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How to Handle Annoying Behavior of Self-Centered People

As a poet, therapist, and observer of human behavior, Janis has a keen awareness of what makes people tick and behave the way they do.

Self-centered people are easy to identify but difficult to handle. They love to talk, mainly about themselves, and they can be quite dismissive about the point of view of others.

Absorbed by their grandiosity, they look down on others with an air of superiority that is frequently displayed with a "holier than thou" attitude.

This type of person is also defined by others as being incredibly annoying. We have all dealt with them in our personal relationships, brief acquaintances, in the work place, and on the streets.

Below are some of the most annoying behaviors of self-centered, self-absorbed people. You may have encountered some or all of these behaviors.

Annoying Behaviors of Self-Centered People

  1. Driving as if they own the road, refusing to wait, yield, slow down, merge, or use signals
  2. Recklessly driving at high rates of speed without concern for the safety of others
  3. Engaging in road rage
  4. Leaning on a car horn when traffic cannot move
  5. Loudly threatening to call for a manager when things don't go their way
  6. Making trivial complaints about everything
  7. Turning any conversation into a story about what happened to them, regardless of the topic at hand
  8. Loudly verbalizing irritation while waiting in line
  9. Throwing a physical or emotional tantrum or verbal rant
  10. Minimizing or ignoring the emotions of others
  11. Arriving late and making an entrance that says, "I'm here!"
  12. Unapologetic about being wrong or hurtful
  13. Dominating group conversation with interruptions or interjections
  14. Argumentative and arrogant with a need to be right
  15. Overly critical of others

Encounters with Self-Centered People

What is Self-Centeredness?

  • The New American Webster Dictionary (1995) defines self-centeredness as "absorbed in oneself."
  • Roget's Thesaurus (1985) lists self-centered as synonymous with the words, "egotistic" and "selfish."
  • The Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary (1986) defines self-centered as "independent of outside force or influence; self-sufficient" and "concerned solely with one's own desires, needs, or interests; selfish."

Note that all of these definitions seem to include the common element of "self standing alone," as if they all revolve around the individual, in his or her own world.

Most people are far too much occupied with themselves to be malicious.

— Freidrich Nietzsche, "Human, All Too Human"

Self-Centered Attitudes are Difficult to Handle

A cockiness in a self-centered personality comes through without saying a word.

A cockiness in a self-centered personality comes through without saying a word.

Self-absorption in all its forms kills empathy, let alone compassion. When we focus on ourselves, our world contracts, as our problems and preoccupations loom larger. But when we focus on others, our world expands.

— Daniel Goleman, "Source Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships"

Self-Centered Personality Begins with Parenting

Self-centered personality can begin early when an overindulgent parent spoils a child.

Self-centered personality can begin early when an overindulgent parent spoils a child.

How to Handle Those Annoying Behaviors

  • Ignore It - Remember, self-centered people thrive on attention. Let the road rager rage on, don't make eye-contact, focus on your own safe and defensive driving techniques, and keep your eyes on the road.
  • Deflect It - After giving the self-centered person sufficient time to go on and on, change the subject by asking a direct question that has nothing to do with them.
  • Validate It - Stroke the self-centered person's ego by validating his/her point of view; then offer your own. Remember, they just want to be acknowledged for being right.
  • Let It Go - It's not worth the stress to go back and forth with someone who is driven by his ego. Pick your battles, state your case, stand up for yourself, and let it go.
  • Avoid It - If possible, steer clear of annoying people and refrain from engagement. Put your time and energy into more positive people where you are more likely to have a productive experience.

Self-Centeredness and its Roots in Narcissism

What makes self-centered behaviors so annoying to others is that they indicate a total disregard for the other person's opinion, value, or existence.

It appears that it's uncomfortable for self-centered people to be attentive for more than five minutes before they draw attention back to themselves to make their point which they believe to be correct.

These behaviors may have their roots in certain behavioral or personality traits that influence how the self-centered person approaches his/her environment and interacts with others.

