It is important to be able to differentiate between Narcissistic Personality disorder and the generic jerk, because there is a big difference between the two. Narcissism is identified by the person’s observable lack of empathy in conjunction with their desire to exploit people emotionally, physically, or financially. These two primary traits are non-wavering and can be seen in all facets of the narcissist’s life over an extended period of time.
One way to differentiate between a generic jerk and a narcissist is by observing a 2-step process commonly used by narcissistic abusers.
Step one: the narcissist will label and categorize the target in a very derogatory way and will share this hurtful information with the target directly or indirectly via triangulation & gossip.
Step Two: the narcissist will initiate an interaction with the target in order to manufacture problems and upset meant to cause the target emotional, physical, or financial harm.
In contrast, a generic jerk’s bad behavior is not premeditated, but circumstantial and temporary. A jerk may gossip and say hurtful comments to a target but a jerk will not actively manufacture problems for a target. A generic jerk may exhibit highly toxic behaviors similar to a narcissist, but these bad habits are temporary and do not cross over into every facet of the jerk’s life. For example, a jerk may engage in exploitative behaviors due to temporary circumstances, but will later regret their actions, make amends, and work towards positive changes. A narcissist rarely feels badly after hurting a target and will often only show signs of remorse when caught red handed. The generic jerk is capable of making positive changes, while the NPD will rarely ever make permanent positive change.