Who Do Narcissists Target and Why? (According to 10 Experts)

Narcissists can be pretty charming and come across as very likable, but they often target certain types of people to use and manipulate.

But, who exactly are these people, and why do narcissists choose them over others? What is it about them that makes them so attractive to narcissists?

To help us take a closer look at this topic, we asked experts, “who do narcissists target and why?”

Here are their insights:

Christy Piper

Christy Piper

Coach and Speaker | Author, “Girl, You Deserve More

If you’ve been the brunt of narcissistic bullying or abuse, you probably drive yourself crazy questioning why. You may wonder if you’re inherently weakflawed, or less than others.

I’m here to tell you that you’re not. You’re simply giving off signals that attract abusers. They see signs that make them think you are easy to mess with.

People who’ve been abused

This is often a repeating pattern for someone. It’s rare that a person is only abused once. Narcissists can sense those who’ve been abused like sharks smelling blood in the water.

The good news is there are simple fixes.

People do not make enough eye contact

This usually means making not enough eye contact. This could mean looking down or away. To them, it means you don’t have the confidence to look people in the eye. So you probably don’t have the confidence to stick up for yourself.

It could also mean you make eye contact too quickly and easily whenever they are scanning their environment. Why is this a problem? Because someone who’s been abused before is reactive

And they are constantly scanning their environment. Victims are overly responsive to others’ facial expressions and actions.

Solution: Notice when they are staring you down. Hold their eye contact for an uncomfortable period of time in a confident, unaffected manner. Even if you look away first, it doesn’t mean they won. 

Eventually, they will lose interest in you when you start exhibiting signs of healthy eye contact and behavior.

People answering every question or statement too often 

Sometimes people say statements or rhetorical questions. But when you always respond to these, they know you’re probably an ideal victim. That’s because they know you are reactive to others, which is a common trait in victims.

Solution: Start responding less if you’re unsure when an answer or response is truly needed. Just listen and watch when others respond. 

You’ll start to notice that others respond a lot less than you may have. Once you start paying attention and observing the pattern, you’ll learn when it’s appropriate or necessary to say anything back.

Someone who speaks lowly of themselves or uses self-deprecating humor 

If someone speaks low of themselves, even if it’s a joke, they are far more willing to accept someone else talking badly about them. 

Many people who do this will accidentally tell stories of others who don’t like or mistreat them. This tells the narcissist that they’re used to being picked on. 

It also alerts them to their enemies. This is dangerous. If the narcissist can get ahold of this person, they can join forces and start picking on you together. Even if it’s a person they haven’t met yet. Many of them find a way.

Solution: Stop speaking badly about yourself. It’s hard to break a bad habit. But when the thought of saying anything self-deprecating arises, bite your tongue. Simply don’t say it.

Related: How To Stop Beating Yourself Up

Someone who speaks negatively or gossip 

If someone has a lot of negative things happening in their life, their energy is spread thin. A narcissist knows this will take your attention, even if it’s just bad luck like car trouble or financial problems.

Don’t come across as having a bad attitude or expecting bad things to happen either. This attracts negative people to you.

Don’t take the bait even if the narcissist starts gossiping with you. Don’t say anything negative about others if you can help it. It’ll give them fuel to tell people you spoke badly about them, even if they were doing the same thing. A narcissist also knows that those who gossip are toxic like they are.

Solution: Practice speaking more positively or not at all. Follow the adage, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”

People who are being too giving

Some people will think you’re nice if you are overly pleasant and do a lot for others. But narcissists will think you’re a doormat and take advantage of you.

The moment you start saying no, the narcissist will turn on you. It’s not worth it to gain their favor in the short term, only to set doormat expectations in the long run.

Narcissists may hear about your giving ways before you ever meet them. Based on this, they may test it out to see how much they can get from you. This is why it’s essential to maintain a solid reputation with everyone.

Solution: Be fairer and expect fairness from others. If you’re an over-giver, this new golden rule will serve you well, “If the other person wouldn’t do it for you, don’t do it for them.”

People trying to act special or get compliments

If you try too hard to get noticed, you are approval-seeking. Don’t say little statements about how you are like some talented person or celebrity. It won’t go unnoticed.

They may start playing with you to show how they favor others over you. Or make statements implying that you aren’t that talented even if you are.

Solution: Your new motto should be “Play it cool.” If the narcissist starts recognizing others above you, ignore them. If you’re feeling bold, you can even laugh. Whatever you do, don’t show it bothers you.

People being different or standing out

If someone isn’t a part of the group or as popular, a narcissist recognizes this quickly. It’s easier for them to turn others against someone who isn’t already a favorite. 

