Empathy Challenges For Narcissists: 17 Prompts To Overcome Ego

*We may earn a commission for purchases made using our links. Please see our disclosure to learn more.

Unlike average people, the emotional experiences of people with narcissism are often very shallow and limited. Narcissists need to maintain tight control at all times to preserve their fragile false sense of identity. Though narcissists possess cognitive empathy, they lack the sensitivity for others that emotional empathy generates, but can that be changed?

Narcissists can, in fact, generate more emotional empathy and enhance their cognitive empathy to engender more prosocial behaviors. The development of empathy can be accomplished using empathy prompts for enhancing all types of empathy.

Empathetic people have the ability to put themselves in the situation of the people around them to understand and experience their emotional responses. Empathy prompts can help narcissists learn to be empathetic. Let’s take a look at how this happens and 17 empathy prompts that work.

Why is Empathy Important for Narcissists?

At first glance, the idea of a narcissist practicing empathy might seem like an impossible task. After all, one of the classic hallmarks of narcissistic personality disorder is a lack of empathy, as well as inflated or grandiose views. However, it is possible for even the most narcissistic individuals to increase their capacity for empathy and benefit from practicing it, as this video shows

Additionally, narcissists often have cognitive empathy, which they sometimes use to manipulate other people. Just the fact that they have that ability, however, signifies that they can learn to increase their level of empathy and reduce their abusive behavior.

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person. It involves being able to put oneself in someone else’s shoes and see the world from their perspective. While empathy might not come easily for individuals with narcissistic traits, there are many benefits to developing this skill.

Improved Relationships

Improved Relationships

One of the most significant benefits of practicing empathy is improved relationships with others. People with pathological narcissism often struggle to build and maintain healthy relationships due to their sense of entitlement and lack of emotional empathy.

However, by practicing empathy, they can learn to see things from others’ points of view and understand their needs and emotions better. There is a well-documented positive correlation between empathy and stronger connections that increase feelings of closeness with others, as noted by researchers in India.

Help Regulating Your Own Emotions

Additionally, practicing empathy can help narcissists to regulate their emotions and improve their mental health. Narcissistic individuals may struggle with mood instability, feelings of anger or disappointment others don’t meet their expectations, and other emotional challenges.

By developing a sense of emotional empathy, they can learn to recognize and regulate their own emotions, particularly negative emotions, leading to a healthier, more balanced emotional state and less antisocial behavior.

Engenders Prosocial Behaviors

An important function of emotions is to help people bond with one another. Empathic responses to others are a fundamental component of prosocial behavior. Narcissistic individuals may feel excluded or misunderstood due to their grandiose sense of self, and empathy can help to bridge the gap between them and others.

Practicing empathy can help narcissists to develop a more communal sense of self and improve their social interactions. Additionally, there is a positive relationship between empathy and a stronger sense of belonging and acceptance. Basically, empathy is the social glue that bonds us to one another.

What are the Types of Empathy?

What are the Types of Empathy

Not all empathy is the same. There are three main types of empathy that people can experience: affective empathy, cognitive empathy, and compassionate empathy.

Affective Empathy

Affective empathy is when you feel the same emotions as another person. For example, if you see someone crying, you might also feel sad or tearful. Affective empathy helps you to connect with others on an emotional level, but it can also be overwhelming if you feel too much of their pain.

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh have noted the relationship between empathy and affiliative behaviors. Basically, when you make that emotional connection, you are more likely to engage in acts of kindness and goodwill toward other people.

Cognitive Empathy

Cognitive empathy is when you can put yourself in someone else’s shoes and see their perspective. For example, if you disagree with someone, you might try to understand why they think differently from you. Cognitive empathy helps you to communicate and negotiate with others, but it does not necessarily involve feeling any emotions.

Compassionate Empathy

Compassionate empathy is when you not only understand and feel someone else’s emotions but also want to help them if they are suffering. For example, if you see someone who is homeless, you might feel sympathy for their situation and offer them some food or money. Compassionate empathy helps you to act kindly and responsibly towards others, but it also requires balance and self-care.

