Narcissist or sociopath? Both of these words bring up ideas of villainous, abusive people that most people think they can spot just by looking at them. However, both narcissists and sociopaths are very good at hiding their true intentions. For the most part, people aren’t able to tell the differences between these kinds of people.
Relationships with both narcissists and sociopaths can skew towards abusive. As such, it’s important to be able to tell the differences between these harmful personalities. Psychologists who have been studying these kinds of behaviors enable us to understand the differences between a narcissist and a sociopath.
HERE ARE 3 MAJOR DIFFERENCES BETWEEN A NARCISSIST AND A SOCIOPATH
“While sociopaths qualify as narcissists, not all narcissists are sociopaths. What drives them differs.” – Darlene Lancer, LMFT
1. A NARCISSIST HAS AN INFLATED SENSE OF SELF-WORTH OR IMPORTANCE
Whether or not the narcissist’s self-importance is apparent, they believe they are the most important person to walk into a room. They feel that everyone should respect them (usually above all others) and that everything they have to say is worth hearing. Narcissists often talk over people, forcing their narrative into a conversation. What is more, they clearly consider theirs the most important viewpoint.
In their own mind, the narcissist is the only one whose opinion matters. Anyone who dismisses them has simply not been “enlightened” to their truth.
A SOCIOPATH IS MORE LIKELY TO WANT TO GET TO KNOW YOU
Instead of having an inflated sense of self-importance, the sociopath is much more likely to want to talk about you. This is because a sociopath thrives on their ability to manipulate other people. They need to know all of your vulnerabilities in order to manipulate you. In this way, sociopaths can be incredibly charming. They are very good at making themselves seem like they’re interested in what other people have to say.
Often, they will choose to minimize or downplay their own issues or accomplishments as a tactic to appear more concerned about others than themselves.
2. NARCISSISTS EXPERIENCE “NARCISSIST RAGE” OR “NARCISSIST INJURY”
Mark Goulston, M.D., explains that the rage of a narcissist rises due to a lack of admiration from the rest of the world. To the narcissist, Goulston explains, anything less than total admiration and obedience is “an assault” to the narcissist’s ego. When the narcissist feels their sense of self has been challenged, they often experience “narcissist injury,” which causes them to lash out at the people who caused the injury to their sense of self.
SOCIOPATHS EXPERIENCE SHORT-LIVED EMOTIONS
As opposed to the all-consuming rage of narcissist injury, sociopaths tend to feel emotions in a very “shallow” sense. They tend not to be particularly in touch with emotions in the same way other people generally are. At the same time, they can use emotions to manipulate the people around them. Sociopaths have the ability to mimic emotions when it’s convenient for them in order to make someone else do something they want.
In both cases, the narcissist and the sociopath use emotions to control their victims.
3. NARCISSISTS WILL MANIPULATE YOU WITH ANGER AND THREATS
When it comes to manipulation, a narcissist will use anger; they will also employ various kinds of threats. Narcissists often use shaming as a tactic to manipulate, especially when a confrontation is in public. This is because the narcissist has been careful to surround themselves with people who already uphold their worldview. To effectively manipulate, the narcissist will try to shame someone publicly so the victim feels compelled to go along with whatever the narcissist says or thinks.
SOCIOPATHS WILL MANIPULATE YOU USING FLATTERY AND VULNERABILITIES
When it comes to a sociopath’s manipulation, they’re going to do everything that they can to get you on their side. Even if they are abusing you, they’re going to manipulate using flattery. This is why many domestic abuse situations have a “honeymoon period” in which the victim is drawn in by flattery and affection. In this way, sociopaths using places where their victims are vulnerable. Sociopaths manipulate in a way that will benefit them best.
This will often differ from person to person. Unlike the narcissist, the sociopath doesn’t worry about their sense of self being shattered when their tactics don’t work.
The similarities between the narcissist and the sociopath are numerous, but so are the differences. It’s important to know what kind of behavior you’re dealing with. If you realize you are involved with one of these personalities, make a solid plan to exit any kind of a relationship with them.
There’s always hope in getting these kinds of toxic people out of your life. What is more, avoiding them is vital to your emotional health and well-being.