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Signs and traits of narcissists, crazymakers, emotional manipulators, unsafe people

Do you know the tell-tale traits of narcissists, crazy makers, emotional manipulators, controlling predators, and other unsafe people?

Well now you can! Here is my ULTIMATE, BEST, MOST COMPREHENSIVE LIST OF TRAITS OF NARCISSISTS (and other unsafe people like them):


Narcissists easily shift blame

Narcissists easily shift blame

✦    A sense of superiority places them above others
✦    Must be the center of attention, constantly seeking approval, acknowledgment, kudos, accolades, praise
✦    Act like they are the lead character in all things in life
✦    Dominate conversations because they believe they have the only worthwhile things to say
✦    Want others to give into their demands, request for favors, and put their needs first
✦    Have inflated egos, inflated sense of entitlement, inflated sense of importance, inflated need to be center stage
✦    Envious of other people’s accomplishments and will steal, lie, or sabotage others to get attention back to them
✦    Envious of other people’s possessions, they will put such ownership down or minimize it to make themselves look more noble
✦    Search for constant approval and praise to reinforce their false grandiose sense of self, they’re “on- stage,” dominating the conversation, often exaggerating their importance
✦    (Since the self is so fragile — an ever crumbling construction of their ego) — use power, money, status, looks, supposed past glories (or supposed future glories) to boost their image
✦    See criticism as baseless attacks or betrayal and countered with cold-shoulder anger or rage or chilly stares or verbal attack.
✦    Can never accept blame. Others are always to blame.
✦    Feel being center of attention is good, right, and proper
✦    Have a grandiose sense of self-importance
✦   Think they are special, God-touched, or privileged
✦    Think they can only be understood by other special or high-status people
✦    Have unreasonable expectation of favorable treatment
✦    Believe they are beyond the rules. Laws do not apply to them and remorse is only felt when someone catches and confronts them.

“However they are upset over any inconveniences they suffer as a result of being busted. They believe they have the right to do what ever it takes to get short term gratification without suffering any consequences.” ~Lynne Namka

TYPICAL WAYS OPERATING OR REACTIONS (blaming, drama storms, etc.)

✦    High maintenance because they need your attention, praise, and deference
✦    Fake sweetness, honor, and good intentions, but deprive them of something they want and look out as they reveal their true selves.
✦    Express grand, exciting plans, but rarely can make them happen
✦    Blame others rather than take personal responsibility
✦    Lack of empathy colors everything they do.
✦    May say, “How are you?” when you meet, but they are not interested
✦    Their blame-shifting creates defensiveness. Then they belittle the defensiveness: “Why are you so angry?”
✦    Since they shift blame so well & seamlessly, your guilt/insecurity issues stay raw and over-sensitive.
✦    Lend you a hand up, then subtlety cut off at the knees to keep you indebted & coming back.

Need some Narcissist Kryptonite?
The Narcissist — A User’s Guide

✦    If you point out an error they made, they go into defensive mode counter any such notion with anger, venting, rage, cold-shoulder, or withdraw
✦    Give you a metaphorical rug & then keep pulling it out from under you
✦    They are: blowhards, braggarts, blusterers, brow-beaters, bullies, big-headed, and ultimately bogus.
✦    Help you gain certain skills/info/connections, but then forever make you feel beholden to them.
✦    Extremely skilled at making anyone under their influence crave their approval.
✦    Make you feel special & then emotional distance themselves in ways that keep you unsure of yourself.
✦    Use a judgmental “you’re OK”/”you’re not OK” yo-yoing to keep you off-balance & “blameworthy.”
✦    Groom people via manipulation (charm/rage combo) to sell their reality/rationalizations to others.
✦    Virtually all of their ideas or ways of behaving in a given situation are taken from others, people they know and perhaps think of as an authority.
✦    Their sense of self-importance and lack of empathy means that they will often interrupt the conversations of others.
✦    Expect others to do mundane things, since they feel too important to do them
✦    Constantly use of “I”, “me,” and “my” when they talk.
✦    Very rarely talk about their inner life, memories and dreams, for example.
✦    Lie, using subterfuge and deception as tools
✦    Are stuck in one level of maturity where growth is not an option
✦    Only have eyes for “me, myself, and I” instead of “we”
✦    Don’t understand empathy, except to fake it as a tool
✦    Play “Give to get” by being nice or helpful only to expect reciprocation
✦    Put on the air of “having it all together” and will not readily admit failure or weakness
✦    Jump to defensive mode readily and frequently
✦    May apologize, but it doesn’t mean a real change in behavior
✦    Run from their own problems rather than tackling them
✦    Demand your trust rather than being transparent and earning it
✦    See you as extensions of themselves and resist your freedom
✦    Create stories, euphemisms, sayings, definitions, rules they hold up as Truth. Their world is false.
✦    Must talk about themselves & be in control. They want you to just be an ego-stroking entity for them.
✦    Find personality weaknesses & exploit them as easily as you & I ride a bicycle.
✦    Will rarely listen to or respect your “No”
✦    Take advantage of others to reach his or her own goals
✦    Appear tough-minded or unemotional
✦    React to criticism with anger, blame-shifting, shaming or humiliating others
✦    Fail to recognize people’s emotions and feelings
✦    Exaggerate achievements, personal history or talents
✦    Are unpredictable in mood and behavior
✦    Become aggressive, hostile, verbally vicious, or withdraws when threatened
✦    Can vocalize regret for a short time when found out, but soon rationalizes it away
✦    Appearance is important, so primping or fastidiousness is common
✦    Withdraw or a cold shoulder is used as a tool to make you do what they want
✦    Rationalize everything to make sure they always come out on top
✦    Will steal an idea, quote, lesson plan, piece of wisdom — call it their own
✦    Groom underlings and create organizational or business environments to suit their need for ego stroking

