Do Narcissists Like Compliments
Do Narcissists Like Compliments?

Compliments are a common currency in our social interactions. They serve as tokens of appreciation and validation, often making us feel valued and appreciated. We offer compliments as a way to express our admiration, approval, and love for the people in our lives.

But what happens when compliments are directed towards individuals with narcissistic traits? Do narcissists like compliments, and if they do, how do they use them?

This article explores the intricate relationship between narcissists and compliments, shedding light on their underlying motivations and the potential manipulation tactics they employ.

Understanding Narcissism

To comprehend why narcissists react the way they do to compliments, it’s crucial to start by defining narcissism and exploring the various aspects of this complex personality trait.

Defining Narcissism and Narcissistic Personality Traits

Narcissism is a term derived from Greek mythology, where Narcissus, a handsome and self-absorbed young man, fell in love with his own reflection in a pool of water, ultimately leading to his demise. In psychology, narcissism refers to a personality trait characterized by a heightened sense of self-importance, a constant need for admiration, and a lack of empathy for others.

Narcissistic individuals often display a range of traits that can manifest in different ways, making narcissism a multi-faceted concept. These traits include:

  • Grandiose Self-Image: Narcissists have an inflated sense of self-worth and believe they are exceptionally talented, attractive, or important.
  • Arrogance and Conceit: They often come across as arrogant, believing they are superior to others and deserving of special treatment.
  • Self-Centeredness: Narcissists are remarkably self-absorbed, focusing primarily on their own needs, desires, and concerns.
  • Attention-Seeking: They crave constant attention and admiration from others, seeking validation to maintain their fragile self-esteem.
  • Manipulative and Exploitative: In their pursuit of attention and admiration, narcissists may manipulate and exploit others to achieve their goals.
  • Controlling Behavior: They tend to exert control over people and situations, as they struggle with insecurity and the fear of being overshadowed.

The Spectrum of Narcissism: From Healthy Self-Esteem to Pathological Narcissism

Narcissism isn’t an all-or-nothing personality trait. It exists on a spectrum, with healthy self-esteem on one end and pathological narcissism on the other. Most people have some narcissistic traits, which can be adaptive in moderate amounts. Healthy narcissism involves a reasonable degree of self-confidence and self-assuredness, which can lead to personal success and resilience.

However, when narcissistic traits become extreme and inflexible, they can escalate into pathological narcissism, often diagnosed as Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). NPD is a severe mental health condition characterized by a pervasive pattern of grandiosity, a constant need for admiration, and a lack of empathy for others.

Understanding this spectrum is vital because it helps us recognize that not all individuals with narcissistic traits are the same. Some may be high-functioning and maintain relatively healthy relationships, while others can be deeply destructive and manipulative.

The Prevalence of Narcissism in Society

It’s worth noting that narcissistic traits are not uncommon in today’s society. With the rise of social media and a culture that often rewards self-promotion and self-centeredness, more individuals are exhibiting narcissistic behaviors. However, it’s essential to avoid stigmatizing everyone with narcissistic traits as malignant narcissists. Many people with these traits are not harmful and may benefit from therapy or self-awareness.

Do Narcissists Like Compliments? And What Is Their Need for Validation?

In the world of narcissism, validation is the currency that fuels their self-esteem and feeds their insatiable appetite for admiration. To understand why narcissists behave the way they do when it comes to receiving compliments, we must first grasp the depth of their need for validation and how it drives their behavior.

The Narcissist’s Insatiable Need for Admiration and Validation

At the core of narcissism lies a profound sense of insecurity and vulnerability, despite the grandiose façade they often project. To mask this inner fragility, narcissists develop an overwhelming need for admiration and validation from others. They constantly seek external sources of praise, approval, and attention to prop up their fragile self-esteem.

Imagine their need for validation as an insatiable hunger, a relentless craving that must be satisfied at all costs. This need drives their interactions, shapes their relationships, and, yes, even influences how they respond to compliments.

