These are the signs to look for, from the nuanced to the obvious. (Photo: Getty Images)
Would you know it if your friend or coworker was a narcissist? What about if he or she was highly sensitive? An extrovert?
Mentions of these personality types are often flippant (“My boss is such a perfectionist,” “I can’t believe my friend is so sensitive”), but do you really know how to spot the telltale signs of these kinds of people? Experts say there are signals, either spoken or acted, that can tip you off, and knowing them can help you predict future behavior — like if your new roommate is going to steal the spotlight at your birthday party.
Think you’re already good at reading people? We’ll make you better. Here’s what to look out for:
Perfectionists often use this word
To a perfectionist, a project is either perfect or a failure — there’s no middle ground. Even with a small mishap, a perfectionist is likely to be upset and judgmental. But here’s another telltale sign someone has this personality type: He or she will say the word “should” a lot, says Elizabeth Lombardo, PhD, bestselling author of Better Than Perfect: 7 Steps to Crush your Inner Critic and Create a Life You Love. Listen carefully: If he or she says, “I should finish this assignment before lunch,” or “she should know what I want,” you’re dealing with a perfectionist.
Narcissists aren’t afraid to throw you under the bus
There’s a healthy level of self-esteem … and then there is narcissism. You’re probably familiar with the well-known traits: always seeking praise, constantly looking in the mirror, incredibly entitled. But there’s a sign of narcissism that’s even worse than an over-inflated ego: “A narcissist will always turn tables on you and reverse accusations by shaming and attacking your credibility,” says psychotherapist Sam Lopez De Victoria, PhD.
Related: Stay Away From Guys Who Do This
Extroverts are most energized in these situations
Extroverts thrive off of social interactions, says Rachel DeAlto, a communication and relationship expert and bestselling author of Flirt Fearlessly. For them, “a silent meditation retreat for five days sounds like a fate worse than death,” she explains. The best way to tell if someone is an extrovert: See when he or she is the most energized. If it’s when in the middle of the action, you’ve got an extrovert on your hands.
Introverts prefer to spend their weekends this way
Your partner may be quiet, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he or she is introverted — in fact, there’s a difference between shy and introverted. If someone is shy, a large group may be intimidating, but if someone is an introvert, it is exhausting, according to DeAlto. You can tell if you’re dating an introvert if he or she prefers to stay home all weekend and is introspective and analytical. But there’s a plus side: “If an introvert spends time with you, take it as a compliment — most are very selective given the energy drain of certain relationships,” DeAlto says.
Highly sensitive people are easy to spot in a noisy office
Highly sensitive people (HSP) are said to feel emotions more deeply (and also be more emotionally reactive); it’s also easy for them to feel over-stimulated. Oftentimes, they’re aware of these tendencies so they try to fit in with their non-HSP friends — and can be hard to spot, says Ted Zeff, PhD, author of The Highly Sensitive Person’s Survival Guide. But highly sensitive people aren’t rare — in fact, nearly 50 million Americans have the personality type. Watch if your co-worker struggles to concentrate in a noisy office or takes an extra-long time to make decisions — these are some indications he or she is a HSP.
Psychopaths are consistent in their behaviors
A psychopath is someone who lacks empathy, sincerity, and social emotions like shame, guilt, or embarrassment, says Ellen Hendriksen, PhD, host of the award-winning podcast “Savvy Psychologist.” And fortunately, unlike Dexter Morgan, the fictional psychopath from the Showtime series Dexter, most are far from violent. To determine if your friend is a psychopath and not just simply rude, look at his or her history. “Clues include lying, recklessness, callous manipulation, and total disregard for rules,” Hendriksen says. The real giveaway “is when the whole package of being fearlessly bold, charming yet cruel, and uninhibited is consistent over time.”