If you’re dealing with a narcissistic loved one, you probably notice that at the same time they’re raging at you, giving you the silent treatment, or devaluing you, they can be so nice to other people. It’s like watching Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde — one minute they’re saying hateful things to you, and suddenly, they’re talking to someone with such charm and kindness that you almost begin to think you’ve been hallucinating. Why are they like that?
There are several reasons why narcissists behave this way, and all of them are closely related to the nature of narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). Here are 9 reasons why narcissists can be charming to other people while you see their ugly side:
- Narcissists Need Their Narcissistic Supply;
- Narcissists Can’t Keep Up the Charade;
- Narcissists have Known You Longer;
- Narcissists Do It to Boost Their Image;
- Narcissists Need New Social Connections;
- Narcissists Want to Feel Superior;
- It Gives Them Power Over Other People;
- Narcissists Want Fame;
- Narcissists are Seeking Positions of Power in Their Profession.
Read on to learn why the specific traits associated with narcissistic personality disorder result in such variable behavior. It’s critical to understand the way a narcissist thinks to be able to interact with them in a more positive manner.
What are the Key Factors of NPD that Cause This Behavior?
Narcissists lack an internal support system to prop up their self-esteem. When they were children, the experiences they had caused them to come to believe that their true self is hopelessly flawed and worthless.
They buried that true self deep inside themselves, and in its place, they constructed a false self-image. They did that so they could interact with the rest of the world, but the problem is that the false self cannot do the job of a true ego.
We all need our ego to internally support our sense of self-worth, but the narcissist simply has no such internal support mechanism. They buried their ego long ago, and the false self is not a substantive mechanism that can do the job of the true self. That’s why narcissists need other people.
The narcissist must turn to other people in their life to support their fragile self-esteem. They need adulation almost constantly to feel good about themselves, and it is this single factor that drives most of their behavior.
1. Narcissists Need Their Narcissistic Supply
That constant supply of adulation mentioned above is called narcissistic supply. It’s critical for the narcissist to get because it props up their self-esteem. They don’t have any internal mechanisms that can do that job.
That’s why they feel the need to constantly manipulate the people around them so that they will compliment the narcissist and tell them how good they are. It’s important for the narcissist to have people who like them, and so, they have cultivated a very charming nature.
You likely experienced their charming nature early in your relationship, but over time, the narcissist shows their true colors. As retired psychologist Edward Tierney states, “They are not ever really “kind.” Charming, yes, chummy, yes, but you will not see a narc(issist) committing any act of real kindness.”
That brings us to the next few points because narcissists can be very nice and charming in the beginning stages of a relationship, but they can’t maintain that facade forever.
2. Narcissists Can’t Keep Up the Charade
Narcissists are very charming at first, and they are very careful in learning as much as they can about you. They seem supportive, interested, and engaging, but once they feel they know you or have gotten what they need from you, they become increasingly disinterested in your needs, desires, or hopes.
They learn as much as they can so that they can control and manipulate you, but their true focus is always on their own needs. Over time, they turn their attention back to themselves and they seek other sources of that vital narcissistic supply. That means they turn on the charm for other people, but you start to see their true colors and intentions.
When you’ve reached this stage of a relationship with a narcissist, you often see them beginning to devalue you even as they become increasingly nice to other people. You’ll watch as they treat others the way they used to treat you. This is only an indication that they no longer consider you a necessary source of narcissistic supply.
3. Narcissists Have Known You Longer
Part of the reason that narcissists may be treating other people so nicely is often a product of the fact that they have just known you longer. They feel they know what they need to know about you, and therefore, they don’t have to bother turning on the charm with you.
They may turn the charm back on if they feel you are thinking about leaving them behind. They fear abandonment because that puts their narcissistic supply at risk, and so, they can turn the charm back on if need be. But until such a time, they may ignore you or even devalue you, particularly if you criticize them for anything.
