Coworkers and friends with narcissistic personalities are not always easy to identify as such. Their behavior or opinions may seem a little off, but everyone has their quirks. How can you tell if they truly are a narcissist? Find out below what traits our readers believe will reveal the actual intents of a covert narcissist.

Mark Stubbles

Mark Stubbles

Mark Stubbles is a hypnotherapist at Anxiety Hypnotherapist, specializes in helping people to overcome the anxiety, self-esteem, and confidence issues caused by a dysfunctional childhood.

Look for These Common Traits

They Play the Victim
A covert narcissist will have an external locus of control, play the victim, and blame others for everything wrong in their lives. They will likely have issues with learned helplessness and so cannot accept responsibility for their behavior. They may even claim to be empaths. They will always find ways to blame other people or situations for negative outcomes and how they feel.

Constant Gaslighting
As the name suggests, covert narcissists are more subtle in their abuse, being more reliant on psychological and emotional tactics. They will constantly be gaslighting and looking for opportunities to confuse you. This behavior will lead to you questioning reality and present them with further opportunities to put you down by calling you mad, etc. [Gaslighting] allows them to elevate themselves and keep you reliant on them not only in the relationship. Eventually, you will be looking to them to confirm your perception of reality itself. If it is a narcissistic parent, this gaslighting tactic will allow them to infantilize their child and keep them enmeshed.

Spotting a Covert Narcissist

Proactively Test Their Empathy
If you suspect someone of being a covert narcissist, test their empathy. All kinds of narcissists are categorized as having poor empathy. I did this once. I told him that his actions were negatively affecting my co-workers and me. A narcissist will be dismissive about other’s well-being while simultaneously being self-absorbed. They will steer the conversation and make it seem like they’re the one who is being mistreated.

Ask Mutual Friends
If they are true narcissists, then you’re probably not the only one who is affected by their narcissism. Ask mutual friends what they think of the person you’re suspecting. A good question to ask is: Can they handle criticism? Does the mutual friend sense that the suspected narcissist always wants to look superior? It is not some sort of gossip or backstabbing. You are just genuinely asking a question to assess the person so that you can set proper boundaries with that person.

Tal Shelef

Tal Shelef

Tal Shelef, Realtor and co-founder of CondoWizard.

Matthew Paxton

Matthew Paxton

Matthew Paxton, Founder of Hypernia.

Hypersensitive Introverts

One thing you should keep in mind about covert narcissists is that they tend to be introverted and are hypersensitive to their surroundings. They hide behind elaborate boundaries and may come across as kind and genuine. Behind closed doors, they are truly dismissive and judgmental.

A way you can uncover a covert narcissist is by looking for signs such as their constant blaming of others. When bad things happen, you can always trust a covert narcissist to push the blame onto others even if it’s obvious that they had a direct hand in the situation.

Uncovering a Covert Narcissist

Try Breaking the Spell
For fear of getting into trouble, [people] keep their mouth shut despite being aware of a narcissistic attitude. You might as well take the lead to speak up, with all due respect to the person, about the behavior. The person might get intimidated or enraged by your action, which may lead to different consequences, but you did your part as someone concerned.

One common mistake of those who try to uncover a covert narcissist is disrespecting them. Even if the person gets on your nerves, remember that respect must still be observed. Shaming them or yelling at them in front of others can instantly lead to more complicated consequences. You can correct their mistakes in private but remember to have a gentle and respectful tone. Putting them down will not help.

Let the Person be Vulnerable to You
Listening to a narcissist and cornering them are two different actions. Try befriending them and break the walls that hinder their interaction and care for other people. Sometimes, narcissists just act as stone-cold-hearted human beings as their defense mechanism. They, too, have feelings that they might share if only there [was] one person to listen. The more that you let it go, the more that you allow them to intimidate you. Give them a chance to admit that there is something wrong with their general approach.

Lucas Travis

Lucas Travis

Lucas Travis, Founder, and owner of Inboard Skates.

This is a crowdsourced article. Contributors are not necessarily affiliated with this website and their statements do not necessarily reflect the opinion of this website, other people, businesses, or other contributors.

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