Post written by: Veronica Welles, Quora
In my experience, there is only one sign I always look for to discern a covert narcissist. The other red flags will pick up narcissists, but they pick up the overts or malignants.
But there is one thing, yes one thing, that is simultaneously so subtle that it makes coverts fly under the radar, and also the one thing which is what makes a covert narcissist a covert narcissist. In other words, this one thing makes coverts different from all the other types of narcissists. It is their signature.
It’s switching off.
Coverts switch off. They practice:
- pretend not paying attention
- pretend not hearing you
- pretend misunderstanding you
- pretend there is something wrong with you when you talk about something serious and dear to you (e.g. reframes you as bitter and unable to let go when you share insights on narcissism etc. -> covertly tearing you down by twisting your perspective)
- pretend superiority (e.g. I forgave my narcissist, therefore I’m superior to you, you wouldn’t talk so much about your narcissist if only you would forgive them, you should forgive, for your own sake, never let the narcissist change you, I choose love, I choose forgiveness, I choose not to hate, no one is evil, everyone deserves compassion, we are all the same, there is humanity in everyone, etc. -> blowing their own trumpet)
- not pick up the phone
- convenient unavailability or inaccessibility
- run away from fights they started with their covert antagonisms and microaggressions
- always have nothing to say in response to what you just said (covertly deflating you and degrading you by refusing to reflect back to you sanity and gravitas; it’s as if their attitude is always ‘you just said something stupid, I’m not going to honor that with a response’ to everything you enthusiastically share or say)
- or they will always give a lackluster or subtly negative devaluation or degradation response to your happy, exciting, inspiring experience
- not be courteous when courtesy is appropriate and expected
- always being the unavailable shoulder for you to cry on only when you have dramas in life (only unavailable when you need them, this is not a fairweather friend, it’s weaponized withholding)
- after you tell them your sob story, they make sure they never say a word to console you (e.g. ok, bye!)
- you call, the covert narcissist picks up the phone, you want the covert narcissist to pass a message to someone else, just as you start telling your message, the covert narcissist pretends you’ve finished and says ‘ok bye!’ and starts hanging up, forcing you to scream for them to wait and not hang up on you
- making promises just so they can abuse through failing to come through
- making sure they don’t inform you when they go on extended vacations, so that you will call them on the phone, still expecting to make a date for lunch, but there’s no one home to pick up, should you call the police and report missing persons?
- making sure they cancel plans on you at the last minute, while making sure you never get wind of it any earlier, to create the greatest last-minute upset (this is worst when there are plane tickets involved)
- frustratingly not give any response or acknowledgment whatsoever when it is appropriate to the situation – the mannikin routine (this is always deliberate, make no mistake, it just appears like an accident each time for maximum plausible deniability)
Coverts practice weaponized switching off.
They are like a demonstration prototype that always refuses to work at the convention in front of the investors — or the cartoon frog that only sings when there’s no audience and switches back to ‘ribbid’ when an audience gathers to listen. Or a mannikin that comes to life when the lights are off, dances, holds parties, then freezes back into position when lights come on, or Toy Story.
This is a peculiar form of passive-aggressive crazymaking particular to covert narcissists.
Learning to recognize weaponized switching off will allow you to spot covert narcissists early.
Most people are trained to dismiss and overlook weaponized switching off because it is very highly plausibly deniable, but secondly, because they did not suspect the nature of covert narcissists. This causes them to impute more decency in the covert narcissist than they possess.
When being the recipient of weaponized switching off, something will feel odd to your gut. That’s because your gut senses that the covert narcissist is missing cues. This missing cues is deliberate. Missing cues is something the covert narcissist cannot help doing because their nature is antagonism and hatred, and refusing to behave appropriately by honoring the subtle cues of interaction is how they rebel and live out their intrinsic hatred (don’t mistakenly do this to people in the Asperger spectrum, or those who are depressed, or those suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome, or Alzheimers or dementia, or who lack sleep).
It’s hard to explain, and easy to dismiss. But you will feel erased to various degrees in their presence.
The point of switching off is to refuse to acknowledge your personhood. They are not switching off to conserve battery. They are switching off to micro-antagonize you. As you get to know them better and better, they will switch from micro-antagonisms to bigger and bigger antagonisms, and it tends to happen along the lines of withholding, denial, avoidance. Malicious suppression.