If you notice someone using these 10 phrases, you’re dealing with a cerebral narcissist

Before becoming a writer, I worked in the finance industry. While the career path just wasn’t for me, it was here, early in my career, that I learned a lot about people.

One Monday morning, in the fancy office elevator, I found myself alone with a middle manager. I didn’t know him well, but it seemed impolite not to make an effort, so I said, “How was your weekend?”

And he said, drumroll, please, “I’m not into small talk.” Yes, just that.

I didn’t know it at the time, but this type of response is a classic sign of a cerebral narcissist, also known as an intellectual narcissist. 

Whereas, as noted by Choosing Therapy, covert narcissists tend to be focused on emotional manipulation, cerebral narcissists are more set on coming across as smart. This makes intellectual narcissists less dangerous and slightly more tolerable.  

Nevertheless, as I went on to learn, it’s crucial to be able to spot one of these people, especially at work, where failing to do so can really have adverse effects on your career. 

Today, we dive into ten phrases that suggest you are dealing with an intellectual narcissist. 

Let’s get to it.

1) “Actually, that’s a common misconception.”

You’re in the middle of a discussion, making a point you believe in, and then you hear, “Actually, that’s a common misconception.” Sound familiar? 

This phrase is a classic tool in the cerebral narcissist’s arsenal. They love to say “Actually” in general, but this phrase in particular is more than just a casual comment.

It’s a clever blend of dismissal and superiority. It’s not just disagreeing with you; it’s suggesting that your viewpoint is a widespread error, one that they, of course, have transcended. It’s a way of subtly undermining your opinion while elevating their own.

So, how do you tackle this? 

Don’t let it rattle you. Instead, use it as an opportunity to strengthen your argument. You might respond with, “Interesting. Can you elaborate on that?”

This shifts the focus back to a constructive dialogue, inviting them to explain their stance without invalidating yours. Often, you’ll find they won’t have any evidence on hand. 

2) “I’m not into small talk.”

I mentioned one example of this phrase in the introduction to this post, but I experienced it countless times when I worked in finance. 

On the surface, this statement might appear as a simple expression of personal preference or even plain old introversion. But dig deeper, and you’ll find it’s a subtle tactic to assert intellectual superiority. 

By dismissing ‘small talk,’ the cerebral narcissist isn’t just stating a dislike; they’re implying that their conversational standards are higher and more sophisticated.

Funnily, it was always middle managers who did this. CEOs and owners were more than happy to engage in elevator chit-chat. 

This next one has a more personal sting to it. Watch out for it.

3) ” I used to think that, too.”

Back when I first started my career, I had a slightly senior colleague who couldn’t get enough of this phrase.

To give you some context, he had been in the industry for less than eighteen months when I started. It wasn’t like he was a seasoned veteran. 

Anyway, whenever I brought up a new idea or a change in perspective, he’d respond with, “Back in the day, I used to think that, too,” or something like that.

At first, it seemed like he was relating to my journey. But over time, I realized it was his way of subtly asserting his supposed intellectual growth over mine.

The trick to handling this is not to take it as a personal critique of your current stance. Instead, see it as an opening to delve deeper. You might respond with, “That’s interesting. How has your perspective changed since then?” 

This turns the table, inviting them to elaborate without dismissing your own viewpoint.

4) “I’ve read extensively on this topic.”

“Well, I’ve read extensively on this topic.” It sounds innocent enough, right? Let’s peel back the layers.

This phrase is a subtle power play. It’s not a direct claim of superiority, but it carries an undercurrent of intellectual one-upmanship.

The implication? They have access to knowledge that you don’t, positioning them as more informed, more educated, or more insightful.

It’s not just about what they know; it’s about how they want you to perceive their knowledge.

Cerebral narcissists often use this tactic to establish authority in a conversation. They’re not just sharing information; they’re building a pedestal for themselves.

If you use these phrases every day you probably have low self esteem 1 If you notice someone using these 10 phrases, you’re dealing with a cerebral narcissist

5) “I prefer to discuss more intellectual topics.”