“Crazymakers thrive on drama, and melodrama requires a sense of impending doom. Everything is an emergency, a deadline, a matter of life and death, or something they will get to eventually. Read ‘never’ … Nearly any situation can be cast as melodrama to support a crazymaker’s plot lines …

  • “A crazymaker is someone who makes you crazy by constantly stirring up storms.
  • “‘Normal’ doesn’t serve their need for power.
  • “Everything is always their problem, but nothing is their fault.”

SOURCE: “The Artist’s Way at Work – Riding the Dragon. Twelve Weeks to Creative Freedom” by Mark Bryan, with Julia Cameron and Catherine Allen


✦    Create Employment Hemorrhage — narcissists drive people away with inconsistent, raging, and arrogant actions.
✦    Tend to be a lot of talk — fantasizing about power, success and attractiveness
✦    Can suck up to bosses while talking down to those they think inferior
✦    Expect others to go along with them because their plans are better or special
✦    Expect constant praise and attention
✦    When work or plans fail, will blame others and make it sound plausible
✦    Will take advantage of co-workers
✦    Will be jealous of others’ success but wear a face of confidence
✦    Play the “If you don’t like it I’m taking my ball and going home” game
✦    Exaggerate abilities and uses blame-shifting to cover deficits
✦    Can’t understand “There is no ‘I’ in ‘TEAM’.”
✦    Often argumentative, but arguments are convoluted, emotional, irrational

The following tips on narcissistic behavior come from The Winning Teams website:
✦    They feel that the rules at work don’t apply to them.
✦    They will always cheat whenever they think they can get away with it.
✦    If you share workload with them, expect to do the lion’s share yourself.
✦    They love to delegate work or projects and then interfere by micro-managing things
✦    If things go well, they take the credit; if the work turns out badly, they blame the person they delegated it to.
✦    There tend to be higher levels of stress with people who work with or interact with a narcissist, which in turn increases absenteeism and staff turnover.
✦    They get impatient and restless when the topic of discussion is about someone else, and not about them.

Need some Narcissist Kryptonite?
The Narcissist — A User’s Guide


✦    Value religiosity’s rules or business protocol over spiritual growth.
✦    Take pride in their own righteousness and rightness.
✦    Attempt to belittle any version of reality that conflicts with theirs.
✦    Can’t believe they make mistakes.
✦    Have an inability to feel or process or truly understand shame.


✦    Create scenarios to discover your weakness or fears to manipulate later.
✦    Don’t use language as communication. It’s for hiding, deflecting, avoiding, masking, & manipulating.
✦    Their charm is false. Contradict them a few times & you’ll feel their out-of-proportion narcissistic rage.
✦    Their conversations & interactions aren’t meant to enlighten, but to confuse, control, & create drama.
✦    Are black holes, working to get time, money, or talent from you.
✦    Expect you to lend a listening ear and give votes of approval.
✦    Use emotional withdraw to create guilt and compliance.
✦    Will use the parental or child role to get what they want.
✦    Will betray secrets to feel more powerful.
✦    Can use flattery or sickly-sweet protests of innocence like a stealth weapon.
✦    Use verbal skills to block or deflect being confronted.
✦    Impact our lives negatively despite appearing to have some positive effect.


