Interview Techniques By Witness Personality Type: Part I: The Narcissist.


An often requested service for investigators is to interview witnesses in order to obtain written or recorded statements.

To that end, a successful interview is often based on the investigator’s approach and the better she can assess the subject’s personality, the more effective the interview. Fortunately, most people are cooperative, fairly truthful and possess a relatively normal personality.  There have been quite a number of times, however, when we’ve had to extract information from people whose base nature or personality has been overwhelmingly outside of the normal range.

With these type subjects, it’s the investigator’s people skills that determine whether she will prevail.

In our multiple-part series, we begin this week with tips for interviewing a subject with a narcissistic personality. Because of their compulsive, detail-oriented personality bent, narcissists can actually make very good witnesses – if you know how to handle them.

Definition of a Narcissistic Personality:

Most experts use the criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), published by the American Psychiatric Association, to diagnose mental conditions and personalities.

DSM-5 criteria for a narcissistic personality include these features:

  • Having an exaggerated sense of self-importance
  • Expecting to be recognized as superior even without achievements that warrant it
  • Exaggerating your achievements and talents
  • Being preoccupied with fantasies about success, power, brilliance, beauty or the perfect mate
  • Believing that you are superior and can only be understood by or associate with equally special people
  • Requiring constant admiration
  • Having a sense of entitlement
  • Expecting special favors and unquestioning compliance with your expectations
  • Taking advantage of others to get what you want
  • Having an inability or unwillingness to recognize the needs and feelings of others

Description of a Narcissist (from Psychology Today):

Narcissism is often interpreted in popular culture as a person who’s in love with him or herself. It is more accurate to characterize the pathological narcissist as someone who’s in love with an idealized self-image, which they project in order to avoid feeling (and being seen as) the real, disenfranchised, wounded self.

Having the above knowledge, a field investigator should be able to quickly assess the subject’s personality during the pre-interview casual conversation we engage in with witnesses to determine where they are “coming from”.

If the investigator has ascertained that she is dealing with a narcissist, the three best basic approaches are:

  1. Provide positive feedback throughout the interview without being disingenuous and overly solicitous.  A narcissist needs to be constantly recognized but, is also suspicious of people who are being nice.
  2. Base the account from the narcissist’s perspective.  As with most people, but more so with a narcissist, people recall best when mentally positioned (though guided imagery) to recall an event from where they were at the moment of occurrence.
  3. Let the subject talk.  At some point, with mild encouragement, the narcissist, because of the compulsive component of this specific personality, will give you the information necessary to complete a thorough statement.  By his very narcissistic nature, he is exacting with details.  Also, we’ve found that engaging a narcissist in minor physical tasks (such as drawing a diagram of the location of accident or arranging site photos) during interviews, helps defuse excess energy and OCD-like behavior.

In the next Bulletin in this series, we will cover, “The Empath” – Does she give a true account of the incident or is she wrapped in the emotion of the moment, clouding her recall?

BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.

As always, stay safe.

Technology And The Narcissist: How He Uses It To Control You.


Especially in the legal field- whether as a lawyer, private investigator or cop – we tend to run into quite a few narcissists. My personal theory for this above average exposure to narcissists is because we deal with people in raw moments, e.g., after an injurious accident, a horrendous crime, acrimonious divorce or other victimization.  Often, somewhere down the line in these incidents, someone with a powerful, controlling nature set into motion things that result unexpectedly and traumatically.  Those in the legal field today would be wise to investigate the newer forms of communication and location technology to determine how the victim is being controlled by their narcissist.

Narcissists are notorious control freaks. Their control tactics may be obvious or more subtle in nature.  The need for control arises from a feeling of being out of control in their own lives, therefore, the project this lack onto others.   They present as confident, charming, prideful of their appearance and move about with an air of superiority.  They project financial stability even as they file for bankruptcy.  Lying to them is as natural as telling the truth is to the rest of us and they simply must control others.

5 Ways Narcissists Try To Control People Through Technology: 

Via Your Cell Phone.  Technology is the narcissist’s best friend.   Narcissists view cell phones as a 24/7 tether to the subjects of their focus, whether a mate, partner, best friend, etc.   They want to talk to you when they want to, regardless of reasonableness and will call you. Repeatedly, until you answer, if necessary.   If calling fails, expect the texting to begin.   By the time a narcissist is texting you,  he is already angry that you weren’t there when he wanted to talk to you.  The texts will start off nicely enough and devolve very quickly to baseless accusations and hostility.  Conversely, a narcissist will use these same techniques against you to gain the upper hand – by not taking your calls, not responding to texts or answering in one word or equally terse responses.   They control you by instilling doubt – by making you worry about them and what they are doing or what you could have done wrong to warrant their silence.

Photoshop Used In Gaslighting.  From Wikipedia: Gaslighting or gas-lighting is a form of mental abuse in which information is twisted or spun, selectively omitted to favor the abuser, or false information is presented with the intent of making victims doubt their own memory, perception, and sanity.  Instances may range simply from the denial by an abuser that previous abusive incidents ever occurred, up to the staging of bizarre events by the abuser with the intention of disorienting the victim. is a type of psychological abuse that denies the victim’s reality.

In our work, we’ve seen narcissists Photoshop evidence so convincingly that their victims believed the faked bank transactions, credit card charges, etc.   even when they knew that they hadn’t purchased a certain item.

WebCams.  By the time you realize how much of a control freak your narcissist is, your life will have been lived out in front of a webcam.  One  of the most used tools in a narcissist’s wheelhouse is your device’s camera.  What may first start out as a happy exchange of morning rituals (having virtual coffee together) to routine face to face “check-ins”, will evolve very quickly into your life being monitored every waking moment by this type person. And make no mistake – he will have made endless recordings of these visuals and play them over and over to obtain clues with which to manipulate you.  First you might get small hints about not being “made up” in the mornings. So, you change your behavior and appear picture perfect now for your morning check in.  Soon you will be afraid to look less than perfect for each video meet up.  Your clothing will be analyzed, every item on your desk, etc.  Creates low self-esteem and anxiety.

GPS:  When dealing with a narcissist, be prepared to have your GPS constantly reviewed.   Conversely, you may notice that there is never a location history after the narcissist uses the device.  He knows you might be curious, as anyone would be, and wants you to believe he is up to something. Creates self-doubt.

Tracking Apps:

Connect (This one is particularly a boon for the narcissist as it does not require the other person to have it installed or to accept an invitation from the app.)

From MarketWatch:  This app for iPhone or iPad can follow your husband, wife, children and even your friends on sites like Facebook Twitter , Instagram, Google Contacts and LinkedIn.  Most social contacts are jumbled and split up across multiple devices, platforms and apps, but this app collects them in one place, says Ryan Allis, chairman and co-founder of the app. “Your Connect map has hundreds of your friends on it the first time you use the app,” Allis says. Unlike similar apps like Foursquare, it doesn’t use virtual check-ins, which can prompt users to activate their location settings (many people don’t realize that when they turn on location settings on their phone, location information can be embedded in shared photographs and status updates too).

Finally, as more and more people turn to online dating to find a mate, they are listening less to their instincts and seeking instant relationships.  Life isn’t quick like that naturally.  Communication and location technology provides massive advancement for society – all members of society, not just the good ones.

Verify by eye.  Yours.

BNI Operatives; Situationally aware.

As always, stay safe.