Someone who is different, maybe someone who looks different, acts or thinks differently. Looks could include someone who doesn’t fit in as well as the rest of the group — it could mean they are of a different race, weight, height, and age

Acting differently can be someone who tells weird jokes others don’t always laugh at or speaks with a different accent.

Someone who thinks differently, maybe someone much more intelligent than others in the group. A wise person may say things that confuse others and make them feel dumb. It’s easier to get others to turn against a person like this, who others already don’t understand.

If someone doesn’t follow appropriate social conventions, they’ll also likely think this person is out of the loop.

Solution: If you already know you’re different from the group, don’t do extra things to stand out. It’s best to be around those similar to you. So strive to find others you can relate to — whether in your personal or professional life.

People showing resistance to their ideas

A narcissist can tell when others show resistance to their ideas. Even if you disagree, don’t become directly argumentative or disagreeable.

They sense this, even if you don’t think you’re being rude or obvious. Once they pick up on it, they’ll know you may be a problem. Then they may try to isolate or get rid of you.

Solution: Be respectful of everyone’s ideas. Even if you disagree, don’t outright say it. Just hear them out, and ask a question if you see problems that haven’t been addressed if you must. You may not like it either but aren’t showing it. 

Related: 50+ Reasons Why Listening Is Important

It doesn’t mean they’ll go along with it — it just means they won’t become a target.

Work with a coach who specializes in working with narcissistic abuse victims

Many people don’t know if they’re showing these signs or not. This is because it’s tough to see yourself objectively. This is why it’s vital to work with a coach who specializes in working with narcissistic abuse victims. A coach like this can help you heal and fix social interaction styles.

Annielle Timmons

Annielle Timmons

Mental Health Expert | Motivational Speaker | Life Coach

Narcissists, as we all know, are self-interestedself-absorbedpretentious, insensitivearrogant, and entitled. When necessary, they are excellent at making others feel like they are victims in whatever situation they find themselves in. 

Due to the self-centered nature of the narcissist who subconsciously believes that they are more critical than others and have a grandiose view of themselves, they usually don’t make healthy relationship partners, but who do narcissists tend to attract?

People who are passive

Narcissists love individuals who are passive in their communication style. It allows them to express themselves freely, even at their partner’s expense. 

The passive partner resents conflict and feels more comfortable avoiding any disagreement altogether; and often is quick to forgive to keep the peace. This allows the narcissist to gaslightshame, and blame their partner even when they are in the wrong. 

The passive person also affirms the narcissist’s irrational beliefs, tolerates their erratic behavior, and doesn’t hold them accountable for their actions.

People who struggle with self-worth

Narcissists target people who struggle with self-confidence and self-worth. This individual may have had childhood trauma, an abusive caregiver or spouse, and a battle with feelings of unworthiness. 

Narcissists can get away with toxic behaviors such as gaslightinglyingblaming, and criticizing because these individuals subconsciously don’t value themselves and, as a result, tolerate the narcissist’s ill-treatment. 

The partner who struggles with self-esteem is more than likely one who is emotional and has learned to cling to relationships as a means of feeling worthy. The narcissist knows this and uses all of it to their advantage.

People who don’t have healthy boundaries

Narcissists have a proclivity to choose those who don’t have healthy boundaries. Narcissists can then put demands on their time and their friends, isolate them from family, and even feel entitled to their partner’s money, possessions, or sex early in their relationships.

People who are altruistic

Narcissists also target altruistic individuals. Being altruistic is not bad, but the altruistic person must have healthy boundaries and self-esteem to protect them from narcissism. 

The narcissist is aware of their caring partner’s good-natured heart and disposition, and when the narcissist has messed up big time, they are likely to play on their partner’s emotions. 

The narcissist is like a sour patch kid candy; first, they’re sour, and then sweet. Narcissists will wear their charm when they’ve lost their temper, violated a boundary, or are scared of losing their partner. 

They are skilled in manipulation and are usually able to keep their compassionate partner on their roll coaster through their smooth words.

People who are private

Private individuals who don’t have too many and isolate themselves are usually the most compatible with narcissists. The narcissist attracts individuals like such because it allows them to do their dirty work in private without having outside influences to point out unhealthy relationship traits. 

If the individual is not introverted or isolated at the beginning of the relationship with the narcissist, they soon will become the narcissist and will soon feel insecure and uncomfortable with their partner having other close relationships.

Jennifer Vincent, LMHC, CSAYC

Jennifer Vincent

Licensed Mental Health Counselor | Clinical Supervisor | Practice Owner, The Brave Life Therapy

Narcissists target certain personality traits so they can gain control in relationships. They find individuals that will easily and constantly feed their egos.

