Narcissists have very little ability to empathize with others. They tend to be selfish and self-involved and are usually unable to understand what other people are feeling. Narcissists expect others to think and feel the same as they do and seldom give any thought to how others feel. They are also rarely apologetic, remorseful, or guilty.
But narcissists are highly attuned to perceived threats, anger, and rejection from others. At the same time, they are nearly blind to the other feelings of the people around them. They frequently misread subtle facial expressions and are typically biased toward interpreting facial expressions as negative. Unless you are acting out your emotions dramatically, the narcissist won’t accurately perceive what you’re feeling. Even saying “I’m sorry” or “I love you” when the narcissist is on edge and angry can backfire. He won’t believe you and may even misperceive your comment as an attack.
In addition, if your words and expressions aren’t congruent, the narcissist will likely respond erroneously. This is why narcissists often misinterpret sarcasm as actual agreement or joking from others as a personal attack. Their lack of ability to correctly read body language is one reason narcissists are deficiently empathetic to your feelings. They don’t see them, they don’t interpret them correctly, and overall they don’t believe you feel any differently than they do.
Narcissists also lack an understanding about the nature of feelings. They don’t understand how their feelings occur. They think their feelings are caused by someone or something outside of themselves. They don’t realize that their feelings are caused by their own biochemistry, thoughts, and interpretations. In a nutshell, narcissists always think you cause their feelings—especially the negative ones. They conclude that because you didn’t follow their plan or because you made them feel vulnerable, you are to blame.
This lack of empathy makes true relationships and emotional connection with narcissists difficult or impossible. They just don’t notice what anyone else is feeling.