If someone displays these 6 behaviors, you’re dealing with a low-key narcissist

There’s a certain type of narcissist who is just a bit more savvy than the rest. 

This makes them more dangerous too. 

They’re able to come across as selfless and well-meaning to most people. 

But if we look closely, we’ll find a high-level narcissist who will regularly put themself above all else. 

And many of us realize it only when the damage has already been done. 

If you suspect you have a narcissist in life but can’t quite confirm your feelings yet, you’ve come to the right place. 

In this article, I’ll take you through some of the textbook behaviors of the low-key narcissist. 

Once you recognize the signs, you can start taking action. Let’s get to it! 

1) They’re subtly self-centered 

While many of us associate being narcissistic with loudly demanding attention, the low-key narcissist operates a bit differently. 

Perhaps when you converse with them, you’ll find that somehow the conversation is always steered back to themselves. 

They won’t show much curiosity in you, your achievements, or your day; at best they’ll unenthusiastically feign interest by muttering a few monosyllabic phrases. 

Typically, they only get animated when the spotlight is focused on them. 

In which case, you’re merely a pawn, there to humor them and stroke their ego further. 

When you start talking about yourself, as is the natural pace of conversation, they’ll mentally check out, invariably turning their attention elsewhere–like their phone, or begin contemplating what they’ll have for dinner. 

2) They can become passive-aggressive 

When a low-key narcissist is upset with you, they won’t call you out outright. 

Being direct is not exactly their jam. 

Instead, they’ll use passive-aggressive tactics to undermine you and make you feel small; punishment for things not going their way. 

Some of their favorite tactics include using backhanded compliments, giving you the silent treatment (a classic!), withdrawing affection, and conveniently “forgetting” things that they know are important to you. 

They don’t take “being wronged” lightly, and will almost always find ways to exert control in these situations. 

Very cunning. 

3) They’ll quietly manipulate you 

When a low-key narcissist senses easy prey in their vicinity, they tend to take full advantage of the situation.

They move slyly, often going undetected as damage is inflicted on the other person. 

They won’t become overtly controlling or domineering. 

Instead, they’ll pretend to be your friend, making you feel special or wanted, which they know is a ripe breeding ground for getting their way or benefiting from a situation. 

Do you have a certain “friend” who always makes you feel a little off whenever you’re around them? 

Listen to that hunch. 

Take a deeper look into the situation, they may just be manipulating you

I know firsthand that this happens to the best of us. Live and learn. 

4) They often lack empathy 

The term ‘narcissist’ comes from the Greek mythology character Narcissus, who was obsessed with his reflection. 

Hence, one of the more defining traits of the narcissist, low-key or otherwise, is their tendency to almost always put themselves first. 

The latter trait makes it hard for them to feel genuine connection and empathy for other people.

So rather than overtly dismissing other people and their feelings, they may struggle to relate to the emotions of others–something particularly true when they’re stressed or preoccupied. 

Sure, they might throw you a bone when it’s convenient for them, feeling “bad”, but this sentiment is often superficial and shortlived. 

Instead, they will almost exclusively prioritize themselves, whether consciously or not. 

Everybody else comes second, at best.

5) Their self-esteem is fragile

Narcissists often come across as bold, brash, and confident. 

But the thing is, behind the self-assured facade lies a person with a deeply fragile ego. 

I’ve known many narcissists throughout my life. 

One parallel I’ve found is that many of them are experts at handing out criticism or complaints. 

But when things are the other way around, and the criticism, however constructive or mild, is directed at them, they don’t take it well at all. 

In other words, they can dish it, but can’t take it–which makes them hypocrites, in addition to narcissists. 

Not a great combination of traits, frankly. 

Most level-headed people know that having shortcomings is a natural part of life

They know that there’s no such thing as the perfect person. 

Thus, they tend to take negative feedback in stride, often using it as an opportunity to bounce back. 

This is not the case with the narcissist. 

So if you suspect you’re dealing with one, just observe how they react to criticism. 

If they become extremely defensive, perhaps even subtly retaliatory, then it’s clear you have a low-key narcissist in your vicinity. 

6) They get jealous and competitive 

Like other narcissists, low-key narcissists crave the spotlight and being the center of attention

So when that spotlight is shifted away from them, they begin to feel uneasy. 

Let’s say you’re with a group of friends, and one of your friends is getting praised for an accomplishment. 

While most of the group has focused their attention on offering congratulatory remarks and making the person in question feel special, the low-key narcissist will suddenly go quiet, resentful that someone else is getting the attention.

I’ve seen this scenario (or some iteration of it) play out one too many times before. 

Perhaps the narcissist will suddenly become preoccupied with their phone or even walk out of the room in silent protest.

Bottom line: low-key narcissists can get highly jealous and competitive, often feeling threatened by others’ successes in life. 

Not cool. 

Final words 

If you have a low-key narcissist in your life, and they’re someone you value, seek solace in the fact that the vast majority of people are indeed capable of change.

I’ve seen people change before–and I do not doubt that I’ll witness it again. 

But first, the problem (and how it affects others) needs to be addressed head-on. 

So sit them down, and gently lay out your issues. 

If they take offense, nobody will fault you for wanting to walk away.

And if they take it constructively, then that’s a promising sign.

With enough will and commitment, they can eventually start making the necessary adjustments. 

Picture of Clifton Kopp

Clifton Kopp

Welcome to my writings on Ideapod! I'm a bit of a "polymath" in that I like writing about many different things. Often I'm learning from the process of writing. I hope you enjoy, and please leave a comment on one of my articles.

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