The traits of a covert narcissist (and those they choose)

The traits of covert narcissists and those they choose to victimise – a checklist. 


Before I begin, please know there is a spectrum of covert narcissism. Some narcissists will have all of these traits, while others will not. However, if there are more rather than less of these traits in your relationship (whether it be familial, romantic or friendships), then it is highly likely that you are in a relationship of this type.

Please also note that friendships that do not make you feel cared for or good about yourself are sometimes the hardest of all to diagnose this interaction with. It is more insidious as this is where you 'go' to share your ups and downs. But it is a 'corrupted harbour' and you will find that when you need this person the most, they will discard you with consummate ease, and justify their cruelty by naming you the cause. It will be because of your lack, or your need for reassurance which they find impossible, never a lacking on their part, and you will believe them, and be left feeling bewildered and wretched.

It will have been the intermittent reinforcement (this is mentioned a lot as it is the dopamine hit of the "maybe", that makes this used tactic so powerful), that kept you in this ugly dance and its 'one thing one minute, then one thing the next' rhythm. 

The traits of the covert narcissist

Silent rage

Covert narcissists are often deeply angry people. You will be asking all the time, "Are you OK?” With a covert narcissist, their anger will mostly be passive-aggressive, but it will be 'felt'. 

They will say yes (your body and instinct will say this isn’t true), so who do you trust? This is a manipulative tool, where you innately believe you are the cause. The anger will be mostly about what they expect you to know. You should have known better. If you ignore the silent clues or their silent treatment, it will inevitably erupt and you will be blamed and named the cause. Remember they are 'covert' – hidden – they are under the surface; they exhibit silent control through their strong idealistic views.

They tell lies

Even though they don’t come across like that at all. You will though be wondering and might end up checking, even if you are not a 'checker'. You will be trying to make sense of their behaviour, yet you will assume that this has something to do with you and what you lack or what you are doing wrong.

They never truly admit their wrongdoing

Except when they are practising intermittent reinforcement or 'hoovering'. This is a term used to describe their behaviour coming back when they want to pull you in again to secure the supply you gave them. 

Often, sadly, this works because you are longing for what you think is the 'real' them. The person who idealised you during the love bombing stage. This is not the real them. This is easy for them to do again and again as your sense of your own true value has been skilfully diminished. It is part of the grooming. It also creates an unhealthy dependence on them, because you end up believing they know more than you about what is the right thing to choose, or to be or to do.

They triangulate

"Triangulation is when a toxic or manipulative person, often a person with strong narcissistic traits, brings a third person into their relationship in order to remain in control. There will be limited or no communication between the two triangulated individuals except through the manipulator." - PsychCentral

They will talk disparagingly to others about you, and to you about others. This tricks you into thinking you are thought of by them as a 'confidante', and you won’t even wonder if they are talking to others about you in the same way, but they will be. It’s ugly stuff.

They are not interested in you. What l mean by this is they rarely ask you questions and how you feel or what you think.

No compliments and outrageous remarks

They rarely compliment you on things you have done, this can be your new home, your special occasion, your cooking, in fact, your anything, and if they do say something, they will be sure to let you know it isn’t something they would choose! As if their choices and likes and dislikes are the only ones that count or are correct!

I feel like putting a couple of emojis of outrage and disbelief here as it triggered a memory of some jaw-dropping comments made to me on several occasions that were so appalling they were hard to believe!

The traits of those they choose to victimise

You are likely to be:

  • empathetic
  • kind
  • good-hearted
  • flexible
  • understanding
  • vulnerable
  • easily influenced
  • longing for love
  • romantic

In a relationship of a romantic kind, you will be looking for a long-term relationship, not a one-night stand or a fling.

In a friendship, you will be the kind of friend who would give away their "last rolo" –  someone who would happily rush to the side of a friend, who you could call in the middle of the night and always be there to support you. Always be in your corner.

If you are an employee, you will be someone who cares deeply about your position and the things you see as your responsibility.

Generally, you are a person who gives a lot and forgives a lot, someone warm-hearted. Often with insecurities and questionable self-work. You will not be a secure individual who tells it like it is without fear. Someone who has healthy boundaries. This is because someone like this would never put up with their kind of abuse and poor treatment because they trust their own instinct and version of events. 

I hope that this gives you a handy checklist to refer to – anything that gives more information to those who might be concerned that they are in a relationship like this is helpful because these will allow you to navigate away from emotional danger.

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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London, N8
Written by Gail Berry, Emotional and Relationship Coach
London, N8

Written by Gail Berry Emotional Coach - both a therapist and an alternative medical practitioner who works with healing people’s core wounds and uses Bach Flower Remedies alongside talking and behavioural therapy to make real change and transformation possible.
07771 715072
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