Narcissists are attracted to these five types of people.

People with low self-esteem 

Narcissists usually look for targets who stumble with low self-esteem. People that believe they are not worthy or generally view themselves as not good enough will attract narcissistic individuals. 

This happens because it makes the victim more likely to depend on the relationship and will feed into the narcissist’s ego.

They target people pleasers

Narcissists often seek people pleasers because their attention is more easily focused on making the narcissist happy. Narcissists need highly flexible and accommodating partners, which is easily found in those who want to please others.

People who suffer from unhealed trauma

Narcissists typically find potential partners who have experienced trauma in the past and are not yet healed. Narcissists want you to believe (at least in the beginning) that they will provide you with what you didn’t have. 

Related: How to Let Go of the Past and Move On

For example, you may want a relationship or someone to love you, and a narcissist comes in with a love bombing. This is how they hook you in.

They target empathic people

Narcissists don’t take responsibility for anything in their lives, and nothing is ever their fault. So being an empathic person, the primary role is feeling sorry for narcissists in situations. 

This feeds right into never having to take responsibility for anything because the victim typically will make excuses for their behaviors.

People who are naïve and passive

Naïve, passive, or someone who people easily control. Typically, a relationship with a narcissist is all about control. They thrive when they can control a situation or make another person think something was their fault. And it’s not always easily identified either.

Related: How to Take Control Away From a Narcissist (40+ Ways)

Mary Joye, LMHC

mary-joye

Licensed Mental Health Counselor, Winter Haven Counseling

They prey on the kindness of good people

Often we hear in pop psychology that the target attracts the narcissist. The polar opposite is true. The narcissist is drawn to the target. No one will immediately become involved with someone cruelly controlling or pathologically manipulative. 

So they blame the victim in this dynamic as unconscionable. That said, we see this dynamic often where someone kindgenerous, or codependent becomes involved with someone self-absorbed, manipulative, controlling, and abusive.

This is because the narcissist seized kindness as a weakness and targeted the kind person. 

They do this in three major ways.

  1. They portray themselves as someone who is also kindgenerous, and thoughtful
  2. They love bomb. 
  3. They future-fake. 

They interrogate the target to find out where the weak spots are

It is challenging by their design to recognize them in this phase and stage. They focus on being too good to be true, and they are. They interrogate the target to find out where the weak spots are and infiltrate their lives so they can annihilate them later. 

They play the victim

They play the victim or present as someone who needs to be rescued or is in crisis. They prey on the kindness of good people. The best way to not be trapped in this kind of relationship is to realize you are not attracted to them, but they are to you. 

Be cautious about sharing too much about your personal life when you meet someone. Also, look in your past to see if you had a narcissistic parent or early caregiver. This sets you up to be a target if you put out a rescuer or bleeding heart vibe. 

If you see a pattern of someone constantly using you and then discards you or does not reciprocate your kindness, distance yourself. You cannot attract a narcissist if you do not put yourself in their path by being too good for your own good

You may become a target if you let someone see you believe the best in the worst of people. Learning good boundaries and keeping them will keep you safe.

Jocelyn Hamsher, LPC, CSAT

Jocelyn Hamsher

Licensed Professional Counselor, Courageous Living AZ

Narcissists exploit the vulnerable

Narcissists tend to target those they believe they can easily exploit or those who will go along with the narcissist’s dysfunction. 

They can easily sense someone who is self-conscious or appears to have low self-esteem, mainly by their body language and how they present themselves in public and intimate conversations. 

Narcissists look at body posturehow someone walks, and the victim’s level of eye contact.

They focus on those who will serve them 

Narcissists are excellent judges of character, mainly focusing on those who will serve them in some way with little to no pushback. 

Characteristics narcissists look for include someone passive or soft-spoken, someone who goes with the flow with little pushback, and someone who struggles with knowing their own identity, passions, and interests

Even if someone appears confident on the outside, narcissists notice small nuances within people and sometimes learn more about a person’s history so that they can use that to manipulate and exploit them. 

They present themselves as caring, charming, and charismatic

They seem like great friends, colleagues, or acquaintances and are pretty likable in many ways. They are often popular and well-liked by those not close to them. 

Narcissists are skilled at saying the right thing to get what they want, often in a charismatic or charming way that confuses the victims because they pick up that something is off but can’t pinpoint it. 

They create an unstable foundation for the victim

Because of the narcissist’s charming ways, the victim questions their reality and struggles with knowing what the truth is. This is where gaslighting begins to further create an unstable foundation for the victim, having them question their sanity. 

