7 ways a narcissist will exploit your kindness (and leave you feeling used)

We sometimes include products we think are useful for our readers. If you buy through links on this page, we may earn a small commission. Read our affiliate disclosure.

It’s a good thing to be kind, right?

Generally, yes.

When a narcissist is in the picture, though, you may want to reconsider just how far your kindness goes. This is because narcissists make for excellent manipulators who exploit other people’s good intentions just to get their way.

And all that kind energy you harbour inside you is better spent on people who appreciate and reciprocate it.

So, if you find yourself wondering in which ways a narcissist may exploit your kindness and leave you feeling used…

Here are 7 examples.

1) They will guilt-trip you into doing what they want

Here’s a story for you: one of my friends lives with her husband and her single mum.

While she loves her mother, she doesn’t feel comfortable sharing a household with her anymore because her mum constantly picks fights, doesn’t listen to any constructive criticism, and feeds off conflict.

Every time she tries to offer a solution, though, her mother flips out and guilt-trips her into preserving the status quo.

“No one cares about me! No one! Not even my own daughter!”

“You might as well send me to live under a bridge!”

“This is so hurtful, I feel sick to my stomach! I think I might be ill.”

After having discussed her mum’s behavior in more depth, we’ve come to the conclusion that she exhibits very typical narcissistic traits, including a lack of empathy, complete self-absorption, a constant need for attention, and emotional manipulation.

Yeah. It’s not great.

However, it’s helped my friend to look at the issue from a new angle and realize that she needs to establish firmer boundaries and practice a bit of emotional detachment.

Guilt-tripping only works if you let yourself be guilt-tripped.

2) They will constantly ask you for favors

There’s this saying my mum loves to use: “Offer a finger, and they’ll bite your arm off.”

While the purpose of the saying is to be careful about who we choose to help out and spend our energy on, it also describes relationships with narcissists extremely well.

If you show them just how kind you are, they may latch onto that energy and milk it as much as they can.

Can you cover their shift again?

Can you look after their kids four times a week?

Can you do this and that?

This is because narcissists’ limited empathy makes them susceptible to perceiving other people as a means to an end.

If you can give them something of value, they will consider you useful; if all you can offer is a friendship with healthy boundaries, they may not be as interested.

3) They will make you feel indebted to them

The only reason a narcissist will reciprocate your kind energy and do a few favors for you is that they will want you to feel like you owe them.

It is very rare that they’d do something purely because they want to be a good person. More often than not, they’ll subconsciously think of their act of kindness as a form of insurance – they’ve scratched your back, so now you need to scratch theirs.

If you don’t, they’ll use it against you: “I can’t believe this! I’ve done X and Y for you, and this is how you repay me? What kind of friend are you?”

To a narcissist, almost everything is a business transaction. If you owe them a favor and don’t rise to the task, they’ll feel slighted and screwed over.

4) They will seek validation rather than connection

Another way a narcissist will exploit your kindness is a bit more covert – it’s through something as simple as a conversation.

How, you may ask?

Well, a narcissist usually likes to talk about themselves in order to get validation from other people.

They will either brag and boast about their achievements, have a long speech about something they know a lot about in order to look smart, or trauma dump so that you feel sorry for them.

Whatever it is, they need someone who will listen to them. You don’t necessarily need to give advice or even show any proper engagement – as long as you’re there, they’ll feel encouraged to talk about themselves and feed off your energy.

If you’re kind and empathetic, you may feel inclined to listen to them drone on and on and even enable this behavior by pretending you’re interested.

However, no matter how curious you are or how much you try to stir the conversation in a direction that would allow you to genuinely connect, the narcissist in question has one goal only: to feel validated.

5) They will praise your kindness as positive reinforcement

If someone constantly tells you just how very kind you are, it’s going to be much harder for you to do something they perceive as unkind.

You don’t want to disappoint them, right? Their expectations are so high, after all, and the people-pleaser in you wants to meet those expectations so that no one’s upset and everything’s alright.

Unfortunately, this is yet another weapon in a narcissist’s arsenal.

They will praise you, compliment you, and tell you how much they appreciate your kindness and empathy as a form of positive reinforcement.

If you attempt to set firm boundaries or do something they don’t like, they can immediately use the guilt card because they’ve set up the perfect dynamic for it: “I can’t believe you’d do that! I thought you were so kind, I thought you cared about me! I was so wrong!”

This automatically places you in a position where you’ve got to defend yourself and prove your love and kindness instead of discussing the issue at hand as originally planned.

Emotional manipulation in a nutshell, ladies and gentlemen.

6) They will flip the narrative so that they don’t have to take accountability

I was once friends with someone narcissistic. Of course, I didn’t realize she was a narcissist at the time, but looking back, it’s all pretty clear.

Every time she did something that hurt me – she made a mean joke, was a bit too controlling, or made a scene when things didn’t go her way – and I brought it up, hoping we could have a conversation about it, she’d end up flipping the narrative.

“What I did was part of who I am as a person. You’re now saying I’ve done something wrong, although I was just being myself. That’s really hurtful. Just say you hate me and be done with it.”

She excelled at the art of projection and dodging accountability, and most of our serious conversations ended with my consoling her and apologizing.

This is how a narcissist exploits your kindness – they will flip the narrative to make you feel bad and say sorry. As a result, you’ll feel too scared to be honest about your genuine feelings and harbour resentment for years.

The relationship will become toxic, and before you know it, you’re trying to find a way to cut this person off because you can’t stand it anymore.

Been there, done that. Trust me when I say that no matter how terrifying it is to end a toxic relationship or friendship, it is also one of the best things you can do for your mental health.

7) They will feed off your energy

A narcissist can only exploit your kindness if you’re investing a lot of emotional energy into the relationship.

Their worst nightmare?


Don’t enable them when they’re feeling sorry for themselves and rambling on for half an hour. Don’t let them cross your boundaries. Say “no” when needed.

If you don’t want to cut this person out of your life for whatever reason, it’s best to keep your relationship pleasant and surface-level.

Your kindness should be appreciated and cherished. Give it to people who love you for who you are, not what you can offer them. Share it with those who genuinely care.

Pearl Nash

Pearl Nash has years of experience writing relationship articles for single females looking for love. After being single for years with no hope of meeting Mr. Right, she finally managed to get married to the love of her life. Now that she’s settled down and happier than she’s ever been in her life, she's passionate about sharing all the wisdom she's learned over the journey. Pearl is also an accredited astrologer and publishes Hack Spirit's daily horoscope.

I’ve spent two years wondering if I should end my marriage. The indecision is crippling me.

7 phrases unsuccessful people always use, according to psychology