29+ Narcissistic Behaviors – How to Tell Someone Is a Narcissist

In this article, we have a list of several narcissistic behaviors which can help you tell if someone is a narcissist.

It’s important to note that while these behaviors can be indicative of narcissistic tendencies, they can also be present in individuals without any narcissistic personality disorder.

Narcissistic Behaviors – How to Tell Someone Is a Narcissist

Here’s a more detailed look at these behaviors and some additional ones often linked with narcissism:

  1. Gossip: Narcissists may use gossip as a tool to belittle others and elevate themselves.
  2. Lying: They often lie or exaggerate to create a more favorable image of themselves.
  3. Baiting: This involves provoking a reaction, often anger or frustration, from others.
  4. Projection: Narcissists may project their own undesirable traits onto others.
  5. Acting Up for Pretextual Reasons: They might use external matters or random things as a cover for their own emotional turmoil.
  6. Gaslighting: This is a form of psychological manipulation where the narcissist makes others question their own reality or sanity.
  7. Manipulation: They often manipulate situations and people for their benefit.
  8. Passive-Aggressive: Narcissists may exhibit passive-aggressive behavior as a way to covertly express anger or frustration without direct confrontation.
  9. Black-and-White Thinking (Lack of Object Constancy): Narcissists often engage in black-and-white thinking. They commonly perceive situations and people in extremes (all good or all bad) due to a lack of object constancy, which is the ability to maintain a positive emotional connection with someone despite disagreements or conflicts. Also applies to ideas. No gradient, no spectrum, no conditional variations. Hyperbolic and childish thinking.
  10. Paranoid: Narcissists can display paranoia, often suspecting that others are plotting against them or have negative intentions, stemming from their deep-seated insecurities and lack of trust.
  11. Blame-shifting (Lack of Accountability): In blame-shifting, narcissists deflect responsibility for their actions by blaming others, avoiding accountability and preserving their self-image.
  12. Concern Trolling: Pretending to be concerned about someone, but actually using it as a way to manipulate or control them.
  13. Disrespecting Boundaries: Narcissists may not respect personal boundaries, intruding into others’ space or personal matters.
  14. Invasive Questions: Asking inappropriate or overly personal questions, sometimes in subtle or clever ways.
  15. Weaponizing Personal Information: Using sensitive information about someone as leverage or for manipulation.
  16. Oversharing: Sharing information that should be private, either about themselves or others, often to gain attention or sympathy.
  17. Making Sweeping Assumptions: Narcissists often assert unfounded opinions about people and situations, reflecting their exaggerated self-importance and perceived superior judgment.
  18. Triangulating: Narcissists manipulate communication between parties by involving a third party, often to control perceptions and create divisions for their own advantage. It’s a way to isolate someone and break them down.
  19. Entitlement: Narcissists often exhibit a sense of entitlement, expecting special treatment and believing they deserve more than others.
  20. Exploitation: They may exploit others for personal gain, using them as tools to achieve their own objectives without regard for their feelings or well-being.
  21. Lack of Empathy: Narcissists typically show a lack of empathy, having difficulty understanding or caring about the emotions and needs of others.
  22. Excessive Need for Admiration: They have a strong desire for excessive attention and admiration from others to validate their self-esteem.
  23. Superficial Charm: Narcissists often use superficial charm to manipulate and attract others, presenting themselves in a highly positive and appealing way.
  24. Envy: They may be envious of others or believe others are envious of them, often leading to resentment and competitive behavior.
  25. Fantasies of Success and Power: Narcissists frequently indulge in fantasies about achieving power, success, money, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love.
  26. Fragile Self-Esteem: Despite their outward arrogance (or sullen arrogance for covert narcissists), narcissists can have fragile self-esteem and are sensitive to criticism or defeat.
  27. Alternating between Idealizing and Devaluing Others: They may shift between over-idealizing people they admire and harshly devaluing them when they feel slighted or threatened.
  28. Obsession with Money, Status, or Power: Many narcissists obsess over money, status, or power as these symbols of success bolster their fragile self-esteem and offer external validation for their grandiose self-image.
  29. Hoovering: This is a tactic where a narcissist tries to reassert control over individuals they have previously manipulated or abused, often after a period of separation or when they sense their control is diminishing.

