Tag Archives: attention
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.
When narcissism is discussed, often it is the behavior of the overt narcissist. Very little is discussed about covert narcissists.
Covert narcissists are much more devious & sly in their actions, yet they are just as abusive if not moreso than overt narcissists. Because their actions are so covert, their victims are often very hesitant to admit what was done to them was abusive. They often doubt what was done to them was done out of maliciousness, taking the blame on themselves for being over sensitive or reading too much into things. One way this is accomplished is by the covert narcissist using pity & sympathy.
Pity & sympathy are tools covert narcissists often use. If they can make you feel sorry for them, chances of you calling them out on their actions or setting boundaries are very slim. If you do either, you are going to feel very guilty for being so mean & unreasonable.
One way covert narcissists acquire that pity is by acting as if they aren’t very smart. Whether or not they are educated is beside the point. Covert narcissists like to give the impression that they’re very naive & innocent. Do NOT be fooled by this act however! There is absolutely no way a person can be stupid & extremely devious at the same time. Someone who is genuinely not very smart won’t know how to abuse people while appearing innocent. They also wouldn’t know what they are doing is wrong & it needs to be hidden.
Another way they acquire sympathy is by being married to an overt narcissist. Very often, overt & covert narcissists marry. It’s the perfect dysfunctional match. The overt narcissist can do anything, gaining all the attention, without anyone standing up to him or her. Meanwhile, the covert narcissist is able to abuse quietly, behind the scenes. No one really notices because the overt narcissist is gaining all the attention. The covert narcissist enjoys this because compared to the overt narcissist, the covert narcissist doesn’t look so bad. In fact, they tend to play the role of the good spouse very well. They look long suffering, patient, even martyr-like in the fact they can tolerate so much from their spouse.
Because of this appearance, many people, particularly empathetic ones, are extremely hesitant to set boundaries with or confront covert narcissists. I was the same way with my late mother in-law who was clearly a covert narcissist. I noticed she was especially mean to me after a disagreement with my father in-law. I felt bad for her- sometimes he said some really hurtful things to her. I thought, naively, maybe she was just getting out her frustrations. And, I didn’t have the heart to say anything to her because she had enough to deal with. As time went on though, I realized she got meaner & meaner, whether or not they had a disagreement. Not saying something wasn’t helping her or me.
Most people like getting a little sympathy or pity periodically. If you have a bad cold, doesn’t if feel good if someone says they’re sorry you’re sick & brings you some soup? Covert narcissists take that normal thing to an extreme, though, using it to get away with any abuse they can.
Overt narcissists may use sympathy & pity too, but not nearly as much as covert narcissists do. Plus, their methods are much easier to spot. They often can turn on & off their tears as easily as most people flip a switch, for example. I’ve seen that with my overtly narcissistic mother. She has back problems, & uses that for sympathy. If she isn’t getting enough attention, she has burst into tears, claiming to be in pain. Yet interestingly, when I didn’t rush to her side, after a moment she stopped crying & went on with her activities.
If you notice someone in your life constantly wants pity or sympathy, be forewarned, chances are, you’re dealing with a narcissist.