The subtle nuances of narcissistic type behaviours

I've written before about narcissism, both covert and overt, and the traits of a narcissist are usually quite visible to an outsider, although often less visible from the inside (when you're in a relationship with or if you love a person who has narcissistic traits).


Signs of narcissism are:

  • has a grandiose sense of self-importance
  • is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty or ideal love
  • believe that he or she is ‘special’ and unique and can only be understood by or should associate with, other special or high-status people
  • requires excessive admiration
  • has a sense of entitlement
  • is inter-personally exploitative
  • lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognise or identify with the feelings and needs of others
  • is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her
  • shows arrogant, haughty, or dismissive behaviours and attitudes

A diagnosis of narcissism requires at least five of the above on a consistent basis.

We can all show signs of narcissism or narcissistic type behaviours. It brings a sense of control for the person who is utilising them, often because they feel out of control on the inside.

Trauma, hurt, anxiety, depression, isolation, rejection and many other human emotions can all contribute towards someone feeling the need to be in control by manipulation. At this point, behaviours tend to be more manipulative in their direction but usually have the same basic outcome in mind. To protect the fragile ego of the person who is unconsciously seeking to manipulate or control another.

Some more subtle (covert) signs of manipulation or narcissistic-type behaviours, which are more common are:

  • becoming distant, pulling away, especially if you have done something to slight them
  • acting in ways that confuse you that have no reason, logic or basis
  • doing passive-aggressive things that devalue and undermine you
  • telling lies to avoid responsibility or to create confusion in you (also a gaslighting type of behaviour)
  • love bombing (showering you with affection post disagreement or error on their part) in order to win back your trust
  • showing their disapproval, especially when you have shown signs of autonomy or independent thinking that doesn't meet their high or unreasonable expectations
  • avoiding healthy discussion about disagreements, boundaries or differences
  • a blame mentality – it is never their fault
  • making you out to be the unreasonable one, all the time
  • refusing to acknowledge any part they may have played in causing a dispute or disagreement
  • never apologising for causing hurt or making mistakes, even when it is brought to their attention in a healthy matter-of-fact way

We can all recall times when we have perhaps acted in some of the ways described above. That does not make us all controlling, manipulative or narcissists. The difference is, an average human who feels hurt, depleted, isolated, rejected, anxious or depressed can occasionally display such behaviours.

A narcissist or manipulator is someone who consistently does several of the above, regularly and unrelated to their own emotional state.

In other words, it is not about self-preservation from a place of hurt. It is from a place of needing to bolster and protect one's fragile ego at the expense of others and having no concern, consideration, empathy or remorse for the effects of their actions on others.

If you are on the receiving end of these types of behaviours then there are some key actions that you can take to regain some kind of equity or balance.

  • Set clear boundaries, be clear about what is acceptable and what is not, and stick to them.
  • When expressing your boundaries or needs, remain calm and matter-of-fact. Stick to cause and effect, rather than blame and avoiding responsibility.
  • Know which side of the window the smears are on. Being able to differentiate between what is your 'stuff' to be responsible for and deal with and what is the other person's 'stuff' is necessary to detach yourself from their attempts to bolster their fragile ego.
  • No is a complete answer. You do not need to provide an explanation.
  • Seek help and support in terms of coaching, counselling or therapy from a trusted source to help bring an impartial perspective to the situation.

Understand that when we display manipulative behaviours, it is a sign that support is needed. Supporting whilst not excusing unacceptable behaviour is a skill.

If you are a perpetrator of these types of behaviours, as in you recognise them in yourself, then that's ok, it is good that you recognise it. Recognition is the first step, and eliciting positive change is the next step.

Most people display manipulative behaviours because they lack self-worth and self-esteem. Focusing on improving your self-worth, self-esteem and confidence will naturally minimise and sometimes eliminate manipulating or controlling behaviours.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Life Coach Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Salisbury, Wiltshire, SP5 3BN
Written by Nikki Emerton
Salisbury, Wiltshire, SP5 3BN

I’m Nikki, a recovered perfectionist, still a bit of an over-achiever and slightly introverted lover of running, the outdoors, wild swimming & good food - not all at the same time of course!
Using a range of modalities, including coaching, NLP, IEMT & Somatic work. I help people achieve positive changes so that they can live life to the fullest.

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