Understanding these behaviors can be helpful in recognizing and dealing with narcissistic individuals.

Please note that narcissists come in overt and covert varieties, and have differing levels of each of these behaviors.

Let’s look deeper into each of these:

Gossip

Narcissists often use gossip as a strategic tool to undermine others while elevating their own status.

They might spread rumors or share secrets about others, framing themselves as insiders or as having superior knowledge.

This behavior can create divisions within groups and can be used to manipulate social dynamics, ensuring the narcissist remains at the center of attention or power.

Lying

Lying and exaggeration are common tactics for narcissists to construct a more favorable self-image.

These lies can range from subtle embellishments to grand fabrications.

They do this to gain admiration, to hide their insecurities, or to manipulate others.

The reality distortion created by their lies can be confusing and damaging to those around them.

Baiting

Baiting is a provocative act used by narcissists to elicit a reaction, such as anger or frustration.

This behavior can take many forms, such as making offensive comments, pressing sensitive buttons, or engaging in passive-aggressive actions.

The aim is often to destabilize others, assert dominance, or simply to derive a sense of power from the ability to control others’ emotions.

Projection

Projection involves narcissists attributing their own negative traits or behaviors to others.

This is a defense mechanism where they deny their flaws by assigning them to someone else.

For example, a narcissist who is untrustworthy may constantly accuse others of being deceitful.

This not only helps them avoid accountability but also creates confusion and self-doubt in their victims.

Acting Up for Pretextual Reasons

Narcissists might use external matter as a pretext for their disruptive behavior, masking their internal emotional turmoil.

They may create dramas or crises, shifting the focus away from their shortcomings.

By doing this, they avoid addressing their own issues and instead keep others off-balance or in a state of reaction to the chaos they create.

Gaslighting

Gaslighting is a sinister form of psychological manipulation where the narcissist leads others to question their own reality, memory, or perceptions.

This can involve denying facts, lying about past events, or dismissing others’ feelings.

Over time, this can erode the victim’s sense of reality and self-confidence, making them more dependent on the narcissist.

Manipulation

Manipulation is a core behavior of narcissists, involving cunning, influence, or outright coercion to get what they want.

This might be done through charm, persuasion, or more nefarious means like guilt-tripping or playing the victim.

Their ultimate goal is to bend the will of others to serve their needs and desires.

Passive-Aggressive

Narcissists use passive-aggressive behavior to manipulate and control situations while avoiding direct confrontation.

This behavior might include subtle insults, sullen behavior, or a deliberate failure to complete tasks.

It’s a way for them to express negative feelings indirectly, maintaining an appearance of politeness or innocence.

Black-and-White Thinking (Lack of Object Constancy)

In black-and-white thinking, narcissists categorize people and situations as entirely good or bad, with no middle ground.

This cognitive distortion stems from their inability to hold a stable, positive image of someone when feeling hurt or rejected (a lack of object constancy).

It leads to unstable relationships, as the narcissist quickly oscillates between idealization and devaluation of others.

Paranoid

Narcissistic paranoia is rooted in their profound sense of vulnerability and fear of being exposed as imperfect.

They often perceive benign actions or remarks as personal attacks, leading to defensiveness or counterattack.

This defensive stance can result in a self-fulfilling prophecy, where their suspicious behavior alienates others, further confirming their paranoid beliefs.

Blame-shifting

Blame-shifting in narcissists is a defense mechanism to protect their fragile self-esteem.

By projecting their own shortcomings and mistakes onto others, they preserve their self-image as infallible.

This behavior not only absolves them of responsibility but also victimizes them, thus garnering sympathy and maintaining control over their narrative.

Concern Trolling

Concern trolling is a manipulative tactic where the narcissist feigns worry or concern for someone else, but their true motive is to control or belittle that person.

They might offer unsolicited advice, criticize under the guise of being helpful, or express fake concern to undermine the other person’s confidence and self-esteem.

Disrespecting Boundaries

Narcissists often do not respect the personal boundaries of others.

They may intrude into private matters, disregard personal space, or ignore requests to stop certain behaviors.

