Updated: Sep 1, 2021
“Tina likes her coworker Janet. However, when they are interacting with their superiors or colleagues, it always feels like Janet has to “one-up” her. It’s a new year, and they are sitting in a meeting with their supervisors and executive team. During the meeting their boss asks about the status of their latest projects. Janet quickly interrupts Tina when she is describing her project… In most meetings, Janet takes over the conversation, their boss focuses on her, and Tina stops talking because she knows she will never be able to finish her sentence. Often, Janet’s comments interrupt the flow of the meeting, and progress is derailed. Janet exhibits similar behavior when they are among their other coworkers. For instance, if the coworkers are in a conversation, it isn’t uncommon for Janet to intrude on the discussion or change the subject to divert the attention onto herself or exhibit flattery for her colleagues. Sometimes, Janet can be lovely to Tina. In fact, she often has nothing but complimentary things to say about Tina when speaking to others. However, this is contrasted by how she minimizes Tina and makes Tina feel like expressing her opinion about Janet’s behaviors would make Tina look bad… Tina often thinks no one would understand that Janet’s self-focused actions steal Tina’s chance to shine and in the end, all eyes stay on Janet.” (The M3ND Project, 2020).
“Susan fell in love with her husband Rob because he was considerate and sweet, always flattering her with compliments and lavishing his love . . . in the beginning. But after a few years of marriage, she noticed that Rob began to mistreat her, almost as if, because they were married, he no longer had a reason to be kind. He criticizes her in disagreements, blames her in arguments, and doesn’t admit when he is wrong or apologize to her. He expects her to apologize profusely to restore peace even if she has done nothing wrong. Rob doesn’t ask Susan how she is feeling or try to help her if she isn’t doing well. He only pays attention to her when he needs or wants something. Susan feels like a servant who has to tip-toe around her master; she knows he will only be nice if she does everything his way. And it doesn’t help that when they are out in public, Rob seems like such a nice guy. People consistently tell Susan how lucky she is to have him” (The M3ND Project, 2020).
What do these two scenarios have in common? Narcissistic behaviors in relationship. If some or all of these experiences seem familiar to you, what do you do?
Take a look at the following steps for help in managing overt and covert narcissistic relationships:
Note: The words “narcissist” and “narcissistic” are used as shorthand to describe
someone who displays narcissistic tendencies.
1. Avoid Taking It Personally. When you are on the receiving end, the manipulation, deceit, disregard, and entitlement can feel very personal—like you are doing something wrong. However, it is important to remember that they have nothing to do with you. While you can certainly “own” your part, the unhealthy behaviors are due to something unhealthy in them.
2. Set Boundaries. Take some time to consider what you value and what is important to you, then create boundaries. If you value time with family, you may need to set a boundary with your boss around answering calls or responding to emails on weekends. If you are dating, you may need to ask for some breathing room—especially if you are an introvert. Because narcissists do not like boundaries, be prepared to consistently reinforce your requests. Boundaries are healthy and let others know what you value and how you would like to be treated.
3. Advocate for Yourself. Speak up for what is important to you. Like boundaries, you may need to first identify your values, goals, and who it is that you would like to become. Then, say what you need. “I need you to not call on the weekends.” “I am happy to listen to you when you speak to me kindly and with respect.” Your words enable the narcissist to see that you will no longer allow their unhealthy tactics. Not easy, but worth it.
4. Create a Healthy Distance. Interacting with a narcissist can be exhausting. When possible, try to create space and time between conversations and collaborations. Maybe consider communicating through email only versus texting and/or calling. Can you move to another part of the building or take breaks more often? In a family, generating distance can be much more difficult. Consider organizing a regular evening out with friends, taking up a new hobby, or joining a group that looks interesting.
While these four general steps will help protect you during any type of contact with someone displaying narcissistic tendencies, if you have been experiencing an intimate relationship with a narcissist (i.e., married, dating, etc.), these four steps may not be enough. The consequences in these situations can be great which is why we will devote next week’s blog to this topic. Areas covered will include accompanying impact, resources, and where to find help.
As always, if you would like more information about navigating a relationship with someone who demonstrates narcissistic tendencies, do not hesitate to reach out to KS Services, LLC for a free 15-minute consultation. We would be happy to answer any questions!
Debbie Rackham, MA
Bee, JR; Verywell. (2020, July 27). How to cope with a covert narcissist. How to recognize
someone with covert narcissism. Retrieved from
Clarke, J. (2020, July 27). How to recognize someone with covert narcissism. Retrieved from
Verywell Mind: https://www.verywellmind.com/understanding-the-covert-narcissist-
The M3ND Project. (2020, January 4). How to spot a narcissist. Retrieved from The M3ND