Identifying Narcissists: Blink and You’ll Miss These 10 Subtle Signs

How easy is it to recognize a narcissistic personality disorder in a person?

Narcissism has become a big, buzzy word over the past couple of years. However, the signs you’re dealing with a narcissist can be quite subtle, especially at first.

When you’re able to spot the signs, it can help you be better prepared to deal with whatever situation you find yourself in, especially if the relationship is ongoing, such as with a family member or a coworker.

According to experts, narcissism is a personality trait, but it can also be an element of a personality disorder called narcissistic personality disorder. In some cases, narcissism can be overt or sneaky. Blink once, and you can easily miss the signs that are right under your nose.

The continuum of narcissistic personality disorder means that not everyone exhibits overtly grandiose or exploitative behavior. Many engage in personal and social relationships with a more understated form of narcissism. This can be more difficult to detect, and sometimes it can be frustrating because it isn’t as obvious.

However, subtle doesn’t mean harmless, which is why it’s important to recognize the easier-to-miss signs of narcissistic personality disorder. Keep reading to discover them!

narcissistic personality disorder
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1. Inflated confidence

Confidence can be a great thing—even something to celebrate. However, narcissists can take it too far. While confidence is about self-assurance, a subtle indicator of narcissistic personality disorder is when someone’s confidence is so huge that it crosses into a realm where they consistently imply they are better than and superior to others.

For example, during a group project, a person may subtly undermine others’ inputs or ideas, positioning their suggestions as inherently more valuable or insightful, even when unwarranted.

2. Every conversation is about them

Conversations may be a two-way street, but they always end up at a certain point when dealing with someone with narcissistic personality disorder. Given their grandiose sense of self, people with narcissistic traits will typically find a way to make any conversation about themselves.

They may listen intently to you when you’re sharing a story, but they will always find ways to insert themselves into the discussion with their experiences and perspectives. Over time, you will notice this pattern of behavior.

3. Disregard for others’ feelings

Empathy is a desired trait we all wish to find in friends and romantic partners—it helps meet both people’s needs. However, individuals with narcissistic personality disorder lack it. Sometimes, it’s crystal clear. Other times, the lack of empathy in people can be a bit more subtle.

For example, you may be expressing your concerns or feelings about a situation to a narcissistic friend, and instead of truly paying attention and listening to you, they may interrupt your train of thoughts and offer you dismissive and often useless advice, such as “That doesn’t sound that bad; you should get over it” or “It will be fine.”

You’ll want to look out for this lack of empathy or care and use it as a red flag, which can work in conjunction with some of the other signs on this list. The more boxes that person ticks, the more likely it’s that they’re a narcissist.

4. Fishing for compliments

We’ve already seen that narcissists can exude all sorts of self-confidence, but this doesn’t mean that they don’t want to hear how good and awesome they are. In fact, some people with narcissistic personality disorder thrive on hearing others compliment them. That’s why narcissists often seem to consistently be on the hunt for compliments.

Like other signs on this list, this one can be pretty subtle. This need for compliments might show up in seemingly innocent ways, like cleverly crafting scenarios where others are compelled to compliment them or constantly steering conversations toward their success.

A narcissist who constantly shares detailed stories of their achievements is seeking a compliment under the guise of seeking advice.

Keep reading to discover other subtle signs of narcissistic personality disorder!

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5. Boundaries—what boundaries?

Boundaries are extremely important when it comes to protecting your mental and physical health. Sadly, narcissists really struggle with respecting them. While this is very common among individuals with narcissistic personality disorder, it isn’t always clear as day that constantly pushes other people’s boundaries.

People with subtle narcissistic tendencies may disregard personal boundaries, but not because they overtly refuse. They simply forget or choose to overlook them. For instance, you might have a friend or family member who repeatedly texts or calls you during times you’ve specified you’re unavailable, but they still do it, saying that they “just want to talk.”

6. Constant blaming

No one is perfect. Yet, it can feel like you are around someone who sure thinks they are when dealing with someone with a narcissistic personality disorder. This is often seen both in work environments and more informal situations.

A narcissistic partner may always find a flaw in their significant other actions or achievements. A coworker may haven’t performed well on a presentation, and instead of owning up to their shortcomings, they would blame their coworkers for not reviewing their work more carefully or providing better research.

7. Never apologizing

This one is quite similar to the blame game. If you think you’re dealing with someone with narcissistic traits, take a second and ask yourself if you’ve ever heard them say, “I’m sorry,” or show remorse or a desire to make things right.

If a narcissist does something that you don’t like or disapprove of and you ask for an apology, they will likely not offer you an apology. This is because they may not think they’re doing anything wrong and may even try to gaslight you.

People with narcissistic personality disorder don’t see any point in apoligizing. They don’t care what other people think, so there’s no point in them apologizing for their behavior.

Their narcissism leads them to believe that the world revolves around them, and so anything they do is because they think they’re in the right by default. They’re always right because they’re the ones doing it. Right?

Wrong. Good luck trying to tell them that.

8. Struggling with criticism

People with narcissistic personality disorder hate criticism, whether it’s constructive or not.

Let’s be honest; a lot of people struggle with criticism, though that’s often because we can be harsh with ourselves and take criticism personally. Keep in mind that there’s a huge difference between constructive criticism, which one can use to improve and do something better, and unconstructive criticism, which is usually more of a personal attack.

For most of us, constructive criticism can be a good thing, but narcissists always lump it in with unconstructive criticism and ignore it.

The reason for that is that they see themselves as the best around; they don’t think they need to take input and advice from anyone else. Luckily for the rest of us, this one is their loss. If narcissists don’t want to become better people, that’s on them.

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9. Lack of long-term friends (or friends in general)

People with narcissistic personality disorder don’t have many long-term friendships for fairly obvious reasons. Would you want to be friends with one, given everything you’ve learned about them in this article?

Not only is it hard to be friends with a narcissist, but experts also point out that people with narcissistic personality disorder don’t really want long-term friends. They only seek friendship if they have a use for it, and as soon as those friends are no longer valuable, they ditch them.

To top it off, narcissists are generally well aware of how others perceive them, even if they don’t actually care a fig. Like criminals, they know that the best thing for them is to keep moving, because staying with one social circle for too long will eventually make word spread. The result? They will find it harder to manipulate people.

10. Manipulating people

Manipulation is another hallmark of someone with narcissistic personality disorder because they see nothing wrong with controlling others in order to get what they want.

The intricacies of this manipulation can vary from narcissist to narcissist. Some make it plainly obvious and some don’t, but the general idea is the same. They will use gaslighting, emotional blackmail, and other manipulative strategies to use people in order to achieve their goals.

This is obviously unpleasant to be on the receiving end of. If you’re dealing with manipulation at the hands of someone with narcissistic personality disorder, don’t be afraid to stick up for yourself. It may be hard at first, but it gets easier as you do it. The narcissist is relying on you to not do so, and chances are they’ll back down.

Keep in mind that most narcissists manipulate people, but that doesn’t automatically mean that everyone who manipulates others is a narcissist.

If you liked our article on narcissistic personality disorder, you may also want to read How to Spot a Sociopath: 8 Signs That Confirm the Disorder. Also, here’s a book that can help you start giving yourself permission to let go of narcissistic people’s hold on you.




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