Empath VS Narcissist: 11 Differences in Personality

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There's an old cliche that opposites attract, and this can often be true with the most unlikely creatures. Cats and dogs are considered natural born enemies, yet have been known to get along in the same household. I can attest to seeing my childhood cat often cozied up against one of our dogs during cold New England winter nights.  

Well, the same is true for people with opposite personality types. I mean who would think that someone who senses emotions deep enough to where they often take on the feelings of others would have much to say to self-absorbed, grandiose, and often conceited people? Yet empaths and narcissists often find themselves drawn to each other.

In this article we will discuss empaths and narcissists, what each personality type is, and how two vastly different humans can share the same space without killing each other.

What is an Empath?

An empath is a person with highly developed abilities to empathize and detect the feelings of other people. Empaths often pick up on subtle, nonverbal cues about the feelings, thoughts, and emotions of people around them.

They are very sensitive to the energy in a room and can quickly detect when a person is feeling uncomfortable or happy. They empathize easily, and often put others before themselves without even thinking about it. That is why they can easily get sucked into caring for a narcissist.

Sometimes the empath has a hard time with boundaries and often takes on the emotional burdens of others. They are compassionate and understanding people who want to make the world a better place. Their ability to feel for others may often leave them drained before they realize it.

What is a Narcissist?

At the opposite end of the empath, we have the narcissist. The word originates from the Greek myth of Narcissus, a hunter who was so obsessed with his reflection in the water that he ultimately died when he refused to leave.

In today’s world, a narcissist is someone with an excessive love of oneself or one's possessions. A person with a narcissistic personality disorder typically shows traits that include grandiosity, attention-seeking, manipulation, and a lack of empathy for others.

They often require excessive admiration from those around them, so having a caring empath fawn over them is perfect. With such an inflated sense of self-importance, they can be difficult to be around.  

Narcissists often have a hard time empathizing with the feelings of others and may not be able to empathize in the same way that empaths can. They are often quite selfish, and manipulative, and view the world through their own perspective.

Empath VS Narcissist: 11 Differences in Personality

Despite two people having very different personalities, empaths and narcissists can often find themselves attracted to each other. They may feel like they have a connection, but there are definitely several differences between empaths and narcissists that should be considered.

1. Emotional Awareness

Empaths are incredibly aware of their own emotions and those of the people around them. They often empathize with other's feelings and value emotional intelligence.

Don't be surprised if empaths burst into tears during a movie or have an emotional reaction to a situation. If you have ever felt something was “off” with someone else without being able to say why, you may have some empath intuition.

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Empaths often pick up on subtle, nonverbal cues about the feelings, thoughts, and emotions of people around them.

Narcissists, on the other hand, are often unaware of their own feelings and may not be as in tune with their emotions as empaths are. They may lack empathy for others and struggle to empathize with those around them.

Unfortunately, the lack of empathy can often extend to their own family. However, these same narcissists may be able to put on a good show and pretend to care about other people's kids; it's all about the ego and being viewed a certain way.

2. Empathy versus Grandiosity

Empaths empathize with people, understand their struggles, and want to be there for them. Narcissists, by contrast, often think highly of themselves and have a sense of grandiosity, believing that they are better than everyone else. They often act as if they deserve admiration and respect without having to give it out.

3. Boundaries and Respect

Empaths often have difficulty setting boundaries with others and may take on the burdens of those around them. They empathize so much that they don’t even think about protecting themselves. At least, not until it’s too late.

Narcissists, on the other hand, don’t have any problems setting boundaries. These are not people you ever have to worry about asking too many questions about “what's really going on” or “why have you been so sad lately?”.

Yes, they respect your boundaries because they just don't care.

4. Communication Style

You simply won't have to wonder how an empath is feeling about something. They may be more patient in conversations and are often willing to understand where the speaker is coming from in terms of experience.

Communicating empathically with an empath can be quite rewarding, as they really take the time to listen. In addition to listening to you, don't be surprised if they ask follow-up questions in order to better empathize.

Narcissists often talk in a very grandiose style, bragging about their accomplishments and talking down to those around them. They are very self-centered and will do anything to be the center of attention.

Since they are so self-absorbed, don't expect a conversation unless they can find a way to make it about them. For example, you may try to tell them about your day, but they will interrupt once they find a way to segway into something related to them.

You may say,” My daughter took her first steps today!”. Instead of saying congratulations, the narcissist friend may respond with, “So what, my child came out of my womb already walking. When I was two months old, I was already doing backflips in my crib.”

5. Need for Attention

Both empaths and narcissists need attention, but empaths want to give it out as much as they get it.

They are always looking for ways to bond with and connect with people. They empathize because it brings them joy to be able to help others feel better about themselves.

Narcissists also need attention, but they want to be the ones receiving it. Every conversation is a way for them to talk about themselves, and they often don't care about how the other person is feeling.

They will do whatever it takes to get attention; even if that means lying, manipulating the situation, starting a fight, or when it comes to certain world “leaders”, they may go as far as starting a war on an innocent country or constantly threaten to use nuclear missiles.

6. Handling Criticism

Empaths are generally quite open to criticism and will try to learn from it. Remember, these are people that are always striving to connect with others. So, if someone says something that they find difficult to hear, empaths will try to understand why the person said it and how they can learn from it. The last thing they want to do is hurt someone's feelings or create conflict.

