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Why Narcissists Treat People So Differently?

Narcissists often display starkly contrasting behaviors depending on the individuals they interact with. To some, they appear as the epitome of kindness and generosity, willing to go above and beyond to help.

Yet, to others, they reveal a selfish and bullying nature, demonstrating a blatant disregard for anyone but themselves.

This stark dichotomy in their treatment of people is particularly evident in close relationships, such as with a spouse. Observing how narcissists seamlessly switch personas based on the company they keep is both intriguing and concerning.

While it’s natural for individuals to adapt their behavior to some extent in different social contexts, narcissists take this to extreme levels.

There are several reasons why narcissists exhibit such disparate treatment towards different individuals. Understanding these factors can shed light on their complex behavior patterns.

Narcissists Want To Be Adored

Narcissists crave admiration and validation, making them avid seekers of new admirers. When encountering someone new, they dial up their charisma to maximum levels, presenting themselves as charming, humorous, and genuinely attentive.

They listen intently and leave behind the impression of being one of the most delightful individuals one could hope to meet.

However, the narcissist’s display of kindness isn’t rooted in genuine goodwill; it’s merely a means to bolster their own ego. Any positive feelings generated are incidental to their primary goal of self-aggrandizement.

In the narcissist’s mind, their greatness is validated by the adoration of a multitude of followers. Achieving this requires them to suppress their overtly narcissistic traits when interacting with casual acquaintances and strangers.

Thus, they deploy their charm in the hope of winning over new admirers, a task made easier by the fleeting nature of these interactions. After all, anyone can maintain a facade of niceness for a short period.

As a result, the narcissist may extend their charm to various individuals, such as the local shop worker, the mail carrier, or even their neighbors. These brief encounters yield significant returns in terms of narcissistic supply, requiring minimal effort for a substantial ego boost.

However, the dynamics shift drastically when it comes to their closest relationships.

Love Bombing

Narcissists often mistreat their primary partners, leaving them feeling hurt and betrayed. However, when the relationship ends, their ex-partner may be surprised to discover that the narcissist is treating their new partner with exceptional kindness and affection.

This revelation can be deeply upsetting, leading the ex-partner to question whether they did something to deserve such mistreatment. In reality, they didn’t.

This change in behavior is likely a manifestation of love bombing—a tactic commonly employed by narcissists to draw in new partners. By showering their new partner with excessive attention and affection, the narcissist aims to quickly establish a strong emotional connection.

However, once they feel secure in the relationship, they’re likely to revert to their typical patterns of mistreatment and manipulation.

It’s important for the ex-partner to recognize that the narcissist’s newfound kindness towards their new partner is not a reflection of their worth or lack thereof. Rather, it’s a manipulative tactic designed to ensnare their new victim.

Narcissists Mask Removed

Pretending to be someone you’re not takes a toll, akin to kicking off hard shoes after a long day. For narcissists, shedding their masks happens behind closed doors, where they reveal their true narcissistic selves. Unfortunately, it’s their immediate family who bears the brunt of this behavior.

In the narcissist’s mind, there’s no need to impress their spouse and children because they already receive the attention and adoration they crave from them. Moreover, maintaining a facade of niceness becomes nearly impossible when living in close quarters with someone day in and day out.

This reality leaves their “loved ones” in a perplexing and frustrating position. They witness the narcissist treating strangers better than their own family, which can lead to feelings of confusion and resentment.

Balance Of Power

Narcissists exhibit a pattern of treating individuals with power or strength far better than those perceived as weaker or lacking authority. This concept of power encompasses various forms, extending beyond physical strength to include mental fortitude and assertiveness.

For instance, if a narcissist finds themselves physically inferior to someone else, such as a larger and more imposing individual, they may show them respect to avoid conflict or repercussions. Conversely, if the power dynamic were reversed, their behavior might shift accordingly.

Similarly, narcissists tend to treat individuals with mental strength and assertiveness with respect, recognizing that such individuals won’t tolerate their manipulative tactics. However, if they detect weakness or vulnerability in others, they’re more likely to exploit it for their benefit.

In essence, many narcissists exhibit traits of bullies, inclined to mistreat those they perceive as powerless or unable to resist their behavior.

Conversely, they’re more inclined to behave amicably towards individuals who hold power or authority over them, recognizing the potential consequences of antagonizing such individuals.

Something To be Gained

For narcissists, being nice isn’t a natural inclination; it’s a calculated move with a clear motive. They don’t extend kindness without expecting something in return. After all, why bother?

In the workplace, they might laugh at their boss’s jokes and go out of their way to assist them, all in pursuit of climbing the corporate ladder. Similarly, they might shower their latest crush with gifts and attention, hoping to transition from friendship to something more.

Narcissists reserve their best treatment for those who possess something they desire.

Their behavior is driven by self-interest, with the underlying question always being, “What’s in it for me?” Therefore, if a narcissist displays kindness towards you, it’s wise to question their motives and consider what they stand to gain from the interaction.

Final Thoughts

Narcissists approach relationships with a Darwinian mindset, viewing them through a dog-eat-dog lens. If someone lacks anything they desire and holds less power, they’re likely to face mistreatment from the narcissist.

However, if an individual possesses qualities like good looks, wealth, or influence, the narcissist is inclined to treat them considerably better—especially if they are also physically and mentally stronger.

This dichotomy often leads to conflicting perceptions of the narcissist. Some may view them as angels, while others witness a completely different side to their character.

A textbook example is when a narcissist’s family knows them to be cold and uncaring, yet strangers praise them, only seeing their seemingly positive attributes.

In the workplace, those higher up the hierarchy may perceive the narcissist as a cooperative team player who is easy to work with, while those lower down may experience them as selfish bullies.

It’s crucial to recognize that narcissists treat different people in vastly different ways. Just because someone treats you well does not guarantee they treat others the same.

Many abusers exploit the weak and vulnerable while presenting a pleasant facade to those in positions of power. Therefore, if you hold a position of authority, be mindful that those who appear nice may only extend kindness to you.