A very common tactic of covert narcissists is to portray themselves as immature, incompetent & even dumb. Considering all narcissists want to be seen as special & even superior people, this sounds wrong, but I can assure you, it happens. I’ve seen it first hand.
Whether a narcissist is overt or covert, two of their main goals are to abuse & control their victims. Appearing not overly capable allows narcissists to do just this while receiving no consequences whatsoever, because people often believe that the narcissist who behaves this way simply doesn’t know any better. Consider these scenarios
A child who grows up with a covertly narcissistic parent like this often is assigned the role of protector of that parent. Since narcissists often marry, mostly an overt & a covert narcissist, the child protects the covert narcissist parent from the overt one. The covert narcissist can get away with just as much if not more abuse than the overt one, because the overt is in the spotlight. There is no denying the abusive ways of the overt narcissist. Covert narcissistic parents however, can fly under the radar, abusing their children quietly through manipulation while getting their children to protect them from the overt narcissistic parent. They end up looking like the good parent, & the child honestly believes they are until they learn about Narcissistic Personality Disorder. This is how I grew up with a covert narcissist father & overt narcissist mother, & my story is very common.
Consider the common scenario of the covertly narcissistic mother in-law who is verbally abusive to her daughter in-law when they are alone, & never in front of her son. When the daughter in-law tells her husband, this can go several ways. One is the husband defends his mother. He hasn’t seen her do anything his wife says she has, so he doesn’t believe his wife is telling the truth about his mother. Or, he defends his mother saying yes, she can be hurtful sometimes, but she just doesn’t know any better so the wife can’t get mad at her. Or, maybe he does believe his wife, & then confronts his mother. His mother claims she had no idea what she said would upset his wife. She cries & says she meant no harm, she was just trying to help. He believes this victim act & stops defending his wife to his mother rather than face her crocodile tears. By acting immature & unintelligent, this person is able to get away with abusing her daughter in-law, having her son protect her instead of his wife & she has caused a giant rift in their marriage.
Using a covertly narcissistic mother in-law as an example again (since I have plenty of experience in this area), consider this scenario. This mother in-law hates that her recently married son isn’t spending as much time with her as he once did. Naturally all parents aren’t thrilled by that, but most take it in stride as a natural course of events. Narcissistic parents however take it as a personal slight against them, as if their adult child’s new spouse married them for the sole purpose of stealing them from their parents. Rather than simply call her son & say, “I miss you. Would you & your wife like to come to dinner next weekend? I’ll make your favorite dish”, covert narcissistic mothers plan. The mother in this situation can come up with all sorts of things she needs her son to help her with because she claims she doesn’t know how to do these things. Since he does, she needs his help. She often creates more & more tasks for him, taking him away from his new wife. She may even invent a need for him on his anniversary or his wife’s birthday, claiming she forgot the date. If his wife protests, he feels torn because although he may want to spend more time with his wife, he feels badly for his poor helpless mom who needs him. He may even see his wife as unreasonable & selfish. Another giant rift in the adult son’s marriage can be caused by this situation.
If you recognize someone you know in these behaviors, then chances are excellent you’re dealing with a covert narcissist. If that is the case, there are some ways to help you handle this situation.
Never provide this person personal details or information, since that will be used against you at some point.
Never show them any emotions, because showing emotions helps narcissists figure out what works in hurting or abusing victims.
Do NOT allow this person to manipulate you. Recognize the signs & change the subject, hang up the phone or leave when the manipulation starts.
Try never to be alone with them. Covert narcissists behave better when there are witnesses.
Don’t ever think they just don’t know any better. They DO know better, but they don’t see a reason to behave better.
Never forget that no one can be devious & stupid at the same time.