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Ask an Empath

Narcissistic Personality Disorder message board, open discussion, and online support group.

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Re: Ask an Empath

Postby learningjourney » Fri Jan 06, 2017 12:41 am

I think I'm a pretty average person- I wonder how different my responses are to yours...

Narc magnet:
1. I consider myself a bit naive but even i might be suspicious about the timing of his sudden disclosure! Sounds like he's trying to avoid disciplinary action with an excuse to me!
if I believed him, I'd be tempted to let him cry on my shoulder, but I'd resist this temptation. Work's work. I think there's a difference between empathy and gullibility /soppiness. At work its not my job to be sympathetic. I'd tell him I'm sorry and maybe suggest he took some holiday, but i wouldn't be all "oh you poor thing lets just forget about this nasty performance management." Then he'd probably cry and I'd feel guilt-sick for weeks.

2. This one would be the hardest because she's a friend, So her pain is my pain. I would be able to imagine how much it hurts, and so it would hurt me, yes it would be a physical pain, and if she cried, it would probably make me cry. I'd probably be sad for days thinking about her being sad. On the up side, what I actually think or say wouldn't matter much, cos in these situations, she's just talking, she's not really going to listen to any advice, regardless of what I say, she's going to do what she needs to do, so that takes away the pressure of saying the right thing! Id just listen. She'll probably take the di*k back and we both know it!

3. If it was a kid, or someone with disabilities or something, and I thought fast enough, i would probably purposely be even worse with my chopsticks, to make him feel better, and then ask him to help me. Ego restored. But if it was an adult? Haha I'd just laugh, and expect him/ her to laugh too. This might be why me and my n ex didn't last very long! If this was him, he would have stormed out and probably gone on some racist rant about pearl harbour for hours!

I'm interested you chose that scenario, do you think I/ you should have empathised, understood his embarrassment, shared in his pain? I wouldn't have felt empathy was required, because to me there's no pain to empathise with, just his bruised ego. Would you?

Jrh 592
I might be a bit annoyed, if I don't know him well, that he's put me in an awkward situation- it's an accepted rule of society that when you ask how someone is you don't really want an honest answer! If I didn't really know him, I'd fumble some trite consolation and try to escape!
However, If I knew him better, I'd be upset, again a physical pain. Id probably suggest a cuppa so he could tell me all about it. I could imagine his nerves, and my stomach would probably start churning in fear on his behalf. If he cried i might cry. I'd struggle to say anything much, but I'd listen and feel sad and worried. I'd tell him I'm sorry (although I don't know why we always say we're sorry before thing s that aren't our fault!)
If he got good news when his results came back, I'd also feel genuinely joyful, which is the good bit of empathising I guess.
Jrh, If someone told you this, you must be very good at hiding your narcissism at work? Cos he obviously thought you were a compassionate type? So you must be quite good at seeming empathetic at least?

Thinking about it, in those scenarios my empathy is less based on imagination and more on memory. I remember how I have felt to be distracted at work because of personal problems, but to knoepw i need to knuckle down, and i remember going though a difficult break up, and having a health scare, so I'm more remembering how I felt in their shoes than imagining it. I'm not sure what the difference is between memory and empathy actually. I might struggle to empathise with a soldier back from war, for example, having no experience i can relate it to. Maybe that's why I can't empathise with sushi guy? If I got angry-humiliated every time I did something stupid in public I'd never leave the house!

So if you wanted to empathise more, do you have memories of times you felt bad, and if so could you kind of bring those feelings back, so that you are sharing in the sadness of the person you are talking to? For example if you'd had a cancer scare, could you intentionally stir your memory of how horrible it felt, and therefore have some idea of how the other person feels?

Anyway, empathy is really a myth, surely, because how can we really know how someone else feels? I think "I can imagine how that must make you feel," but what I really mean is "I can imagine how that scenario would make me feel, and assume you feel the same." I think a reason I am struggling to get over an n is because usually, lets say I split up with someone, I can understand their side of things, and imagine how they must be feeling. With my ex it's like a blank screen.

And mamba, I'm with you. As far as superpowers go, in a battle between empathy girl and narc man, I know who my money's on!
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Re: Ask an Empath

Postby Shanzik » Fri Jan 06, 2017 1:01 am

Mamba wrote:When someone is distant and uncaring toward you, why do you still care? What is it that you hope to achieve when staying in a relationship that is making you unhappy?


