25 Weird Things Covert Narcissists Say

Get the Free Bundle: 47 Productivity and Life Planner Worksheets

There might be affiliate links on this page, which means we get a small commission of anything you buy. As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases. Please do your own research before making any online purchase.

Share this:

One of my boyfriends had been extremely self-obsessed. At first, I believed he was just hyperfocused on his appearance and how people saw him, believing that this was a sign he was insecure. 

I tried to be supportive, but the more time we spent together, the more I began to see that he was ticking some warning boxes with things covert narcissists say. Being self-aware and having studied psychology, I instantly knew that I had to disengage from him for my own sake

Have you ever been with a narcissist or had to work with one? There are certain things they say that will indicate whether they are overtly narcissistic or whether they are covert narcissists. Don’t ignore these, or you may find yourself ticking the victim box. 

Table of Contents

What Is a Narcissist?

A narcissist is someone who is completely self-obsessed. They are so focused on their own standing and being in control that they are insensitive to the feelings of others, not caring whether their own happiness means the unhappiness of others. 

In the narcissist’s mind, their happiness is front and center, and they’ll do unspeakable things to get what they want – to make themselves excel at the cost of others

Narcissists come in all shapes and sizes, and you may be dealing with a lesser type, who is just selfish and emotionally immature, but then on the other end of the spectrum, we find extreme forms of narcissists.

These people verge on being psychopaths, dangerously putting their wishes above everyone else’s basic needs.  

When evaluating whether someone is a narcissist, psychologists may consider the following points:

  • Do they have an absurd sense of self-grandiosity
  • Have they had any fantasies or delusions of power, self-idealization, and leadership?
  • Do they display a belief they are so special that only other special people can associate with them – a form of snobbery? 
  • Is admiration of vital importance to them?
  • Do they have no problem exploiting others for their own gain?
  • Have they exhibited behavior that lacks empathy for others?
  • Are there signs that they believe others envy them? (Victim complex)
  • Is their default behavior to act arrogantly, dominating others? 

While someone would need to answer yes to five or more of these points, even someone who has only a few of these can be a mild form of a narcissist

Covert VS Overt Narcissist

When a narcissist acts openly, they are said to be an overt narcissist. This means they don’t hide their self-centeredness, and they have no remorse for their actions at all.

Usually, an overt narcissist loves the limelight, and their manipulations are fully aimed at shining and getting public admiration. 

The things an overt narcissist says are completely hurtful, aimed at making you bleed so they can shine. They pretend by putting on the “nice-guy” facade, but in reality, they are totally dictatorial with the ones they manipulate. 

A covert narcissist may be a lot more dangerous as you will likely overlook their behavior as being narcissistic.

Instead of being a braggart, like an overt narcissist, a covert narcissist seeks sympathy, and by making you feel bad for being “mean” to them, they gain power over you. They turn your feelings against you

narcissist traits | narcissistic behavior | narcissists
A covert narcissist may be a lot more dangerous as you will likely overlook their behavior as being narcissistic.

Covert narcissists are great at feigning humility and even seeming self-depreciating. However, underneath it all, there’s an ultimate goal to be in power, to manipulate, and to gain control. 

Where you can more easily spot an overt narcissist and stand up for yourself without feeling like a bad person, the covert narcissist sneakily turns your own softness and empathy against you, making you feel like you are to blame in every conflict. 

Your local covert narcissist will be charming, and they’ll use a false vulnerability to control you, making you feel terrible for even doubting them. Gaslighting is a favorite weapon for covert narcissists, and they cause their victims to doubt themselves

The Dangers of Covert Narcissists

Because a covert narcissist is not easy to spot, as they don’t articulate their desire for admiration and belief that they are better than everyone else, they are more dangerous.

People see them as shy, introverted, and in need of love and care. Yet, under all that sheep’s clothing is a wolf, ready to pounce to get what they want. 

A covert narcissist may happily and peacefully coexist with others until they are triggered. Usual triggers that cause narcissistic behavior to amplify and become dangerous include:

  • Having someone ignore them
  • Being disrespected or feeling disrespected
  • Challenges to their ego (which is very fragile)
  • Spending too much time with popular and high-powered individuals
  • Being made aware that they have less than others
  • Feeling jealous (or like something they have is being taken from them)
  • Becoming aware that they feel ashamed (of something, someone, or their own behavior)
  • Not being noticed or given attention (especially by their “comfort person”)

Why Being with a Covert Narcissist Hurts

Most obviously, their behavior and words will hurt you. Despite everything you’ve done for them and all the kindness you’ve treated them with, they will undermine you and cut you down.

Worse still, they know what they are doing. In fact, it’s one of the weird things they do

Being with a covert narcissist hurts because you will feel:

  • Invalidated by their actions and words
  • Manipulated, losing your confidence and self-belief
  • Like you are becoming a narcissist too, as you’re likely to retaliate and copy their behavior
  • Powerless and you will become the victim, which leads to learned helplessness and developing a victim mindset 

25 Things Covert Narcissists Say

There are various things that narcissists say, but the things covert narcissists say are a clear give-away to tell them by, if you know what to listen out for. 