This disrespect is rooted in their belief that their needs and desires are paramount, often leading to overstepping and causing discomfort or harm to others.

Invasive Questions

Asking overly personal or inappropriate questions is another tactic used by narcissists.

These questions, sometimes subtle, sometimes blunt, are a way to probe for vulnerabilities or gather information that can later be used for manipulation.

This behavior also serves to destabilize the recipient, making them feel exposed or on the defensive.

Weaponizing Personal Information

Narcissists are known for using sensitive or personal information as a tool for manipulation.

Information shared in confidence can be turned into a weapon, used to coerce, blackmail, or embarrass the victim.

This betrayal of trust is particularly harmful as it exploits the victim’s vulnerability.

Oversharing

Oversharing is when a narcissist divulges information that should be private, about themselves or others, often to gain attention or sympathy.

This can involve telling personal stories, sharing secrets, or exposing aspects of their lives inappropriately.

This behavior serves to keep the spotlight on them and can also be a tool for manipulation or control.

Making Sweeping Assumptions

Narcissists often display the behavior of making sweeping assumptions about people, things, and situations without having sufficient information.

This tendency stems from their exaggerated sense of self-importance and belief in their own superior judgment.

They might declare opinions as facts, even in areas where they lack expertise or firsthand experience.

This behavior can lead to misunderstandings and conflicts, as their assumptions are often baseless and can be perceived as arrogant or dismissive of others’ perspectives and experiences.

Triangulating

Triangulation is another common behavior among narcissists, where they manipulate communication between two parties through a third party.

This is done to control and influence the perceptions of the people involved.

For example, a narcissist might tell Person A something negative about Person B, and vice versa, to pit them against each other, or to make themselves seem more favorable or powerful in comparison.

Triangulation can create tension and conflict between the two parties being manipulated, allowing the narcissist to maintain control and divert attention away from their own actions.

Entitlement

Narcissists often feel a heightened sense of entitlement, believing they are inherently deserving of special treatment and privileges that others are not entitled to.

This attitude can manifest in demanding preferential treatment in social, professional, or personal contexts, and reacting with anger or resentment when these expectations are not met.

Their sense of entitlement stems from an inflated sense of self-importance, leading them to believe that their needs and desires should always take precedence over others’.

Exploitation

Exploitation in narcissists is characterized by using others for personal gain without regard for their feelings or well-being.

They view people as tools or objects to be manipulated for their own benefit, often disregarding the impact of their actions on others.

This behavior reflects their lack of empathy and a strong focus on self-interest, where relationships are seen more as means to an end rather than genuine connections.

Lack of Empathy

Narcissists typically display a significant lack of empathy, meaning they struggle to recognize or sympathize with the feelings and needs of others.

This makes it difficult for them to form deep, meaningful relationships, as they are often unable to understand or care about the emotional experiences of others.

Their interactions are primarily self-focused, and they may disregard or trivialize others’ feelings as irrelevant or inconvenient to their own goals.

Excessive Need for Admiration

A narcissist’s excessive need for admiration is characterized by a constant seeking of attention and validation from others.

They crave admiration and praise to bolster their self-esteem and may go to great lengths to attract compliments and positive reinforcement.

This need often stems from deep-seated insecurities, with the admiration of others serving as a crucial way to maintain their self-image.

Superficial Charm

Narcissists often employ superficial charm as a tool to manipulate and attract others.

They may be charismatic and engaging, presenting themselves in an appealing and impressive manner to gain admiration, trust, or compliance.

However, this charm is typically surface-level, used as a means to an end rather than a genuine expression of warmth or interest in others.

Envy

Envy in narcissists manifests as resentment towards others who possess qualities, achievements, or possessions that they desire.

They may also believe others are envious of them, reinforcing their sense of superiority.

This envy can drive competitive behavior and a desire to undermine or surpass those they view as rivals or threats.

Fantasies of Success and Power

Narcissists often indulge in grandiose fantasies of success, power, brilliance, beauty, or perfect love.

These fantasies serve as an escape from reality, a way to bolster their self-esteem, and a framework for their ambitions and expectations.

However, they often clash with reality, leading to frustration and dissatisfaction when these lofty ambitions are not realized.