I guess because it doesn't affect my love for that person, I don't love him because he's caring towards me, but because of his characteristics that are completely independent from the fact he became distant and uncaring, they continue to exist.
I never loved people only because they loved me, for me it's a silly reason to love, I loved them because they're brilliant in some way and I had a lot to learn and experience. Maybe it can be described as unconditional love, I don't know.
Maybe I should change that about myself though. :shock:
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Re: Ask an Empath

Postby narc_magnet » Fri Jan 06, 2017 2:50 am

Thanks for the responses all. Here is how I experienced those scenarios:

narc_magnet wrote:1) An employee who has been reporting to you for the past year is significantly underperforming versus both expectations for the role and others in his peer group. You've given him consistent feedback and coaching throughout the year, to no avail. You believe he is not a good fit for the role and you put him on a formal performance improvement plan -- which could end in his termination if he is unable to achieve the goals spelled out in the plan. A few days later he comes to you to share that his wife has left him and that he's going though a tough patch -- and asks that you 'take it easy on him'.
You think: My first thought was "is this going to slow down the plan we've put in place?"
You feel: Annoyed
You say: I am really sorry to hear you're going through a difficult time. Are you aware that the company offers free and confidential professional resources to employees experiencing challenges outside of work? I'll send you the link.

2) Your close friend has finally separated from her emotionally abusive husband (or wife) after 10 years of tears and self-doubt. She calls to tell you that her soon-to-be-ex came to her crying, apologizing for his behavior, and asking to reconcile. She was impacted by his display of emotion and is now feeling conflicted. She wants to know what you think.
You think: I don't want to listen to another 10 years of her crying about this guy
You feel: Annoyed
You say: I understand why he wants to come back -- he will gain a lot. Will you?

3) Your out on a first date. He (or she) picked the restaurant -- Japanese. When his food comes, he struggles to manage the chopsticks and sushi is falling apart all over his plate. It's pretty obvious he doesn't know how to use chopsticks. Rather than laugh it off and ask the waiter for a fork, he gets visibly flustered and blames the sushi for falling apart too easily.
You think: Second date out of the question (if I was interested in him - would have been different response)
You feel: Amused, and resisting the urge to toy with him a little
You say: I kept going on about all sorts of things as he struggled to corral the food on his plate with two uncontrollable sticks


I am a horrible, heartless person :shock:
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Re: Ask an Empath

Postby Après L Orage » Fri Jan 06, 2017 3:11 am

1) An employee who has been reporting to you for the past year is significantly underperforming versus both expectations for the role and others in his peer group. You've given him consistent feedback and coaching throughout the year, to no avail. You believe he is not a good fit for the role and you put him on a formal performance improvement plan -- which could end in his termination if he is unable to achieve the goals spelled out in the plan. A few days later he comes to you to share that his wife has left him and that he's going though a tough patch -- and asks that you 'take it easy on him'.

You think: I would get extremely suspicious of the timing as well and think he is trying to manipulate my empathy ( so I agree with learningjourney)
You feel: nothing special, it's got nothing to do with me
You say: do you actually enjoy this job?

2) Your close friend has finally separated from her emotionally abusive husband (or wife) after 10 years of tears and self-doubt. She calls to tell you that her soon-to-be-ex came to her crying, apologizing for his behavior, and asking to reconcile. She was impacted by his display of emotion and is now feeling conflicted. She wants to know what you think.

You think: nothing special
You feel: I feel a little sorry for them both
You say: I give her a motivational speech

3) Your out on a first date. He (or she) picked the restaurant -- Japanese. When his food comes, he struggles to manage the chopsticks and sushi is falling apart all over his plate. It's pretty obvious he doesn't know how to use chopsticks. Rather than laugh it off and ask the waiter for a fork, he gets visibly flustered and blames the sushi for falling apart too easily.

You think: RED FLAG!
You feel: disappointed, a little scared probably because I feel like I have already been through that kind of relationship in the past and do not want to go through this again.
You say: let's be friends instead! :P

Shanzik wrote:I guess because it doesn't affect my love for that person, I don't love him because he's caring towards me, but because of his characteristics that are completely independent from the fact he became distant and uncaring, they continue to exist.
I never loved people only because they loved me, for me it's a silly reason to love, I loved them because they're brilliant in some way and I had a lot to learn and experience. Maybe it can be described as unconditional love, I don't know.
Maybe I should change that about myself though.


You wrote in another thread that you find pwNPD superior to nons, so maybe the assumption that you are inferior to this guy you care about is worth being questioned & challenged.
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Re: Ask an Empath

Postby Mamba » Fri Jan 06, 2017 3:42 am

I guess because it doesn't affect my love for that person, I don't love him because he's caring towards me, but because of his characteristics that are completely independent from the fact he became distant and uncaring, they continue to exist.
I never loved people only because they loved me, for me it's a silly reason to love, I loved them because they're brilliant in some way and I had a lot to learn and experience. Maybe it can be described as unconditional love, I don't know.
Maybe I should change that about myself though. :shock:


Interesting response. I suppose it's possible to love someone who isn't "in love" with you...But if you have tangled with this type of person, you know that at least some of the experience was just for show. For me, it has caused me to rethink what love really is. I question whether romantic love is just our hormones lying to us.
Life is only a dream and we are the imagination of ourselves.
-Bill Hicks
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Re: Ask an Empath

Postby whichway » Fri Jan 06, 2017 6:36 am

narc_magnet wrote:I am a horrible, heartless person :shock:


Aren't we all? ;)

You mentioned you were told you lacked empathy. I'm going to try to point out the parts that I see as lacking empathy (bolded).

