3 Ways to Deal with Covert Narcissists

Covert narcissism is fairly recent when it comes to our understanding of narcissism in general.

Covert narcissists are victimized people who appear to be vulnerable and needy. They can exhibit needy traits.

Resentful is the middle name of a covert narcissist who generally likes to use their ‘Poor Me’ ploy to reel in sympathizers whom they can later take advantage of.

They’re covert by name – covert by nature!

Don’t for a second think or assume that covert narcissists are going to care more about you than the most obvious type of narcissist just because they find ways to relate to you and draw you in with their ‘under the radar’ tactics.

They’re still cruel, and they still destroy good people’s character.

Here’s how you can deal with it.

What Exactly is a Covert Narcissist?

The concept of covert narcissism has become more and more solid over the past few decades. It isn’t enough that we have the overt, grandiose narcissists in the world, begging everybody directly to pay them attention.

Covert narcissists are far more proud than that. Their insecurities are still the same, but they go about how they ask for attention differently. They want to play the same people, but in a way that makes them look just like the person they’re attacking.

They want to relate to the people they manipulate. They want to look like they’re there to do them some kind of favor, and they can often present as someone needy or depressed.

Covert narcissists can exhibit sadness, anxiety and victimization and can appear irritable or hostile when it suits them.

People latch onto these moveable, arrogant traits, and being in their presence can feel very different. 

What a Covert Narcissist Might Say

A covert narcissist is very good at being backward. They say one thing, mean another, and somehow, along the line, they manage to insult you without even directly doing so. This makes it hard to call them out when they stare back at you with wide eyes and say, “Why on earth would you think I’d be saying that about you? If I wanted to insult you, I’d be direct.”

No they wouldn’t. And they know it.

Things you might hear a covert narcissist say:

Of course they have everything they ever wanted. I would too if I had a family with money.

With my intelligence and education, why would I want to work for minimum wage? It would be a waste of my time.

My boss doesn’t know what he’s talking about. If I owned this business, I could earn ten times the amount they do.

3 Ways to Deal With a Covert Narcissist

If you suspect somebody in your life to be a covert narcissist, things can get tricky quickly if you don’t get a handle on your responses to their behavior. 

Remember one thing before you start, and use it as a reminder on the days you feel are particularly tough when dealing with them. That is:

You can change anybody.

All you can do is change how you react to them. 

Create a Healthy Distance

Any time you get a chance to create some distance between you and the covert narcissist – you should jump at the chance. 

Covert narcissists specialize in being your best friend one minute, and then go radio silence the next. This is usually because they want you to do some chasing, find out what’s happening with them. They do it as a way to pull you in and make sure you care about them, and this stems from a mixture of their own insecurities plus their incredibly heightened sense of sensitivity. 

It seems like a lot of hard work, but you know as well as I do that covert narcissists will find any excuse for tension to develop. They are very rarely satisfied with a quiet life, and usually get bored if something interesting (to them) isn’t going on. 

Covert narcissists love to gossip and make other people the center of their subject as they ridicule and shame others. 

Imagine for one moment if the delicate outer layer of a covert narcissist knew they were being talked about that way?!

A covert narcissist won’t see your point of view, they will just find a way to demean it, and they’ll do it in front of anybody who wants to listen.

Keep your distance as much as possible to allow yourself the healthy boundary of growing outside their presence. 

Stay Calm

Dealing with a covert narcissist means you’re highly likely to be baited with innocent things. 

Empty promises are top of the list. They tell you they’d love to help you or do something for you, only to let you know when you remind them that their life is so much more important than yours.

Well, maybe I’d have time but I actually have to work for a living, and the bills don’t pay themselves. I said I’d help you when I’m available.

I don’t have time for that. I don’t know how you can just be happy sitting around watching TV shows.

Why don’t you just do that thing that scares you? Why are you so afraid – it’s so much fun!

I even know some covert narcissists who regularly ‘do things for charity’ and post their funding page on social media. Everybody thinks how wonderful they are, but in reality all it is to them is another opportunity to promote themselves. It’s never about the good they’re doing.

You have to remain calm, because they want a reaction. Getting one sets you up to be blamed for all manner of things.

Good Communication is Key

Good communication can come in the form of strong boundaries. Letting the covert narcissist know when you don’t want to do something you know will mentally and emotionally drain you can be as easy as, “I’m so sorry, I’m just unable to make it that day.” Giving reasons can sometimes prove difficult, so the least they know, the better.

The covert narcissist won’t realize that what they’re doing is wrong. Still, if you were to stick to what makes you comfortable and maintain civil communication, you’ll find yourself unable to be pulled in heavily to the game playing they love to try to control.

You see, the covert narcissist wants to rile you up, and the more chances they have to do so, the more likely they will be to succeed.

Bow out gracefully.

All with a smile, of course. 

Related Articles