Chances are you are reading this on your mobile ‘phone, a tablet or a laptop, enjoying the mobility that is provided by accessing content such as this from an electronic device. You might be at home, curled up on the sofa or you quite possibly are reading this sat on a stool in the kitchen waiting for a pan to boil or a microwave to go ping. Alternatively, you may be on the bus or train, perusing this latest piece of writing with other people nearby and passing you by. Can you see the bus driver? You can. How did you know that it was him? By virtue of his position at the steering wheel of the vehicle, obviously. His uniform and company livery on his shirt, jumper or jacket might also tell you his role. You may be stopped at a station or some traffic lights and you can see a police officer handling an enquiry, marshalling the traffic, handing out a ticket or just casting a watching eye over the world around him or her. How did you know that he or she is a police officer? The uniform stands out most distinctly, as it is intended to do. Easy to spot isn’t he?

How about the man sat across from you? Who is he and what does he do? He is engrossed in the content of his tablet but you can see that he isn’t reading but is looking at some charts. An analyst maybe? A salesman checking his sales performance? A statistician looking over the latest data concerning crime rates in the city? He could be any of those couldn’t he but you could make an educated guess as to his role. What about the lady who is getting on the bus now, what can you tell about her? She is struggling with a buggy and two large bags of shopping as she is ensuring a toddler also clambers on board. Most likely a housewife and clearly a mother. You can see a wedding band on one of her fingers so she is married. Her husband is probably at work as she attends to the running of the house. You have gathered all that in a moment.

Perhaps you are walking home and as you scroll through this article you notice that someone is walking behind you. You lower your ‘phone and look over your shoulder to see a well-dressed gentleman walking briskly along carrying a briefcase. You do not regard him as a threat and you resume looking at your ‘phone as he catches you up and then passes you without incident. Your assessment of him was proven correct. Just like the time you approached a subway late at night and saw half a dozen tracksuit wearing youths hovering nearby. You were taller than them and older than them but something about the way they were stood made you realise that they were looking for trouble so you decided against taking the subway and found a different route albeit longer and circuitous but your safety mattered more than your aching feet.

You evaluate and assess everyone you meet. In conversations with friends you sit and listen and look for visual cues that they are interested in what you are saying. Poker players scrutinise their opponents as they look for the “tells” to assist their gameplay. Boxers stare into one another’s eyes before the bout begins seeing who will break off the stare first and concede a psychological advantage to his opponent. Judges watches witnesses carefully and through their facial expressions they are given hints as to whether the witness is giving his or her evidence in a truthful manner, this observation allowing the judge to assess the veracity of the witness. In bed with your intimate partner you will watch their face and listen to the sounds they make to ascertain what is working for them and what you should do more of. You can tell by the way somebody is walking through the office that with shoulders hunched and head down they are not in the mood to be approached and asked a question about a forthcoming meeting. That person in the corner of the room at the party is staring at the floor feeling too shy to speak to people. Each and every day you assess hundreds of people and make an instant decision as to who they are, whether you like them, whether you want to help them or if they present a threat to you. You instinctively know that certain ways the eyes look amounts to a warning, the slope of the mouth denotes irritation, the tilt of the head confirms a certain cockiness. The way someone stands, sits, walks and gesticulates all tells you something which you process in an instant. You gather so much from a lifetime of watching nostrils flare, lips thin, chins jut, brows furrow and eyes widen. Assessment after assessment is made and invariably accurate ones which enable you to negotiate your way through the day, through life as you interact with so many people in your private life, in business and socialising. You are highly adept at reading the signals, working people out and anticipating what will happen next. It is a highly developed and impressive skill.

24 thoughts on “Chameleon

  1. D says:

    the ability to read people and form quick, accurate initial judgements that are based on both verbal and non-verbal cues is called social thinking. it begins at birth and continues to develop throughout our lifetime.

  2. You are the ultimate chameleon HG!

    I love reading your posts and I also really enjoy reading your replies to others comments.

    You always tailor your reply to the individual. In such a way, most people just don’t. And if someone is angry and hateful towards you, you manage to diffuse it within a couple of replies – a real talent !