✦     Their subconscious creates a false ego from which to relate to the world. They are their own avatar!
✦    Subconsciously real relationships don’t exist for them. We’re all just players on the narcissists stage.
✦    Their sole subconscious pursuit is to be seen as God’s gift to the world in a certain area or skill set.
✦    Early emotional trauma freezes their worldview at that age, making them immature, impatient, inconsiderate.



Thank you for visiting and learning about self defense.
If you think others can benefit, please pass it on!

Lori Hoeck

UPDATE: To give a better picture of Dark Hearts and their effect on people, I’ve written a short story and a powerful poem at my writing blog LoriHoeck.com.

Photo Credit Lisamarie Babik

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Kathy | Virtual Impax June 6, 2009, 1:21 pm

    What a WONDERFUL resource!!! THANK YOU!!!

    Seeing these traits listed here together helps to provide a wonderful “sketch” of the emotional predator a.k.a Dark Heart.

    The one that I constantly see in my “internet travels” is “Demands your trust rather than being transparent and earning it.”

    I knew it was a warning- however until I saw it in this list, I didn’t realize how SERIOUS a danger it presents – especially when combined with the final one – “Impacts our lives negatively despite appearing to have some positive effect.”

    So many internet predators who promise easy success and instant wealth really “fit” this description – I just hadn’t assigned this “severe” of a label – which is obviously well deserved!

    Thanks for a great EYE OPENING post!!!

  • Lori Hoeck June 6, 2009, 6:57 pm

    Hi Kathy,
    Thank you for your comment! I’m glad you dropped by.

    I should note that some of the traits listed also apply to certain car dealers and hard-sell or smooth-sell operators For example: Will rarely listen to or respect your “No.” I don’t know if that makes them automatically Dark Hearts or just good at manipulating. In either case, it’s always good to just have an eye out for the red flags that come up when dealing with people.

  • Betsy June 7, 2009, 8:57 am

    Okay, so what about my first husband, the used car salesman? 😀 Seriously, my second husband (and yes, I am married now for the last time to a wonderful, normal person) got like 10 out of your list. Ick, ick, ick.

    Only through a lot of self-reflection did I come to realize that strength, or maybe better their perception of your strength, attracts these types like moths. And it’s because of their own insecurity and neediness that they suck you dry like vampires. If you’re vulnerable in any way due to your OWN insecurity (and face it, we’re all insecure on some level), they have a homing instinct for it.

    If there is anything we can teach our children, it must be to avoid this type of person like the plague! Not easy when it’s a parent, though. Ultimately, we have to put ourselves and our needs for healthy, loving relationships first, despite that we’ve been taught that selfless giving is an ideal. What a mess! Thanks for another great post, Lori. Awesome!

  • Barbara Swafford June 8, 2009, 1:16 am

    Hi Lori,

    Ironically, as I was reading the 25 traits, it reminded me of how those who are addicted to drugs also exhibit some of these traits, too. I don’t know if drug addiction creates a dark heart in others, or if it was always there.

    Looking back on dark hearts I’ve met in my life, I always remember thinking of how they made such a great first impression – saying and/or doing the “right thing”. As I mentioned in an earlier comment, it’s like they weave a web, and if we’re not careful, can easily become entrapped.

    Thank you for putting all 25 traits together in one list. It’s a real eye-opener, and scary, too. All the more reason for us to use caution, both on and offline.

  • Lori Hoeck June 8, 2009, 6:51 am

    Hi Betsy,
    Glad you found the second one! Ten on the list, eh? Ouch and ick! Neediness or insecurity is a life-suck, isn’t it? I covered that a lot at my previous blog, SpaceAgeSage.com.

    Hi Barbara,
    You are so right about the powerful first impressions, the web weaving, and then entrapment of Dark Hearts. There is soooo much to write about, including the “seduction” phase. Get this — I know someone who uses one or more of 30 different techniques to be the verbal victor in any discussion. I’ll be covering these things as well as I discuss the not-so-fun and fascinating world of Dark Hearts.

  • Karen Chaffee June 8, 2009, 9:06 pm

    I have/had the same T shirt. Each time I gain a bit of wisdom on how to protect myself against emotional predators, I burn a part of the shirt. The prevalence of such people is astonishing. A good thing is to recognize when and how you are “most vulnerable” to their tactics.


