Invalidation and Selfishness measuring it

Some people who are fun, good at things, and appear in public to be compassionate and generous often make desirable friends and life partners. They can be very enjoyable to hang out with, even if they seem a bit self-preoccupied, as if they are always taking mental selfies. Then can come the rub. Are they also good partners when it comes to talking through differences of opinion in work and/or home situations? Or is there something self centred about how they communicate in a relationship that's provocative?

Especially when you hit bumps on the road of your life, ever tried to be friends or a love partner with someone who only listens to him or herself? Who changes the topic, gets defensive or gets mad at you when you try to talk about difficulties you've been experiencing? The desire to sustain a friendship, never mind a love relationship, with these folks can quickly fade.

How about you? Are you someone others like and yet often also find demoralising to be with when serious issues come up? Do people tell you that you seem to take up all the space in the room because conversations with you so frequently take an "it' all about me" turn? When others express feelings and concerns, is your reaction "Well what about me?" Do you monologue or pontificate instead of sharing equal air time?

Healthy or malfunctioning?

To clarity about what healthy versus malfunctioning look like then there are certain keys. Normal interactions involve introjections, the ability to see the second position.

Someone who disparages what you say instead of finding what makes sense about it, or who ignores what you say altogether, is likely to be malfunctioning.

Not listening leads to showing minimal responsiveness to others' concerns. The bottom line is that healthy people in healthy relationships are able to sustain both responsively to their own concerns and responsively to others'. They are able to be self-centred in the best sense (taking care of themselves), and also altruistic (taking heed of others' desires).

Two way communication

The ability to hear both oneself and others is referred to as bilateral (2-sided) listening. Narcissistic and abusive listening is one-way, listening to myself only, listening to only my own views.

When differences arise, folks who do bilateral listening are pros at taking into consideration both their concerns and others. This bilateral listening ability enables them to routinely seek and create win-win solutions, which in turn sustains their relationships with on-going goodwill.

For instance, if you are tired, you would listen to that feeling and head for bed. At the same time if you have just received a call from a friend who has a problem and urgently wants to talk with you, you might suggest that the two of you talk for a few minutes now, and aim to talk more at length in the morning. That could be a win-win solution. By contrast, if there is a malfunction then the response may be an immediateĒNo. Iím too tired,Ē to the friendís request. Or with a more gentle, "Yes I hear that you want to talk but I'm just too tired. In the latter case the friend's request are minimised, dismissed and the data about the friend's need discarded. This is invalidating the other, just a different way.

Similarly, if your friend is self centred, the fact that you are tired would slide by. Talking together now would be the only option. 'It's all about me' would prevail, with anger at refraining from complying.


Abusive folks can be generous and are actually are often very generous. They may, for instance, give away large sums of money to charity. Generous giving makes the giver feel good and also feels appropriate, like "the right" thing to do. They may well therefore pride themselves on their compassion and altruism.

At the same time, in a situation in which someone wants something, and that desire is in conflict with what someone else wants, that's when the selfish side takes over.

Often too, the tendency toward compassionate generosity gets directed toward strangers. The people closest receive far less compassion and far more dismissive listening. This is to impress others and make the self appear more than. It's grandiosity at its worst.
immediacy Quiz (just for interest)

This quiz is not any kind of clinical or therapeutic diagnosis tool. Just an insight tool.

Expanding on this core difficulty in listening, here are six signs for sizing up the problem. Score each dimension from 0 to 10. Zero is not at all. Ten is all the time.

First assess yourself then someone who is difficult to deal with.

The goal is to view the patterns clearly to make changes for the better.

1. Unilateral listening.

What the person wants and what they have to say are all that matters when talking together with another. When making decisions about what is wanted, the others concerns, feelings..these are mere whispers, inconveniences and irrelevancies. So when issues are discussed only the speakers opinions are right. That of others is wrong or else of minimal importance. If the other expects to have input, they are undermining the speaker.

Disrupted listening often dismisses, negates, ignores, minimises, denigrates or otherwise renders irrelevant other peopleís concerns and comments.

