What's The Opposite of Narcissist? An Echoist (2023)

We all know a few people who take up all the energy in a room. They need constant praise and can’t handle criticism. Then there are people who do just the opposite: They yield to the needs of others and shy away from the spotlight. You probably recognize the former as narcissists, but the latter? What is the opposite of a narcissist? In some circles, they're known as echoists, and they finally might be starting to get the attention they deserve. This is how to tell if you might be one of them.


What is echoism?

First, it's worth noting that echoism, unlike narcissism, is not an officially recognized condition or disorder. While the term has been used informally—mostly among psychologists—for the better part of a decade, it was popularized most recently in the 2016 book Rethinking Narcissism by Craig Malkin, a clinical psychologist and lecturer at Harvard Medical School. As Malkin put it, “Echoism is a fear of feeling special or standing out in any way, even positively. It’s a fear of seeming narcissistic in any way."

When Malkin was working on his book, he says, he revisited the Greek myth of Narcissus and Echo, the origin of the term narcissism. Narcissus was cursed to fall in love with his own reflection. Echo, cursed to repeat back the words of others, fell in unrequited love with Narcissus and pined away for him until she died.

“I started thinking about the myth of Narcissus and Echo and what it tells us about relationships,” Malkin says. He pondered his own childhood as a sensitive child with a mother who was often critical and pulled for attention, he says. “As I was thinking about the way I echoed her needs and feelings, I had this ‘aha’ moment that very often people who maintain a relationship to someone who is extremely narcissistic do end up sort of losing their voice,” he says. “They end up burying their needs and feelings and focusing on someone else.” He realized that, like Echo, people who struggle with echoism tend to give up their voice and echo the needs and feelings of others.


(Video) What is the opposite of narcissism?

Are echoists the opposite of narcissists?

Narcissism and echoism can be thought of as opposite ends of a spectrum. On the extreme end of narcissism is narcissistic personality disorder—people who need constant admiration. This narcissist can’t get enough praise and wants to be adored and flattered. However, a little bit of narcissism is okay; it’s normal to feel special once in a while, Malkin says. “If you think of narcissism as the drive to feel special, a little bit puts you in the center of the spectrum,” he says. “That’s where people who are happy and healthy can maintain big dreams, give and receive in relationships, and be warm and empathetic. They can be very ambitious, but they would never hurt anybody to get there.”

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On the other end of the spectrum are echoists, who give up their own needs and feelings in an attempt to maintain relationships with others. Echoists are afraid of special attention, uncomfortable with compliments, and try to take up as little space as possible, Malkin says. Echoists may feel that when they are sad, lonely, or scared, they can’t turn to the most important person or people in their lives to help them through those feelings and understand them with mutual caring and love, he says. “Echoism, when it becomes extreme, is an attempt to cope with that,” he says. If you feel that you can’t turn to loved ones for mutual caring and comfort, you may bury your own needs and feelings and favor theirs in an attempt to maintain the relationship.


(Video) What is ECHOISM? Are YOU an ECHOIST? What is the OPPOSITE of NARCISSISM?

What is the origin of echoism?

Echoists tend to be more sensitive and emotionally vulnerable than others, and these traits are biologically wired into their personality, Malkin’s research suggests. “These are people who tell us they feel things more intensely,” he says. “They may be more emotionally attuned. They were the most warm-hearted of people we tested compared to anyone else on the spectrum.”

When people with these traits develop close relationships with narcissists, they tend to yield to the narcissist’s needs. Like Malkin’s experience, echoism can sometimes begin in childhood. “If you have a very narcissistic parent who pretty much needs to take up all the space and all the room in order to feel like a person at all, a temperamentally sensitive person is going to give up that space in order to have any kind of connection to that parent,” he says. For example, if your parent flew into rages over tiny things, maybe you learned to anticipate what would set them off and avoid it. Maybe you worried about asking your parents for too much attention.

Another possibility: Maybe your parents repeatedly told you that you should never get a big ego or think too much of yourself. “That makes people feel afraid of normal experiences of feeling special,” he says. The same scenarios could apply to romantic partners. In fact, if you developed echoism in childhood, you might apply it to your adult relationships. I think people who are raised in a way that tips them toward echoism are more likely to be drawn into relationships with narcissistic friends and partners,” Malkin says.


How do I know whether echoism affects me?

Malkin says that echoists tend to agree with statements like: It’s hard for me to enjoy compliments. I don’t like to talk about myself. When people ask me about my preferences, I’m often at a loss. I’m afraid of being a burden.

“Most people who struggle with echoism kind of hate their own needs,” he says. “They’re not comfortable with them because their experience growing up was that if they focused too much on themselves, they lost connection with people they cared about.” This quiz on Malkin’s website can help you figure out where you fall on the spectrum between narcissism and echoism.

How to cope with echoism

Echoists can get stuck in bad relationships when they feel undeserving, under-entitled, or blame themselves when things go wrong. They can become increasingly anxious and depressed and end up seeing the world, and themselves, in a dimmer light, Malkin says. Therapy may help.

“In therapy, I help people learn to be really clear about when they are having feelings, such as sadness or loneliness, and to voice what they’re feeling,” he says. “That’s what helps us create close, mutually caring, supportive, securely attached relationships where each person can ask for things.”