Ever been in a lively chat about everyday topics when someone suddenly said, “I prefer to discuss more intellectual topics”?

This phrase is a classic and all too obvious sign of an intellectual narcissist. 

It’s not just expressing a simple preference; it’s a subtle judgment on the current conversation and, by extension, the participants.

By saying this, they are implying that the current subject is beneath their intellectual level and, therefore, not worthy of their time or input.

This next one is so common we might call it a classic.

6) “Most people can’t grasp this concept.”

I remember a former professor of mine who often used this phrase in lectures. Whenever he introduced a challenging topic, he’d preface it with, “Most people can’t grasp this concept.” 

It wasn’t just intimidating; it made students hesitant to ask questions, fearing they’d be categorized as ‘most people.’

In such situations, just remain confident. Respond with curiosity rather than intimidation, like, “It sounds like a complex topic. Can you explain it further?”

This probably wasn’t the case with my professor, but many narcissists don’t fully “grasp the concept” themselves and would prefer you did not know that.

So, when asked to explain, they often struggle, and their lack of knowledge becomes apparent. If they can explain it, well, great, it’s a possible learning opportunity.

7) “I don’t follow the crowd.”

Imagine you’re talking about a widely accepted scientific theory or a popular social movement, and someone confidently asserts, “I don’t follow the crowd.” 

It’s as though you are in some pretentious, immature dorm room debate. However, it can derail the conversation. 

Cerebral narcissists love nothing more than to be anti-mainstream. Watch out for this one; it’s a dead giveaway.

8) “You wouldn’t understand it.”

As you have probably put together, this one is like “most people can’t grasp this concept,” but with a bit more personal bite. 

This statement is inherently dismissive and condescending. It implies that the topic at hand is beyond your intellectual ability, creating an immediate barrier.

The cerebral narcissist is not just sharing an opinion; they’re asserting their perceived intellectual dominance by pre-emptively disqualifying you from the conversation.

When faced with this, the key is not to internalize the dismissal. A constructive response might be, “Perhaps you could explain it in simpler terms?”

This challenges the assumption that the topic is incomprehensible, inviting an explanation rather than accepting the condescension.

9) “I can figure it out alone.”

Picture this: you’re in a team environment, and a complex problem arises. You suggest working together to find a solution, but a team member responds with, “I’ll figure it out alone.” Weird eh?

When a cerebral narcissist says, “I’ll figure it out alone,” they’re not just indicating a preference for solitary work. They’re also subtly implying that they don’t need anyone else’s help or input, suggesting that others may not be capable or worthy of contributing to the solution.

10) “I was just playing devil’s advocate.”

Okay, last but certainly not least, the phrase “I was just playing devil’s advocate.”

When used by a cerebral narcissist, it is often a convenient shield for when they find themselves on the wrong side of an argument. 

It’s a phrase that allows them to present controversial or opposing views and then, when faced with resistance or proven incorrect, quickly retreat. Essentially, it’s an escape clause. 

It allows the cerebral narcissist to challenge others and stir up debate, but when their position is untenable or unpopular, they can avoid accountability by claiming they didn’t actually believe in the stance they were advocating. 

The bottom line

There you have it.  The phrases we’ve discussed are not just words; they reflect a mindset of intellectual superiority. 

By keeping your ears open for these phrases, you can respond effectively, maintaining self-worth and encouraging inclusive dialogue

I hope this post provided you with some food for thought and, better yet, that it helps you to navigate interactions with the intellectual narcissists we all come across too often. 

Until next time. 

Mal James

Mal James

Mal James Originally from Ireland, Mal is a content writer, entrepreneur, and teacher with a passion for self-development, productivity, relationships, and business. As an avid reader, Mal delves into a diverse range of genres, expanding his knowledge and honing his writing skills to empower readers to embark on their own transformative journeys. In his downtime, Mal can be found on the golf course or exploring the beautiful landscapes and diverse culture of Vietnam, where he is now based.

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