Narcissists lack empathy, exploit others, feel superior and are excessively entitled. Those on the malignant end of the spectrum can be dangerous and even abusive. A lot of us want to understand how to know we’re dating a narcissist or sociopath early on so we don’t waste our time investing in someone who will inevitably harm us. But are there actual traits or behaviours that give away a narcissist upon first meeting? Depending on how covert the narcissist or sociopath in question is, there are actually five surprising signs that can be used to detect that a person is not all that they claim to be.
Here are five behaviors and traits to watch out for on a first date:
1. Grandstanding or virtue signaling.
A covert wolf in sheep’s clothing is unlikely to show his or her true self on the first date, but some whiskers will inevitably pop out. One behaviour you should watch out for is grandstanding. Some narcissists and sociopaths will actually explicitly emphasise values they do not have to ensure that you think of them in a positive light; this is what I like to call a preemptive defence. They will claim early on that they will “never lie to you” and talk about how much they value transparency, honesty and integrity. If you find that this person tends to talk about how honest they are excessively, beware.
Someone with true integrity doesn’t need to constantly talk about it; basic decency and respect should be the default. Pathological liars, however, need to sustain their lies and experts note that they do so by adding on more detail to their falsehoods than necessary. Also remember that the values narcissists claim to have are standards they are setting up for you – they expect you to be honest, transparent and have integrity because it suits their agendas to have you trust them. However, in reality, regardless of the values they boast about, they have no problem lying to your face and manipulating you.
2. Oversharing and disclosure.
A first date with a narcissist can be deceptively speedy when it comes to intimacy. You’ll find that there are some narcissists who, on first dates, will disclose a great deal of personal information about themselves or ask you for personal information. Yet they don’t do this to get close to you; on the contrary, they are sharing information that may not even be true for one reason only: they want you to trust them enough to disclose information about yourself. When they tell you about their past relationships or bemoan their exes, trust that they’re expecting you to also share your relationship history with them. They’re also using this early disclosure as a way to smear their exes as “obsessed” or “crazy” so that you’re unlikely to believe anyone who warns you in the future.
According to research, narcissists have a high degree of cognitive empathy which they use to better understand their targets (but they lack the affective empathy required to actually feel the emotions of others). They’re collecting information about you so they can assess your weaknesses, strengths, vulnerabilities, assets, secret longings – all of the things they can use against you as ammunition later on. They want to know more about you so they can “mirror” back to you what they know you’re searching for in a partner. This is how they manufacture the so-called “soulmate effect.” Limit the information you share on a first date and instead, work on building trust with someone before giving someone access to your relationship history or your worst fears.