Are You Dealing With a Covert Narcissist?

Sometimes narcissists employ coy or sly ways of control. Having no desire for accountability, their tactics can have a stealth manner. We call this covert narcissism.

This quiz includes 20 behaviors common to covert narcissists. Mark “yes” to all that apply. We will use your answers to determine if this person is just experiencing moments of insensitivity or if covert narcissism is a central feature to their personality.

More About Covert Narcissism

Narcissism is associated with traits like self-absorption, strong control tactics, manipulation, a lack of empathy, and more. Overt narcissists leave little doubt about their inclinations toward those traits. They can be rather brash and openly dismissive, and they clearly give you the message that you should be subordinate to their dominance.

But sometimes narcissists can be more coy or sly as they engage with you.  Being clever enough to mask their manipulations, their tactics can have a more stealth manner. They still are selfishly motivated and they want control, but they hide behind a cover of modesty. Often you do not even recognize their narcissism until you have quite a bit of exposure to them. We call this covert narcissism.  

At first, covert narcissists can seem reasonable, even trustworthy. They are often capable of blending well within groups, and they do not display glaringly obvious indicators of personal dysfunction. At least, for a while it could be that way. Yet over time, this person can leave you feeling that there is much to be desired.  You can feel as if there is an agenda or there is a distinct lack of understanding of you, especially in conflicts.  

Attempts to discuss problems may not be very satisfactory since you are not likely to receive a strong commitment to change and adjust. You may be required to adjust, but the feeling is not mutual. Covert narcissists tend to set up relationships where they provoke others to appear adversarial, even though they are the ones who are the more contentious. Only after time do you learn of the depth of their subtle, stubborn commitment to be the one in in control.

Usually these individuals fall into predictable patterns revealing their bent toward narcissism. Because covert narcissism is displayed with a broad range of behaviors, no two people are going to be exactly the same. But by measuring a person’s inclinations, you can get a good indication of the possibilities.