How to deal with a show-off

Resist the temptation to put braggers in their place, says Sarah Neish


How to deal with a show-off

What kind of show-off are they?

‘The narcissist, who assumes others are less intelligent or talented than them, won’t see their behaviour as a problem,’ says psychiatrist Victoria Lukats. ‘You can ask them to modify their comments around you, but don’t expect them to stop.’

The self-doubter, on the other hand, brags about their achievements, then fishes for compliments. Tread gently, as any attempt to put them in their place could damage their fragile self-esteem. ‘Their sense of inadequacy comes from not knowing how to connect in a real way,’ says cognitive behavioural therapist Wendy Behary.

  • Choose words carefully Show-offs continue to seek attention until they get it, so ignoring their behaviour is unlikely to make it stop. Praise them, but choose your words carefully. ‘Saying, “You’re so good at this” reinforces the idea that they’re special and stand out,’ says psychologist Jean Twenge. ‘However, “This was really well done” is praise for the task completed, rather than the person.’
  • Don’t gang up Avoid embarrassing the person in front of a group. A study co-authored by Twenge revealed that narcissists often become aggressive after social rejection. Participants were asked to choose people they’d like to work with and those they would exclude. The group then played computer games that allowed them to blast innocent opponents. In each instance, narcissists showed more anger and aggression after rejection than non-narcissists.
  • Resist competing If a friend is always telling you how wonderful her relationship or job is, you might be tempted to enter into a game of one-upmanship. ‘There can be no winner in this competition, as who can judge who has the best partner or social life?’ asks Lukats. ‘A light-hearted comment — such as “What a jet-set life you lead” or “When do you find the time to switch off?” — will steer the conversation in another direction.’
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