People who display these 9 behaviors are probably low-key narcissists

I don’t know about you, but the more I learn about narcissism, the more selfish traits I discover in those around me.

However, we should bear in mind that not everyone who possesses a ​​narcissistic trait or two is a full-blown narcissistic. 

Many things can make us come across as entitled and selfish. For example, someone pushing past you in a queue could simply be in a rush to return to a sick relative they are caring for.

So, to avoid painting everyone with the “narcissist brush,” take some time to observe how many selfish behaviors they possess.

If you notice several of the following signs in someone, and on more than one occasion, your suspicions of them being a low-key narcissist are probably correct.

1) Dominating conversations

One of the most known traits of narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is a high sense of self-importance.

Narcissists see themselves as better than everyone else, and as a result, they think their needs, wants, and opinions are the only ones that matter. 

You’ll see this grandiosity trait in their behaviors when communicating with others.

They want to dominate their conversations, so they often speak so much that the other person can’t get a word in edgeways.

And they only speak about themselves.

When you’re speaking with a narcissist, you’ll notice how they never ask questions about you or your life.

Instead, they will demonstrate the following behavior…

2) Bragging and showing off

Narcissists have what is known as “fragile self-esteem.” While they appear extremely self-assured, they do struggle with confidence sometimes.

And the problem is narcissists cannot validate themselves. So, if they feel unworthy, they will seek validation from others.

How do they do this?

By bragging.

Bragging is when someone over-emphasizes their achievements or possessions to gain admiration from others.

For example, they show off their new expensive watch, hoping you will tell them how beautiful it is and how lucky they are to afford it.

Or they will boast about how much money they earn, trying to impress you with their social status, wealth, and skills. 

By bragging and showing off in this way, they gain what psychologists call a “narcissistic supply.”

According to clinical psychotherapist Dan Auerbach, narcissistic supply is the emotional sustenance narcissists seek to maintain high self-esteem. 

Another way low-key narcissists can get their narcissistic supply is by proving they are better than others, which is why you’ll likely notice the following behavior… 

3) Making everything competitive

Teamwork is something narcissists struggle with.

Instead of seeing their colleagues as teammates, they see them as the enemy.

So, a typical behavior of a low-key narcissist is the inability to work in a team. 

During teamwork, narcissists typically cause a lot of tension as they start to compete with their teammates. 

A narcissist always wants to prove they are the most skilled and knowledgeable person and, thus, should be the leader and decision-maker. 

And if someone else comes up with a good idea, they will feel jealous and annoyed that this person stole the spotlight.

This will then lead the narcissist to try to get one up on that person, even if they are on the same side as them.

And when they’re in a situation where there really is competition, well, a narcissist will make it their mission to destroy their competitors. 

4) Lacking patience

Because narcissists have such a high sense of self-importance, they don’t understand the concept of being patient and waiting their turn.

They can often act like children, wanting their way and wanting it now.

They also lack empathy and cannot see things from other people’s perspectives.

As a result, they end up in all sorts of drama, like:

  • Arguing with someone in front of them in a queue who is taking too long
  • Getting road rage in traffic jams
  • Shouting at service staff 

And if things still don’t go their way?

Well, expect outbursts of anger with phrases like “Do you know who I am?”

Another way they may try to regain control in a situation like this is with the following behavior…

pic1967 1 People who display these 9 behaviors are probably low-key narcissists

5) Manipulation

Narcissists use manipulative tactics to gain control and power over others

The mind games they play work by lowering the person’s self-esteem so that they are more likely to meet the narcissist’s selfish wants and demands. 

One typical manipulative behavior is gaslighting. This is when a narcissist tries to make the other person doubt their own memory, perception of reality, or sanity. 

If someone is doing this to you, they might:

  • Twist your words to make it seem like you are saying something you are not
  • Give a version of events that was different from reality, claiming you remembered it wrong
  • Deny that something happened at all
  • Withhold critical information so that you are unaware of the truth

So, if someone often makes you think that you are overreacting or going crazy, you’re probably dealing with a low-key narcissist.

6) Criticizing others

Remember I said that narcissists have fragile egos?

Well, one way they give themselves an ego boost is by putting others down.

By criticizing others and highlighting their flaws, they project their own insecurities onto them.

To a low-key narcissist, this behavior takes the focus away from their insecurities and directs it to the flaws of someone else.

It is often also a self-protection mechanism. 

Two Israeli psychologists studying narcissism found that narcissists have a heightened sensitivity to social rejection.

To prevent receiving social rejection, they purposely highlight the flaws of others, making those people more at risk of being rejected or ridiculed. 

However, low-key narcissists often criticize others in subtle ways rather than directly.

For example, they might dish out backhanded compliments, which is also linked to the following behavior…

7) Passive aggression

Passive-aggressive behavior is a form of manipulation that narcissists use to gain control and power in situations.

Passive aggression is when someone communicates their feelings by hinting at them rather than stating them directly.

For example…

A low-key narcissist in the workplace might use a backhanded compliment like:

“You’re smarter than I thought.”

Another form of passive aggression that narcissists use in relationships is giving silent treatment.

Essentially, passive aggression is when a narcissist becomes hostile because they didn’t get their way or because someone else is in the spotlight.


It comes down to the narcissistic trait of grandiosity and entitlement. 

By resorting to passive-aggressive behavior, a narcissist tries to “even the score” and gain back the attention/admiration they desire.

Another way they may do this is by passing blame, which links to the next behavior…

8) Avoiding responsibility

Suppose someone cannot accept responsibility for their mistakes or see when they are at fault. In that case, they might lack emotional intelligence and maturity, or they might be a low-key narcissist.

In the case of the latter, they avoid responsibility because they always see themselves as the victim.

Several research studies have found a link between narcissism and a victim mentality.

This 2003 study published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin is one example. 

Here, researchers found that individuals who possessed several narcissistic traits were more likely to see themselves as victims than those without narcissistic characteristics.

Similarly, in this 2020 qualitative study that looked at the impact of narcissism on relationships, researchers spoke to the relatives of people with NPD. 

Many participants reported that their relatives often believed they were the victim of attacks from others or that others were trying to take advantage of them.

Therefore, if you try to confront a narcissist about something they did wrong, they will instantly see it as an attack.

To turn the attention away from them, they will make up an excuse that involves blaming someone or something else.

For example…

They might say, “I wouldn’t have gotten angry and shouted at you if you had just listened to me.”

9) Inability to accept feedback

Finally, narcissists love to criticize others, but they cannot stand it when someone criticizes them, even if it’s in the form of constructive criticism. 

To a narcissist, any feedback is a personal attack, which, of course, threatens their fragile ego. 

So if you try to give a low-key narcissist feedback, you will notice them respond extremely poorly by:

  • Becoming extremely defensive and turning the tables on you
  • Passing the blame as described above
  • Dismissing you and then giving you silent treatment

While no one likes to get negative feedback, to a narcissist, it is highly damaging as it threatens the image they have created of themselves as being perfect and superior.

Final thoughts

Did this list of low-key narcissistic behaviors confirm your suspicions?

Or did you realize that the person you thought was narcissistic may have just been having a bad day?

Identifying a narcissist is never easy, as their behaviors are often pretty subtle. However, I find the best way to spot low-key narcissism is by looking for patterns among these cunning actions.

Because while we all have bad days, only narcissists continually repeat these behaviors.

Picture of Gemma Clarke

Gemma Clarke

I am a certified yoga and mindfulness teacher and an experienced content writer in the spirituality and personal growth space. I’m passionate about sharing my expertise through the power of words to inspire and guide others along the path of personal and spiritual development.

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