    Despite the fact j know in my head what you are, you still make me feel ‘safe in your hands’ even though I knew from the moment I first liaised with you that that would not and never will be the case.

    We all need to learn these skills, so we can put them to good use and combat the evil. I’m working on it, and despite what you are, I’m learning so much from you but using it in a completely opposing way.

    So your teaching is going well beyond your intended lesson and I thank you for that.

  3. luckyotter says:

    Although this is a great post, what I’m about to say isn’t to do with this post in particular, but with all of them. I just wasn’t sure where to post this comment, so I’ll do it here.

    I don’t know if you were aware, but the narc-abuse community isn’t always a safe place. There are a few narc-abuse blogs run by malignant narcissists who use every trick in the narcissist’s playbook. Although they claim to hate narcs, if you disagree with them at all, expect to be mobbed, gaslighted, triangulated against, and your character trashed to smithereens. I won’t get into specifics here, but it happened to me and apparently they are not done with me yet (yesterday’s and today’s post was about this). I’m not allowing them to get to me though, and continue to plow on with my sometimes controversial posts (because I don’t have a knee-jerk hatred toward all narcs the way some of them do). Their neverending hatred has poisoned their souls until they became what they hate. The only way to healing is to move on from the hate, and that’s what I have done and am continuing to do. And they hate that.

    Anyway, I’m rambling. My point is that you, an admitted narcissist, are doing more of a service to narc abuse victims by taking us inside your mind and letting us know what it FEELS like and thereby how to look out for all the red flags than these certain narc-abuse bloggers are doing with all their narc-bashing and hatred. It takes somewhat of an open mind for narc abuse victims to want to read your site, but I’m glad I do, and I’m sure others are glad they do too. (Is that enough supply for ya? 😉

    Sam Vaknin does the same thing, but I find your posts vastly more interesting and readable.

    1. malignnarc says:

      Hello Luckyotter and thanks for your post. Yes I am aware of such places. I have also seen the mob mentality at work in supposed narc support groups on FB. I know, because I frequent them myself, there are others of my kind there who revel in lobbing in a hand grenade and all hell breaking loose. I have also seen non-N individuals make a valid, albeit controversial point and be set on by the mob accusing them of being a narc. I also see a lot of whining about “this happened” and “that happened” giving a daily update on what the person is caught in without doing anything to address it or take heed of the constructive comments from other people in the group. Is it another blog where you have been “set on”? It looks like you have suffered the same fate of offering an opinion only to be set on by supposedly open-minded and tolerant people. Your sentence “their neverending hatred has poisoned their souls until they became what they hate” is accurate. Yes you are right, you need to be open-minded to deal with my work. It is not for everybody, but everybody ought to read it. It is interesting that I occasionally get the odd poster here who calls me all sorts and suggests I should be shot. That doesn’t bother me, it is all fuel, but most people here know it is a tough read at times but they adopt the stance of embracing this information, which is not provided anywhere else in the way I convey it and use it to their advantage. That is their choice. I do this because I enjoy writing, I enjoy the fuel from people’s responses and I enjoy interacting with them. I am doing this as part of my treatment and if this happens to help people and they convey their gratitude to me then it is a win/win ; they gain something from it and I gain fuel. I don’t do this because I care or that I want to help, but if help arises from it, fair enough. The narc abuse bloggers who go on and on about how terrible it is are right. It is regarded as terrible but most of the time such bloggers do it for their own catharsis and it is of little assistance to anyone other than themselves. One can join in with the sob stories if one wants, but where is that going to take you? You are far better off coming here and learning something and trading blows and some humour with me. Thanks for your observations. Yes SV provides plenty of knowledge too, he does it in a scientific fashion which is all well and good but I think at times they are less accessible.

      1. luckyotter says:

        I appreciate your honesty. You’re absolutely right of course. I’ve been on the receiving end on FB too so I know ath you’re talking about. FB has too much drama anyway, as far as I’m concerned.

        One of the most educational and interesting experiences for me was a few months last fall when I was active on a NPD board. Yes, there were narcs posting there, or at least people who *thought* they had NPD. I was one of them (long story!) I felt more welcome there than on some of the narc-abuse sites. Maybe they were just being on their best behavior, who knows? But I saw no drama or any abusive or bullying behavior while I was there, and I had enough N traits to be thought of as “one of them.” No, I don’t have NPD but I’ll be the first to admit I have narc traits. I was mistaken about having NPD but at the time at least I was honest in what I observed about myself and so were the people on that forum–which is more than I can say for a few of these victims who act like their sh*t doesn’t stink.

