I want to talk about a little-mentioned red flag, but one of the easiest ones to spot early in a relationship. Most narcissists are rude to servicepeople and others they see as beneath them. My ex was notoriously rude to servicepeople, always screaming at customer service people, even if the problem wasn’t their fault. He was also rude to wait staff in restaurants, to the point it was embarrassing going out to dinner with him. He was unreasonably demanding, condescending, and treated wait staff as if they were mentally deficient. With attractive female wait staff, his rudeness was of a sexual character–he openly flirted with young waitresses, even though I was watching. I think he did this because he knew it would bother me. He also did it because he knew his target was a sitting duck and might be fired or reprimanded if she objected to the flirtatious behavior (which wasn’t so over the top if could be called sexual harassment).
My parents were always rude to servicepeople too. My mother embarrassed me constantly with her relentless, unreasonable demands in restaurants and loud criticism and insults toward anyone she thought was beneath her, which was almost everyone. I remember the time we went to Charleston, SC in the early ’90s. We took a tour bus through the downtown area. The bus driver gave us information about historical homes in the area as we passed them. My mother was bored, so to relieve her boredom (and to get attention), she began to loudly argue with the bus driver, telling him why he was wrong and to get his facts straight. People stared at her, horrified at how rude she was being. The bus driver looked like he wanted to cry. I wanted to sink through the bus floor. I tried to make myself as inconspicuous as possible to avoid being associated with such a rude, arrogant, person.
Another time, I went to visit her in a motel when she had come to visit. My mother isn’t wealthy (although she always had upper-class pretentions), and could only afford a fairly inexpensive chain motel near the Interstate. A Mexican family was staying next door to her room and as we made our way to the motel pool, the Mexican family came out with their 3 kids. A little boy, probably three or four, started talking to my mother in Spanish, and she shooed him away as if he was a bug. The little boy looked hurt, and I felt sorry for him. I gave the boy’s mother a sheepish, apologetic look. The kids ran past. The little girl accidentally brushed past my mother, and she started making “ugh” sounds and wiping her skirt as if it was contaminated. She didn’t like this family for two reasons: 1. she regarded them as being of low social status, and 2. They were Mexican.
This brings me to racism, which is related, because racists regard “those other people” as being of a lower social status, and sometimes not even quite human. Seeing others as beneath them or even as like animals absolves them of any guilt they might otherwise have in treating another person like dirt.
Racism is common in narcissists. I think most people who are racist probably are narcissistic if not straight up narcissists. Of course, some people are racists because they were raised to be that way, and it is more common in older generations than younger ones. But I think it’s a lot more prevalent in people with a lot of narcissistic traits.
These same people are likely to fawn all over those they see as being “worthy” or of a higher social status (even though they might secretly hate them). Narcissists are snobs, but they are only snobs because they secretly hate themselves and must put other people down to feel better about themselves.
It’s also my opinion that most people who demean the poor and blame them for their poverty, calling them “lazy” or “stupid” or insisting they “chose to be poor” are probably narcissists or at least have a lot of those traits.
If you see any of the following behaviors after meeting someone, run! These are all red flags.
1. Rude, condescending or unnecessarily critical of wait staff or servicepeople. I am not including anger at a serviceperson because they legitimately screwed up or were rude themselves.
2. Calling attention to oneself by loudly arguing with servicepeople, making sure everyone hears.
3. Does not care if they embarrass you. If you tell them to chill or keep things toned down, they are likely to turn their anger on you.
4. Unwarranted personal insults toward servicepeople, including customer service representatives and technical support people.
5. Threatening a serviceperson even though the problem was not their fault. For example, threatening to sue a store clerk for demanding to see ID (which is a required part of their job).
6. Acting like a serviceperson or person of another race or nationality is beneath them and not worthy of respectful, polite behavior.
7. Racist, sexist, or ethnic jokes meant to insult their targets (or call attention to themselves).
8. Insulting someone of lower social status, coexisting with fawning behavior toward someone of higher social status. If an encounter with a higher status person immediately follows one with a lower status person (or vice versa), they will appear to have a Jekyll-Hyde personality. This is common in the workplace. Beware of narcissistic bosses who look down on you because of your lower position in the company. Of course, they will do anything they can to keep you from getting ahead.
9. Openly flirtatious behavior toward servicepeople or wait staff in front of a date or spouse. This is a double whammy, intended to upset the partner(the behavior is usually subtle enough it can be denied later and the partner told they are being paranoid or imagining things), and intimidate or humiliate the service person (again, it’s likely to be subtle enough that it doesn’t qualify as sexual harassment.)