One sign of abusive non-listening is the tone of contempt instead of interest.

Another sign is a frequent responses that begin with "But....", which is a backspace-delete key that negates whatever came before, in this case, what someone else has said.

Yet another: because 'I'm right and you're wrong,' I tend to listen for what I don't like in what you say so that I can respond by telling you how what you have said is wrong.

Self: Score: 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Other: Score: 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

2. Itís all about me.

The speaker know more, knows better, they think they are more interesting, When talking with others, itís mostly about the speaker. In conversations, they take up most of the air time. Almost all of the casual chatter is about what they have done, what they are thinking about.

If the other begins to talk about themselves, the original speaker links back to something in life so that the focus of the discussion again turns back to them. Maybe that's why people say Such speakers suck up all the air in a room.

When they want something then the speakers need to have it. Never mind how others feel about it; "itís all about me". Such people are big and important and others are merely also here, mostly to do things, like a third arm. "Enough about me lets talk about you, what do you think about me?"

Self: Score: 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Other: Score: 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

3. The rules donít apply.

Such people can have affairs, cut into a line where others are waiting, cheat on taxes, and ignore rules that get in the way of my doing what they want. Rules are for other people to follow.

They suffer from what "Tall Man Syndrome". They experience themselves as above others, so the rules don't apply to them.

Self Score: 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Other Score: 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

4. Your concerns are really criticisms and no thank you

If forced to listen and take your concerns seriously then they will get angry. Criticism hurts. They can criticise others, and often do, but if criticised then others are hurting my feelings so They will hurt you back. And if the other says you are at all unhappy, that's a way of indirectly criticising. Since "it's all about me" the others feelings must be about what the speaking has been doing.

There is paradoxically a manifestation of both an inflated idea of their own importance and quickness to feel deflated by negative feedback.

In addition, because they think everything is about them, they hear othersí attempts to talk about personal feelings as veiled criticisms of themselves.

The clinical term for taking others' concerns as personal criticism is personalising. E.g., If she says "I'm feeling lonely," they will hear the self-statement as an accusation, "You don't spend enough time with me."

Self Score: 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Other Score: 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

5. When things go wrong between us, itís always your fault.

They canít be expected to apologise or to admit blame. They are above others and above reproach. "You shouldnít haveÖ ." and "Donít threaten me with expecting me to say how Iíve contributed to a problem or Iíll get mad at you."

Unwillingness to take responsibility for mistakes goes hand-in-hand with quickness to blame. This trait may come from confusing the part with the whole. "If I've done one thing that's not right, then I must be all bad." That's also all-or-nothing thinking.

Whatever the source of the sensitivity to criticism and difficulty admitting mistakes, the upshot is a tendency to blame others when anything has gone wrong. Blaming and fault-finding in others feel safer to narcissists than looking to discover, learn and grow from their own part in difficulties.

Whilst they are quick to blame, they may be slow to appreciate. Appreciation and gratitude require listening.

Self Score: 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Other Score: 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

6. If they are angry, then it's the others fault.

"You made me angry". "You didnít listen to me". "You criticised me". "Youíre trying to control me". "Your view is wrong". "you need to apologise, not me." Immediately following that is "Iím not responsible for my anger. If Iím angry it's because I'm frustrated by what you are doing. My anger is your fault. I'm only angry because you ... "

Some people show major charm and social agility. At the same time, these seemingly super-confident folks also can be quick to anger. When they do become inflamed, they then immediately blame their anger on others.

What will trigger anger?

Critical comments will do it, special, also can be remarkably thin-skinned. Any feedback that punctures their belief in total specialness can feel quite threatening. The immediate response will be to issue blame.

Telling anyone what to do, or sounding even somewhat like you are telling them what to do, also is likely to provoke irritation. Pretty much everyone prefers autonomy (unless the two people have an agreed-upon boss-worker or similar relationship). Abusers however tend to be hyper-sensitive about feeling controlled. Any request is a risk for sounding like a demand and therefore triggering irritation.

