How to Influence a Narcissist: The Covert Type (Part 5 of 5)

Narcissists have a relentless desire to compete. They’re also highly jealous. If you’re unknowingly in a competition with a narcissist, you’re in a vulnerable position.

As we wrap up this series on how to influence a narcissist you’re tethered to professionally or personally, let’s turn to the type we haven’t addressed: the covert narcissist.

Covert narcissists are two-faced. They mask their competitive feelings toward you until one day, seemingly out of nowhere, they unleash a ruthless attack and strike like a King Cobra.

You’ll be shocked.

The covert narcissist is passive aggressive in their wrath and punishment. Unlike the overt narcissist who blatantly bullies and intimidates, this type will either guilt trip you or give you the silent treatment before they berate you into submission.

They are exceptionally skilled at playing the victim card—they’ll take the tiniest perceived slight and exaggerate it from a molehill into Mt. Everest.

So how do you ward off their attacks when they’re so stealth?

First, study their sidekick.

The covert narcissist nearly always indoctrinates a sidekick—a confidant whom they see as an extension of themselves.

Their sidekick will not be narcissistic. Instead, they’re generally a conscientious person tasked with doing their dirty work. The sidekick is likely anxious and wants to keep the peace.

The sidekick’s behavior toward you is telling and can often preclude an attack.

If they seem weirdly uncomfortable around you or start avoiding you, that’s a red flag.

Use this as an early warning system. Be extra careful what you say or do around the narcissist as a result. Radar up!

Here’s another warning sign:

A covert narcissist may try to set you up by misleading you into revealing something.

For example, they may say they want “your honest evaluation” of something.

But they’re setting a trap.

A narcissist doesn’t want honesty—they want admiration and power. If you take the bait and deliver anything less than glowing feedback, they’ll twist your words and weaponize them against you.

What do you do if you find yourself up against a sneaky narcissist?

Stay calm and follow the “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me” proverb.

Give yourself a break.

You didn’t see it coming because they snuck up on you—that’s why they’re called covert. They’re snipers, lying in wait.

You didn’t cause their narcissism issue and you can’t fix it.

Instead, the most important person to influence in this situation is YOURSELF.

Stay centered.

I hope this series has been helpful. If you want a deeper dive, I’ve written about narcissism in both of my books, “Talk Less, Say More” and “Become the Real Deal.” Why? Because I learned these lessons the hard way.

Thank you for reading. Now it’s onward to my next series: Leadership Influence in the Age of Uncertainty.

See you next time!

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Globally recognized as the leading voice in leadership influence, Connie Dieken helps C-suite and senior executives use scientific insights to elevate their influence and presence.


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