One thing about narcissists is that they are extremely good at hiding how vicious they truly are from everyone except their victims. Covert narcissists are even better at this than their overt counterparts. Coverts can be so skilled at hiding their abusive actions that even the victims don’t consider it abuse. Often, if they tell others about what the covert narcissist is doing, they aren’t believed.
People often make excuses for the covert narcissist…
- “She just doesn’t know any better. She didn’t even graduate high school, after all…”
- “He’s getting old- he probably just didn’t even remember/think about….”
- “Well, he was diagnosed with Dementia.. he can’t help himself.”
- “Everyone loves her. She helps so many people. I must’ve overreacted. She wouldn’t have knowingly hurt me like that.”
- “Just look at what she puts up with from that awful husband! She was probably just stressed & didn’t mean to hurt me..”
If any of these excuses sound familiar because you have heard them or said them, then chances are you are dealing with a covert narcissist.
Are you still wondering? Here are some other clues…
- Does this person act innocent, even slow or naive, but you know for a fact they aren’t that way?
- Does this person act incompetent, unable to take care of herself or himself? Maybe relying completely on their spouse to make household decisions, pay bills, etc.
- Does this person come across as in need of protection? As if they are too weak to protect themselves?
- Do you feel as if you shouldn’t confront this person because they are too fragile to handle your confrontation, no matter how gently you approach them?
- Does this person offer looks of disapproval more than saying critical things?
- Does this person not give the disapproving looks when you both are around other people? Perhaps even complementing you in the presence of others?
- Does this person expect to be taken care of? For example, elderly parents with plenty of money who refuse to call a lawn care service, instead, expecting their adult son with his own home to maintain their lawn.
- Is this person married to an overt narcissist, & never stands up to him or her?
- If married to an overt narcissist, does he or she leave parenting to the overt narcissist, never protecting the children from that parent & appearing as the real victim of the overt narcissist?
Covert narcissists are much harder to spot than overts since they are so much sneakier & more deceptive. This is what I believe makes them even more dangerous than overt narcissists.
Dealing with covert narcissists is even more of a challenge than dealing with their overt counterparts. You still have to have & enforce strong boundaries, refuse to provide them with supply, limit your time in their presence, etc. like you do with overts. The problem is with coverts, they will slip into the victim role extremely easily & quickly. It can be VERY hard not to apologize or give in. The more you stick to your guns, though, the easier it gets.
Another thing I’ve found to be helpful is being cold & logical with them. Show them no emotion. If you do, they will try to squelch your joy or provoke you when they know something makes you angry. Instead, show them no emotion. Walk away if you feel emotions reaching a boiling point if you must, even if it appears rude.
Change the subject as needed. Since covert narcissists are pretty passive in some ways, this tactic works quite well with them.
Limiting or even ending contact with them is your best bet. The more time you spend with a covert narcissist, the worse they seem to get. At least that’s been my experience.
And lastly, never forget- just because a covert narcissist isn’t screaming in your face doesn’t mean they aren’t just as vicious as overt narcissists. In fact, many strike me as being even more vicious. They are simply better at hiding their viciousness under the guise of whatever works best for them- naivete, being helpful or innocence.