Even when you have the best intentions, it’s easy to mistakenly sound like a narcissist or a selfish person. Consider this: Someone comes to you with a problem. Instead of asking them for their advice, you say matter of factly “If I were you…” and launch into your advice. While your desire may have been pure, the person to whom you’re speaking can easily think, Listen to this jerk, telling me what to do. No, this doesn’t mean that you should entirely change your tone or never offer advice; rather, you should be more understanding of circumstances and intent. For instance, in the above example, you might take the extra step of asking the person if they’d like your advice before launching into it.
Narcissistic personality disorder is pretty rare. Saying something that is self-centered or narcissistic is much less so. It’s easy to say something that causes you to be labeled as a narcissist, so it’s smart to be aware. Problems can arise when that narcissistic behavior becomes habitual and constant.
“Narcissism exists on a spectrum,” says Ray Sadoun, a mental health and addiction recovery specialist. “Some of us behave in a narcissistic way occasionally, others are regularly narcissistic, and some people have full-blown Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Whichever category applies to you, it’s always important to check in with yourself and make sure you aren’t using phrases that come across as narcissistic.”
As self-awareness is a virtue, below are seven phrases that make you sound like a narcissist. If any of them creep into your interactions, take a moment and rethink what you’re saying and how you’re saying it.
1. “What would you do without me?”
People use this phrase often as a lighthearted way to address their partersnip and/or friendship with you. Many times, the intention is to suggest that you will always be there for them. However, there is a narcissistic undertone to this statement, as the implication is that your partner or friend would not be able to function without you and whatever success they have enjoyed is largely due to your efforts. Said regularly, the intent is different. “Instead, compliment the person on their positive traits,” says Sadoun. “For example, if you have helped a friend secure a job, remind them that their experience and enthusiasm also played a part in their success.”
2. “No offense, but…”
This one is an obvious one because it is almost always followed by something offensive or insulting. The narcissistic element comes into play when you realize that you are implementing this phrase as a means of absolving yourself of any blame.
“A better way to go about this would be to be careful with your words, and then when you fear you have caused offence, ask a genuine question such as ‘did I say that in a harsh way?’ or ‘did that upset you?’” Sadoun says. “This will help the other person feel validated if they are offended by what you said, as it leaves room for them to express their disapproval.”
3. “You made me do it.”
Another tactic designed to shift the blame, this phrase is particularly problematic — and narcissistic. Why? Simple. It allows you to totally avoid responsibility and puts all the accountability on others.
“Your actions are your own,” says Sadoun. “As much as others can influence your thoughts and feelings, they are never responsible for your actions. Instead of saying ‘you made me do it’, try explaining how the other person’s actions influenced you and then confess to the mistakes you made.”
4. “I hate to brag, but…”
If you hate to brag, then don’t. Let your accomplishments speak for themselves and don’t go looking for validation from others. “Narcissists have excessive interest and admiration in themselves, so it would be no surprise to hear this phrase come out of their mouths,” says Dr. Sanam Hafeez, a New York-based neuropsychologist and the director of Comprehend the Mind. “When you hear a narcissist bragging, they are trying to hide behind an insecure self.”
5. “Get over it!”
This is another phrase that puts the blame on others. When someone is hurt by you, and you say this, the message is clear: You and your behavior aren’t at fault; it’s other people who are too sensitive and they just need to deal with you. “Narcissists are only interested in how others see them, talking about themselves, and feeling superior,which leads to a lack of care and empathy for others,” ” Hafeez says. If you are telling people to ‘get over it,’ chances are you’re the one who needs to get over themselves.
6. “You’re the one who’s lying.”
This phrase is particularly harmful, as it brings gaslighting into the equation. You might feel that you’re being entirely truthful, but that doesn’t mean that you automatically are. And it certainly doesn’t mean that your partner is lying. “Narcissists do this because they want others to think that their reaction to abuse or unfair treatment is worse than the abuse itself,” says Hafeez. “A narcissist can never admit when they are wrong, so they automatically blame others.” If you find yourself using this phrase, try and see the argument from the other person’s perspective and ask yourself who really is at fault.
7. “If I were you…”
Telling someone what you would do if you were them — especially if unasked — can come off as superior and judgmental. People don’t want to be criticized, and they don’t want to be told how much better you would handle the situation if it befell you. Dr. Brittany Ferri, occupational therapist and the founder of Simplicity of Health suggests opting instead for more encouraging statements that validate emotions.