Because narcissists are experts at blending in and appearing caring and thoughtful, it may be difficult to spot one. For some people close to narcissists, such as children who grow up with one as a parent, they may never quite put their finger on what is wrong with the parent- though they know there is something wrong. It is common for children of narcissists to grow up in a house in which they feel they are "walking on eggshells." The narcissistic parent will want to control every aspect of their family members' daily lives.
When you first meet a narcissist they will pretend to be your best friend and will bend over backwards to lavish you with attention, time, and gifts. This is the first phase of the relationship, and they will continue to do these types of things, from time to time, long into the relationship when they need something from you.
Narcissists thrive on attention, adulation, and admiration. In order to get this attention, they construct a persona for their "friends." Their "friends" are anyone that can give them what they want: positive attention. Those people who refuse to give positive attention to the narcissist will be loathed by the narcissist, though he will not give up on the chance that the non-attentive person may be able to give some positive attention in the future. The narcissist will continue to try and gain the respect of their foe because deep down, the narcissist feels worthless and alone and cannot bear the pain of rejection.
At first, the narcissist may play the weaker member of the relationship, inviting you into their personal bubble under the guise that they need your help; they want you to believe that you are special to them- that you share some understanding above others. They will adopt a slightly submissive posture: shrugged shoulders, smiles, touching, gift-giving. But one thing gives them away- eye contact. They will hold eye contact with you as much as they can. Eye contact does not complement their intention of appearing submissive; eye contact is aggressive and invasive. The narcissist can only pretend up to a point that he his weak or submissive, that he needs you, that you are somehow special to him. Since he truly feels he is superior to you, he will maintain strong and consistent eye contact, even if he really wants you to believe, for a period of time, that he is submissive. His ego will not allow him to ever be truly submissive to anyone, but he wants you to like him.
The narcissist actively seeks out impressionable, younger people to feed his needs for attention. Younger people may be more willing to lend help to the narcissist, receive gifts from the narcissist, and give attention to the narcissist. Younger, or otherwise vulnerable, people need help unlike older, more established people. This demographic is an easy target for a narcissist, and the narcissist loves a them because he can inflate himself to higher levels without fear of being found out to be less than he claims. The narcissist actively trades goods (i.e., favors, drugs, money, etc.) for attention.
The narcissist will reveal himself verbally. He will portray to you his superiority by degrading others, including members of his family if necessary. He truly holds no allegiances to anyone but himself. He will pretend, though, while he is trash talking others, that you are the one special individual that he is loyal to, because you are either smarter or more physically attractive than all the others. Beware, he will degrade you to others behind your back. He will contradict himself constantly, including talking about others as though they are the best thing since sliced bread to how they are losers, liars, or idiots, all in the same breath.
The narcissist will have a hard time not talking about himself. Most of the time, he really does not hear anything you have said; he sees your topics of discussion as invitations to talk about himself. Any communication will eventually turn back to him: his life, problems, achievements, grandiosity, etc.
The narcissist also seems to have a crystal clear memory. He will remember stories from 30 years ago in amazingly vivid detail. Do not be fooled- these stories are not memories at all, but persuasive fiction intended to inflate his reputation.
Narcissists view their friends, children, spouse, etc. as extensions of themselves. When it suits them, they will speak highly of these people; for example, when a child has accomplished something, the narcissist will boast about their child's achievement to others. While this may be flattering for the child being boasted about, listen closely. The narcissist will always find a way to relate their achievements back to himself.