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Narcissists needs attention, but they want to be the ones receiving it.

Narcissists, on the other hand, cannot handle criticism at all. They often act out in a hostile manner and will often go on the defensive. They often become very angry and will respond with hostile words or even threaten physical violence. It is important to remember that narcissists are incredibly fragile and any criticism can be taken personally.

7. Self-Awareness

Empaths are very self-aware, especially when it comes to their emotions. They are constantly evaluating how they are feeling and where those feelings are coming from. You may see empaths buying up all the self-help books at Barnes & Noble or quoting their favorite life coaches or therapists.

Their favorite cable channel is probably OWN, where they can watch shows like Super Soul Sunday and Oprah's Master Class. Empaths are always looking for ways to better themselves by learning more about the world around them.

Narcissists, on the other hand, have very little self-awareness. They often think that they are perfect just the way they are and won't even entertain the idea of changing something about themselves.

Even if someone points out a flaw in their personality, narcissists will simply brush it off as not being a big deal. Their favorite movie is probably The Wolf of Wall Street or The Great Gatsby, where they can see people just like them getting away with anything and everything.

Let's say you told a narcissist their nose is running. They may blame you for giving them a cold, or accuse you of being negative.

8. Genuine Kindness

Empaths are some of the kindest people you will ever meet. They often go out of their way to help others, even if it means inconveniencing themselves. These are the type of people that will buy holiday gifts or random ones at other times of the year without expecting one in return. Simply put, they just want to make others feel good and feel that happiness back in return.

Narcissists, on the other hand, are not capable of genuine kindness. Sure, they may do something nice for you from time to time, but it is usually with an agenda in mind. They are looking for something in return or a way to get something from you. They may buy you dinner, but make sure that you know it was them who paid for it and expect some kind of recognition in return.

They may start being nice to you once they realize you just got a big promotion or have a famous friend. Sure, they may offer their help or support to you in a time of need, but it is often more about how it makes them look rather than truly wanting to be there for you.

9. Love & Relationships

For empaths, love looks like being selfless and putting the needs of their partner before their own. They are loyal and always strive to build a strong connection with the person they care about. Empaths often find themselves wanting to connect on an emotional level so that they can make sure their partner is truly understood.

Narcissists, however, have a totally different view of love. They want someone that will constantly boost their ego and make them look good. They are looking for someone to idolize them and be there to serve their needs, not the other way around.

Narcissists tend to jump from relationship to relationship in search of the perfect person that can do everything for them without complaint. Don't be surprised if a narcissist speaks candidly about “trading in” their spouse once they get old, gain weight, or lose their looks.

10. Mental & Emotional Health

Empaths are incredibly in tune with their mental and emotional health. They often understand how things like trauma, unhealthy past relationships, or even childhood experiences have shaped the way they think and feel today. They can often reflect on specific events that made them overly concerned for others.

Don't be surprised if they start a soup kitchen and admit that they were once in a similar position to those they are helping.

Empaths are willing to take the time to heal and work through these issues to better themselves and their relationships with others.

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Communicating empathically with an empath can be quite rewarding, as they really take the time to listen.

Narcissists, on the other hand, often don't care about addressing any mental or emotional health issues they may have. They simply brush them off as being unimportant or something that can be dealt with later.

Remember, they see themselves as perfect – it's everyone else with the problem! If they run over a group of people in a crowd, they will blame the people for getting in the way of their car.

They are not willing to explore the root of any issues, and often ignore or make excuses instead.

11. Work Ethic

Empaths thrive in any job that allows them to help others. They are often self-starters who work hard to make sure they get the job done right, and don't need a lot of motivation or recognition from others. They are also creative problem solvers who like to think outside the box and come up with solutions that truly benefit everyone involved.

Narcissists, on the other hand, will only do what’s in their best interest and will often take shortcuts to get what they want. Of course, that doesn't mean narcissists don't succeed!

On the contrary, they can often be very successful in their careers, especially in the corporate world, which is often cut throat. However, it is usually because they are willing to do whatever it takes – even if it means stepping on other people's toes – to get ahead.

Final Thoughts On Empath Vs Narcissist Personality

If empaths and narcissists were two sides of the same coin, empaths would be the side that is facing up. They are selfless, caring, and always willing to lend a helping hand to those in need – even if it means inconveniencing themselves.

Narcissists are often on the flip side, looking for someone to boost their ego and make them look good.  

So, are the wheels in your head turning as you wonder if you fit one of these personality traits? There are various tests available that can give you insight into your personality type and help guide you in understanding yourself better.

You can take the test for narcissism and the one for empaths in just a few minutes online. At times, you may have shown both traits listed above – no one's perfect and empathetic vs narcissist personalities are no exception.

The key is to recognize when you are leaning more toward one side and to take the necessary steps to make sure both your empath and narcissistic sides stay balanced so that you can be the best version of yourself

With the right understanding of these two personality traits, we can all foster more compassionate and empathetic relationships with ourselves and those around us. Learn

Finally, if you want to identify YOUR personality type, then take one of these 11 personality tests to better understand what makes you tick.

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