How to Deal with a Covert Narcissist (Five Effective Ways)

Are you interested in how to deal with a covert narcissist? Then this guide is for you!

When you have a covert narcissist in your life, their behavior can be hard to understand.

Their narcissism isn’t the loudly boasting and openly bullying kind. They may come across as quiet and helpful.

Over time, however, you may notice that they’re cruel, controlling, and passive-aggressive. You may come to realize that they’re hurting you badly.

To better protect yourself against covert narcissists, the following are several things you can do.

1) Don’t center the narcissist in your life

A covert narcissist wants you to keep your attention on them. You’re meant to give them unstinting admiration and support, regardless of how they behave.

If they’re throwing a pity party for themselves, they want you to drop what you’re doing and provide them with soothing attention.

They need to be able to control you in various ways. This control extends to your other relationships and how you spend your free time.

To deal with a covert narcissist, you need to be careful not to place them at the center of your life. Resist their attempts to isolate you and monopolize your attention.

Maintain good relationships with trusted relatives and friends, and make time for your social activities. Your social circle will ideally include people who aren’t also friends with the narcissist.

Don’t hesitate to participate in activities that are meaningful to you. Take classes, go on hiking trips, visit museums, or engage in other hobbies and interests.

The narcissist will attempt to sabotage you and weaken your relationship with other people.

They’ll likely use emotional blackmail, sulking, demeaning remarks, or fits of pity and anger to make you feel terrible for supposedly ignoring them.

They’ll try to interrupt your conversations with other people or manufacture some drama whenever you’re about to start an activity you enjoy.

As much as possible, resist their interference. Remind them that it’s important and normal for people to enjoy hobbies, strong friendships, and good relationships with family.

Because narcissist can be overwhelming in their demands, these firm reminders can be just as much for you as for them.

For example, if the covert narcissist butts into your conversation with another person, firmly tell them that you can’t be interrupted.

After that, continue your conversation. If they claim that they need your attention for some problem, remind them that anything that isn’t an emergency can wait.

Let’s say you don’t want to take phone calls during certain working hours. Or you don’t want people to call you too early or late in the day.

The narcissist may push against those boundaries. Stay firm against their demands, no matter how much they try to make you feel guilty.

Depending on how much the narcissist attempts to control you and interfere with your life, you may need to reduce contact with them significantly.

Their behavior may become so unacceptable and toxic that going completely without contact may be the most effective short-term or long-term solution.

2) Refrain from sharing joyful news with them

When something good happens in your life, it’s a natural impulse to share the news with other people.

If you get a high grade, land a decent job, or become engaged to a wonderful person, you want the world to know.

If you’re proud of yourself because you finished an assignment or are sticking to your new exercise program, you want people to feel happy for you.

Unfortunately, a covert narcissist is likely to hurt you in the moments you’re feeling happy. Driven by their own envy and insecurity, they find many subtle ways to deflate your joy.

If you score high on a test, they point out that one of your classmates was awarded an even higher score.

If you earn a promotion, they talk about how your new salary isn’t enough for the high cost of living these days, or they mention that they were making much more money at your age.

They look pointedly at your waistline and express disbelief if you’ve reached a new fitness milestone.

Their reactions diminish your joy and undermine your confidence. You begin to doubt that you’re doing well. You wonder if what you’re doing matters.

Instead of savoring some happiness and appreciating your progress, you start thinking you should give up.

Remind yourself that the covert narcissist’s responses aren’t about you.

They don’t reflect your potential, capabilities, worth, or accomplishments. To avoid suffering the narcissist’s wounding reactions, it’s best to limit what you tell them.

3) Refuse to accept unfair blame

Covert narcissists typically don’t own up to mistakes. They tend to deflect blame onto other people.

For example, if they accidentally make a wrong turn while driving, they may tell you that it’s your fault for distracting them or failing to point out the right street.

It doesn’t matter if the accusation contains little or no truth. They need to soothe their insecurities and maintain their sense of superiority.