Fragile Self-Esteem

Despite an outward appearance of confidence and arrogance, narcissists often have fragile self-esteem.

They are highly sensitive to criticism and can be deeply affected by perceived slights or failures.

This fragility is often masked by their outward persona, but it underlies much of their need for admiration and validation.

Alternating between Idealizing and Devaluing Others

Narcissists may shift between extremes in how they perceive others, idealizing individuals when they are seen as beneficial or admirable, and then devaluing them when they feel threatened, rejected, or slighted.

This pattern can lead to unstable and tumultuous relationships, where the narcissist’s view of the other person can change dramatically based on their own needs and perceptions.

Obsession with Money, Status, or Power

Narcissists often obsess over money, status, or power because these external markers serve as tangible proofs of superiority, feeding into their deep-seated need for admiration and validation.

This obsession is driven by their underlying insecurity; by accumulating wealth, status, or power, they attempt to fill the emotional void and inadequacy they feel inside.

Moreover, these symbols of success are tools for manipulation and control, allowing narcissists to exert influence over others and maintain a façade of grandiosity.

Their self-worth is heavily tied to these external achievements, leading them to relentlessly pursue them, often at the cost of personal relationships and ethical boundaries.

This fixation can also make them highly envious of others who possess what they desire, further fueling their competitive nature and need to outshine everyone around them.

Hoovering

Hoovering is a manipulative tactic where a narcissist attempts to reassert control or re-establish a relationship with someone they have previously manipulated or abused.

This often occurs after a period of separation or when the narcissist feels their influence waning.

It involves various strategies, such as feigning repentance, rekindling old emotions, or promising change, to regain dominance or reinsert themselves into the individual’s life.


Tips for Dealing with Narcissists

Dealing with narcissists can be challenging, but there are strategies that can help in managing these interactions effectively:

  1. Don’t Give Personal Information: Narcissists weaponize all personal information. Provide as little information about yourself as possible.
  2. Set Clear Boundaries: Establish and maintain clear boundaries. Be assertive about your limits and consistently reinforce them. Narcissists often test boundaries, so it’s crucial to be firm and consistent.
  3. Avoid Emotional Engagement: Try to maintain a level of emotional detachment when interacting with a narcissist. They often thrive on emotional responses, whether positive or negative. Keeping your reactions neutral can reduce their impact on you.
  4. Focus on Facts and Logic: Stick to facts and logic rather than emotions when communicating. Narcissists can manipulate emotional conversations, but they have a harder time twisting objective facts.
  5. Don’t Take Things Personally: Remember that a narcissist’s behavior is more about them than it is about you. Their actions often stem from their insecurities and need for validation.
  6. Use Simple, Clear Communication: Be concise and clear in your communication. Avoid ambiguity, which can be exploited. Be straightforward in expressing your needs or thoughts.
  7. Limit Your Expectations: Adjust your expectations when dealing with a narcissist. Understanding that they may not respond with empathy or understanding can help in managing your interactions.
  8. Practice Self-Care: Interactions with narcissists can be draining. Prioritize your well-being and engage in activities that replenish your mental and emotional energy.
  9. Seek Support: Having a support system is vital. Friends, family, or a therapist can provide you with perspective and emotional support when dealing with narcissistic behavior.
  10. Document Interactions: In professional or ongoing personal situations, keeping a record of interactions can be helpful, especially if you need to reference specific incidents or patterns of behavior.
  11. Choose Your Battles Wisely: Realize that not every action needs a reaction. Sometimes, disengaging or not responding can be the most effective response.
  12. Educate Yourself About Narcissism: Understanding narcissistic behavior patterns can help you better navigate interactions and reduce personal frustration or confusion.
  13. Avoid Power Struggles: Engaging in a power struggle with a narcissist is often counterproductive. Instead, focus on maintaining your dignity and composure.
  14. Plan Your Exit if Needed: In some cases, the healthiest option is to minimize or end the relationship. If the relationship is toxic and affecting your well-being, planning a safe and strategic exit may be necessary.

Each situation is unique, and these tips may need to be adapted based on your specific circumstances.

In cases of abuse or extreme manipulation, it’s important to seek professional guidance.

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