By Artemis Driva, Eurospeak 

The impact of narcissism and empathy in emotional distance learning can vary significantly. Modules 7 and 8 of the training system for adult teachers and trainers in EDL deal with Building Rapport from the intrapersonal (Module 7) and the interpersonal (Module 8) perspective. Empathy is of utmost importance when building rapport and is being considered as a positive behaviour, while narcissism is general negative and causes barriers in building rapport.  

To start with, empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person. It is the capacity to feel what the other person is experiencing, the capability to place oneself in another person’s position and understand their thoughts from their point of view. On the other hand, narcissism is a personality disorder marked by an inflated sense of self-importance and a lack of empathy towards others. 

Narcissists are excellent in reading people and in attuning to them at a phenomenological and emotional level. That is to say, they can relate to what you are experiencing and feeling, often because they have themselves felt and experienced the very same things. Hence, they know exactly what you need, wish and crave, and they know what they need to do to win you over. Undoubtedly, their empathy is more intellectual and self-interested, because they use it predominately as a tool to their advantage and benefit only.  

Under this angle, below are some potential effects of narcissism, empathy and emotional distance in regard to emotional distance learning: 
1. Narcissism: Narcissistic individuals tend to have an inflated sense of self-importance and a lack of empathy towards others. In the context of emotional distance learning, narcissism may lead to a lack of engagement and connection with peers and instructors. Narcissistic individuals may prioritize their own needs and achievements over collaboration and cooperation, potentially hindering the development of meaningful relationships and collaborative learning environments. 
2. Empathy: Empathy, on the other hand, plays a crucial role in fostering positive social interactions and emotional connections in any learning environment, including distance learning. Empathetic individuals are more likely to understand and respond to the emotional needs of their peers, creating a supportive and inclusive learning atmosphere. Empathy can enhance communication, collaboration, and the ability to navigate conflicts, ultimately promoting a more positive and engaging learning experience. 
3. Emotional Distance: Emotional distance refers to a sense of detachment or disconnection from others, which can be particularly challenging in distance learning settings where physical presence is absent. Narcissistic tendencies and a lack of empathy may contribute to emotional distance, making it harder for individuals to establish meaningful relationships and connect with their peers and instructors. This emotional distance can negatively impact motivation, engagement and overall satisfaction with the learning experience. 
It is important to note that while narcissism and empathy can influence emotional distance learning, individual characteristics and circumstances vary. Some individuals with narcissistic traits may still engage effectively in distance learning, while others with high levels of empathy may struggle. Additionally, instructional strategies, online platforms and supportive learning environments can play a role in mitigating the potential negative impacts and promoting a more connected and inclusive learning experience. 

Concluding, without empathy it becomes difficult to connect with others on a deep, meaningful level and to navigate the complexities and nuances of social interactions. Research has shown that you can teach a narcissist emotional empathy, but the narcissist has to be willing to learn. The above combined can have a positive impact on emotional distance learning.  


  • Ackerman R. A., Witt E. A., Donnellan M. B., Trzesniewski K. H., Robins R. W., Kashy D. A. (2011). What does the Narcissistic Personality Inventory really measure? Assessment, 18, 67-87. 
  • Back M. D., Schmukle S. C., Egloff B. (2010). Why are narcissists so charming at first sight? Decoding the narcissism-popularity link at zero acquaintance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 98, 132-145. 
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