The world is full of many people. Some of those people seem to have a knack for pushing every button you have. Something about them constantly gets under your skin. It seems like every single time you speak to them, you walk away angry or hurt. Possibly the worst part of it is when you say something to them, no matter how gently you phrase it, somehow they twist the conversation around to the point you end up feeling badly for upsetting them.
While many people don’t want to believe this, those people are almost always covert narcissists. Yes, it does sound harsh to label them as such. No, I don’t know the person you know who behaves this way. Yet, I feel safe in standing by my statement that this person is almost certainly a covert narcissist.
Covert narcissists love to push people’s buttons. They say cruel things to someone either about that person or those the person loves. That person’s family, job, hobbies, beliefs, likes, dislikes & more are all targets for the covert narcissist’s criticism. However, their nastiness often happens only when their victim is alone with them. If the victim is with the narcissist & at least one other person, the narcissist is often as sweet as can be. That way, if the victim gets angry at the narcissist’s fake behavior, they aren’t believed. They would look foolish because others only see the good behavior. An example I can give of this behavior from my own life happened with my late mother in-law. My husband & I eloped. Not long after we got home, we visited his parents as we did constantly during that time. His mother & I were alone washing dishes while he & his father were elsewhere in the house. His mother told me how she & his father were horribly disappointed that my husband married me instead of an ex. A short time later, my in-laws had a party. At said party, my mother in-law told her sister, “I want you to meet my beautiful daughter in-law!” I obviously was angry & disgusted, but who upon seeing this would have believed how awful my previous interaction with my mother in-law had been?
Covert narcissists also like to play dumb regarding so many things, including their button pushing behavior. Playing dumb is very advantageous to them. It means people think they can’t do much so they do things for the narcissist. They get joy from being able to make people do things for them. It also works well when they push other people’s buttons. If the victim confronts the narcissist, the narcissist can play dumb & claim they didn’t know what they said or did would upset the victim or that they were simply trying to help. Either way, if a victim is unaware of this tactic, often they will feel badly for misunderstanding the narcissist. They will let the issue go. As an added bonus for the narcissist, this also teaches the victim to be more tolerant of abuse. Victims come to think the narcissist truly doesn’t know any better, so they need to overlook anything that the narcissist says or does that is upsetting.
The truth about covert narcissists & their button pushing behavior is they know exactly what they are doing. They aren’t naïve. They only play naïve in order to get their way. No one who is truly naïve knows exactly who they need to hide certain behaviors from & has the self control to do this. Also a truly naïve person wouldn’t know that certain things are especially upsetting, let alone continue to do them regularly. This is especially true if you have told this person their behavior upsets you. Anyone who knows something is upsetting & yet continues to do it knows just what they are doing & make no mistake, this is abuse! A normal, functional person with even a minimal degree of empathy would stop doing hurtful things upon finding out something they say or do hurts other people.
I know this can be hard to believe, that someone you care for is this type of person, but accepting this fact is truly life changing. Understanding the truth about people in your life & learning ways to deal with them enables you to have much healthier relationships. You have more peace & joy. Best of all you learn to avoid abusive people.
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