enraged quickly when someone tries to burst their bubble.

Testing Narcissism

Narcissism can be tested using the Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI), a 40-item list developed by Raskin & Terry. The items on this forced-choice test contain pairs of statements such as “Sometimes I tell good stories” (non-narcissistic) versus “Everybody likes to hear my stories” (narcissistic).

Here is an interactive version of the Narcissistic Personality Inventory to test someone.

Is Grandiose Narcissism Good or Bad?

Any form of narcissism, including grandiose narcissism, can prove to be harmful.

O’Reilly and Hall say grandiose narcissists are more confident, see experts as less useful, are more impulsive than non-narcissists, and are more likely to make poor decisions.

Narcissists are brilliant at attracting followers with their speaking abilities, yet they feel insecure without the adulation of their followers.

While narcissists are overly self-confident, research by Campbell and colleagues in 2004 found that they were less likely to learn from their mistakes.

Narcissists are more defensive than others and consider negative feedback to be less insightful. When confronted with failure, they are more likely to stay overconfident and dismiss unfavorable facts.

In 2020, Littrell et al. found narcissists were less likely to engage in cognitive reflection than non-narcissists.

Narcissism is unhealthy, and cannot be equated with healthy practices such as self-love or self-compassion.

How To Deal With A Grandiose Narcissist?

Dealing with a narcissist can be one of the most frustrating situations in our lives. They are extremely self-centered and self-absorbed, and they can really test our limits and patience.

▪ The best approach is to never make a bargain at all with a narcissist. Stay away from them as soon as you recognize them.

▪ If left with no other option, then take every possible measure to keep yourself safe from mental or physical abuse. Because if a narcissist discovers you questioning their choices or opposing their actions, they will lash out at you.

▪ So, if you’re placed across a narcissist, make an effort to exhibit interest in their ideas and admiration for their achievements. You must keep feeding their ego.

▪ Narcissists have a habit of treating people as their servants and expecting others to do things for them to satisfy their sense of entitlement. So, don’t let them manipulate you into giving away your valuable items or services for free.

▪ They are afraid of the shame of being exposed, which would harm their carefully crafted reputation. If they force you to do something unlawful or immoral, threaten them with public humiliation.

▪ Realize they might be in pain but do not know how to deal with it. They might need professional help.

In conclusion, the key to dealing with a narcissist is to understand that they lack empathy and that their world is all about them. If you can keep that in mind, it will help you to respond in a respectful and appropriate manner, particularly when they are insecure and agitated.

Types of Narcissists

Narcissism is a common personality disorder, with experts estimating a prevalence between 0.5 and 1 percent of the general population (50 to 75% are men). Scientists are still not certain why people develop narcissism but say it could be due to the complex interplay of genetics and childhood experiences.

Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is characterized by high egocentricity, low social empathy, risk-taking tendency, impulsiveness, an exaggerated view of one’s abilities, and a readiness to use others to further their own self-interest.

[Check out the 20 Signs of Narcissism & Know How To Recognize A Narcissist.]

According to psychologists, there are two main types of narcissism: “vulnerable” and “grandiose” (Rose, 2002; Wright, 2016).

Vulnerable narcissists are more inclined to be defensive and perceive others’ actions as hostile. They are characterized by anxiety, a fragile self-concept, and low self-esteem, as Ackerman and his team found in 2017.

Grandiose narcissists are the more assertive and extroverted form of narcissism. They use excessive praise and admiration to draw attention and narcissistic supply from others. They need to dominate any conversation and get furious at the slightest criticism.

On the lighter side, might we coin a cool nickname for a grandiose narcissist: G-Narc?

Final Words

We all know some grandiose narcissists. We must have come across a few in these days of social media omnipresence.

One of the most recognized public faces of narcissism is Donald Trump, who has a high level of narcissism, according to researchers Malkin (2017), Nai and Maier (2018), and Visser et al. (2017).

Baker & Haberman wrote in the New York Times, in March 2020, about Trump’s “profound need for personal praise, the propensity to blame others, the penchant for rewriting history, the lack of human empathy, the disregard for expertise, the distortion of facts, the impatience with scrutiny or criticism.”

Finally, it’s important to remember that a narcissist is much like a bully or a troll. If you don’t rise to their bait, they will probably leave you alone.

• • •

We often boast we know how to deal with criticism. However, when we confront a harsh critique, we react in ways that we claimed we would never do. How to handle criticism like a pro?

• • •

Author Bio: Written and reviewed by Sandip Roy—a medical doctor, psychology writer, and happiness researcher. Founder and Chief Editor of The Happiness Blog. Writes popular science articles on happiness, positive psychology, and related topics.

• Our story: Happiness Project

If you enjoyed this, please share it on Facebook or Twitter or LinkedIn.

Disclosure: This post may include affiliate links.