  • Lori Hoeck June 10, 2009, 3:38 pm

    Hi Karen,
    “Each time I gain a bit of wisdom on how to protect myself against emotional predators, I burn a part of the shirt.” What a healthy way to put it! Thank you for commenting.

  • jan geronimo June 14, 2009, 3:14 am

    “…Dark Hearts are chameleons and emotional shape-shifters who change their tactics to keep you around so you can always inflate their balloon-selves.”

    Touche. I have already met several of them in my six months of blogging. And boy, you are right – your 25 list of traits describes their modus operandi. You’re spot on, Lori.

  • Lori Hoeck June 15, 2009, 8:09 am

    Hi Jan,
    I’ve only met these Dark Hearts in person, but I’m sure they feed online as well!

  • Cath Lawson June 15, 2009, 4:50 pm

    Hi Lori – The last one is very scary. I had a so called friend who was like that. It took me a good long time to realise how much she was harming me.

  • Lori Hoeck June 15, 2009, 4:54 pm

    Hi Cath,
    It does seem to take us awhile to wake up sometimes, doesn’t it? I hope my blog articles help people see the signs earlier and thus avoid a lot of emotional harm.

  • Laurie Kendrick July 16, 2009, 8:33 am


    I just ended a “relationship” (if you can call it that) with a cyber narcissistic. He fit about 23 of the 25 archetypes you mentioned. He would troll blogs looking for victims and he always picked the same kind of woman. Successful, rather well known in her field, one who had made it publically known that she had had horrific experiences in previous relationships AND she always had to live far away. Distance prevented the possibility of any kind of closeness or empathy. And he was a workaholic. His ridiculous schedule (and the exhaustion that always followed) did their share to thwart those things as well. He kept promising we’d meet, but it never happened. He took–he never gave. He lied about sedning me things (cards, gifts…flowers) and then when they never arrived, always claimed they got lost in the delivery process. The odds of this happeing to everything he ever sent were a billion to one). He lied about other thigns as well, prefacing every lie with a belabored, “Uh…..”

    I was suspecious the entire time, but my neediness and hope that he’d change (silly on my part) kept me there. But I initiated the last break up because I’d had enough and found out that in the last few months, he got bored with me and found another gullible, needy blogger to manipulate. I’ve since found out he’s done and is doing the exact same thing to her and like I was, she’s completely head over heals in love with the same facade I beleived in. She lives about across the country and keeps intimacy away by conveniently claiming that he hates flying and can only travel by train, something his hectic work schedule simply won’t allow him to do.

    These guys indulge in love bombing in the beginning to “seal the deal”. My cyber narcissist was flowery and overtly sweet–he appeared to be everything I thought I ever wanted in a man and in a relationship. He was talking about marriage and sent me house plans within the first week of our Internet introduction. Just as you said, he made me delightfully, sophomorically happy. I felt giddy and could’ve sworn, cartoon Bluebirds and Cupids were flying around my head. Then suddenly when he knew I was caught, the romance died. His true colors shone through. We broke up and got back together several times, though in retrospect, I can’t for the life of me understand why he never left when he had the chance. Guess he wasn’t through using me.

    These men ( and women, too) are patholigical liars. They often use aliases and have completely fabricated existences. They often have incredible sounding jobs of relevance and importance that just can’t be checked out. They’re CIA agents or political behaviorists or have covert appointments with even more covert agencies or institutions. Mine claimed to be one of the above and then compounded it with claiming to be born and raised in England. He would even use the accent and spelling variations when both were foremost on his mind. He’s sometimes forget though.

    He’s a blogger as well (guess that helped him in his hunting prey) and his blog was recently suspended by its carrier for violation of terms and charges of plagiarism. Mine knew just enough about his imaginary field to fool a few people with his feigned expertise. But if you listened to him carefully, you could hear the doublespeak and ignorance.

    He’s a loser, a liar and a man who I wasted two years on, but in the end, he taught me a tremendous lesson. I was vulnerable and he knew it and played upon it, but that will NEVER happen again.

    Color me educated.

    Thank you for letting me rant, Lori.


  • Lori Hoeck July 16, 2009, 9:34 am

    Hi LK,

    “Color me educated.” Nice way to put it! Now you know the red-flag signs, and I hope many other readers will learn them as well!

  • Lisa August 11, 2009, 4:09 pm

    {NOTE from Lori: I have left the comment below unedited. I would advise against younger children reading it, but it is a powerful example of emotional predators that needs to be told. I would ask parents to think about reading this with older teens to better arm them against emotional predators in positions of authority and trust. The person telling the story is in her 40s. If the emotional predator mentioned in this comment can prey on older adults, think how easy it is for them to prey on younger people.