A covert narcissist may hold you responsible for your out-of-control emotional reactions, lapses in judgment, and moments of negligence.

In matters large and small, you need to shoulder the blame. They’ll hold you entirely at fault in situations where you’re partly at fault.

If the narcissist is prone to pity parties, don’t confuse their moments of self-deprecation with a mature ability to take responsibility for mistakes.

They indulge in pity to receive compliments and attention and to keep you from holding them accountable in a reasonable way.

The best response to a narcissist’s unfair blame depends on the context. Sometimes, it’s preferable to ignore an accusation.

If you’re being blamed unfairly for a minor mistake, and it’s unlikely to damage your reputation, you can carry on with what you’re doing and pretend the narcissist didn’t say anything.

This way, you avoid a potentially energy-draining argument.

In other situations, you need to stand up for yourself, especially if the narcissist accuses you of something serious or tries to give people the impression that you’re untrustworthy or incompetent.

When faced with unfair accusations, do your best to maintain control over your emotions. Calmly state the relevant facts, and refuse to enter into a protracted fight.

You can leave the room or hang up the phone as soon as you say what you need to.

Always remember that you aren’t responsible for the narcissist’s foul moods or inappropriate reactions. It isn’t your job to manage their emotions. You aren’t their scapegoat, either.

To convince you otherwise, they’ll use emotional blackmail and other techniques for evoking shame, guilt, and fear. These are mere manipulations, not reflections of the truth.

4) Limit your dependence on them

To make themselves appear heroic and more capable than other people, covert narcissists may assume a savior role.

They may enjoy looking like a self-sacrificing parent or a long-suffering spouse.

Even when their help isn’t necessary or wanted, they impose it on others. Their acts of helpfulness enhance their reputation and give them additional ways to control people.

Becoming dependent on a covert narcissist means struggling with their attempts to control you. When you do anything that displeases them, they accuse you of ungratefulness.

They sabotage your efforts to become more independent. By belittling you and wrecking your confidence, they keep you bound to them.

Do what you can to avoid or limit your dependence on them.

Even if you ask them for a one-time favor, such as helping you move into your new apartment, they may seize the opportunity to interfere with your life.

Borrowing money from them gives them another opportunity to impose control on you.

You also can’t depend on them for reliable emotional support. At times, they may seem kind and sympathetic. But they’re low in empathy.

They’ll likely use your insecurities and secrets against you. Don’t let them become the one you turn to for comfort and understanding.

What if you’re already relying on them in some way? To the extent your circumstances allow, think of ways to lessen your dependence.

For example, if you’re married and sharing a joint bank account with a covert narcissist, maybe set up a separate account of your own with some emergency funds.

If you’re an adult currently living with narcissistic parents, consider moving in with friends or finding a group of roommates to join.

Also, remind yourself that gratitude has sane limits. You can be thankful for someone’s help and offer to pay them back or help them in reasonable ways.

However, they aren’t entitled to be controlling and abusive towards you. Their help doesn’t give them the right to put you down or mistreat you in other ways.

5) Identify your vulnerabilities

Covert narcissists tend to be good at manipulating people’s vulnerabilities. For example, they may target you if they sense that you’re a caring, helpful person.

If you’re religious, they may rely on twisted concepts of forgiveness and sin to keep you from breaking away from them.

You’re never to blame for a narcissist’s behavior. How they act is their responsibility. What you can do, however, is think about how you may be susceptible to their control and manipulation.

For instance, are you feeling lonely? Are you anxious about making decisions on your own? Do you tend to put other people’s demands ahead of your needs?

Learning to identify your vulnerabilities is important. You can also learn to spot signs of narcissism in others.

With these insights, you’ll be better positioned to draw the appropriate boundaries and defend your dignity and health.

Can a gifted therapist help you too?

If you struggle with anxiety, depression, high-stress levels, relationship issues, or other specific challenges, one-on-one support from a therapist can help a lot.

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