17 Sneaky Ways Narcissists Try To Come Off As Normal

Ever met someone who seemed charming and charismatic at first, but then their true colors started to show?

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Maybe they had an inflated sense of self-importance, lacked empathy, or constantly needed validation. It’s possible you were dealing with a narcissist. Narcissists are skilled at masking their true nature, especially in the beginning. They use various tactics to blend in and appear normal, making it difficult to spot their manipulative tendencies. Here are some of the sneaky ways narcissists try to come off as just like the rest of us.

1. They shower you with compliments and attention.

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Initially, narcissists can be incredibly charming and attentive. They’ll shower you with compliments, gifts, and undivided attention, making you feel special and valued. This is known as love bombing, and it’s designed to win you over and make you dependent on their approval. However, this excessive attention often fades once they’ve secured your affection, revealing their true self-centered nature.

2. They brag about their achievements and exaggerate their successes.

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According to the Mayo Clinic, narcissists have an inflated sense of self-importance and love to talk about themselves. They might brag about their accomplishments, exaggerate their successes, or embellish their stories to make themselves seem more impressive. They crave recognition and admiration, and they’ll go to great lengths to get it.

3. They feign empathy and concern for people.

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Narcissists often lack genuine empathy, but they can be skilled at faking it. They might act concerned about your problems, offer unsolicited advice, or appear sympathetic when you’re going through a difficult time. However, their concern is often superficial, and they’re more interested in using your vulnerability to their advantage.

4. They mimic other people’s behavior and interests.

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Narcissists are chameleons, adapting their personalities and interests to fit in with different groups of people. They might mirror your body language, adopt your hobbies, or echo your opinions to make you feel like you have a deep connection with them. This is all part of their strategy to gain your trust and admiration.

5. They play the victim.

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Narcissists often portray themselves as victims of circumstance, blaming other people for their problems and misfortunes. They might exaggerate their struggles, play up their vulnerabilities, or seek sympathy for minor inconveniences. This victim mentality allows them to avoid taking responsibility for their actions and manipulate people into feeling sorry for them.

6. They use humor to deflect criticism.

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When confronted with criticism, narcissists might use humor to deflect or minimize the issue. They might make a joke, change the subject, or try to charm their way out of the situation. This tactic allows them to avoid taking responsibility for their behavior and maintain their image of superiority.

7. They create a false sense of intimacy.

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Narcissists can be incredibly charming and charismatic, making it easy for them to create a false sense of intimacy with people. They might share personal details early on in a relationship, offer unsolicited advice, or make grand promises of love and commitment. This can make you feel like you have a special connection with them, but it’s often just a manipulative tactic to gain your trust and loyalty.

8. They surround themselves with admirers and enablers.

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Narcissists often surround themselves with people who will boost their ego and validate their behavior. These enablers might be friends, family members, or colleagues who are either unaware of the narcissist’s true nature or are too afraid to confront them. This creates a bubble of reinforcement that allows the narcissist to maintain their grandiose self-image.

9. They’re experts at gaslighting.

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Gaslighting is a manipulative tactic that involves making someone doubt their own sanity or perception of reality. Narcissists are masters of this technique, using subtle comments, denials, and contradictions to make you question your own memory and judgment. They might deny saying or doing something, even when you have clear evidence to the contrary, leaving you feeling confused and unsure of yourself.

10. They use guilt and shame to control people.

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Narcissists often use guilt and shame to manipulate people into doing what they want. They might make you feel guilty for not meeting their expectations, for disagreeing with them, or for simply not being the perfect person they want you to be. They might also use shame to belittle you and make you feel unworthy of their love and attention.

11. They project their own flaws onto other people.

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Narcissists often have difficulty acknowledging their own flaws and insecurities. Instead, they project them onto other people. They might accuse you of being selfish, manipulative, or insecure, even when these traits are more reflective of their own behavior. This projection allows them to avoid taking responsibility for their own shortcomings and maintain their image of superiority.

12. They have a fragile ego.

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Despite their outward confidence and bravado, narcissists often have a fragile ego that is easily bruised. They crave constant validation and admiration, and any criticism or perceived slight can trigger a narcissistic rage. This rage can manifest in various ways, from verbal attacks to silent treatment to passive-aggressive behavior.

13. They’re masters of the silent treatment.

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When things don’t go their way, narcissists might withdraw and give you the silent treatment. This can be incredibly hurtful and confusing, as you’re left wondering what you did wrong and how to fix the situation. The silent treatment is a form of emotional manipulation, designed to punish you and make you feel anxious and insecure.

14. They rewrite history to suit their narrative.

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Narcissists often have a distorted view of reality, Psych Central warns, and they’ll rewrite history to fit their narrative. They might twist the truth, omit details, or exaggerate events to make themselves look better or to blame people for their problems. This can make it difficult to have a meaningful conversation with them, as they’re constantly shifting the narrative to suit their own agenda.

15. They lack boundaries and respect for personal space.

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Narcissists often disregard other people’s boundaries and personal space. They might show up uninvited, overstay their welcome, or pry into your personal life. They might also make inappropriate comments or jokes that make you feel uncomfortable. Their lack of respect for boundaries can make you feel violated and unsafe.

16. They’re never wrong.

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In the mind of a narcissist, they’re always right. They refuse to admit their mistakes, apologize for their wrongdoing, or take responsibility for their actions. They might argue endlessly to defend their position, even when it’s clear they’re wrong. This inability to accept fault can make it impossible to resolve conflicts or have a healthy relationship with them.

17. They discard people who no longer serve their purpose.

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Once a narcissist feels like they’ve gotten what they want from you, or if you no longer provide the admiration and validation they crave, they might discard you without a second thought. This can be devastating, as you’re left wondering what went wrong and how you could have prevented it. Narcissists are often incapable of forming genuine emotional connections, so they have no qualms about cutting people out of their lives when they’re no longer useful.

Harper Stanley graduated from Eugene Lang College at The New School in NYC in 2006 with a degree in Media Studies and Literature and Critical Analysis. After graduating, she worked as an editorial assistant at The Atlantic before moving to the UK to work for the London Review of Books.

When she's not waxing poetic about literature, she's writing articles about dating, relationships, and other women's lifestyle topics to help make their lives better. While shocking, she really has somehow managed to avoid joining any social media apps — a fact she's slightly smug about.