Some narcissists play out this façade long-term, while others just use that to lure in a victim before becoming more overtly manipulative and abusive. 

Katie Ziskind, BS, MA, MFT, LMFT

Katie Ziskind

Licensed Holistic Marriage and Family Therapist | Owner, Wisdom Within Counseling

They target those who are highly empathetic 

Narcissists often have grown up in an environment where they were emotionally neglected and abused and did not learn how to develop emotional and social skills in their childhood. 

In childhood, a narcissist realizes and starts to believe that their emotions are unimportant to their caregivers, and therefore they push their emotions away and stuff them inside. A narcissist has learned how to survive with emotionally and physically abusive people from childhood. 

They lack empathy skills because they were never shown emotional empathy. They use tactics of powering control to get what they want because that’s how their parents treat them. Narcissists often don’t understand that they are hurting someone or their social impact. 

Related: How to Deal With a Narcissistic Parent

They target those who can easily forgive them

They will find a romantic partner who can easily forgive them for the hurt they’ve caused or may not even realize what is going on in the first place. A narcissist may become demanding or highly emotional when things don’t go their way. 

They find someone easy-going and flexible

A narcissist will often find someone easy-going and flexible, so they will often get their way in a relationship. Narcissists also look for people that are less dominant than they are

Because a narcissist did not have a caring guardian or parent in their childhood, they are looking for someone to care for them emotionally in their adult years. 

If you feel like you are dating a narcissist, couples therapy and individual counseling can help you gain healthy communication skillsbetter your relationship, and advocate for you to have a voice in your relationship

Teresa Lodato, CPCC, CRTC, CNTC, PCC

Teresa Lodato

Professional Certified Coach | Certified Neuroscience Coaching & Relational Trauma

People who have experienced trauma in their lives

The downside of being honey to narcissists is that people who are most attractive to narcissists have experienced trauma in their lives but learned empathy, agreeableness, and conscientiousness to manage that trauma.

These qualities are like honey to a narcissist because you will supply them with a steady flow of energy feeding their insecurity. The upside is that those same qualities make you an exceptional person for healthy relationships.

How to stop attracting narcissists

Here’s secret narcissists don’t want you to know — you don’t attract narcissists; you choose narcissists. Yeah, that can be a hard pill to swallow, and I can hear you now saying, “I don’t do that! Why would I put myself through all that pain?”

Well, my dear, remember what I said about the trauma you’ve gone through and how it’s provided you with excellent relationship skills?

Well, that same trauma has created neural pathways in your brain that have conditioned you to recognize narcissistic behavior as something that makes you feel good

The release of dopamine and other chemicals flood your body when a narcissist waxes about how great you are, how they can see a life with you, and how no one else will do. And they’re not lying! 

You really are great, they would love to have a steady supply of your loving, compassionate energy, and no one else (at that moment) will provide them the exact source of “food” as you are right now. 

Decide to develop some healthy boundaries to keep other narcissists at bay

So instead of blaming the narcissist for doing what they do and playing a victim, own your gifts, recognize your patterns for choosing narcissists, and instead decide to develop some healthy boundaries to keep other narcissists at bay. 

The more you recognize that your gifts will land you a great relationship with the right kind of person (another healthy, relationship-minded adult), the more you’ll realize that the addictive behavior a narcissist pours upon through love bombing is a temporary drug addiction like “fix” that lacks sustenance for the long term. 

How can I help narcissists?

Narcissists are indeed insecure, but when you’ve experienced trauma, you can also feel a bit insecure. If you find you have a pattern of choosing narcissists, take the steps necessary to heal your trauma and rebuild your sense of self-worth. 

Seek the help of a trauma-informed coach

If you feel you are struggling to do this on your own, seek the help of a trauma-informed coach or therapist with advanced training in relational trauma. 

They can support you as you build skills and learn tools to navigate relationships in your life, so you stop choosing toxic relationships and choose lovinghealthy ones instead

Takeaways:

  • What makes you honey to narcissists is what makes you a wonderful partner for healthy relationships. 
  • You don’t attract narcissists; you are choosing narcissists. 
  • If your trauma remains unhealed, you will continue to feel insecure and choose partners who will provide you with a quick fix rather than long-term sustenance.

Heather Dempsey

Heather Dempsey

Therapeutic Business Coach

Narcissists target those they want to manipulate

We can study patterns and come to some pretty accurate conclusions, but in reality, only the individual narcissist knows why they pick who they do.  

