Are You Mistaking Machiavellianism For Narcissism?

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Narcissism is a widely discussed topic in the world of personal development, but this personality type has been handed a much wider remit than it probably deserves.

There are various traits that are often, wrongly, attributed to narcissism and which should, in fact, be recognized as being a part of the Machiavellian personality type.

This website has been guilty of doing just that – as have many others – because it is not uncommon for a person to exhibit characteristics of both a narcissist and a Machiavellian.

But that’s not to say that every narcissist is a Machiavellian or vice versa. Knowing the difference will allow you to identify which one you are dealing with.

First of all, let’s look at the traits that actually are associated with narcissists.

The Narcissist

Narcissism is driven entirely by the ego and this is plain to see when you consider some of the most common traits such a person displays.

They have a delusional vision of self-grandeur, believing themselves to be special, superior, and with an exaggerated view of their achievements and abilities.

They seek the attention, admiration, and praise of those around them and get very upset when this is not forthcoming.

If they ever face criticism or views that do not align with their own, they get extremely defensive, and dismissive.

They have a bloated sense of entitlement, believing themselves to be more deserving than other people.

They are extremely selfish and do not like to see others succeed, even if they are doing so too. They refuse to share the spotlight with anyone else.

They take jealousy and envy to a whole new level. Expect to face their wrath should they ever think you are putting someone else ahead of them – especially in relationships.

They will happily belittle or degrade other people to make themselves feel good – they feel no remorse for heaping unhappiness on others.

They can exhibit very impulsive behavior if it provides what the ego seeks.

The above traits have been rightly linked to the narcissistic personality, but those below are actually parts of the Machiavellian personality.

More essential narcissist reading (article continues below):

The Machiavellian

One thing that is almost always spoken about in articles about narcissism is the willingness to manipulate others, but it is this trait that should rightfully be discussed in the context of Machiavellianism.

Machiavellians put self gain before almost anything else and it is because of this that they seek to control and use others to their advantage. They see people as stepping stones – as a means to an end – and will gladly walk over them in order to get where they want to be.

For them, winning is the ultimate aim, and if this is at the expense of others, then so be it. They care only about their own achievements, but they are typically quite realistic about what these are.

They desire wealth and power over all else, and it is their detachment from conventional morality that allows them to chase their lofty goals without remorse and free from conscience.

They employ different faces in different situations as a tool for getting what they want. They will use lies and deceit where necessary, while also being capable of charm and friendliness.

They will disclose “truths” about themselves to garner trust and utilize guilt to make people do their bidding.

Their manipulations are subtle – they seek to accomplish their aims without drawing too much attention to their less desirable qualities. They may have many acquaintances, but they struggle to form strong friendships or relationships.

They are generally very calculating and careful when it comes to their actions. Everything needs to be planned and executed with precision so as to maximize their chances of success.

They are distrustful of human goodness; they see it as weak and naive to rely on others for anything.

The Crossover

As was alluded to earlier, it is very possible for an individual to have both narcissistic and Machiavellian attributes. They may well be creatures of the ego that seek to manipulate and deceive others for their own personal gains.

In truth, there is likely to be some degree of narcissism in a Machiavellian, as to be so single-mindedly focused on your success – even at the expense of others – requires a fairly active ego.

But, while a narcissist would be too jealous to wish success for other people, there might be occasions where a Machiavellian personality would accept someone else succeeding if it meant they could move up the ladder too. They would be prepared to do a deal with an equally success-oriented individual if it meant they, too, gained greater wealth and power.

A narcissist will tend to be a lot more emotional, quick to anger, and impulsive, whereas a Machiavellian is able to put some distance between their actions and their emotions.

So, there are certainly similarities in the two personality types, but there are also clear differences. The manipulative and controlling side is actually a demonstration of Machiavellianism and not narcissism as many people believe. It is possible to have a narcissist who is not overly controlling and a Machiavellian who is not particularly attention-seeking or delusional.

Knowing the difference will allow you to be better equipped to deal with each of them.

Can you think of individuals who are distinctly narcissistic or Machiavellian? And have you encountered people who demonstrate both qualities? Leave a comment below to share your experiences.

About The Author

Steve Phillips-Waller is the founder and editor of A Conscious Rethink. He has written extensively on the topics of life, relationships, and mental health for more than 8 years.