Leading Authority in Treatment of Narcissism and Emotional Abuse

How to Tell if Someone is a Narcissist

How to Tell if Someone is a Narcissist : The 3 Ds of Narcissism

There is a lot of information out there on the internet on the topic of narcissism and it can get a bit overwhelming and confusing, so Dr. Hawkins has come up with a quick and simple way on how to tell if someone is a narcissist. He calls it the test of the 3 Ds – Defensiveness, Dismissiveness and Dominance – which he talks about in this video. He also developed the Narcissistic and Emotional Abuse Inventory (NEAI), a more comprehensive assessment to find out if someone is a narcissist, which you can access here

How to Tell if Someone is a Narcissist: The 3 Ds of Narcissism

Narcissism is a complex personality trait that can have a significant impact on relationships. Recognizing narcissistic tendencies in someone you know can be challenging, but there are key indicators to look out for. In this article, we will explore the “3 Ds” of narcissism, which can help you evaluate whether narcissism and emotional abuse are present in your relationship.

Defensiveness: The First D

One of the most prominent traits of narcissism is defensiveness. When you attempt to address concerns or provide feedback to a narcissistic individual, you are often met with resistance.

This resistance can manifest as rationalization, justification, blame-shifting, or any other form of defensiveness. In a healthy relationship, openness and receptivity are crucial. When you bring up a concern, the other person should be open to listening, seeking more information, and displaying gentle curiosity.

Assessing Defensiveness in Your Relationship: Consider how your partner responds when you bring up concerns. Are they open and receptive, or do they become defensive and resistant? Healthy relationships thrive on the exchange of information, so evaluate the degree of defensiveness in your relationship.

Dismissiveness: The Second D

Dismissiveness is another hallmark of emotional abuse and narcissism. It involves invalidating or brushing aside the concerns and feelings of others. A dismissive person may respond with phrases like, “I don’t want to hear this,” “I don’t agree with you,” or “I can’t validate your concerns.” In contrast, a healthy relationship should prioritize validation and understanding. It should involve a willingness to listen and acknowledge the other person’s perspective.

Assessing Dismissiveness in Your Relationship: Reflect on how your partner responds to your thoughts and feelings. Are they dismissive, or do they validate your concerns? In a healthy relationship, validation and understanding are essential components of effective communication.

Dominance: The Third D

Dominance is the third D of narcissism. It represents an obstinate and argumentative nature, where one person insists on having their way, especially in matters important to them. Dominance can manifest as an overpowering and unyielding attitude. In a relationship with a narcissistic and emotionally abusive individual, you may find that everything becomes unnecessarily difficult.

Assessing Dominance in Your Relationship: Observe how your partner approaches decision-making and conflict resolution. Are they consistently dominant, refusing to consider alternative viewpoints? If so, it can be a sign of narcissism and emotional abuse. Healthy relationships should be built on compromise and collaboration, not dominance.

The Intersection of the 3 Ds

It’s essential to understand that these three Ds of narcissism are often intertwined. Defensiveness, dismissiveness, and dominance can coexist and create a toxic dynamic in a relationship. Recognizing these character traits is crucial for addressing issues within the relationship and preventing further deterioration.


In conclusion, identifying narcissistic tendencies in someone you know can be challenging but essential for maintaining healthy relationships. The 3 Ds—defensiveness, dismissiveness, and dominance—offer valuable insights into assessing narcissism and emotional abuse. If you recognize these traits in your relationship, it’s important to address them and seek professional guidance if necessary. Remember that healthy relationships are built on open communication, validation, and mutual respect, not on defensiveness, dismissiveness, and dominance.

To learn how we can help, reach out to us at (206) 219-0145 or info@marriagerecoverycenter.com to speak with a Client Care Specialist

Also read: 10 Signs of an Emotionally Abusive Relationship

About Dr. Hawkins:

The internet is inundated with hyperbole and misinformation about narcissism, leaving many people confused and hopeless. Get the facts on narcissism and emotional abuse from someone who has been researching, writing about and treating narcissism and emotional abuse for over a decade.

Dr. Hawkins is a best-selling author and clinical psychologist with over three decades of experience helping people break unhealthy patterns and build healthier relationships.

He is the founder and director of the Marriage Recovery Center and the Emotional Abuse Institute which offers education, training and counseling for people who want to break free of, and heal from, emotional abuse. Whether the perpetrator of the abuse is your spouse, partner, parent, boss, friend or family member, we offer practical advice for anyone trapped in a toxic, destructive relationship.

In addition to narcissism & emotional abuse, you’ll learn about the lesser known forms of abuse, including covert abuse, reactive abuse, spiritual abuse, secondary abuse, relationship trauma and much more.


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