A malignant narcissist is an opportunist. She'll only strike when and where she senses weakness. That's because she plays to win. So she won't engage unless she smells "victory." A malicious predator wants to ruin her target. But she'll only attempt this if she knows your social support system, in that particular setting, is weak.
Female bullies attack their victim's other relationships. However, this only works if the other players lack integrity. Solid citizens don't participate in games that hurt others, especially when they can clearly see the devastating results.
Some of these pawns are less culpable than others. But, still, everyone should have critical thinking skills, which allow them to see through these silly charades. These weak and needy enablers are also responsible for what happens to the target, because a narcissist is dependent upon their active or passive participation.
Likewise, a solid support system offers immunity from narcissistic abuse. If you have a strong group of friends, and the narcissist knows this, she think twice before trying anything. Consequently, the onlookers and bystanders hold all the cards. If, and only if, they decide to play them, will an abusive situation gather traction.
This is why some situations are highly toxic, while others are much friendlier. It all depends upon the emotional health and the character of all involved. If a narcissist cannot gather the "right" mix of people, she is virtually powerless. Without her flying monkeys, she is grounded.
Pixabay image top by Nemo