11 Weird Things That Covert Narcissists Do

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There’s a rather quiet guy at work who is always cracking jokes about his own nerdiness at the staff parties. He seems like a nice enough guy, but when you carefully watch him and keep track of what he says, you’ll find he’s actually very in love with his own presence.  

There are some weird things that covert narcissists do that have me convinced he’s a vulnerable or covert narcissist. Unlike the office bad-boy who believes he’s God’s gift to everyone, the quiet guy won’t loudly tell everyone how fabulous he is.

However, the covert narcissist is still out to get what he wants, especially if it can give him a leg-up on everyone else. 

Have you realized someone is actually a narcissist, even though they’re not loud and obnoxious, only to realize they are out to get the best in every situation? Find out how to watch out for the weird things covert narcissists do right here. 

What Is a Narcissist?

A narcissist is someone who is in love with their own sense of self. While it’s healthy to have a good self-image, the narcissist believes themselves to be perfect and much more important than anyone else on earth. 

No matter the argument, discussion, situation, event, or requirements, a narcissist will always believe they excel at everything and are superior to everyone else. The air of entitlement or superiority of a narcissist is, however, based on a flawed sense of self and a deep-seated weak self-esteem. 

Narcissists love to be in control as it affirms their superior status to those they can dominate. To establish their control, a narcissist will manipulate others, using various psychological tactics to ensure they rise above their victims. 

Essentially, a narcissist sees themselves as better than everyone else

What Is a Covert Narcissist?

A covert narcissist is someone who has narcissistic tendencies, but they have been socially conditioned to hide these as they realize it’s not socially accepted to act superior to everyone else.

Where a regular or overt narcissist actively believes in their larger-than-life status, which is why it’s called grandiose narcissism, a covert narcissist is also known as a vulnerable narcissist

Vulnerable narcissism may manifest as false modesty or shyness in someone. A covert narcissist may seem to have a deprecating sense of humor, often cracking jokes at their own expense, but in reality, they are just convinced they are better than everyone else (just like an overt narcissist does). 

Ultimately, both types of narcissism will pursue a course of action that puts them in first place, while consciously throwing everyone else under the bus.

A covert narcissist may not insist you praise them, but they do actively seek outside approval and will shape their world to get that approval, even if it means they need to play upon your sympathies. 

What Causes Narcissistic Tendencies?

Narcissism has several possible causes. A person may develop narcissistic tendencies due to trauma, bullying, poor empathy development, and a lack of self-awareness. Some people also learn narcissistic behavior from a parent or pivotal person in their life who is a narcissist. 

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Due to their lack of respect for others, they use forgetfulness as an excuse and an insult.

There is also a good reason that many narcissists are sociopaths and psychopaths, which are the next progression in the antisocial personality disorder spectrum.  

Children often show signs of narcissism in their early years, which can be seen in bullying, lying, cheating, and people-pleasing behavior. As the child develops, the narcissist behavior lessens as the child begins forming a stable sense of self.

For some children, they never form a stable personality, which means their childhood narcissistic behavior will become ingrained as true narcissism.

Narcissists aren’t secure in who they are at all, which is why they are abusive and manipulative to others. 

11 Weird Things Covert Narcissists Do

There are a few strange things that can help you identify whether someone is a covert narcissist or not. Of course, not all people who display one or two of these behaviors are narcissists. We are all on a scale with antisocial behavior on one end and extreme social and gullible behavior on the other. 

Some of us have a few tendencies toward narcissism, but that doesn’t make us complete narcissists. 

1. They’re Passive-Aggressive toward People

Ever met someone who seems incapable of giving a genuine compliment? They may act like their behavior is a kind of sarcastic behavior, but they are actually being passive-aggressive toward people. 

You can expect a covert narcissist to be snide in their remarks, using comments that seem nice, but there’s a sting in the tail. Covert or insecure narcissists have a subconscious desire to confuse others and show their lack of respect toward people around them. 

Covert narcissists will text you back the next day, or if you call, they will let it ring before finally answering. They show their lack of respect by passively applying their demands and neglecting the needs of others. 

