How Do Covert Narcissists Argue? 6 Techniques They Use

Medically Reviewed on 1/20/2022
How Do Covert Narcissists Argue
Covert narcissists tend to be passive-aggressive and may use emotional manipulation to win arguments. Here are 6 arguing techniques they use

People with narcissistic personality disorders (NPD) are extremely self-centered, unwilling to resolve conflict in a healthy or mature manner. 

Covert narcissists tend to be passive-aggressive and may use emotional manipulation to win arguments.

6 arguing techniques used by covert narcissists

  1. Arguing in bad faith: Covert narcissists will not try to understand the other person’s point of view, and sometimes even deliberately misunderstand others and use cruel words without feeling bad about it.
  2. Nonsense and fallacies: They may argue using terms or techniques they don’t really understand, thinking they are being reasonable and rational. Sometimes, the argument may be full of incoherent nonsense or factual errors.
  3. Dominates the conversation: Covert narcissists may become aggressive and start to provoke or intimidate you in order to be proven right or have you back down.
  4. Lying and denial: Since they will try to win the argument at any cost, they may lie about what happened and deny facts to confuse you, similar to gaslighting. 
  5. Accusing and projecting: One tactic they may use is to shift attention from themselves to you, blaming you for toxic behavior without acknowledging or addressing their own. 
  6. Gossiping and slandering: Since narcissists have fragile egos, disagreeing with them can make them perceive you as being unfair or unreasonable. In order to get others on their side, they may lie or gossip about you so that people see you as wrong.

What are the different types of narcissists?

There are several types of NPD, but overt and covert narcissism are the two most common:

  • Overt narcissists
    • Grandiose
    • Extremely self-loving
    • Aggressive
    • Has a superiority complex
    • Lacks empathy
    • Extroverted
  • Covert narcissists (vulnerable narcissism or hypersensitive narcissism)
    • Vulnerable
    • Passive-aggressive
    • Quieter and shyer although they still feel superior (secret grandiosity)
    • Unable to handle criticism
    • Craves for appreciation and admiration
    • Wants to be the center of attention
    • Revengeful
    • Introverted

What are the characteristics of a covert narcissist?

  • Psychopathic and sociopathic tendencies
  • Unable to participate in a discussion in a mature way
  • Cannot resolve conflicts
  • Often dominates the conversation
  • Always wants to win
  • Stubborn
  • Dishonest
  • Holds grudges
  • No sympathy or empathy for others
  • Fragile ego
  • Unbalanced self-esteem
  • Always wants to be proven superior to others
  • Expects validation from others
  • Self-made hero or victim
  • Argues, blames, lies, and projects
  • Avoids responsibilities
  • Thinks of themselves as genius, whose worth is not understood by this world
  • Jealous and envious
  • Unable to build long-term relationships

Tips for dealing with a covert narcissist

  • Do not blindly believe what they say or do
  • Do not get embarrassed or offended by their abusive comments
  • Avoid trying to make them realize their flaws, as this will be fruitless
  • Never expect an apology from them
  • Protect your personal boundaries
  • Walk away if the manipulation gets overwhelming


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Medically Reviewed on 1/20/2022
Image Source: iStock Images

Brennan D. Narcissism: Symptoms and Signs. WebMD.

Smith M. Narcissistic Personality Disorder. HelpGuide.

Caligor E, Levy KN, Yeomans FE. Narcissistic personality disorder: diagnostic and clinical challenges. Am J Psychiatry. 2015 May;172(5):415-22.