It’s also true that the longer you know a narcissist, the more likely you are to see how they really are, and if you do criticize them, they will begin not only to devalue you but to also smear you among shared friends and family members. They want to hurt your credibility so that you can risk their entire network of connections, and to do that, they will ingratiate themselves with everyone else.
4. Narcissists Do It to Boost Their Image
Narcissists will also treat everyone around you nicely in order to boost their image. They want to be seen in general as magnanimous and charitable. They will often do things to boost that image like make a big donation to a particular charity.
They may also denigrate you to show everyone how smart they are or how great they are in comparison to you. All of these are ways they try to boost their image. They feed off of people telling them how nice they are or how helpful. It’s another form of narcissistic supply, and they will do whatever they feel they need to in order to keep it flowing.
5. Narcissists Need New Social Connections
You may also see a narcissist turning on the charm anytime they feel they need to increase their social connection network. They learn that many relationships are transitory. They lose people regularly, but they still need their narcissistic supply.
That’s why they want to have a large social network so that if they lose one source of narcissistic supply, they have another waiting on the sidelines. They cycle through friends and loved ones frequently, and often after they have left you behind, they may return again and try to hoover you back in.
It’s all about the narcissist’s need for adulation so they can feel good about themselves. Without it, they risk the type of mental breakdown known as narcissistic collapse. This is where they have to face what they believe to be an ugly reality about themselves.
6. Narcissists Want to Feel Superior
Having a large social network of friends and family allows the narcissist to manipulate them and compare themselves with them so that they can show everyone how great they are. They will devalue you in front of others so everyone can see how superior they are, and when they’ve used or discarded you, they can move on to someone else.
It’s important to remember that the narcissist has infused their false self with grandiose ideas about their superiority, and they need to continuously prove that. That’s why they will compare themselves to people they think are inferior. They are trying to show everyone else — people they are nice to — just what a wonderful, intelligent, good-looking, and kind person they are.
7. It Gives Them Power Over Other People
Being nice to other people is just one more way that the narcissist manipulates them, and in their own mind, they believe that gives them power over those people. They believe it creates a debt that the other person owes them.
They may feel they have you right where they want you and that they don’t have to be nice to you, but they need to butter these other people up so they can gain the same power over them. They believe they have to continuously manipulate other people into noticing and complimenting them.
When they can successfully do that, not only do they get their narcissistic supply of adulation, they also feel very powerful which only boosts their self-esteem even more.
8. Narcissists Want Fame
Narcissists are continuously striving to be in the spotlight, and that’s one reason there are so many famous people who are also narcissists. They seek fame for their narcissistic supply, but to get it, they often have to charm many people on their way up the ladder.
If you’re in their life as they do this, you might find yourself on the losing end of their temper. They may not see you as important for them to achieve their goals, and so, they won’t feel the need to charm you.
9. Narcissists are Seeking Positions of Power in Their Profession
Another reason you might see a narcissist turn on the charm for other people is if they are trying to work their way up the corporate ladder. They will frequently work hard to charm superiors in their workplace so that they can get promoted into positions of power.
There’s almost nothing a narcissist loves more than having power over other people. They don’t tend to make very good bosses, however, since they will take credit for other people’s work, they will blame others for their own mistakes, and they drive their underlings often too hard.
Despite the fact that they are not good bosses, however, they frequently rise to positions of power simply because they charm their way to the top. They can also get things done because they push their workers to keep going until the project is finished.
It can be frustrating to watch the narcissist in your life treat others the way they used to treat you. It’s easy to fall into the trap of wondering what’s wrong with you, but the problem is not with you. It’s them, and once they think they have you all figured out or have gotten everything from you that they need, they will often show you their true colors.
There’s not a lot you can do to stop them from behaving this way, but you can insist that they treat you with respect. You’ll need to take care of your own feelings and self-esteem, and you’ll need to set firm boundaries to prevent them from treating you badly.
Given the way a narcissist eventually treats you, it’s not unreasonable that you might wonder if they care about you at all. You’ll definitely want to read this article to learn if narcissists care about their family. It will give you additional important insights into how they think.
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