Here are a few things covert narcissists say that you should pay attention to, so you can avoid them and maintain your sanity. 

1. “I don’t always say anything, but I’ve had such a traumatic past.”

These words are used to one-up you in conversations, garner sympathy, and get you on the back foot whenever you confront them. They are ready to play the victim with these words, and they are about to burrow into your empathy nerve. 

2. “That’s not what I said, and as usual, you are putting words in my mouth.”

Whenever you accuse a covert narcissist of manipulation or deviant behavior, they are ready to project your accusations back onto you.

They will claim you heard wrong or that you are the one with problems and so you have twisted their words, but you know what they said. 

By claiming you are falsifying the facts, they cause you to doubt your memory and sanity. 

3. “Nothing I do is good enough! I am so tired of you always judging me.”

Again, the victim card comes into play. The covert narcissist uses sympathy and empathy to get others to back off when they hit too close to the truth.

Instead of answering your questions, they defer blame and make it sound as if you are the critical one, when they’ve been the judge and jury in your relationship since the beginning. 

4. “No matter what, I always get hurt”

Variations of this could include “You don’t think of me and how you’re hurting me” or “What did I do to deserve being blamed for everything?” 

The covert narcissist is great at redirecting focus. You may have tried to discuss their behavior, or tell them how they’ve hurt you, but they easily make things about them, denying your emotions. 

5. “It’s always the same drama with you.”

Being accused of causing drama when you just want to have an adult conversation will take the wind right out of your sails. You are made to feel like a trouble monger, and instead of addressing your concerns, the narcissist redirects the spotlight to you

Feeling like you’ve done something wrong, you’re likely to back off and give in to the manipulation. Plus, you start doubting yourself – “Am I a drama queen?”

6. “Can you tone it down? You always overreact because you’re so sensitive.”

Invalidating your feelings and making you feel like you’re not allowed to feel what you feel are the top weapons of covert narcissists.

They don’t honor your feelings and emotional intelligence, which means they see you like a child, and this insinuates they know what’s best for you. 

Being told you overreact is not only a slap in the face, but it will also make you question the appropriateness of your actions. Self-doubt burrows into your heart and mind, securing the narcissist’s hold. 

7. “You really should learn to trust others.”

Trust is something that’s earned, but when a narcissist uses your concerns against you, it may mean they are manipulating you with accusations. 

Telling a covert narcissist that you don’t trust them or questioning their motives will quickly result in them telling you off for not “having enough faith in humanity,” which signifies that you are paranoid. Soon, you will begin second-guessing yourself

8. “I wish you’d tell me what to say.”

Pretending to be ignorant is how a covert narcissist denies their part in things. They will say they don’t know what you are talking about, that you need to spell it out.

narcissism | narcissist meaning | narcissistic
Covert narcissists are great at feigning humility and even seeming self-depreciating.

But when you do, they will twist words and make it so things are about you, not about their manipulative behavior

9. “Those aren’t my words. You’re not being logical.”

Having the narcissist tell you that you’re imagining things, that you don’t recall what they said correctly, or that you’re making things up is the worst denial of your experiences.

Worse, if they accuse you of being illogical, it means they are effectively telling you off as being crazy

The very sly narcissist will be ready with examples of just how “wrong” you are. These are all very believable, and they will continue twisting things so you end up believing them in your mind. They trap you in your mind, and it may seem there’s no escape.

10. “You’re being utterly ridiculous and unreasonable.”

When we ask something or try to tell someone how we feel about their actions, it’s a vulnerable time for us. The covert narcissist knows this because they are actually vulnerable too, which is why they are so often introverted. 

Using the idea that you’re being unreasonable will cause you to doubt yourself, your motives, and what you are feeling. Feeling foolish, you’ll likely back off, retreating and giving the narcissist more ground in the relationship

11. “This is why people don’t like you.”

It’s human to want to be liked. Having someone close to you (the narcissist) tell you that there’s a reason why people don’t like you hits you on two fronts. Firstly, you are being told you’re unlikable, which means you are “lucky” they like you.

Secondly, you are being blamed for not being likable (according to the narcissist).

You will start to believe their rhetoric, as they will create a very plausible narrative, convincing you they are the only one who likes you, but that your words, feelings, and actions drive people away. 

Instead of standing your ground against their manipulation, you’re going to end up feeling grateful to the master manipulator for “tolerating” you.  

12. “You always use your tears as a weapon against me.”

Crying when we’re upset or emotional isn’t wrong. It’s a normal reaction of our bodies trying to cope with the strong feelings. Being told to deny those feelings and “put away those tears” means the other person doesn’t allow us our feelings. 

They are insensitive, invalidate our experience, and use our feelings as a sign of our weakness. You’ll feel the fool, while they distract you from what made you cry in the first place. 

13. “Why do you always see things the wrong way?”

Do you see things the wrong way, or is it just the narcissist’s way to convince you that you’re wrong, because you don’t see things their way

Either way, you end up doubting how you interpret things. They usually combine this with accusations that you’re too sensitive or negative all the time. The goal is invalidating your experience and logic – as if you’re an emotional and illogical being

14. “Whenever you don’t get what you want, you always turn on the waterworks.”