How This Need Drives Their Behavior (Including Seeking Compliments)

Narcissists are known for their attention-seeking behaviors, which are essentially strategies to fulfill their craving for validation. Here’s how this plays out in their behavior, including their interactions with compliments:

  1. Exaggerated Self-Presentation: Narcissists often present themselves in an exaggeratedly positive light, showcasing their achievements, talents, and qualities. They believe that by appearing flawless, they are more likely to garner compliments and admiration.
  2. Fishing for Compliments: Narcissists are skilled fishermen when it comes to compliments. They may drop hints about their achievements or qualities, subtly encouraging others to shower them with praise. For example, they might say, “I worked tirelessly on that project” to elicit compliments like, “You’re so dedicated and talented.”
  3. Demand for Ongoing Validation: Compliments are like fuel to a narcissist’s ego. However, a single compliment is rarely sufficient. They need a constant stream of praise and admiration to maintain their fragile self-esteem. This need can become exhausting for those around them.
  4. Low Tolerance for Criticism: Since compliments are their lifeblood, narcissists have an incredibly low tolerance for criticism or any feedback that challenges their self-image. They may become defensive, dismissive, or even hostile when faced with criticism.
  5. Shifting the Spotlight: Narcissists often maneuver conversations to revolve around themselves, making it easier to receive compliments. They might steer discussions toward their achievements, possessions, or talents, creating opportunities for others to admire them.

So, in answer to the question you’ve asked, “Do narcissists like compliments?” the answer is a resounding Yes. They crave and seek compliments to nourish their insatiable need for validation and admiration. However, their responses to compliments often revolve around maintaining their self-image and seeking even more praise.

Understanding these responses is crucial because it allows us to recognize when someone may have narcissistic traits. It also helps us navigate interactions with narcissists more effectively, as we can anticipate their behavior when compliments are involved.

In the next section, we’ll delve deeper into the complex relationship between narcissists and compliments to understand how they use them as tools for manipulation and control.

How Narcissists Use Compliments to Manipulate and Control

Narcissists possess a remarkable ability to turn even the most positive and well-intentioned gestures, like compliments, into tools for manipulation and control.

And what’s interesting is that not only do narcissists like compliments from others, counter-intuitively they narcissists like to compliment others. But always with a hidden agenda.

Understanding how narcissists wield compliments as weapons in their arsenal of manipulation tactics is crucial for anyone dealing with narcissistic individuals.

Various Ways Narcissists Use Compliments

  1. Love-Bombing: In the early stages of a relationship, narcissists often employ a technique known as “love-bombing.” This involves showering their target with an excessive amount of compliments and affection to create an intense emotional bond. Love-bombing makes the victim feel adored and cherished, making it difficult for them to recognize the manipulative aspects of the narcissist’s behavior.
  2. Building Dependency: Compliments can be used strategically to make the recipient dependent on the narcissist’s approval and validation. By consistently praising someone and making them feel special, narcissists create a dynamic where their target believes they cannot thrive or be happy without the narcissist’s presence and affirmation.
  3. Compliments as a Bargaining Chip: Narcissists may use compliments as a form of manipulation, particularly in conflicts or negotiations. They may offer praise or affection as a reward for compliance or to achieve a specific outcome. For example, they might say, “If you do what I want, I’ll make it up to you with something special.”
  4. Gaslighting: Compliments can also be deployed in a more insidious form of manipulation called gaslighting. A narcissist might give a compliment to gain the trust or favor of their target, only to later use the same compliment against them. For example, they might say, “I’ve always admired your intelligence, but I can’t believe you made such a foolish decision.” This manipulative use of compliments can leave the victim feeling confused and doubting their own judgment.

Understanding the “Love-Bombing” Phase in Narcissistic Relationships

The early stages of a relationship with a narcissist can be enchanting, as they go to great lengths to ensure their target feels loved, admired, and valued. This phase, known as “love-bombing,” typically involves a barrage of compliments and affectionate gestures. However, it’s important to recognize that love-bombing is a calculated tactic used to establish control and manipulate emotions.

During the love-bombing phase, compliments flow freely, creating an illusion of an ideal partner. The narcissist may appear to be everything their target has ever wanted. However, as the relationship progresses, the love-bombing often gives way to more controlling and manipulative behaviors.

Compliments as a Tool for Narcissistic Gaslighting

Gaslighting is a form of emotional manipulation where the abuser tries to make the victim doubt their reality, memories, or perceptions. Compliments can be an unexpected weapon in a narcissist’s gaslighting arsenal. They may use previous compliments to undermine the victim’s confidence or suggest that they are “imagining things” or “being too sensitive” when they raise concerns about the narcissist’s behavior.

