20 tactics narcissists use to convince everyone they are a good person really

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One of the most insidious things about dealing with a narcissist is how well they fool everyone around them.

So, how do they manage it?

You can bet they use at least some of these tactics to deceive and manipulate anyone who isn’t their victim:

1. Charm offensive.

Narcissists tend to be some of the most charming people you’ll ever meet. They’re dazzlingly charismatic, and often ensure you feel like the center of their universe when you’re interacting with them.

They do this to make a spectacular first impression on new people since they need a constant stream of adulation and positive energy. But those who have been in their company for some time are already wise to their wiles.

2. Feigned empathy.

It’s rare for a narcissist to feel real empathy, but they’re masters at pretending to.

These performance artists know just how much to furrow their brows, nod, murmur sympathetically, and offer physical reassurance to make it seem like they care about what others are going through.

This feigned concern gives the impression they’re amazingly kind and caring, but it’s all contrived.

3. Gift-giving.

Most people love to receive gifts, and narcissists are master gift-givers. They do thorough research to find out what a person would appreciate most, and then get something sure to impress. Their goal is twofold: to appear altruistic, and to gain favor.

When someone gives us a present, we generally feel obligated to reciprocate. As such, narcissists give extravagant gifts in the hope that the other person will offer something even more impressive in return.

4. Mirroring.

One major tactic suffered by those who fall prey to narcissists is that upon first meeting their abuser, they seem to have so much in common, and feel immediately comfortable with them—like they have ‘known them forever’.

This is because narcissists mirror the interests, opinions, traits, and behaviors of those around them. They seem familiar because they are: they’re trying to be just like you, to win your favor.

5. Public praise.

It’s often excruciating to watch narcissists lavish praise on others in public when all they do is insult and belittle their victims behind closed doors.

They become very different people when others’ eyes are on them, leading to a public perception that they’re kind, generous, virtuous individuals.

This misconception often results in their victims not being believed when they ask for help. Those who’ve been charmed simply cannot believe the abuse is real.

6. Victimhood.

Just about every narcissist you meet will have a heartbreaking story of how badly they’ve suffered. This might be depicted as other people’s cruel behaviors or unfair circumstances in which they had no input, but instead were victims of others’ wrongdoing.

They do this to gain support and sympathy, but they often refrain from sharing too many details just in case anyone delves into their past and finds inconsistencies.

7. Community involvement.

Many narcissists are very active in charitable or philanthropic work. This isn’t because they have a vested interest in other people’s well-being, but because they love to be seen as devoted and altruistic.

Essentially, they’re charitable and loving if it serves their purpose and builds a reputation of being a wonderful person deserving of admiration.

8. Selective respect.

Narcissists are immensely respectful toward those they feel can benefit them.

Although they may be argumentative or belligerent with others, they’ll turn into meek little kittens in the face of authority, or people in power they wish to ingratiate themselves to. If you aren’t important to them, however, you might as well not even exist.

9. False humility.

Narcissists are desperate for praise, as their egos thrive on getting sufficient attention for their achievements, their appearance, and so on. That said, they’ll always ensure they downplay said accolades with false modesty.

It’s just as important for them to appear humble as it is for them to be admired and respected. They wouldn’t want to be perceived as narcissistic, after all.

10. Exaggerating good deeds.

You’ll never get the truth out of a narcissist because they’re always painting themselves in the best light possible.

As such, they often exaggerate their roles, good deeds, contributions, and so on, to put themselves on a pedestal for others to admire. Furthermore, if there’s any negative association with the subject in question, it’s always someone else’s fault.

11. Triangulation.

Since narcissists love to play peacemaker, they’ll often cultivate scenarios that cause tensions between two other people, such as implying some slander between them, which will upset them both.

This allows the narcissist the opportunity to step in to fix things. They get a reputation for being a reasonable mediator who does a world of good in the midst of chaos.

12. Playing the hero.

Narcissists love to be the hero in a situation, and if they don’t come across a ‘white knight’ opportunity naturally, they’ll create one so they can leap in and save the day.

For example, if they feel their position is slipping at work, they may sabotage a project in such a way that only they know how to fix it. By proving themselves indispensable, they get back into everyone’s good books again.

13. Intellectual bullying.

Many narcissists cultivate a sense of smug superiority due to their intellect or accrued knowledge. They use it to impress those with whom they wish to build a rapport, while simultaneously using it to belittle and dominate those they consider inferior.

If they’re ever mistakenly condescending to a perceived superior, they try to make amends via pandering and apologetic gift-giving, to make up for the offense they caused.

14. Social influence.

Narcissists tend to have herds of ‘flying monkeys’ around them at all times. These are sycophantic hangers-on who the narcissist has deceived and manipulated to do their bidding.

As such, if the narcissist receives pushback from one of their victims, they have protective warriors ready to step in and defend them against reality.

15. Flattery.

When a narcissist is trying to seek someone’s approval, they’ll generally approach them with flattery. Since they try to make a lasting, positive first impression, they’ll tell the person how much they admire them or their work, hoping for an opportunity to pique their interest.

If they seem receptive, the narcissist has an ‘in’, and can continue to ingratiate themselves accordingly.

16. Blame-shifting.

Narcissists are DARVO masters and will shift blame to everyone else around them when things go wrong. They’ll deny any wrongdoing, put themselves in a defensive, victim position, and behave as though others are absolute monsters for trying to pin blame on them.

They have a lily-white reputation to uphold, and being held accountable for their actions doesn’t mesh with that.

17. Strategic vulnerability.

Narcissists are vulnerable when it suits them. They carefully cultivate the stories they share about themselves, being very selective about the details they do and don’t divulge, to reap the greatest benefit.

They’ll share just enough to make the story seem truthful—but omit key details that may paint them in a bad light—in the hope of eliciting empathy and emphasizing their integrity in contrast to others’ mistreatment of them.

18. Moral posturing.

Many narcissists throw themselves into causes deemed moral by others, to gain admiration and respect for their principles and righteousness. This is a facade, however, and they’re hypocritical with their behaviors.

An example might be someone who claims to be a stalwart vegan and animal rights activist, but who buys personal care products tested on animals because they benefit them personally.

19. Association with goodness.

Remember that narcissists need to feel treasured by those around them, so they’ll often align themselves with groups that are considered noble and virtuous.

We’re often judged by those we’re allied with. So narcissists align themselves with noble organizations that do immense good, to be held in high regard by association.

20. Damage control.

In addition to DARVO, narcissists find ways to discredit their accusers if anything negative arises.

They often collect information on people as they get close to them, and then share sordid details to cast shade on those who ‘speak ill’ of them and to distract their naysayers from the situation at hand.

Once the accusations have been derailed, they turn the charm back on and remind everyone of how wonderful they are. Most people fall for this and chalk the negativity up to a silly misunderstanding.


If you come across several of these traits and behaviors in someone, be on your guard. This person may not have you in mind as a potential victim, but you’d be wise to be wary of them, nonetheless.

About The Author

Catherine Winter is an herbalist, INTJ empath, narcissistic abuse survivor, and PTSD warrior currently based in Quebec's Laurentian mountains. In an informal role as confidant and guide, Catherine has helped countless people work through difficult times in their lives and relationships, including divorce, ageing and death journeys, grief, abuse, and trauma recovery, as they navigate their individual paths towards healing and personal peace.