        I think what you;re doing is very cool, and I also appreciate what Sam has done. I’ve read his book and a lot of his articles and he knows a lot about his subject matter. He’s also a good writer. But after a while, his scientific, cold writing style gets a bit old.

        1. malignnarc says:

          Yes I recognise what you are referring to in respect of the NPD board. I am pleased you appreciate my writing and do continue to contribute.

          1. luckyotter says:

            I will.

    2. nikitalondon says:

      HI LO

      Also happened to me. I have bren called an addict, banal, victim player, my IQ has been put down, my comments said to be infuriating …. I dont remember what more.
      It did hurt in the beggining because you dont expect to be called names for commenting in a blog, but now its okay. I dont care anymore.

      1. luckyotter says:

        That’s good. I still care, but less than I used to. I just find my motivation goes out the window a few days after one of these stupid attacks.

        1. nikitalondon says:

          Very true. Its demotivating…. Very demotivating.. Makes you almost want to leave. But I did meditation on the feelings that they caused and some support from another blogger and I can rationaliza the comments. Good luck 🌹🌹🌹. Sorry Im not of much help but meditatiom was what helped me..

  4. mlaclarece says:

    I have probably become so adept at reading signals now whether verbal and non verbal, I could apply for the CIA or Homeland Security! Lol

  5. Joy Grateful says:

    You’re exactly right! Thank you.

    1. malignnarc says:


  6. bethany7337 says:

    I was reading this and kept waiting for the part where you would begin talking about yourself in context to the subject. But it never came?

    1. T says:

      It was/is/will always be all about HG, Bethany……it always is….:)

      1. malignnarc says:

        Of course and why not?

  7. Joy Grateful says:

    Yes, all but you. How do we miss reading you?

  8. Joy Grateful says:

    Yes, all but you. How do we miss reading you?

    1. malignnarc says:

      Because you are too busy being swept off your feet to notice.

    2. T says:

      Welcome, Joy! I think are new to us?

  9. Cara says:

    I grew up in Brooklyn, NY. Being able to “read” people (their facial expressions, posture, etc) and QUICKLY is a very necessary life skill here. Those tracksuit-wearing youths hanging ’round the subway station entrance looking like they’re looking for trouble…as a woman alone, I’ll wait till a man who looks tougher than them (older, more experienced, & tougher) comes and I’ll enter the subway (and walk the gauntlet that is them) so it looks like I’m with that man.

    That woman struggling with a double stroller & two toddlers on the subway stairs…she’s the nanny (kids are white & she’s Asian; also the kids are dressed better than she is).

    The homeless man with one shoe, intermittently panhandling & talking to himself…well he’s in the subway because, due to budget cuts, the mental hospital he belongs in has CLOSED. I feel bad for the guy (left untreated, my depression would take over my life, wouldn’t let me have a life) and I put money in his cup.

    1. nikitalondon says:


  10. This is a rich post of which I will come back to once I have pressed some beans in the morning; fresh coffee on the beach, my feet in the sand. For now, off the cuff – How much proximity do you require in order to assess as above?

  11. nikitalondon says:

    Wow , wow just how fascinating everything and off to the mental movie. I love it so much, to make these images when reading your blogs. With this one I even started by seeing myself curled up in the sofa where I mostly read blog and comments.
    All the instances you described above are my everyday, I like to look at people and feel with them and wonder if they have inner peace or if something disturbs them,
    Or if they are really troubled, or very very happy and people who look and feel lonely I can easily spot.
    Since I started this self love journey of making the things I enjoy the most alone like RR suggests in his book, I did start assesing how people who were alone felt. Alone and lonely or alone and happy. It was really fun to do this at places where most of the people are with company. Restaurants, ski lifts, cafes, city strolls… Made my experience more interesting.
    Thanks for the read HG. As always the best way to start the day is reading you. ☀️☀️😘😘🌔⛽️

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