Why do narcissists give you compliments?

Narcissists are cruel, callous people, right? Well, for the most part, they are.

Sometimes, though, their behavior is confusing. They’re cold and distant one minute, but overly friendly the next.

At times, they may even shower you with compliments. This leaves you stunned.

Earlier in the day, they were angry and lashing out, calling you every nasty name in the book. Now, they’re talking about how wonderful you are.

What gives? Well, it turns out, the narcissist is sometimes charming and friendly! 

Complimenting you may serve them 

While narcissists enjoy taking advantage of others and making them feel inferior, they may sometimes give out compliments.

Why, you ask? Well, because it serves their needs! If complimenting you gets the narcissist closer to something they want, they see nothing wrong with sweet talking you.

Some common reasons narcissists give compliments 

When a narcissist is giving compliments, you may be suspicious. You’re probably wondering why they’re doing this, especially if they’re usually not particularly kind.

It may seem out of character, but a narcissist will give compliments for one or more of the following reasons.

They’re manipulating you 

Narcissists will turn on the charm to manipulate you, and they have endless reasons to manipulate.

Perhaps they’ve been a little too mean lately, and they’re worried you won’t want to deal with them anymore. Now, they have to work to get back in your good graces.

They might give a compliment or two to appear as if they’re actually kind and caring. 

You’ll feel safer with them again once they throw a few compliments your way, and your defenses will lower. This allows them to maintain control over you.

They want something

If you’re dealing with a narcissist, realize that they feel entitled to exploit you to get their needs met. They’ll do whatever they can to get you to give in, including complimenting you.

So, say they want you to do them a favor or lend them money. Before they make the request, they’ll go on and on about how fabulous you are.

This is just an exploitation tactic. They know if they make you feel good about yourself, you’ll have a harder time telling them no. 

They’re making you dependent on their affection 

Narcissists are self-centered, manipulative, and exploitative, but that doesn’t mean they’re always nasty. 

After all, if they were terrible to you 100% of the time, you’d never want to deal with them! 

So, they give you compliments here and there to make you dependent upon their affection. They’ll throw a compliment your way to make you feel special and appreciated.

Over time, you come to depend upon these compliments. The problem is that they’ll give you fewer and fewer compliments as the relationship goes on.

Occasionally, they’ll throw some breadcrumbs your way to keep you invested in the relationship. 

They’re making a show for others

Narcissists don’t want to reveal their true colors, so they have to look good in front of others. If you’re in public, this means they’ll compliment you to put on a good show.

This behavior can be quite shocking, because they’re typically pretty nasty behind closed doors. In public, they’re someone different altogether.

They’re complimenting you so they can look like a good partner. This allows them to maintain a facade of being kind and trustworthy.


Unfortunately for you, since the narcissist is on their best behavior in public, people may not believe you when you open up about how awful the narcissist is to you in private. 

They want narcissistic supply 

Narcissists rely upon supply to feed their egos. This means they need your attention and admiration.

What better way to achieve this than by giving you compliments? When the narcissist compliments you, you’ll feel good about them.

This makes you likely to return the favor and say something nice to them. When this happens, your attention and praise feed their ego and fulfill a vital need for them.

They need to keep you confused 

Narcissists depend on you being confused and off balance to maintain power over them. One way they can achieve this is by offering intermittent reinforcement.

A compliment is a form of intermittent reinforcement. Let’s say the narcissist has been overly critical and harsh for a few days.

You’re now feeling quite hostile toward them, and you’re unsure if you even want to deal with them. This is the perfect time for the narcissist to sweep in with some compliments.

Now you’re confused. Weren’t they being nasty to you just a few days ago? You start to question yourself. Maybe you’re imagining things, and they aren’t really so bad.

This is exactly where the narcissist wants you: in a state of confusion, questioning your own reality. This makes you easier to control. 

Feeding their superiority complex

Narcissists need to feel superior to others. One way they can maintain this feeling is by associating with other people whom they perceive to be powerful, successful, and attractive.

So, if a narcissist is overly complimentary, they may be using you to feed their feelings of superiority. When they compliment you, it makes them feel like they’re interacting with someone really special.

This allows them to continue to feel superior, as if they’re only associating with unique, wonderful people. Their ego needs this so badly! 

They’re subtly gaslighting 

Narcissists gaslight to get you to question your own perception of reality. They want you to feel like you’re losing your mind, so that you’ll accept their ridiculous behavior.

One way of gaslighting is offering compliments, so they appear to be a good person. Let’s say you’re upset with the narcissist, and you call them out on their bad behavior.

Maybe you tell them they’ve been unfair to you, or you remind them how badly they hurt your feelings with some sort of comment or transgression.

Rather than admitting to their wrongdoing and offering a genuine apology, the narcissist will begin giving you loads of compliments.

This is their subtle way of gaslighting you. By offering compliments, they behave in opposition to how you’re accusing them of acting.

Now, you question yourself. Maybe you’re the problem, you wonder? 

The common denominator: Underlying motives 

You’re probably noticing a pattern here: narcissists give compliments because they have an underlying motive.

Whether it’s elevating their status, gaining a favor, or manipulating you so they can stay in control, their compliment comes with strings attached.

Non-narcissistic people give compliments because they genuinely appreciate others and want them to know. Narcissists, on the other hand, offer compliments when it’s self-serving.

A compliment is part of the narcissist’s larger agenda of getting you to fulfill their needs for attention, admiration, and whatever else they feel entitled to. You might escape unscathed if you can take their compliments with a grain of salt. 

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