Jeffrey Kluger's 7 facts about narcissists

'The Narcissist Next Door'
'The Narcissist Next Door' by Jeffrey Kluger
Book cover courtesy of publisher

Parents spend a lot of time ensuring their children have high self-esteem. You need a healthy ego to climb to the top of your profession. But when does self-regard become narcissism?

Jeffrey Kluger examines that line in his new book "The Narcissist Next Door."

Kluger joined The Daily Circuit to discuss the relationship between narcissism and success.

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7 facts about narcissists

1. There's "capital N" narcissism and "lower-case" narcissism.

The "capital N" narcissism is a clinical disorder that impacts 1 to 3 percent of the population. These people don't realize there is a problem. The rest of narcissists are lower on the spectrum and just have robust egos with a lot of charm.

2. Falling for a narcissist is a little like falling for a drug.

"If you didn't like the experience the very first time you did it, you would never go back," Kluger said. "Narcissists are very often the most charismatic person in the room, the funniest person in the room, the most engaged and energetic person in the room. They do a very, very good job of impersonating interest and engagement with the people around them. Not only are you in the presence of someone who is smart and funny and charismatic, you're also in the presence of somebody who seems very much to be listening to you and engaged with you."

3. There's a difference between the narcissism of John Edwards and Bill Clinton.

Why John Edwards failed: "There was just too much preening," Kluger said. "There was just too much vanity. People, even when they liked him, felt a little skived by him as if they were somehow being sold a bill of goods."

By contrast, "we knew Clinton was a charmer," Kluger said. "We knew that Clinton was seductive, but he was --and still is -- so good at it that we just think, 'Alright, seduce me. I don't care.'"

Clinton's affliction is often called a mask model of narcissism, Kluger said.

"Clinton's long game is to be loved by every one of the 7 billion people on the planet," he said. "It's narcissism that's a clever and often somewhat brittle masquerade to cover up what may be its exact opposite: a well of low self-esteem."

4. One of the best ways to determine if a person is a narcissist is to ask them if they are a narcissist. They will often say yes.

"In the case of a narcissist, it's often because what they're saying is 'Well yeah, if you mean do I have a high opinion of myself, I do, but that's because gosh I'm the best person I know. I deserve to have a high opinion of myself,'" Kluger said.

5. Narcissists make bad parents.

"You talk to any parent and they will tell you that the first thing that overcomes you when you become a parent is a profound selflessness," Kluger said.

6. Humans need a healthy dose of narcissism.

Think of "profoundly selfless, profoundly pious people" like Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi, Kluger said.

"If you don't believe they got a charge out of standing up on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial or standing in front of a crowd of a million people and moving an entire nation with the sound of their voice, you don't know human nature," he said. "That is narcissism. That feeling felt delicious to them as it would to anyone with a healthy ego, but they were smart, wise, self-aware people who also knew how to keep that in its box. If they hadn't been energized by narcissism, they wouldn't have done it in the first place."

7. Don't blame social media for our culture's narcissism.

"It's a little bit like what an open bar is to a drunk or a cheesecake buffet is to a glutton," he said. "It's just an easier way of getting the substance you were going to be abusing anyway. We're getting a lot drunker on our narcissism with the help of social media, but we were already a pretty drunk country to begin with."