With so many negative characteristics, you would think that narcissists wouldn’t have any friends at all, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. We see famous narcissists who appear to have many good friends, but is that the reality or is it an illusion?
One notable characteristic of a narcissist is their ability to turn on the charm. This is how they win many people over, and it’s how they are able to maintain the illusion that they are good, kind people. If you spend any real time with a narcissist, however, that charm fades quickly.
Read on to learn more about how narcissists use charm to create the illusion of good character and to win friends despite their other more negative qualities. Understanding their condition is key to knowing how best to protect yourself from the narcissist in your life.
Why Are Narcissists So Charming?
The problem the narcissist has is that they rely on external validation to prop up their self-esteem. They never developed a healthy ego — or sense of self — that could do that for them. Instead, they created a false self to interact with the world around them.
Their false self, however, can’t sustain a healthy self-esteem, and the narcissist doesn’t have a healthy self-esteem. They appear to be confident to the point of arrogance, but the reality is that buried deep inside is their true self which, because of trauma early in life, they rejected.
When they rejected what they came to view as their worthless true self, they instead infused their false self with grandiose ideas about how wonderful they are. This is what they want to believe about themselves, but what they just can’t believe is true.
Since the false self can’t prop up their self-esteem, however, they need people to externally validate all those grandiose ideas they so desperately want to believe. That’s why they need other people and their charm is the way to get them into their life.
Does the Narcissist Care About Their Friends?
The narcissist uses their considerable charm to lure friends into their social network. As hospital administrator, nurse, and survivor of narcissistic abuse Star Bird notes, “One of the characteristics of NPD (narcissistic personality disorder) is charm. They have the ability to turn it on and capture an audience.”
Once there, they begin the process of trying to manipulate and control them. While it may not be possible to say what the narcissist truly feels about their friends, they need them to give them love and admiration as external validation.
This is called narcissistic supply and the narcissist needs it almost constantly. They need their friends to be telling them how smart, beautiful or handsome, fun, and capable they are to keep their self-esteem afloat. Most people don’t constantly give those kinds of assurances to their friends.
They might think their friends are all those things, but they have their own worries and their own life to think about. The narcissist doesn’t want them thinking about themselves; however, they want them thinking about the narcissist. That’s why they begin to engage in some very disturbing types of manipulation.
Ways in Which a Narcissist Manipulates Their Friends
There are generally two types of manipulation the narcissist will use when it comes to friends. For those friends they admire, they will want to be with them, emulate them, and praise them, even to the point of being a sycophant.
The other type of manipulation a narcissist might engage in among friends is to demonstrate their superiority through comparison. They will point out flaws that friends have as a way to show how superior they are by comparison.
When they admire someone, they believe if they associate with that person, others will admire them too. These are the people who are either obsequious and sycophantic around the narcissist. They are like the kids in school who meekly obeyed the bully in hopes the bully would like them.
That’s actually what the narcissist wants, the person they admire to admire the narcissist. It usually doesn’t turn out that way, however, and when it fails, the narcissist may turn to trying to take them down to demonstrate their superiority.
Their other method of manipulation is to show how great they are by comparison. One thing they will often do, for example, is to point out when friends use words incorrectly or make other minor mistakes. To the people around them, this often seems petty, but in the mind of the narcissist, other people will see how great they are because they know their friend is making mistakes.
Does a Narcissist Discard Their Friends Too?
If you’ve ever been in a romantic relationship with a narcissist, you might be familiar with their icy discard. Once they’ve gotten all they can from you, they will move on, and they usually do that in a very dramatic and cruel manner.
The narcissist is hypersensitive to any kind of criticism because it threatens to reveal them for what they really believe themselves to be. For that reason, if they fear they will be abandoned or if they’ve simply grown bored with a friend, they can decide to discard them and move on.
Just as they would with a romantic partner, they will often orchestrate a dramatic argument that takes place around other people. They will do their best to make it seem as though they’ve been a victim of their friend’s neglect or abuse for too long now and they’ve had enough.
For the friend, this often comes as a complete surprise, and they are unprepared for the vicious nature of the attack. Like romantic partners, they may not have seen this side of the narcissist too frequently if at all. They often don’t know what to say and are left confused by the entire situation.
How Do You Know if Your Friend’s a Narcissist?
This can sometimes be difficult to spot but look for certain clues. Grandiose narcissists are those people who love the spotlight and will do anything to get everyone’s attention. They also often brag about their accomplishments, and you might even see them occasionally bully other people or put them down.
Covert or vulnerable narcissists are more difficult to identify. These are the people who often put themselves down, but beam when you contradict them. These types of narcissists want the same thing as grandiose narcissists, but they go about getting it in a different way.
They might devote themselves to good deeds, for example, but the reason they’re doing that is to get praise for those good deeds. They may downplay their contribution just to get you to disagree with them. As a friend, you’ll notice they always manage to bring the conversation back to themselves. They may also compare themselves favorably though subtly with other people. They might say something like, “I can’t believe she did that! I would never do that.”
Narcissists often seem to have a lot of friends and often those friends think they are good people, but the illusion can’t withstand too much time together. Over time, the narcissist usually shows their true colors and their friends see them for what they really are. The narcissist usually has other friendships they’re cultivating to replace any friends they lose, however, so you needn’t feel too bad for them.
If you think you’ve got a narcissistic friend, you’re going to want to learn more by watching this post about how narcissists treat their friends. If you know what to look for in their behavior, you can more easily identify a narcissistic friend.
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