Empathy is a complex and multifaceted phenomenon that can have both positive and negative effects on our well-being and relationships. By understanding the different aspects of empathy, we can learn how to use them appropriately and effectively in different situations.

What is the Role and Value of Empathy in Relationships?

What is the Role and Value of Empathy in Relationships

Empathy is a powerful tool that can greatly impact the quality of our relationships. It plays a crucial role in fostering intimacy and connection. In any relationship, whether it’s romantic, platonic, or familial, empathy can be the key to building a strong bond.

One of the biggest benefits of empathy in a relationship is the ability to communicate effectively. When we are empathetic, we are better able to understand the other person’s perspective and respond in a way that is both compassionate and respectful. This creates an environment where both parties feel heard and valued.

Empathy also plays a crucial role in conflict resolution. Often, conflicts arise because of a difference in perspective or misunderstanding. When we take the time to empathize with the other person, we are better able to reach a compromise and find a solution that works for both parties. This helps to avoid resentment and further disagreements, leading to a healthier and more stable relationship.

In addition to improving communication and conflict resolution, empathy can also deepen intimacy and connection in a relationship. When we empathize with our partners, we are better able to understand their emotions and needs. This allows us to respond in a way that meets their needs and creates a strong sense of intimacy and security.

It’s important to note that empathy is a two-way street. In order for a relationship to thrive, both parties must be willing to empathize with each other. This means taking the time to listen and understand the other person’s perspective, even if it differs from our own. It also means being willing to express our own thoughts and feelings in a way that is respectful and compassionate.

What are Some Strategies to Promote Empathy in Narcissists?

What are Some Strategies to Promote Empathy in Narcissists

Empathy is a crucial component of healthy relationships, but for individuals with narcissistic traits, it can be challenging to understand and express emotions other than their own. However, there is an empathy spectrum, and with practice and effort, it is possible for a narcissistic individual to develop empathy.

Here are some practical strategies to promote empathy in people with disorders of narcissism:

1. Foster self-awareness

Encourage the individual to reflect on their behavior and how it affects others. This may involve helping them to identify and understand their emotions, as well as how their actions impact those around them.

2. Practice active listening

Narcissistic individuals may struggle to listen to others as they tend to focus more on their own needs and desires. Encourage the individual to listen actively by paying attention to what others are saying and reflecting back on their points. 

3. Encourage perspective-taking

Encourage the individual to consider alternative perspectives and emotions. Help them to see that everyone has a unique set of experiences and challenges that influence their behavior and point of view.

4. Promote emotional regulation

Promote emotional regulation

Narcissists tend to struggle with emotional regulation, often reacting impulsively when their ego is threatened. This is at the heart of narcissistic abuse. Help them to learn to identify their emotions and respond in a more controlled and measured way.

5. Embrace compassion

Compassion involves feeling for someone else’s pain or suffering. Encourage the individual to develop compassion by volunteering, practicing kindness, and helping others. This reduces their bad behavior and improves an otherwise abusive relationship.

6. Reach out to a licensed expert

Narcissistic personality disorder is a serious mental health condition, and addressing empathy deficits may require professional assistance. Therapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) can help narcissistic individuals develop empathy and emotional regulation skills, as this video discusses.

7. Use empathy prompts

Empathy prompts are a useful tool for helping to promote the development of empathy, particularly emotional or affective empathy. These are generally activities that help narcissistic people recognize emotional responses in the facial expressions and body language of other people so that they practice being empathetic to ultimately improve their relationships.

How Can Empathy Prompts Help a Narcissist?

How Can Empathy Prompts Help a Narcissist

Pathological narcissism is a personality disorder characterized by an inflated sense of self-importance, a lack of empathy, and a constant need for admiration. Individuals with narcissistic tendencies are often perceived as arrogant and make it difficult for others to connect with them on an emotional level.

However, with the use of empathy prompts, individuals with narcissistic traits can learn to develop and practice empathy and improve their interpersonal relationships.

Empathy prompts are activities that help individuals with narcissistic personality disorder recognize how their actions and words affect others. These prompts provide a structured opportunity for individuals to develop and practice empathy, which can be difficult for those with narcissistic tendencies.

