Everyone is selfish to a certain extent. While normal levels of self-love, self-value and self-confidence are important for people to function well, there is a line between these characteristics and being a little too self-absorbed, arrogant or just plain narcissistic.
If you’ve met someone very selfish or perhaps have a friend or partner who’s selfish, here are some concrete ways you can deal with them.
1. Accept that they have no regard for others.
The first piece of advice for dealing with selfish people is to be real with yourself. Accept that the self-centred person might never consider your needs first. As much as this friend or lover means to you, know that they have no regard for others’ feelings or welfare.
They can have moments of generosity and charm, but for the most part, they simply lack the skill or willingness to be thoughtful and considerate. This knowledge will give you a clear understanding of where you stand in the relationship.
2. Give yourself the attention you deserve.
Selfish people are emotional pirates. They crave for your attention, but don’t give you any. To avoid being wrung dry of emotions, give yourself the attention you’ve been giving the emotional pirate.
For example, if there is any discomfort in your physical appearance, head to the barber or boutique and improve it. This is called meeting your own needs, and it’s a great way to boost your ego and pirate-proof your life. Ignoring your needs to pour attention and energy into a self-absorbed person isn’t virtuous. It only sets you up for being emotionally drained and hurt.
3. Stay true to yourself—don’t stoop to their level.
Selfish people can push your buttons and make you feel like pulling out their hair—don’t do it. Don’t play into their game or engage in behaviour that is beneath you. Just be true to yourself.
It’s difficult to be kind to a self-centred person who is brutish or unkind to you, but becoming like them doesn’t help things. Alleviate any feeling of anger you may have towards them by focusing on the person you are and resolving to continue being that considerate and loving person that you know you are.
4. Remind them that the world does not revolve around them.
A self-absorbed person may be so caught up in herself that she forgets to consider your thoughts or feelings. She might just need a little reminder that the world does not revolve around her.
Speak up and tell her as much without coming across as if you are attacking her. For example, instead of throwing a tantrum and screaming, “You never listen to me; you always make everything about you,” try saying,” I really need to talk to someone about something bothering me. Would you be willing to listen to me?”
5. Starve them of the attention they crave.
This is a powerful strategy to deal with extremely selfish people who refuse to regard others. The trick is to be civil but never offer the attention the self-absorbed person craves. It works by limiting your words to bland, noncommittal comments with them.
For example, instead of saying, “You poor thing, he did that to you?” say, “Yeah, that’s life.” It will baffle and throw them off balance for a while. Remember, attention is your treasure. If you don’t give it to them, they will most likely scamper away.
6. Bring up topics that interest you.
Whatever interests you—carpentry, cooking, politics, you name it—bring it up in conversations with a self-absorbed person instead of pouring all your attention onto the topics he brings up. For example, if he says, “You won’t believe what my girlfriend said to me!” reply with something like, “Hey, do you know how much Bill Cosby is worth?”
The more random the topic you bring up and the more unrelated to the selfish person’s topic, the better. Keep focusing on your real interests no matter what, and watch him try to escape from you when he realizes you’re not interested in his self-centred stories.
7. Stop doing favours for them.
Selfish people always ask for favours, but they squirm out of helping you when you need their help. That’s just how they operate. While it is important to be tolerant and give a selfish friend or partner a chance to change, it is also important not to enable their selfishness—especially if it ends up hurting you.
So, when a selfish person asks you for too many favours don’t give in and let her walk all over you. Assert yourself and make it clear that you don’t appreciate being made to feel as if you are not important or as if you are of a lower status. If you get into a position where you have to defend your stand, make it short and to the point since selfish people are not the best listeners and may not even listen to you anyway.
8. Limit the time you spend together.
Once you realize that someone is too selfish and self-absorbed, it is high time you stayed away from them. Limit your time together as much as possible. If you used to have coffee dates every evening, space the dates farther and farther apart, and stop calling and replying to all their messages.
You may be met with a myriad of reactions from disinterest to tantrums and anger, but hold firm. Your time is better off spent alone than with overwhelmingly selfish people.
9. Actively seek better friends.
Recall the pain, agony, hurt and exhaustion of giving intense emotional energy to selfish, inconsiderate people and decide no more. Refuse to allow yourself to get attached to such friends. Instead, seek new friends who pay as much attention to you as you do to them. You can make new friends by going out more and interacting with new people at social events, religious places of worship and volunteer centres.
Once you have new, better friends you can entertain yourselves with tales of the selfish person who pillaged your energy and plundered your emotions for a while—or not.
10. End the relationship.
If the selfish person you are dealing with does not seem capable of changing, he may be more than just self-centred and selfish—he may be a narcissist. Narcissists are not only selfish and self-absorbed, but also lack feelings of sympathy and purposely use others. They are harder to deal with than the average selfish person.
In this case, you can try asking them to get professional help, but if that doesn’t work cut all links with them and end the relationship outright. Life is too short to be bogged down by selfish people and tied down in toxic relationships that suck the energy and happiness out of you.