Illustration: Luo Xuan/GT
"If you say it out loud, it's real," my friend Liu posted this message on social media the other day. "I am not OK. In my imagination, I kill my boss a thousand times a day."
So we asked what happened. Liu said working for an extreme narcissist has become increasingly tiresome and stressful. She feels angry, frustrated, sad and filled with self-doubt on a daily basis.
"Why do we have this kind of people in our lives?" she asked.
Sweetie, the sad fact is it is not possible to avoid narcissists in our lives. According to a recent New York Times (NYT) article, the number of such people is estimated at 0.5 percent of the whole population. And men are more likely to be narcissist than women.
Psychologists say almost all of us are narcissists to some extent. Some are just mirror-gazers and braggarts; some like turning every topic of conversation back to themselves; and some extremists think they are smarter, brighter and better than everyone. One typical narcissist trait is inability to treat others with dignity and respect. In sum, they are extremely difficult to work and live with.
So, what is wrong with them? Joseph Burgo, a clinical psychologist and author of the book The Narcissist You Know, told the NYT that the causes of extreme narcissism are not precisely known. It is believed that it is related to negative childhood experiences.
Dr Burgo also pointed out that extreme narcissists are more likely to work in the field of politics, sports and entertainment where they have opportunity to demonstrate to the world that they are winners and others are losers.
At first, my friend Liu tried to change her narcissist boss by giving him professional suggestions on the project. Soon she realized that it is useless because he is so self-centered that he would not listen to her.
"Waiting for a narcissist to change is like waiting for a ship at an airport," she concluded.
The NYT article found that in companies where there are unbearable narcissist leaders, employee turnover is high, and in marriage, the divorce rate is high.
But for some reason, Liu decided to stay and find her own "survival" guide.
If you google advices on how to deal with narcissists, experts would suggest not to challenge or confront them. They even suggest to "butter him/her up" with compliments.
But Liu said the idea of complimenting the person who treats her as an inferior makes her sick. She chooses not to say anything to avoid conflicts. And if she has to say something, she keeps it short: "yes" or "ok."
She also seeks psychological support on how to deal with such toxic personality. One of the advices her psychologist gave her was not to take it personally.
"When he starts to emotionally abuse me, I keep reminding myself 'it's not about me.' That really calms me down before I explode like a bomb in his office," she said.
But "if there is one good thing about having a narcissist around, it makes me want to become a better and nicer person," she added.
This article was published on the Global Times Metropolitan section Two Cents page, a space for reader submissions, including opinion, humor and satire. The ideas expressed are those of the author alone, and do not represent the position of the Global Times.