Scenario 1:

narc_magnet wrote:You think: My first thought was "is this going to slow down the plan we've put in place?"
You feel: Annoyed

You say: I am really sorry to hear you're going through a difficult time. Are you aware that the company offers free and confidential professional resources to employees experiencing challenges outside of work? I'll send you the link.


You're not wrong to think or feel those things. It's just there's no mention of how he might be feeling.

Scenario 2:

narc_magnet wrote:You think: I don't want to listen to another 10 years of her crying about this guy
You feel: Annoyed
You say: I understand why he wants to come back -- he will gain a lot. Will you?


Yup. The whole thing. No mention of how she's feeling. Even what you're saying to her isn't empathetic. Speak to the feelings. This is the scenario out of the 3 where empathy seems most important too.

Scenario 3:

narc_magnet wrote:You think: Second date out of the question (if I was interested in him - would have been different response)
You feel: Amused, and resisting the urge to toy with him a little
You say: I kept going on about all sorts of things as he struggled to corral the food on his plate with two uncontrollable sticks


Listen, this guy is hard to have empathy for. But toying with anyone is the opposite of empathy. Going on and ignoring his anger is also not empathy.

None of this means you're heartless. What the hell does heartless even mean?

I like this game. :D (This is a game, right? There will be more scenarios? :mrgreen: )
Undiagnosed Non :lol:
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Re: Ask an Empath

Postby narc_magnet » Fri Jan 06, 2017 9:56 am

whichway wrote:You're not wrong to think or feel those things. It's just there's no mention of how he might be feeling.

whichway wrote:The whole thing. No mention of how she's feeling. Even what you're saying to her isn't empathetic. Speak to the feelings. This is the scenario out of the 3 where empathy seems most important too.

whichway wrote:Listen, this guy is hard to have empathy for. But toying with anyone is the opposite of empathy. Going on and ignoring his anger is also not empathy.

Yes, I was aware as I was sharing my responses that my answers looked different from the ones other folks posted. Hence the heartless comment :wink: Do I get points for being honest?

I clearly see that thought I about my own feelings and not theirs. If that observation should make me feel bad about myself, it doesn't, because my feelings were totally justified and my response was appropropriate -- at least in the first scenario.

Unfortunately, in the second scenario my friend started to cry after my response and told me she looking for some more emotional support. I felt bad that I wasn't getting my usual "thank you, you're right, what would I do without you?" response and was getting tears and a complaint instead. And I couldn't muster up fake compassionate because I thought it was weak of her to be conflicted on this matter. I wanted her to be strong and walk away. I know, it's still about me. Ok, I could have done a better job here.

There really is no justification for being a jerk in the third scenario, so let's just say I have the capacity to be an asshole but I reigned it in somewhat. That was pointed out to me by my son when I recounted the story to him. He laughed and said why do you do those things? Anyway, the guy I was on the date with was oblivious to my mischief and asked me out again. Of course I said no.
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Re: Ask an Empath

Postby Philonoe » Fri Jan 06, 2017 10:41 am

narc_magnet wrote:You say: I understand why he wants to come back -- he will gain a lot. Will you?

For me it's not a bad answer. It can be healthy to hear that.

I don't need always people crying with me. I need people who help me take distance.

This answer is not uncaring. It's friend-centered in my mind.

So yes, in a way it's empathetic.


An unempathetic answer would be : "i'm watching tv show. Please call an other day"

or "and my cat is ill, didn't eat well this morning and blah blah blah"

or "if you go back with him, what about the week-end we had planned together next month?"

or...



(i don't fit criterias for npd)
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Re: Ask an Empath

Postby HR_p » Fri Jan 06, 2017 11:18 am

For me it's not a bad answer. It can be healthy to hear that.


It can be healthy if the person is asking for a judgment about their decision to reconcile, but it has overtones of criticism of both the ex's character and the friend's decision-making skills. "Only a doormat would take him back, as you've nothing to gain by being with him."
An empathetic response doesn't include judgment.

The same type of realization (but in her own way) could be gained in a more empathetic manner if phrased as an exploration of conflicts: "Helen, you've had some down times in the past together, and I hear your heartbreak now at John's pleas to reconcile. Tell me how your obviously conflicted feelings now compare to your feelings when he did XYZ last year."
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Re: Ask an Empath

Postby jrh592 » Fri Jan 06, 2017 5:07 pm

I don't understand why everyone is so torn up about the guy not knowing how to use chopsticks LOL. I think its funny.
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