They can help a narcissist practice reading facial expressions, body language, and other cues that indicate the emotional experiences of the people around them.

It is important to note that empathy prompts and group therapy are not a cure for narcissistic personality disorder. However, they can be effective tools in helping individuals with narcissistic tendencies develop better empathy skills and improve their interpersonal relationships.

With practice, individuals with narcissistic traits can learn to recognize and manage their own behavior, leading to more fulfilling and meaningful relationships with those around them as well as better mental and physical health.

What are Empathy Prompts?

Empathy prompts are activities or exercises designed to encourage individuals to consider the perspectives and feelings of others. They provide a structured opportunity to reflect on how our actions and words affect those around us and can be an effective way to improve our emotional intelligence and social skills.

One of the simplest and most common empathy prompts is to ask individuals to put themselves in someone else’s shoes. This activity invites us to consider how we would feel if we were in the other person’s situation.

For example, if a friend is upset about a recent breakup, we might imagine how we would feel if we were in their position. What emotions would we be experiencing? How would we want others to support us? By answering these questions, we can begin to develop a deeper understanding of what our friend might be going through and how we can best support them.

Another useful empathy prompt is to reflect on our past interactions with others. By asking questions like, “How do you think that person felt when you said/did that?” we can begin to understand the impact of our behavior on others. This activity requires us to step outside of our own perspective and consider how our actions might have been perceived by someone else. It can be a powerful tool for developing self-awareness and empathy.

How Empathy Prompts Can Generate Emotional Empathy?

Empathy prompts have become increasingly popular among mental health professionals and social skills educators as an effective tool for developing empathy. Empathy is a critical component of healthy interpersonal relationships. Many people struggle with empathy, particularly those who exhibit narcissistic personality traits, such as a lack of concern for the feelings and needs of others.

However, by practicing empathy prompts, individuals with mental disorders like narcissism and borderline personality disorder can learn to generate emotional empathy, which involves feeling the same emotions as another person. This type of empathy is particularly valuable in helping individuals understand and connect with others on a deeper level.

Overall, empathy prompts are a valuable tool for generating emotional empathy. By practicing empathy and trying to understand the experiences and emotions of others, individuals can develop deeper and more meaningful relationships with those around them.

What are 17 Useful Empathy Prompts for Narcissists?

What are 17 Useful Empathy Prompts for Narcissists

Narcissistic individuals often struggle with empathy, a key emotional component of any relationship, particularly romantic relationships. There are different kinds of empathy, however, and while they may possess cognitive empathy, they can’t understand on an emotional level how their behaviors affect other people. However, emotional empathy can be developed with consistent effort and practice.

Let’s look at 17 empathy prompts for helping individuals with narcissistic behaviors develop more empathetic responses.

1. Imagine yourself in someone else’s shoes.

Try to see things from their perspective. Try to fully engage in imagining how you would feel in that situation. Write your insights in a journal. This will help to grow your cognitive empathy as well as affective empathy, and it will strengthen your general capacity for empathy.

2. Practice active listening.

Pay attention to what the other person is saying, ask questions to clarify their point of view, and respond with empathetic behavior like offering them a hug or even just displaying the body language of a sensitive person. Try writing down several possible empathetic responses for use in this kind of exercise.

3. Focus on understanding the emotions of others.

Tune in to their body language and tone of voice to gain insight into their feelings. Part of the affective experience is mirroring the emotions using nonverbal cues like body language and compassionate facial expressions.

4. Practice expressing gratitude.

Practice expressing gratitude

Show appreciation to others for their efforts and contributions. It’s also helpful for you to simply recognize the positive things and people you have in your everyday life. That can help you feel more compassionate toward those around you, and it can make you feel better all around.

5. Ask how you would feel if you were in the other person’s situation.

Try to get beyond your emotions, or lack thereof, to imagine what the other person might be feeling. Even people with pathological narcissism have the capacity to understand the emotions of others. Use that to take it one step further and imagine how you would feel. That can help you connect with the other person.

6. Pay attention to nonverbal cues.

Consider how your behavior and body language might affect others. Try to use open body language to convey your interest in what they are saying and your concern. Don’t cross your arms and maintain eye contact so they feel heard. This will help you better interpret their feelings.