You can expect phrases, such as:

  • “That dress is so much prettier on you than the one you wore yesterday.” (You looked fat then.)
  • “Don’t take this the wrong way, but I prefer it if Bob does the accounts.” (You’re capable, but I don’t like you.)
  • “I’d invite you over, but I don’t socialize with my colleagues.” (You’re not good enough for me to hang out with.)

2. They Lack Confidence

Where an overt narcissist will take charge and insist on being in the lead, a covert narcissist will cower and not want to make decisions.

At work, your covert narcissist colleague will seem to be absolutely scatter-brained. They will gladly let you make decisions and take the lead, but they are secretly comparing themselves to you, finding you wanting

A vulnerable narcissist may let others lead, but they only do so because they’d rather not slave away for “weaklings” like you. Being friends with a vulnerable narcissist is challenging as you never know when they are genuinely self-deprecating or if they are actually sarcastic and laughing at you behind your back. 

Don’t believe their jokes about their own “flops” or mishaps for a second. They still see themselves as the hero in all the stories of their life. 

You can expect phrases, such as:

  • “I’m terrible at filing papers; can you do it?” (It’s menial work anyway.)
  • “Wow, you are super talented at making coffee; I’m just good at opening a can of soda.” (Coffee making is beneath me.)
  • “I would never have thought of arranging the cutlery drawer like that, but I guess you spend a lot of time in the kitchen.” (Where you belong, right?)

3. Forgetfulness Is a Weapon

“I asked you to make a copy of the document before sending it to the client!”

Ah, while the covert narcissist may apologize profusely, they have no remorse at all. In fact, they forget on purpose, which is their way of giving you and everyone else a finger and acting out their passive-aggressive tendencies. 

Due to their lack of respect for others (I mean, who respects mere mortals when you’re a narcissistic god?), they use forgetfulness as an excuse and an insult

You can expect phrases, such as:

  • “Oh, shucks, I completely forgot. It’s not important, is it?” (I knew it was, but I don’t care.)
  • “You will have to remind me, since my brain is always busy with bigger things.” (You’re not important enough.)
  • “I forgot, so sue me.” (Not interested, so to hell with you.)

4. Criticism Boils Them

Constructive criticism is helpful, and while none of us like being criticized, most of us know that we learn from our mistakes. However, a covert narcissist will get really emotional and even violent, attacking the one who criticizes them and seeing that person as their new best enemy to hate.  

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A covert narcissist will find ways to make their flaws someone else’s fault. 

For a covert narcissist, criticism is equal to someone attacking them, so they will retaliate with more passive-aggressive behavior and manipulation tactics to turn everyone against the other person. 

You can expect phrases, such as:

  • “I can’t believe they think they can judge me like that!” (I’m better than them.)
  • “There’s nothing on earth that I have to do.” (They’re not my peers.)
  • “They probably have fun tearing people down.” (Projecting, but people will believe it of them.)

5. Responsibility and Blame

Since a covert narcissist doesn’t like showing off their weak self-esteem in public, they tend to shirk their responsibilities by blaming others. A covert narcissist will find ways to make their flaws someone else’s fault

They don’t learn, and they don’t think they have to develop or grow as a person or see the lesson in their failures. Instead, they see the world as their enemy and that others are picking on them—they play the victim in a big way.  

You can expect phrases, such as:

  • “Do you really think I would do something like that?” (Making the other person feel guilty.)
  • “Every time something breaks it’s my fault, right?” (Misdirecting blame.)
  • “It’s not my fault; I didn’t have the training that you did.” (So it’s your fault.)

6. I’m Sorry … Not

When someone says sorry, not because they want to apologize but because they want to be forgiven or so they won’t be further punished, it’s a sure sign they’re a covert narcissist. 

An overt narcissist may refuse to apologize, but an overt narcissist is terrified of losing their partner or being further criticized, so they say sorry to get out of trouble, not to make amends. 

You can expect phrases, such as:

  • “I’m sorry, but it was John’s fault that the meeting was canceled.” (Not sorry, and it’s John’s fault anyway, right?)
  • “Please forgive me; I’m sorry you felt hurt.” (But I’m not sorry for hurting you.) 
  • “It was just a joke, so please don’t hold it against me.” (I don’t care if you do, but just let me continue making fun of you.)

