What is a narcissist? Psychologist picks seven ways to spot narcissistic behaviour

Having a sense of entitlement can often be viewed as a sign of confidence, and belief in your own abilities: something positive. But when does this behaviour cross the line?

Dr Roderick Orner, a visiting professor of psychology at Lincoln University, tells The Independent there are ways to spot a narcissist, or narcissistic behaviour, without putting them through the 40 question Narcissistic Personality Inventory developed by Robert Raskin and Howard Terry in 1979.

Narcissism, he points out, is not an "all or nothing" phenomenon: we all have it in us to some degree, and the extent to which it shows "depends on the situations we are in".

Seven ways to identify a narcissist:

1)Their appearance

A narcissist does not have to be beautiful according to the standards of the society in which they live, but they will be inclined to great emphasis on their outward appearance.

2)The conversation

Dr Orner explains that when you’re talking to a narcissist, hardly any proper conversation, dialogue or discussion will take place because everything must relate to him or herself. However irrelevant it is to the current topic, the narcissist will tend to find some kind of anecdote or point to make the conversation about them.

3)Their relationship history

Got a history of short-lived relationships? A narcissist often views their boyfriend or girlfriend as someone who can tell them how great they are, to confirm their own sense of self. “That’s not a proper relationship,” Dr Orner points out, "so a narcissist’s relationships will likely be short-lasting and unsatisfactory, particularly for the other person".

4)Their talent

Someone with an extreme talent, in music or acting for example, can have strong narcissistic tendencies: not entirely unsurprising if they are constantly surrounded by admiring fans. Dr Orner also suggests that, while a narcissistic may be able to produce emotion in others through their brilliant work, they could find it difficult to express feeling for other people. 

5)A sense of entitlement

Do they take everything for granted, and expect their needs to be met without question? Unlike the "normal" sense of entitlement, where high self-esteem is based on real accomplishments, narcissists are inclined to crave praise even when they don’t deserve the attention.

6)They need a platform

A narcissist without a platform to express how great they are is a sad narcissist. “Like George Best,” Dr Orner points out, “on the football field, he was divine, but off it?”

7)They are surrounded by admirers

Narcissists need affirmation. Dr Orner says that the experience of narcissism is one of "emptiness" and so a narcissistic person needs to surround themself with the metaphoric “mirror”: a group of people willing to inflate their feelings of superiority.