When we hear the word narcissist, it usually surfaces images of a conceited individual who loves their own reflection and brags about their accomplishments.
Yet, many people don’t realize that narcissistic personality disorder is not created equal nor manifests in the same way from one narcissist to another.
Narcissists who are loud, boastful, and conceited are known as overt or grandiose and are much easier to identify.
Although it would be great in some ways if every manipulative person was that indiscreet, they often are not. On the other end of the spectrum, we have the covert narcissist who can appear quiet, shy, and subdued, which is much more dangerous.
A covert narcissist is different than an overt narcissist in many ways but here are the primary traits you need to be aware of when communicating with them.
#1. They are more sensitive to criticism
It is important to remember that grandiose, overt narcissist has fully embraced their toxic qualities. They wear their mask proudly and loudly for the world to hear and see.
A covert narcissist, on the other hand, may show cracks in the mask, revealing the insecurities that lay beneath the facade. They don’t want anyone to be privy to that information because, deep down, they are a hurt child.
“eople with covert narcissism might make dismissive or sarcastic remarks and act as if they’re above the criticism. But internally, they might feel empty, humiliated, or enraged.”- Healthline
They may pretend like they don’t care, but if you harm their ego, the covert narcissist is bound to strike back… which brings us to the second point you need to be aware of when communicating with them.
#2. They are more passive-aggressive than their overt counterparts
A covert narcissist hates feeling inferior, but if you are causing them to feel that way, they most likely won’t cause an argument or rage.
They may show no sign of their anger or disapproval at all, even if they are seething beneath the surface… which is why the backlash will most likely be with the silent treatment, sarcasm, and diabolical schemes.
“What characterizes the passive-aggressive narcissist is their barely disguised sense of superiority, conceit, and entitlement. They are inclined to become covertly hostile when they don’t get their way, no matter how unreasonable. If the world doesn’t revolve around them (like they think they deserve), they will devise many subversive schemes to make the lives of those around them miserable.” -Psychology Today
The covert narcissist will most likely come across as calm, cool, and collected even though they are planning out ways to make your life miserable.
#3. They will do anything to protect their facade
A common theme I see with my clients is anger and frustration that no one else knows the true side of the narcissist in their life.
The reality is that covert narcissists want to protect their reputations. On the outside, they are often sweet and caring, with lots of friends. Their friend and family are usually unaware of the true person beneath the act.
“Most generally, the mask comes off a covert narcissist or aggressor when there’s no more need to keep it. Once they think they have you where they have always wanted you, manipulators have no more need for pretense. But by then in a relationship, it’s too late to undo the damage done.” Dr. George Simon
When the mask slips then, they will often discard/pull away from the person who saw it because that person doesn’t add up to their story. When they are in a long-term relationship with someone, the mask eventually will slip, and the ones who pay for it is the one who was manipulated by the covert narcissist.
#4. They fantasize about a future that is unrealistic
Sitting across from my family member, I listened to his narrative about how he would make such a difference in the world and do great things with his life.
Although he is nearing his thirties, he has no education, barely works, and spends most of his time in his basement playing video games. Yet his family and partners continue to turn a blind eye and pretend that reality doesn’t exist… only the future.
“The covert narcissist’s thinking is largely fantasy-based, and conversations often revolve around plans for the future or escaping from, or idolizing their past. They will draw their partner into their fantasy world where the present is seldom discussed.” -Innerhealthandhealing
By focusing on the future and ignoring the present, the covert narcissist can spin whatever world they want, and usually, they end up dragging the people around them into their fantasy.
“How did I fall for this? How could I be so stupid… I don’t understand.”
Every single victim feels that way after being manipulated and charmed by a narcissist, whether they are covert or overt. Instead of recognizing that we fell for the act of someone wearing a mask… we end up blaming ourselves.
The truth is that narcissists often target strong, confident, and empathetic victims because they exhibit the traits that the narcissist lacks.
You are not stupid or weak if targeted and deceived by a covert narcissist. Remember, they have often charmed and fooled even their closest friends and family members.
However, it is important to identify the traits to prevent manipulation from happening in the future. Educating yourself can ensure that you are stronger, wiser, and more equipped to protect yourself against anyone who tries to manipulate you again.