This is another accusation that you use your tears against them, but it also includes an accusation that you are trying to manipulate them. Narcissists love blaming people of the exact things they are guilty of, such as manipulation and selfishness

With this simple statement, the narcissist is telling you that you are immature and rebellious

15. “I wish you can learn to be more loving and less hateful.”

Narcissists love telling others what to do. If you point out how they have hurt you, they will accuse you of being hateful. They may even say you're behaving in a spiteful way. Being all “helpful,” they will suggest you work on yourself to be more pleasing.

Instead of listening to what you have to say, they tell you off for being hateful, volatile, and paranoid. No wonder you start to self-doubt, giving all your power to the narcissist

16. “Oh, look on the bright side for once!”

Are you being negative? The narcissist has just made you self-doubt, and you wonder if you are just seeing things badly, when there’s really no issue. Perhaps you’ve even lost your mind, right? 

Narcissists are excellent at placing all the blame on you and turning you into a scapegoat. 

17. “Don’t be stupid.”

Being told you are stupid is not only rude but also undercuts you, making you feel small. Whatever you are discussing with them is valid, you matter, and your experience is intelligent.

Having them tell you that you’re stupid is how they push you onto the back foot, leaving you defenseless

18. “See, I told you so.”

When a narcissist tells you that they “told you so,” it’s an effort to prove they were right and you were wrong.

For them, it’s more important to be right than whatever you are going through. They are gratified by your failure, which means they want the worst for you, not the best. 

If someone really loves you and cares about you, they want the best for you

19. “There you go, reading things into something again.”

Having someone make you out to be a fool is a power play. Narcissists want to be in charge, so they use statements like this to embarrass you and make you feel foolish.

Instead of asking whether you maybe misinterpreted something, they are cruelly telling you that you are reading things into “innocent” things and things that aren’t there (except, that’s their version, not yours). 

The suggestion is that you’re crazy, seeing things, or misunderstanding things. 

20. “I can’t love you as my partner/family if you do that again.”

Threats are another way that narcissists get the upper hand. They play on your fears, and by threatening to withhold love, they make you fearful of losing something they “apparently” give you, such as love.

However, conditional love is not real love. It’s control and a sign of a covert narcissist. I’ve often seen this tactic used in families by a matriarch or patriarch to keep their adult children in line and fearful, even long after their kids have left home.   

21. “You can’t tell anyone, okay?”

Secrets are often shared by people who are close. If the secret is genuine and not a manipulation, it’s perfectly okay to show trust and honor the request. 

covert narcissist meaning | covert narcissist quiz | covert narcissists
Your local covert narcissist will be charming, and they’ll use a false vulnerability to control you, making you feel terrible for even doubting them.

However, if the secret is actually told to manipulate you into being complicit in something, you are being played by a narcissist.

When you ask for help, they are quick to make you feel guilty by telling you that they spoke to you in confidence, and you betrayed them

22. “Don’t worry, I’ll be dead soon.” 

Oh, a favorite of narcissistic parents pops up with these words. Many of us have had a parent who’s a covert narcissist, and they use guilt to trip us up.

The insinuation is that you have upset the narcissist so much that they want to die, making you feel guilty. 

Narcissists prey on the empathy of those they manipulate, using emotional blackmail to gain power.   

23. “I am so sorry that your feelings got hurt.”

This is a tricky statement, and don’t mistake it for an apology, because it’s not. The narcissist isn’t apologizing – they’re invalidating your feelings.

By saying they are sorry about your feelings, they don’t own their part in it. Instead, they are insinuating that you are over-sensitive

24. “I’m not going to have this conversation while you’re drunk.”

It’s normal to feel the need to have a drink before confronting someone who has hurt you. A narcissist will latch onto any sign of “weakness,” redirecting and shifting blame. Instead of answering your questions, they focus on what you’ve done “wrong.”

They end up making you feel like you are the problem, not them. 

25. “Well, hello to you too.”

Sarcasm is another weapon in a covert narcissist’s arsenal. If you are upset about something they did, and decide not to address things right now, you may decide not to engage with the narcissist.

However, they will goad you into interaction, even if they have to act sarcastically and suggest you are being rude – remember they change things, so you look like the guilty party

Final Thoughts on Things Covert Narcissists Say

Being with a covert narcissist is painful. It damages your self-esteem and makes you doubt yourself on a daily basis. You may wonder if that person is really a narcissist or if you are just being “soft” and “overly sensitive.” 

However, when you pay attention to the things covert narcissists say, you will realize they are manipulating you and building their self-esteem on the bones of yours. 

Learn more about the toxic deflection tactics of narcissists in our guide and discover ways to protect yourself from narcissistic rage.

And if you're looking for more resources about narcissists and manipulation, be sure to check out these blog posts:

Finally, if you want to identify YOUR personality type, then take one of these 11 personality tests to better understand what makes you tick.

things covert narcissists say | covert narcissist | narcissist
Share this: