Narcissists love attention, & many must be the focal point of everyone’s attention at all times. Overt narcissists are naturally more brazen in how they command attention than their covert counterparts, but covert narcissists love attention too. There are countless things they can do to draw all attention to themselves, but this post addresses some of the more commonly used tactics.
Narcissists have no manners whatsoever. Add that in with their insatiable desire to have everyone’s attention, & you have a person who WILL interrupt whoever is talking. When a person interrupts, they naturally become the center of attention, so it’s a useful & very commonly used tactic for narcissists.
Overt narcissists can be loud in how they interrupt people. They usually will talk over people. Covert narcissists, as usual, are more subtle. They will try to have the final word in any conversation. There is also a trick my covertly narcissistic father used. As I would start to speak, he’d act like he was going to speak. Naturally, I’d apologize & let him talk. Eventually I realized that was his goal. He didn’t want to hear what I had to say. He wanted to shut me up so he could talk, & knowing I hate bad manners, I’d be polite & let him talk.
And, if a narcissist is hard of hearing, interrupting becomes easier yet. Many have what I call selective hearing. While they may indeed have diminished hearing, they also use the excuse of not hearing a person when it fits them. If they want someone else to stop talking so they can talk, they can just start talking & claim they didn’t hear the other person talking.
Another way narcissists gain attention is by turning a conversation back to themselves. After all, if people are talking about something that isn’t the narcissist, that means the narcissist isn’t the center of attention. They will spin the conversation around to themselves in such a way that no one will have a clue how that happened.
Narcissists also gain attention by telling stories about you to other people, preferably in a group of which you also are a part. Not good stories like how you got that big promotion at work or were your high school valedictorian, only stories that embarrass you. This tactic is especially popular with narcissistic parents, but spouses also may use it, especially if the narcissist is older than the victim. Telling embarrassing stories makes a person feel shamed & foolish, which makes a person easier to control, so that is an added bonus to the attention the stories gain. And, the narcissist may spin the story so it looks like he or she rescued you somehow.
If the narcissist has some sort of pain like back pain, arthritis, or even a short term problem such as a broken leg, the problem will be used to his or her advantage. You can expect this person to claim unbearable pain when not receiving all attention. A similar scenario can happen if the narcissist has an illness or disease. If this narcissist isn’t the center of attention, suddenly he or she will claim symptoms are flaring up, or maybe that he or she must lay down or go home immediately. In either scenario, most people will focus on the narcissist & try to help, returning him or her to the center of attention.
Shock value is another favorite way narcissists gain attention. My mother literally crashed my late father in-law’s funeral in 2018 to get her precious attention. She drove to the graveside as the funeral was just starting & wouldn’t get out of her car. People were shocked, & staring. It worked as she wanted. Other shock value tactics may include things like burping or passing gas loudly, or saying something totally outrageous such as gory details of how someone was murdered. Shock value naturally stuns people, & they focus all attention on the narcissist, as was the goal.
When the narcissist in your life behaves this way, deprive them of that attention. If they interrupt you, talk over them or talk to someone else. If they change the topic back to themselves, change it back to the original topic. If they use embarrassing stories, pain or shock value, ignore them. Depriving a narcissist of attention means that action won’t be used again because it doesn’t work.