For example, if a narcissist is confronted about their hurtful actions, they might say, “I’ve always praised you for being so understanding. It’s disappointing that you’re suddenly becoming so paranoid and insecure.” This manipulative use of compliments can leave the victim feeling confused and doubting their own judgment.

Understanding these tactics empowers individuals to recognize when compliments from a narcissist may be used to manipulate or control them. In the next section, we’ll explore the role of compliments in a narcissist’s life as a primary source of narcissistic supply.

The Role of Compliments in Narcissistic Supply

“Narcissistic supply” is a term used to describe the emotional sustenance that narcissists need to maintain their inflated self-image and fragile self-esteem. Compliments play a pivotal role in the world of narcissistic supply, serving as a primary source of the validation and admiration that narcissists crave.

Compliments as a Necessary Component of Narcissistic Supply

For narcissists, compliments are like the lifeblood that keeps their ego thriving. They depend on external sources of admiration and approval to fuel their self-esteem. Without a constant stream of compliments, they may experience a sense of emptiness and worthlessness.

Here’s why compliments are a necessary component of narcissistic supply:

  1. Validation of Self-Worth: Narcissists derive their self-worth from the praise and admiration they receive. Compliments validate their belief in their exceptional qualities, and without them, they may feel insecure and inadequate.
  2. Boost to Fragile Ego: Narcissists have fragile egos that are easily wounded. Compliments act as a protective shield, reinforcing their self-image and shielding them from the impact of criticism or perceived slights.
  3. Maintaining the Illusion: Compliments help narcissists maintain the illusion of grandiosity they project to the world. They want others to see them as special, talented, and superior, and compliments reinforce this image.
  4. Emotional Nourishment: Compliments provide emotional nourishment for narcissists, filling the emotional void that often lies beneath their self-absorbed exterior. The more compliments they receive, the more they feel emotionally sustained.

Examples of How Compliments Can Be Leveraged for Narcissistic Supply

To illustrate the significance of compliments in a narcissist’s life, let’s look at some examples of how they use compliments to obtain narcissistic supply:

  1. Social Media Praise: Narcissists may post carefully curated photos and updates on social media, seeking likes, comments, and compliments from their followers. Each like and compliment serves as a validation of their online persona.
  2. Workplace Recognition: In professional settings, narcissists may strategically position themselves for praise and accolades. They might take credit for team achievements or constantly remind their colleagues of their contributions, ensuring they receive compliments for their efforts.
  3. Manipulating Intimate Partners: In romantic relationships, narcissists often employ compliments strategically to maintain control. They may alternate between lavishing their partner with affection and withdrawing compliments as a means of manipulation.
  4. Parental Praise: Narcissistic parents may use compliments to exert control over their children. By praising their offspring excessively for achievements, they create a dependency on parental approval and manipulate their children’s behavior.
  5. Cultivating a Fan Base: Some narcissists actively seek out admirers and fans who provide a continuous supply of compliments and adoration. They may engage in activities like public speaking or performing to bask in the applause and admiration of others.

These examples highlight how compliments are intricately woven into a narcissist’s life as a vital source of narcissistic supply. The more they receive, the more they can maintain their inflated self-image and keep their fragile self-esteem intact.

Next, we’ll explore the signs of manipulative complimenting, helping individuals recognize when they are dealing with insincere compliments from narcissists.

Signs of Manipulative Complimenting

Compliments are meant to be genuine expressions of admiration and appreciation, but when dealing with narcissists, compliments can sometimes be a guise for manipulation. Recognizing the signs of manipulative complimenting is essential for safeguarding your emotional well-being and maintaining healthy boundaries in your relationships.

Here are some common signs to watch out for:

