- How do you get along with difficult people?
- Each week, we respond to a question from our readers, and our team of clinical psychologists gives advice and resources you can turn to
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I think I have a classmate who may be a narcissist. I don’t mean to be rude, but she screams and yells so loudly during recess that it hurts my eardrums. She also goes around boasting about her scars to other people. She claims that she has a medical condition, but that it hasn’t been confirmed by a professional. Is this something a narcissist would do? Or am I being too harsh? Please give me some advice about how I should treat her.
From time to time, we will meet people that we don’t instantly hit it off with. It is okay not to like someone enough to want to be friends, but it’s still important to remain polite. In your case, it seems like you find one of your classmates hard to get along with, but it is admirable that you are looking for advice on how to treat her well.
First, try setting aside the prejudices you have against her. When we dislike someone, we tend to focus more on the negative feelings we have towards them. Giving your classmate a diagnosis won’t help you resolve your problems. In fact, your speculations might actually hurt your classmate and the relationship between both of you.
If you feel like she is being impossible, or that it is not necessary for you to get along, the best advice is to keep some distance from her and try not to be bothered by her behaviour.
However, if the classmate is someone that you will have to interact with on a regular basis, like if you need to work in the same small groups or take part in the same clubs, you might want to take the time to try and understand her.
It may be hard to take the initiative to do so. But it is worth a try if you value her as much as you do your other classmates. Try to be genuine and kind by telling her you want to understand her more. Ask her why she does certain things and how she feels about them, without being judgmental towards her. She may or may not open up to you, and the two of you may not end up being good friends. But at least you have made an effort to do the kind thing. And who knows? Life is full of surprises. She may appreciate the effort and come to value you as a friend or classmate.
And remember, if her behaviour becomes too alarming, make sure to reach out to a teacher for help.
Hope it helps, Friend of a Friend
The question was answered by clinical psychologists from the Department of Health under Shall We Talk, a mental health initiative launched with the Advisory Committee on Mental Health.