In my experience with clients, it seems narcissists target those they want to manipulate. Some narcissists want the strongest person in the room because when they conquer a strong person, they feel even more powerful and validated that they are indeed the best.  

They target those who won’t notice their narcissistic behavior

While some narcissists want it a bit easier and target those who seem to want to please and who won’t notice the narcissistic behavior, narcissists want to be the most important person, the center of it all, so someone who wants to please is easier to manipulate and guilt into pleasing.  

Narcissism is a term that can be thrown around loosely these days. I recall in the past that anyone who looked at themselves or thought highly of themselves could be stamped “narcissistic,” but there is so much more to it, and fortunately, a lot of information is out there now to help make sense of it all.  

It can be an enlightening experience to look into the different types of narcissists too. Based on my studies, I am aware of seven that have been identified:

  1. Overt
  2. Covert
  3. Hypervigilant
  4. Oblivious
  5. Exhibitionist
  6. Sexual
  7. Malignant

Then, there are the spectrums around or beyond it, like sociopaths and psychopaths.

I find that education about healthy and unhealthy relationship characteristics, good self-awarenesshealthy self-esteem, and strong boundaries are the most potent defenses to protect you from being targeted by a narcissist.

They target highly-sensitive people

Targets or victims of a narcissist are often empaths and highly-sensitive people. It makes sense based on my experience because empaths and highly sensitives are at high risk of developing co-dependent tendencies throughout their life which can make a perfect match, sadly. 

Related: How to Break Codependency Habits

A co-dependent personality is usually so hyper-focused on what is happening with everyone around them so they can control or manage situations which can feed the narcissist’s appetite for attention.

Based on my work, I have a bit of a different perspective about narcissists than what I often hear. Any that I have come across has been incredibly emotionally wounded or insecure, so their behavior is that of the dying dog who seems ready to fight anyone who comes near it to stay alive. 

They seem unequipped with the skills to feel fulfilled, and yet they seem to have the knowledge that fulfillment exists, making their existence painful. It is my opinion that many targets those which they aspire to be but feel they never will or have no idea how.

Whatever the cause or case, the collateral damage from narcissism can be severe — be careful.

Lynn Catalano, Esq

Lynn Catalano

Licensed Attorney | Narcissistic Abuse Coach | Author, “Wrecking Ball Relationships

Someone who can be the source to feed their ego

Narcissists need a narcissistic supply to function. Narcissistic supply is the constant praiseadmirationrecognition, and envy. If they don’t automatically receive it, they’ll solicit it, “How do I look? Don’t I look skinny? How was my speech? How did I sound?”

Narcissists are attracted to two types of people:  

  1. One that provides narcissistic supply and 
  2. One that they can use to their benefit

Narcissists surround themselves with people who are beneficial to them in some way, direct or indirect. When people no longer serve them, they move on to the next supply.  

In my book “Wrecking Ball Relationships,” I explore everything about narcissists and their toxic relationships. 

I wrote:

“Narcissists come from a place of vulnerability, low self-esteem, and insecurity. The only way for them to thrive or perhaps survive is to find a source of narcissistic supply to feed their ego.”  

There’s deep-seated insecurity in narcissists that must be constantly fed and bolstered. While they appear to possess high self-confidence, it’s all a show of smoke and mirrors. 

They depend on people to pump them up so they feel reassured. They need to be constantly revered, and when one person stops, they’ll find a replacement.  

Kathryn Snapka

Kathryn Snapka

Founding Partner | Trial Lawyer, The Snapka Law Firm

People who are amiable and don’t like disagreement

If you are amiable and do not like disagreement, you might be a target for a narcissist. For narcissists, it is helpful to have accommodating partners who never make a big deal out of anything. 

If you are willing to accept that you won’t always get your way, to be highly adaptive, and put their demands before your own, you are precisely what a narcissist wants in their life. 

People who can be easily influenced and manipulated

The company of those who will excuse their rude behavior benefits narcissists. They are aware of your compassion for others. They will continue to harm you and seek you out because they find it simple to influence and manipulate you.

Narcissists will use violence to instill fear in people who will go to a great extent to preserve peace and order. They want to provoke you in whatever way they can because they think you are trying to avoid conflict out of concern for losing them.

People who try to avoid conflict

Therefore, avoiding conflict will make you more desirable to narcissists. They can exercise power over you by inciting you. When getting to know someone, a narcissist does not need to do much to seduce an easygoing individual. 

They will present themselves as someone you can relate to. You might be surprised to learn that your narcissist is not at all the laid-back person you had assumed them to be. It is advisable to exercise caution from the outset if anything looks too good to be true because it usually is.

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