Asking someone who is abusive to do something your way rather than theirs is particularly likely to sound to them like you are telling them what to do. Their anger in response, of course, is your fault.

Self Score: 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Other Score: 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

TOTAL SCORE: ___ (Self) ______ (Other)

The interpretations below are based on the authors (who is not V!) clinical hunches, not scientific testing. They're meant just to give you a general indication of what your quiz suggests.

Scores that total 5-10 probably indicate normal human fallibilities with room for improvement. No one is perfect. If you think you are perfect, and scored therefore below 5, you might check again. Be sure the self score does not indicate a narcissism of excessive belief that you are perfect, another potential sign of narcissism

Too much self interest in your habits would be indicated by a total score of 10 to 30. Pay attention and you may fairly easily be able to lower that score considerably.

A total score of 30 or higher spells significant habits that probably do not serve you well. Time to make some serious habit changes!

40 to 60 or higher would indicate to me severe problems. With this understanding of why your relationships become distressed, hopefully you will commit yourself to some serious personal growth.

Again, note that these score interpretations are based on hunches, not an experimentally validated scoring system. They are meant as a personal heads-up, not a clinical diagnosis.

Uncomfortable with your score if it's too high or low. The bottom line is that much of this is basically habit-pattern, and habits can be changed. Awareness of these tendencies is a strong first step that can empower you to notice and fix slippages.

Scoring another

If someone you interact with regularly shows these patterns, it's not up to you to change them. Better for you to focus on how you yourself can change the dance you do with that person.

For instance, you can choose that you will no longer let yourself be intimidated or controlled by fear of anger. Just gracefully leave the situation for a cool down period (ďI need to get a drink of water.Ē), and then return for a calmer second-go at the conversation.

When you have something important to communicate with a high scorer what can help? Be sure to follow the rule of talking about yourself, not about the other person. See my post on 6 sentence starters for sensitive discussions for illustrations of how to follow this rule to more effectively be past the deafness wall.

Having trouble getting your views heard? You can choose to speak up a second or third time about your concerns to increase the odds that your concerns or viewpoint will eventually get heard.

You can ask, after sharing a concern, ďSo what made sense to you in what I said?Ē

You can digest aloud what makes sense in what your partner said, and then make a second attempt to say your viewpoint. Once your partner feels heard, the odds go up that he or she will mirror your good hearing habits.

And becoming a master at win-win problem-solving can put you in a leadership role for situations in which you need to make a decision together so that your eventual plan of action heeds both of your concerns. This earlier post on win-win decision-making may help so that your partner feels that s/he has gotten what s/he wants even though your concerns also have been responded to in your plan of action.

Almost everyone tends to behave less narcissistically when they are happy. Most of us tend to become increasingly narcissistic as anxieties prime the pump of anger.

Anger promotes the sense that ďWhat I want is holy, and what you want is irrelevant.Ē That's why it's so vital that in important conversations you stay calm. Talking about sensitive issues in calm good-humoured ways without arguing (link is external)has the highest odds of leading to mutual understandings instead of the narcissism trap.

The bottom line? For a happier life and more gratifying relationships, (link is external) especially if your scores indicated some narcissistic tendencies, tame these trends with better skills. Narcissism is not like height or eye colour. It's a behaviour problem. Upgrading your listening and shared-decision-making skills can make a huge difference!


I have been looking for some more more structured way of identifying the level of essential interactions and there isn't much out there. This test doesn't identify the type of abuse or interaction, it attempts to describe the volume. Having identified type then the test can be an easy way of finding the volume of it irrespective of type. This is from an article by Dr Hellier on Psych central. It has been edited by V but derives from that one source. Dr Hellier is a clinical research psychologist as far as I am aware and not a consultant. In other words in no competition to the counsellors here, she deals with psychiatric disorders particular psychopathy not marital problems.

Last edited by Vanilla; 08/02/15 12:09 PM.

Freedom is just another word for nothing left to loose.
V 64, WAW