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9 Secret Signs of Narcissism You Can’t Miss Once You Notice Them

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Sometimes narcissists fly under our radar.

Not every narcissist is a puffed-up gym rat or a Mean Girl like Regina George. If they were, we could see the signs from a mile away and steer clear.

No, plenty of narcissists are sensitive, thoughtful, and generous – until the charade wears off, of course.

That’s why it’s so important to understand the subtle signs of narcissism that you might not notice until it’s too late and they’ve sucked you into their black hole.

What’s the Difference Between an Overt and Covert Narcissist?

Many people tend to think of narcissists as having extroverted personalities. They’re flamboyant and demand to be the center of attention – how can you miss them?

The truth is, introverts can also be narcissists. These are the ones who fool us into their web of manipulation.

“They’re not self-absorbed – they’re just sensitive!”

“They’re not a bad friend – they’re just misunderstood!”

After forming a relationship with a covert narcissist, you realize that this sensitivity and isolation were, in fact, signs of narcissism. Since the signs weren’t so obvious, however, you completely misjudged the situation.

9 Secret Signs of Narcissism You Can’t Miss

Since the covert narcissist is better at hiding their abusive behavior, it’s important to understand the subtle cues that give them away.

1.     They’ll Never Utter the Phrase “I Don’t Know”

I once knew a narcissist who was so averse to this phrase that he would rather give someone dangerously incorrect answers than admit to not knowing something. He was confident in his woefully wrong answers, too.

Why do this?

Answering a question with “I don’t know” deprives the narcissist of vital attention. The person seeking an answer will simply move on to someone else who might help them. That’s a huge ego hit.

That’s why you’ll often find narcissists rambling on about topics they have no business speaking on.

2.     They’re a Bad Friend

The narcissist is generally a bad friend but you’ll typically find them playing the victim. Make sure to get all sides of the story if you’re not sure.

What are some red flag signs of narcissism that indicate the suspect is a narcissist?

  • They get irritated when their friends ask for help or advice.
  • They don’t bother to call or text their friends on birthdays or holidays.
  • They don’t return borrowed items. (A sign of entitlement.)
  • They owe their friends money. They may downplay this as “not a big deal.”
  • They embarrass their friends in front of others.
  • They seek out or flirt with their friends’ partners or love interests.

3.     They Have to Insert Themselves into Every Story

A covert narcissist may not demand everyone’s attention. They will, however, still find a way to make everything about them. A large part of this strategy involves inserting themselves into every story.

Is a coworker talking about their experience with homelessness? The narcissist, too, has a story about being poor.

Is a friend talking about his amazing trip to Vietnam? The narcissist also had a friend who went to Vietnam. And guess what? She heard it wasn’t so great.

No matter the topic, the narcissist has a remarkable skill for turning the attention their way – no matter how innocuous it might seem.

4.     They’re Sensitive

At first, you may appreciate their ability to freely express emotions. This is an excellent tactic narcissists use to lure empathetic people into their trap.

Maybe a fast-food worker got their order wrong and the narcissist hasn’t shut up about it all day. Maybe their boss asked them to stop playing on their phone so much and now the narcissist is crying about it over dinner.

As time goes on, you’ll realize that the narcissist isn’t vulnerable and sensitive: their fragile ego can’t handle honest mistakes and valid criticism. To the narcissist, these are personal attacks.

5.     They Treat Waitstaff or Service Workers Poorly

This is a dead giveaway. Run for the hills.

Anyone who disrespects waitstaff or service workers views people as “beneath” them. Soon, you’ll be part of the inferiors as well.

6.     They Form Relationships Based on What Someone Can “Do for Them”

If you’re at a party and the suspected narcissist suggests you talk to someone because they can help with your career or financial situation, don’t ignore it. They aren’t trying to help you: they’re letting you in on their game.

Narcissists tend to form shallow friendships based on what people can do for them. You’ll often find narcissists make friends with horribly toxic people just because these folks have money, own bars, or can offer career opportunities.

7.     Their Stories Don’t Match Reality

Both the overt and covert narcissist has an inflated sense of self. The thing is, they truly believe their own lies. As a result, you’ll often find they recall stories much differently than the situations actually played out.

If you notice that the suspect constantly reframes stories to make themselves the hero or victim, back away fast – this is one of the many signs of narcissism. By changing the story to fit their own narrative, the narcissist is gaslighting everyone else involved.

It’s not cute or funny to constantly have to correct them. Sooner or later, they’ll start gaslighting you, too.

8.     They Observe and Judge

“There’s no way she can be a narcissist. When we’re out with friends, she barely says ten words!”

I hear it all the time. By sitting back and observing everyone, however, the covert narcissist is silently taking notes and judging. I’m sure you heard all about her observations on the car ride home.

The narcissist needs to feel superior to everyone around them. This is easy to do when you don’t open your mouth to engage in conversation and instead sit back to take notes about everyone’s shortcomings.

9.     They Only Hear Bits and Pieces of Your Stories

Does it feel like the suspected narcissist just. isn’t. listening? They’re probably not. And if they are, they don’t care.

Maybe you spent ten minutes venting to your mother about how you didn’t get that promotion at work because you showed up late one solitary time with a valid reason. How did she respond? “Well, maybe you’ll remember to show up on-time from now on.”

You can’t be the victim. Only the narcissist can be the victim.

You see this a lot with narcissist parents or partners who listen just enough to throw something back in your face later.

How to Turn the Tables on a Narcissist

Perhaps you’ve gone on a few dates with someone or a new coworker joined your team. You suspect they may be a narcissist but you aren’t entirely sure.

After all, the covert narcissist is particularly cunning at hiding the more obvious signs of narcissism. Here’s how to turn the tables on a narcissist and get them to expose themselves.

  • Play along. Don’t give the suspected narcissist room to adjust their manipulation tactics – play stupid and pretend you completely believe them. Use this opportunity to document their behavior.
  • Remain indifferent. If you must continue dealing with an overt or covert narcissist for reasons out of your control, act indifferent to their behavior. The narcissist wants to use your emotions against you. If you don’t give them anything to work with, they’ll seek their fix elsewhere.

At the end of the day, the only way to truly turn the tables on a narcissist is to cut them off completely. If they had any real intentions of changing, they would have done so already. Until you go No Contact, they’ll just keep repeating the cycle of manipulation and abuse. Free yourself today.

Finally Break the Narcissistic Spell

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2 comments
Gwendolyn Stewart says March 4, 2019

The narc is not going to change because they don’t see anything wrong with them to change for…if you’re not married, why waste your life with someone, that you’re going nowhere with….sad. I wished I’d known about this toxic relationship or just even heard of the name (narcissism). I’ve gone NO CONTACT for 1 1/2 years, but I still deal with and suffer a lot of trauma.

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Debra says March 3, 2019

Why play games ? Get out

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