    Hi Everyone,

    Well, I’ve probably got the biggest one of all!

    I met my emotional predator during my 3rd divorce. (yeah…I never learn)..he was my DIVORCE ATTORNEY.

    Talk about taking an emotionally vulnerable woman to new heights. He did it all!! He knew ALL my dirty secrets, including the fact that I hadn’t had sex in almost two years. Yes, I fell hard..oh boy, did I fall!

    Not only was I going through a divorce, I had just lost my father a few months before, my husband had tried to molest my daughter, and I was homeless for a few weeks when I fled my home. I had EVERY rug ripped out underneath me. He knew it all….and sucked it right up.

    During our first meeting, he informed me he ‘fucked’ a client on his desk, the very one he had his feet propped up on! I was flabbergasted. I was also very confused, scared, hurt, vulnerable…and trusting. He was a lawyer, surely a professional of his magnitude could be trusted. I had been referred to him by my chiropractor, whom was a trusted friend. I had only lived in town for five years and I hadnt a need for a lawyer up until that time.

    So, I left his office feeling more confused.

    During my year long divorce, he trusted ‘private’ personal information to me…such that he was divorced, his ex was a horrible alcoholic and dating his ex best friend. He ‘confided’ in me, making me feel special. I admitted that I missed sex, as I was not the kind of person to cheat on my spouse, nor was I the kind to have a sex friend without having emotional intimacy. I was VERY sexually vulnerable.

    At the end of my divorce, he let me know he wanted to see me, calling my cell phone and leaving provocative messages. Then he told me he had noticed during my divorce I had wonderful writing skills and he had a ‘story’ that he had always wanted written! It was about him having an inappropriate relationship with a client. He claimed he ‘wrote the book’ on when you could have sex with a client.

    I was stupid….niave, at best. I can’t tell you what I was because I was in a different place. It’s been five years since that day happened. I was a ‘good girl’, never exposed to anyone like him before. Yes, I had been married three times, and the last marriage, the one he handled, had been the worst. I was raw. I was in agony. I had been rejected physically, emotionally, and in every other way. I was damaged…and he saw that. He took that, as he had taken so much from so many others, and used it against me.

    I read this article and ticked off the aspects of his personality that fit this description. I was amazed. There’s a term for what he is…an emotional predator. I thought I was crazy. I thought in my last marriage I was crazy, but he made me feel even MORE crazy.

    I sacrificed my morals, which I won’t go into. I sacrificed my good judgement. I changed who I was and what I thought, how I felt, what I believed in because I was so afraid of being abandoned…again.

    Thankfully, I have intelligence and that was my saving grace. That, and my faith in God.

    My divorce lingered, even while we we became sexually involved. He told me ‘not to tell’. I didnt.

    I wrote his story and he self published it. I’m not going to reveal it because this letter is anonoymous. But, I gave him what he wanted. I gave him his story! And it was all about him, everything!

    I have put up with lies, cheating, verbal abuse, mental abuse, and have busted him several times with women. The last time came a month ago.

    He’s targeted a woman that is 33yr old. She’s had breast cancer three times, has undergone radiation, lost her hair, weight…and is struggling.

    He is 63. I am 48, just so you know.

    I happened upon him at a bar with her, as we live in a rather small town. I was on my way to his daughter’s house and happened to see his car at this bar. He doesnt drink, so I strode in.

    All you ladies can take heart. I can’t make a choice for anyone else, but I let her know his history. I belted down a glass of red wine, but I spilled the beans in front of him and he ran like a sissy! I told her pretty much ALL the above symptoms that he displayed, including…”He’ll learn your worst fears and use them against you!”.

    She claimed to NOT be emotinally vulnerable, but how can you NOT be, fighting breast cancer for the third time with three kids?

    My point here is to spread the word, share my experience….creeps like these people are NOT just online or at the workplace..they are actual professionals, too.

    yeah…I’m hurt…but I’m strong, and I’ll continue to be…

    thanks for the article Lori…thanks for a name for what I went through…I’m no professional either, but reading your article and the response made realize I’m not alone..

    thank you….

  • Lori Hoeck August 11, 2009, 8:38 pm

    Hi “Lisa,”
    Thank you for telling your story and being a teacher to others who can now learn from your experience. Emotional predators turn the heart and mind upside down and backwards, but I’m glad you are strong, healing, and now aware of the nature of Dark Hearts. They are easier to spot once you name their game.