7. They’re Liars, Even When There’s No Need

Covert narcissists lie for the fun of it. Lying and getting away with it is a way for them to establish their superiority and have fun at your expense. When they are caught out on a lie, their apologies are insincere and only designed to get them out of trouble. 

You’ll find they lie or make the truth a difficult maze to puzzle out. They almost never come out and just tell you the truth. For them, lying is a form of gaslighting that lets them have fun and destroy your sanity. 

You can expect phrases, such as:

  • “No, I didn’t leave the pen in the dishwasher.” (But I did, so you would have to clean up another mess.)
  • “You had chicken sandwiches yesterday; don’t you remember?” (I know you had beef, but let’s mess with you anyway.)
  • “I thought the connecting flight was at 9 and that we’d make it.” (But actually, I didn’t want to go on this stupid holiday with you, so I booked it poorly on purpose.) 

8. They Love Teaching and Charity

It may seem odd, but a covert narcissist loves to teach others and do charity. You will often find them involved in charity drives, and they enjoy the opportunity to tell others about something they know about, especially if they can pretend to be experts

However, it all comes down to creating a false persona of the knowledgeable and skilled authority figure who will guide others and care for others (since regular people are too pathetic to care for themselves or learn on their own anyway, right?). 

You can expect phrases, such as:

  • “I’d love to show you how to do that.” (Because I know everything.)
  • “My charity portfolio includes these events…” (Look how amazing and kind I am to lesser folk.)
  • “I have a lot of charity photos and information on my Facebook page, if you’d like to learn.” (Go there and be in awe of me.)

9. They Aren’t Interested in You; They’re Just Fishing for Information

Covert narcissists are great at fishing out information. Because they’re not so obviously narcissistic, they have a way of weaseling into your confidence, and before you know it, you’ve told your whole life story to them, except they don’t care; they’re just using you

When they ask about you, it’s not from a place of care or compassion. Instead, they just want to find more evidence that they are better than you. If they can find a weakness in you to exploit later, they will do so. 

You can expect to hear phrases, such as:

  • “Tell me all about you.” (I want to know how much better than you I am.)
  • “How was your weekend? Please share all the deets.” (I don’t care; just want to know if it sucked.)
  • “What do you think of the boss?” (Oh, please tell me so I can undermine you at work.) 

10. Genuine Sharing and Giving Isn’t Natural to Them

A true covert narcissist will find every excuse possible to get out of doing stuff for you. They won’t even want to take care of their sick family member. 

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It may seem odd, but a covert narcissist loves to teach others and do charity.

If they have to do something for you, they will remind you of it as you owe them, and they’ll act resentful (no matter how much you’ve actually done for them in the past).

You can expect phrases, such as:

  • “Help you with the project? Oh, gosh, I’m busy cleaning my kitchen.” (I’d rather do that than help.)
  • “You’re sick? I believe the pharmacy has a delivery service.” (Yeah, not going to inconvenience myself to bring you cough meds.)
  • “A raffle for charity? I haven’t got any change, sorry.” (Not sorry, I’m not wasting money.)

11. Immature Behavior

Covert narcissists will engage in immature behavior, such as whispering under their breath, pulling faces when you’re not looking, or spilling the coffee they bring you. It all comes down to them undermining you and being disrespectful to you. 

You can expect phrases, such as:

  • “I didn’t say anything.” (Actually, I was saying what an idiot you are.)
  • “Oops, did I spill some water on your new laptop?” (Nice, I think that’s gonna cost you.)
  • “Someone keyed your car?” (It was me, and I liked it!)

Final Thoughts on Weird Things Covert Narcissists Do

Covert narcissists are like children who never grew up and became responsible, yet they believe they are better than everyone else, which is why there are weird things covert narcissists do

They may be known as the vulnerable narcissist, but they can be just as dangerous as an overt narcissist. In fact, these covert narcissists can be even more dangerous because they may slip under your radar, catch you unawares, and cause you serious damage in the long run. 

In addition to weird things covert narcissists do, remember to read our guide on the signs of a covert narcissist and how to deal with them.

And if you're looking for more resources on [keyword], 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.

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