How Covert Narcissists Manipulate
How Covert Narcissists Manipulate

This is going to be a comprehensive exploration of the intricate world of covert narcissism and the insidious manipulation tactics often deployed by covert narcissists to manipulate and control their victims. In this article, we will delve deep into the covert narcissist’s psyche, unveiling their covert techniques, and shedding light on their hidden agenda.

Covert narcissism, often overshadowed by its more overt counterpart, hides beneath a mask of empathy and vulnerability, making it challenging to detect. These individuals skillfully manipulate their victims, leaving them emotionally battered and mentally drained.

So, let’s jump in and learn how covert narcissists manipulate and control their victims.

Understanding Covert Narcissism

Covert narcissism is a subtle yet potent form of narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). It operates beneath the surface, concealed behind a façade of humility and sensitivity. To understand how covert narcissists manipulate, we must first distinguish between covert and overt narcissism, identify the key traits of covert narcissists, and recognize the elaborate mask they wear.

Covert Narcissism Vs Overt Narcissism

  • Covert Narcissism: This subtype of narcissism is characterized by an individual’s tendency to hide their narcissistic traits behind a mask of apparent empathy and vulnerability. They often appear modest and self-effacing, making it challenging to identify their true nature.
  • Overt Narcissism: In contrast, overt narcissists display their grandiosity and entitlement openly. They seek constant admiration, believe they are superior, and have little regard for others’ feelings.

Key Traits of Covert Narcissists

Covert narcissists may seem like the victims themselves, but beneath their façade lies a web of manipulation and control. Some key traits of covert narcissists include:

  • Low Self-Esteem: They have fragile self-esteem and a constant need for validation.
  • Entitlement: Despite their apparent humility, they believe they deserve special treatment.
  • Manipulative Empathy: They use faux empathy to manipulate others.
  • Needy: Covert narcissists demand attention and emotional support.
  • Passive-Aggressiveness: They resort to subtle, indirect means to express anger or hostility.
  • Insecurity: Beneath their mask, they are deeply insecure and fear rejection.

The Covert Narcissist: A Mask of Empathy and Vulnerability

Covert narcissists excel at creating a façade of empathy and vulnerability, which lures unsuspecting victims into their web. They often play the role of the wounded soul, seeking comfort and sympathy. However, beneath this seemingly compassionate exterior, they harbor a relentless desire for control and admiration.

How Covert Narcissists Manipulate Their Victims: 16 Sneaky Ways

In this section, we will delve deep into the covert narcissist’s mind and unveil the 16 sneaky ways they employ to manipulate and control their victims. These tactics are often subtle, making it challenging for victims to recognize the abuse they are enduring. Let’s explore each of these tactics in detail:

1. Pity-Seeking

Pity-seeking is a classic manipulation tactic used by covert narcissists. They excel at playing the victim, portraying themselves as helpless and in need of constant sympathy and support. They may exaggerate their troubles or woes, creating a sense of obligation in their victims to provide emotional support. By eliciting pity from others, covert narcissists gain emotional leverage and control.

2. Sacrificing and Martyrdom

One of the way how covert narcissists manipulate is by presenting themselves as selfless individuals who make great sacrifices for others. They may go out of their way to help, but not out of genuine kindness. Instead, their acts of sacrificing and martyrdom are designed to create a sense of indebtedness in their victims. The victims may feel obligated to comply with the narcissist’s wishes in return for these perceived sacrifices.

3. Passive-Aggressiveness

Passive-aggressiveness is another tool in the covert narcissist’s manipulation toolkit. When confronted or challenged, they resort to indirect and subtle means to express anger or hostility. This can take the form of sarcasm, backhanded compliments, or subtle insults. Victims often find themselves on the receiving end of these hurtful remarks, which chip away at their self-esteem over time.

4. Feigned Helplessness

Linked to martyrdom that we saw earlier is another way how covert narcissists manipulate – Bogus Helplessness. Acting helpless and incapable is a tactic that covert narcissists use to manipulate others into taking care of their needs.

They may feign incompetence or helplessness in various situations, creating a dependency on their victims. This dependency allows them to exert control and influence over their victims.

5. Superiority Through Victimhood

Covert narcissists maintain a sense of superiority by portraying themselves as perpetual victims. They have a knack for recasting themselves as the injured party in any situation, even when they are the ones causing harm. By positioning themselves as victims, they garner sympathy while avoiding accountability for their actions. This is referred to as Covert Narcissist Victim Mentality.