7. Use I-statements instead of blaming language.

Focus on expressing your own feelings and needs without attacking the other person. Nobody makes you feel any particular way. Other people can’t make you happy or sad; only you can control your own emotions.

Instead of saying something like, “You make me feel…,” say, “I feel (sad/happy/depressed, etc.) when you (do this).” That’s an example of you taking ownership of your own feelings, so there’s no need to attack anyone else when you feel bad.

8. Avoid interrupting others.

Let them finish speaking before you respond. Sometimes, you think they’re going to say something that was never their intention to say. So wait until they have finished to get the full story. They will feel like you’re really interested, and you’ll have more information to better formulate a response.

9. Practice acceptance and validation.

Acknowledge and accept the other person’s feelings, even if you don’t necessarily agree with them. This is a tough one, but it’s essential to generating more empathy. Try to understand why they feel that way, and you’ll be able to express that their feelings are valid even if you don’t agree.

10. Apologize when appropriate.

Take responsibility for your actions and express remorse. This is difficult for someone with pathological narcissism, as the following video explains, but it’s vital for growing your empathy skills. As a sensitive person, it’s important to take note when you hurt other people and take the appropriate action to resolve the problem.

11. Focus on building healthy relationships.

Invest time and energy into building meaningful connections with others. Real people are interested in building those relationships, and they take the time to show others they really care. Empathetic behavior is all about making connections and forming healthier relationships.

12. Look for common ground.

Find shared experiences or interests to connect with others and build empathy. Make a list of the common interests you have with the most important people in your life. The more you realize that you have more in common than what separates you, the better your relationship will be and the more empathetic behavior you can show them.

13. Avoid criticism and judgment.

Avoid criticism and judgment

Remember that everyone has their own unique perspective and experience. A sensitive person doesn’t judge because they don’t want to be judged. That’s also true of someone with pathological narcissism. They have typically been judged enough, and that is part of the problem. So it’s time to put an end to this kind of bad behavior. It’s already caused enough damage.

14. Practice patience.

Give others time and space to express themselves and share their experiences. It’s easy to fall into a pattern of involuntary responses when you’re interested in saying something. Instead, notice what they’re saying and listen as if you know for a fact that every word is true.

15. Develop your emotional vocabulary.

Try to put a name to the emotions you’re feeling and understand how they impact your own behavior and interactions with others. Practice this by making a list of emotions you’ve encountered and how they make you react.

16. Consider the impact of your behavior on others.

Be mindful of how you treat others and how your behavior affects their emotions and well-being. Once you’re able to understand your own emotions and how they affect your behavior, you now have a better grasp on how your behavior might affect the emotions and behavior of other people. You know what it does to you, so now you can imagine what it does to others.

17. Practice empathy with yourself.

Recognize and validate your own emotions and needs, and extend that same level of understanding and empathy to others. Showing yourself empathy can help you extend that same courtesy to others. Believe it or not, this may be the most difficult thing for people with pathological narcissism to do.

They have spent a lifetime judging themselves even more harshly than they judge others. Practice saying kind things to yourself at least three times a day. The more you care about yourself, the more you can grow your empathy for others.

By incorporating these empathy prompts into their daily interactions, narcissists can enhance their emotional intelligence and develop deeper and more meaningful connections with those around them.

Final Thoughts

Developing empathy is a critical skill for fostering strong relationships, and although this is a challenge for people with pathological narcissism, it’s not impossible. You can grow your empathy skills and have healthier, happier relationships as a result. These 17 empathy prompts can help you to do just that.


If you want more tips for dealing with narcissists, setting boundaries, and managing emotional triggers, make sure you subscribe to my youtube channel


Narcissistic abuse takes a terrible toll on your life. I’m Patricia, and my mother is a narcissist, so I know what you’re going through. These blog posts will help you understand narcissism better and give you tips for dealing with the narcissists in your life. Healing starts here!

More to Explore

Free Roadmap

Want To Stop A Narcissist From Pushing Your Buttons?

Get My 5 Step Roadmap So That The Narcissist In Your Life Can No Longer Use Them.