  1. Excessive Flattery: Narcissists tend to go overboard with their compliments. They may shower you with praise, making it seem almost exaggerated or insincere. While it’s natural to appreciate kind words, an excess of flattery can be a red flag.
  2. Compliments with Strings Attached: Pay attention to compliments that come with implicit expectations. For example, a narcissist might say, “You’re so intelligent; I can’t believe you’d make such a silly mistake.” In this case, the compliment is followed by a criticism, creating confusion and control.
  3. Compliments as a Manipulative Tactic: Narcissists often use compliments strategically to achieve their goals. They may compliment you right before asking for a favor or making a request. This tactic is designed to make you more likely to comply.
  4. Conditional Praise: Be cautious if compliments seem conditional or dependent on your behavior. Narcissists may only offer praise when you align with their desires or viewpoints. If you express independent thoughts or actions, the compliments may quickly disappear.
  5. Compliments to Undermine Confidence: Some narcissists use compliments as a covert form of criticism. They may say things like, “You’re so talented, but I noticed a few flaws in your work.” This tactic is meant to keep you off balance and questioning your abilities.
  6. Compliments to Control Your Emotions: Narcissists may use compliments to manipulate your emotions. For instance, they might offer praise when they sense you’re upset or angry to defuse the situation and regain control over the conversation.
  7. Consistent Flattery of Themselves: Narcissists often indulge in self-compliments. They may boast about their achievements, beauty, or intelligence as a way to indirectly seek validation from you. This can be a sign of their insatiable need for admiration.
  8. Compliments with an Agenda: When a narcissist wants something from you, they may use compliments to soften you up. They’ll make you feel special and appreciated before revealing their true intentions or making a request.
  9. Compliments Followed by Criticism: Watch for the “sandwich technique,” where a narcissist sandwiches criticism between compliments. They start with praise, insert criticism, and then end with more praise. This tactic can be confusing and disorienting.

Recognizing these signs is the first step in protecting yourself from manipulative compliments. Trust your instincts and pay attention to the overall pattern of behavior rather than isolated compliments. In the next section, we’ll explore coping strategies for dealing with narcissists who use compliments as manipulation tactics.

Coping Strategies

Dealing with narcissists who use compliments as manipulation tactics can be challenging, but it’s not impossible. By employing effective coping strategies, you can protect your self-esteem and emotional well-being while maintaining healthier boundaries in your relationships.

1. Be Mindful and Aware

The first step in dealing with manipulative compliments is awareness. Pay close attention to the dynamics of your interactions with the narcissist. Recognize when compliments are used to control or manipulate. Awareness is the foundation upon which you can build your coping strategies.

2. Trust Your Instincts

Your intuition is a valuable ally. If something doesn’t feel right about a compliment or a situation, trust your gut. Don’t second-guess yourself. Narcissists are skilled at creating confusion, so staying true to your instincts can help you navigate their tactics.

3. Set Clear Boundaries

Establish and enforce clear boundaries in your relationships with narcissistic individuals. Be explicit about what behavior is acceptable and what isn’t. If you feel that compliments are being used to manipulate you, calmly but firmly express your discomfort and reinforce your boundaries.

4. Limit Engagement

Narcissists thrive on attention and validation. Limit your engagement with them, especially if you suspect they are using compliments to manipulate. Respond selectively to their praise and avoid getting drawn into lengthy discussions or debates.

5. Stay Emotionally Detached

Maintain emotional distance when interacting with narcissists. Recognize that their compliments and criticisms are often about them, not you. Don’t allow their words to define your self-worth or provoke emotional reactions.

6. Seek Support

Dealing with a narcissist can be emotionally draining. Reach out to friends, family, or a therapist for support. Talking to someone you trust can provide perspective and validation, counteracting the narcissist’s attempts to undermine your confidence.

7. Practice Self-Care

Take care of your physical and emotional well-being. Engage in self-care activities that boost your self-esteem and resilience. Exercise, meditation, and hobbies can help you maintain a sense of balance and inner strength.

8. Avoid Reacting

Narcissists often provoke reactions to maintain control. Avoid reacting emotionally to their compliments or criticisms. Instead, respond with calm assertiveness or disengage from the conversation when necessary.

9. Consider Professional Help

If your relationship with a narcissist is causing significant distress or harm, consider seeking professional guidance. Therapists and counselors can provide strategies for coping with manipulation and assist you in making informed decisions about your relationship.

10. Evaluate the Relationship

Ultimately, assess whether the relationship with the narcissist is healthy and fulfilling for you. In some cases, it may be necessary to distance yourself or even sever ties with individuals who consistently use compliments as manipulation tactics to maintain control.

Remember that coping with narcissistic individuals can be a long-term journey, and it’s essential to prioritize your well-being throughout the process. By implementing these coping strategies, you can protect yourself from the harmful effects of manipulative compliments and maintain healthier, more balanced relationships.


In conclusion, understanding the dynamics of narcissists and compliments, as well as having effective coping strategies in place, empowers you to navigate these challenging interactions with compassion for yourself. In the final section, we’ll wrap up our exploration of this complex topic.