6. Guilt-Tripping

Guilt-tripping is a potent manipulation tactic employed by covert narcissists. They skillfully use guilt as a weapon, making their victims feel responsible for their emotional well-being. Victims often find themselves going to great lengths to avoid upsetting the narcissist, driven by an overwhelming sense of guilt imposed by the manipulator.

7. Selective Amnesia

Another classic way how covert narcissists manipulate is through selective amnesia. Covert narcissists conveniently forget their promises or previous actions when it suits their agenda. This selective amnesia is a means of keeping their victims off-balance and doubting their own perceptions. Victims may question their memory or judgment, further eroding their self-confidence.

8. Sudden Affection and Withdrawal

Sudden affection and withdrawal is an emotional rollercoaster covert narcissists often subject their victims to. They alternate between showering their victims with affection and abruptly withdrawing it. This unpredictability keeps victims uncertain and eager to please, constantly seeking the narcissist’s approval.

9. Isolation

Covert narcissists frequently isolate their victims from friends and family. This isolation creates a dependency on the narcissist for emotional support, as victims become increasingly cut off from their support networks. Isolation makes it harder for victims to seek help or escape the toxic relationship.

10. Triangulation

Triangulation is another way how covert narcissists manipulate their victims. Triangulation is a manipulation tactic where covert narcissists introduce a third party into the relationship, often in a subtle and manipulative way.

For instance, I’ve seen examples of a female covert narcissist using triangulation to trigger jealousy in her boyfriend.

In the simplest form, triangulation can take the form of flirting with someone else, discussing an attractive acquaintance, or comparing the victim unfavorably to others. Triangulation creates jealousy and competition, further cementing the narcissist’s control over the victim.

11. Withholding Information

Covert narcissists often withhold crucial information or keep secrets from their victims. This withholding of information leads victims to doubt their own judgment and reality. The narcissist’s secrecy fosters a sense of dependence, as victims are forced to rely on the manipulator for information.

12. Subtle Criticism

Subtle criticism is a tactic employed by covert narcissists to erode their victim’s self-esteem. They use disguised criticism, often cloaked as concern or advice, to chip away at their victim’s confidence and self-worth. Over time, these subtle jabs can leave lasting emotional scars.

13. Intellectual Snobbery

Covert narcissists often portray themselves as intellectually superior to others. They engage in intellectual snobbery, belittling their victim’s ideas and opinions. This not only undermines the victim’s self-esteem but also reinforces the narcissist’s sense of grandiosity.

14. Selective Empathy

They feign empathy selectively, only when it benefits them. This selective empathy leaves victims longing for genuine emotional connection and support that the narcissist rarely provides. The intermittent reinforcement of empathy keeps victims emotionally invested in the relationship.

15. Charitable Acts for Recognition

Covert narcissists may perform charitable acts, but they seek recognition and admiration in return. These charitable acts for recognition reinforce their sense of entitlement and superiority. Victims may feel indebted to the narcissist, making it difficult for them to question the manipulator’s motives.

16. Gaslighting

Gaslighting is a particularly insidious manipulation tactic employed by covert narcissists. It involves distorting reality to make their victims doubt their own perceptions and sanity.

Covert narcissists may deny events that occurred, insist that their victim is forgetful or delusional, and engage in other behaviors designed to make the victim question their reality.

Gaslighting is a profoundly damaging form of manipulation that leaves victims feeling confused, invalidated, and emotionally destabilized.

Here are some examples of covert narcissist gaslighting that you may want to educate yourself about.

Closing Thoughts

In this eye-opening journey through the world of covert narcissism and their manipulative tactics, we’ve uncovered the insidious ways in which these individuals control and exploit their victims. It’s essential to remember that covert narcissism can be profoundly damaging to one’s self-esteem, mental health, and overall well-being.

Recognizing these sneaky manipulation tactics is the first step towards protecting yourself and breaking free from their toxic grip. If you or someone you know is a victim of covert narcissistic abuse, seeking support from mental health professionals, friends, or support groups is crucial on the path to healing.

Remember, you deserve healthy, respectful relationships built on trust and empathy. By understanding covert narcissism and the ways they manipulate, you empower yourself to set boundaries, go no contact if necessary, and embark on a journey of recovery and self-discovery.