Someone with NPD or narcissistic behaviors is unlikely to do things like apologize or sing your praises without it being self-serving.
Narcissism can be a personality trait and a mental health disorder, and someone can have narcissistic tendencies without being labeled a “narcissist.”
When you live with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), however, your behavior patterns may suggest there are some things you’ll never do.
To say someone never does something is a bold and often unreasonable claim. Human nature allows us to adapt and alter our behaviors based on life’s lessons.
Living with NPD doesn’t mean you’re shackled to fixed emotional responses.
What it does mean is that you’ve demonstrated long-term patterns of behavior that fit clinical diagnostic criteria for NPD.
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (DSM-5), these patterns include at least five of the following:
- requiring excessive admiration
- having an exaggerated, grandiose sense of self-importance
- preoccupation with fantasies of perfection, power, success, ideal love, or brilliance
- believing they’re above others and can be understood only by those on their level
- acting envious
- lacking empathy and inability to identify needs of others
- having a sense of entitlement and expectation
- exploitative tendencies
Not everyone living with NPD or narcissistic behaviors will have all the traits associated with the condition or at the same intensity.
These behavior patterns do suggest; however, there are some things someone living with NPD doesn’t do (regularly).
While it’s never helpful to overgeneralize, here are six things someone with NPD or narcissistic traits is unlikely to do regularly.
If you’ve heard someone say, “Narcissists never apologize,” they’re not exactly right.
While many traits of narcissism like entitlement, elitism, and arrogance make it unlikely someone with narcissistic traits will go the apology route, apologies are sometimes used with ulterior motives.
This means you may receive an apology, but the intent might be to manipulate and guilt you into accommodating the needs of the person living with NPD.
This tactic can be seen among people living with maladaptive narcissism, which research indicates is associated with:
In other words, you may get an apology, but it’s often to make them feel better — not you.
Acting selflessly implies you can identify needs in another person and work to meet those needs without thought of your own.
By definition, someone with traits of narcissism is unlikely to act selflessly because they lack the ability to empathize or see the needs of those around them.
When they do “good,” they’re showered with admiration, attention, and accolades.
Giving or helping anonymously removes the reward factor for someone living with NPD, and they may consider it pointless.
It’s not truly about helping others.
Talk about deep emotions
Communication can be key to a relationship’s success, but someone living with narcissistic traits may never have those deep conversations.
In addition to lacking empathy,
Someone living with NPD may not be able to identify the deep inner feelings that motivate them, and they may also be unlikely to recognize them in someone else.
Also, someone with traits of narcissism may not see you as on their status level, which can make them feel such conversations aren’t worth their time.
This can make having genuine heart-to-heart communication challenging, if not impossible.
Forgive and forget
Holding a grudge can be a powerful thing, and for someone with narcissistic traits, that level of control can be gratifying.
You may find that even if you’re forgiven in the moment, events are brought up later as a means to manipulate or assert dominance.
A 2011 study on interpersonal difficulties experienced by those living with NPD found vindictiveness was a common trait among people managing covert narcissism.
Covert narcissism, also known as “vulnerable narcissism” and “closet narcissism,” aligns with maladaptive narcissism features of low self-esteem and insecurity.
Someone living with overt narcissism may be unlikely to forgive and forget, too. The same study found overt narcissism often appeared with behaviors related to dominance and control.
Put you before them
Many of the diagnostic features for NPD showcase an overall drive to be self-serving.
Someone living with NPD may be primarily motivated by what will best serve them. If that happens to be something at the cost of someone else, they don’t always have the empathetic capacity to care.
This doesn’t mean someone with traits of narcissism won’t do nice things for you. In fact, they may appear very humble and giving at times.
The self-serving motivation behind these behaviors is what earns someone the diagnosis of NPD.
You may find, for example, your friend living with NPD gifted you an expensive coffee table, not because they knew you were looking for one, but because they needed it to be gone.
Sing your praises
Praise from someone living with narcissistic behaviors may not come from a true sense of pride.
Instead, the thought of “how does this reflect well on me?” can underlie proud actions and sentiments.
Parents living with NPD, for example, may be excessively proud of their children’s accomplishments. They may gloat about them on social media and to family and friends.
The children can become a status symbol, setting the parent above other parents whose children may not have as many accomplishments.
In other areas of life, envy may prevent someone living with NPD from offering praise.
If your work rival has narcissistic traits, they may never acknowledge your hard work or contributions, instead always looking for ways to break you down.
Narcissism is characterized by self-serving behavior patterns.
Traits such as grandiosity, arrogance, elitism, and exploitation make it unlikely someone living with NPD will behave in certain ways.
You may never or rarely receive a genuine apology from someone with NPD, for example, or — due to a lack of empathy — they may not be able to consider your needs over theirs.
Narcissism is manageable. If you or someone you care about is living with NPD, speaking with a mental health professional can help.