These traits loosely fall under the definition for Narcissistic Personality which may involve a cluster of traits or a clinical diagnosis of a personality disorder. This can produce behaviors that affect the individual's ability to have healthy social interactions and close personal relationships.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder is said to possibly be a result of overly indulgent parenting styles. They include but are not limited to the following list of traits and characteristics:

  • Self-absorption
  • Excessive self-love
  • Need for admiration and/or fame
  • Lack of empathy or concern for others
  • Unrealistic sense of entitlement
  • Demanding
  • Manipulative
  • Vanity and preoccupation with appearance
  • Self-assured cockiness

Unfortunately, it is difficult to contend with a self-centered person whose behavior is most likely related to imbedded traits of their personality that may not easily change.

It is well-known in the field of psychology that most personality disorders are not easy to treat.

Therefore, we are left to maneuver around or tolerate the annoying behaviors of those with whom we interact in our personal lives, work settings, or in public.

But there has to be some way to successfully handle the annoying behaviors that accompany these traits. Below are some suggested approaches to handling some situations:

Self-Absorbed in her Mirror

Stunning beauty can cause one to be self-absorbed.

Stunning beauty can cause one to be self-absorbed.

A Message to Self-Centered Absorbed People

I'm sure that some of you reading this are saying to yourselves, "Hmmm, sounds a bit like me - whatever!" Well, forgive me if I've touched a nerve by bringing attention to certain behaviors that people encounter frequently in their daily lives.

This article is not meant to insult you, label you, or imply that you're not a decent person, any more than the images of the people featured imply that they are definitively self-centered. We all deserve the same love and respect, regardless of our irritating behaviors. And we can all benefit from being a little more empathic toward others.

But you must admit that you can be annoying at times and not easy to deal with. To some extent, aren't we all?

Hopefully, this article will spark introspection that leads to conversations about how all of us can take a closer look at how our behaviors affect the people closest to us, prompting us to make decisions to change for the better.


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

Question: How to best handle such people if they are your immediate family, for example, a parent or a sibling?

Answer: That is a tough one because you have to interact with them regularly. It might help to consider family counseling so that a neutral person can point out the dynamics of how you're relating. If that's not practical, verbalizing your concerns with love and setting boundaries for what you cannot tolerate is an alternative. Of course, it's tricky if the person becomes defensive. Sharing what your ideal interaction with them might look like and pointing out good qualities in the relationship may also help.

Question: If this so-called "self-absorbed" person is also really smart and has a good comeback for everything, how do you deal with them?

Answer: That's a good question. But at some point, you have to accept that the person is needing to let himself know how smart he is and that the comebacks are for him, not you. Sometimes you just have to acknowledge, let it go and walk away.

Question: Is it possible for a self-centered person to genuinely love another person, i.e., his wife?

Answer: Whether your self-centered or not, marriage can be difficult. We go through periods where loving our spouses comes with challenges. Yes, self-centeredness can be one of those challenges. A key to loving another person is the ability to empathize, step outside of yourself and into someone else's reality. This is not easy for a self-centered person, but it is not impossible. It will take work and intent to include the needs of the other person into your reality. You also have to be open to receive the same for yourself. Love is a two-way street.

Question: Can self-centeredness be a result of depression?

Answer: It's possible that self-centeredness is masking avoidance of deeper issues of loss where the person is isolated and emotionally disconnected from others. I'm not sure, however, how common it is for depression to manifest as self-centeredness.

Question: How can I handle my dominating, self-centered husband?

Answer: It will be very difficult to handle someone who is the dominant one in the relationship. If he will agree to marriage counseling, that would be the ideal route. If not, the best you can do seek counseling for yourself to address your role in being in a relationship where you feel dominated.

Question: How should one really handle a selfish person? It is not easy if you live with such a person. Despite explaining many times, the behaviors keep happening. In fact, it really interrupts my life, especially during midnight time.

Answer: I wish I had the perfect answer for you but your situation is more complicated than getting a quick solution. Living with someone means you are in a relationship with them. That relationship makes it very difficult to ignore them. The best suggestion is to consider counseling to explore the dynamic between the both of you that's driving the discord. You will have to decide if living with a selfish person is so disruptive to your life that you will have to make a shift to better self-care and healthier living.

© 2013 Janis Leslie Evans