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It’s important to get in touch with normal feelings and develop new coping patterns. “The typical coping pattern of someone who copes with echoism is that anytime something goes wrong, their go-to question is: What did I do?” he says. “That’s the opposite of narcissism. Narcissists say: Look what you did. Echoists ask: What did I do? And they see themselves as the problem that needs to be fixed in order to have a better experience in the relationship.”


(Video) Echoism and Narcissism | Narcissistic Abuse Syndrome

Instead of blaming yourself or assuming that you’re just too sensitive, ask yourself: What might be missing in the relationship? Is there something missing that is making me feel disappointed or sad? In a loving, caring, mutually connected relationship, you can tell someone when you felt hurt or lonely. “Being able to have a vulnerable way to share those feelings instead of blaming yourself—that’s what helps people overcome echoism,” Malkin says. He often tells clients that self-blame is an action, not a feeling. It’s something people to do to bury feelings.

Of course, when you start to use your voice, a narcissist might react poorly and might not want to hear about your needs and feelings, Malkin says. “This is where I caution everybody: If your partner is abusive, if they call you names, if they’re constantly tearing you down, that’s verbal abuse, or if there is physical abuse, this isn’t about overcoming echoism. This is about getting out of an unsafe relationship,” he says. He doesn’t recommend keeping in contact with anyone who is abusive, including a parent.

Perhaps your partner is just sort of arrogant and aloof, hard to feel close to. “They might pull away or say, well everybody has their problems don’t they? or something very dismissive,” Malkin says. “It’s at that point where supportive friends, people who provide more supportive relationships, become really important in helping that person stay the course. If they want to overcome echoism, they also have to figure out: Can I do it in this relationship? Will this person allow me to have a voice? Sometimes the answer is no.”


With a parent—one who isn't abusive—Malkin recommends using an empathy prompt. Share what makes your relationship special, and then open up about the impact something has had on you. For example: You’re my father, and you’re one of the most important people in my life. Your opinion means the world to me, which is why I’m devastated when I share my opinion and you just tell me everything that’s wrong with it. I feel like I’m worthless in the eyes of one of the people that matters most to me.

“Most parents who have any capacity for empathy will melt when they hear something like that,” Malkin says. “If you don’t see any kind of softening, that’s a sign that you’re going to need distance.” Consider making what Malkin calls a connection contract. Tell your parent, for example, that you would like to see them, but if they yell at you, put you down, or make fun of your partner, you won’t be able to stay, and you’ll have to try again later. “I call that a connection contract because you’re basically laying down the terms and conditions for you sticking around,” he says. “You can do it on the phone; you don’t have to do it in person. That way you can test out their reaction. If their reaction is horrible, then you know there’s no point in even going.”

Another tactic: Reinforce helpful behavior when it does occur. “Say you have a parent who asks you how you’re doing and actually listens,” he says. “If there are moments like that, you want to catch them.” Say something like: I love it when we talk like this. I feel so close to you and really appreciate how you’re listening. “We can’t change other people, but when we give them something positive, they increase the frequency of what they’re doing, whether they recognize that it’s happening or not,” Malkin says.

In romantic relationships, addressing echoism could help you feel not only happier, but also more sexually satisfied. “Often people with echoism struggle with allowing themselves to be in contact with what they really need and that includes the need for excitement, things that help them feel sexually excited,” he says. “They feel under-entitled in a lot of ways.” They may have trouble expressing what turns them on or off, and they become reliant on what Malkin calls insecure passion. A therapist can help you develop a more secure sense of love and learn how to ask for what you need.

“Any learned habit can be unlearned,” he says. “It’s a matter of putting the old coping to the side and allowing yourself to experience what it blocks.” Addressing echoism could help you deepen your relationships and discover new things. “I didn’t even know about Echo until I went back to the original myth,” Malkin says. “I thought that was so appropriate for understanding this kind of problem because people who struggle with echoism, not only do they not have a voice, they are easily missed as a result. People miss aspects of them. People miss them.”

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(Video) What Is Echoism? 10 Phrases Narcissists Use To Shut Down Your Voice

This page was updated to improve clarity on the topic on April 27, 2022.


What is the extreme opposite of a narcissist? ›

Because a lack of empathy and the inability to recognize how someone else is feeling is such a prominent sign of NPD, several researchers determined that the opposite of narcissistic personality disorder is empathy. Empathy requires someone to consider other people's feelings and be able to offer some level of support.

Is Echoism a form of narcissism? ›

Like Echo, people with echoism struggle to express themselves. They worry about coming across as needy and may lack a defined self-identity or clear desires. So, they often seem content to simply support others. Echoism lies at the far end of the narcissism spectrum.

What you need to know the other opposite of narcissism is echoism? ›

Echoism is sometimes considered the opposite of narcissism, but central to being an echoist is a fear of seeming narcissistic. They fear being the center of attention or a burden to others. Individuals like that tend to be warmhearted, to the point of overgiving and under-receiving.

What is the polar opposite of narcissism? ›

The opposite polarity to narcissism has been described as echoism.

What personality type do narcissists hate? ›

Although they can be targeted, type A people can also become a narcissist's worst nightmare. One of the most important defenses against dark personalities is having strong boundaries yourself, and type A people are usually aware they have the right to build them.

Who does the narcissist fear the most? ›

Although narcissists act superior, entitled and boastful, underneath their larger-than-life facade lies their greatest fear: That they are ordinary. For narcissists, attention is like oxygen. Narcissists believe only special people get attention.

What is opposite of Echoist? ›

Again, echoism is the opposite of narcissism. Echoists are often people who feel the need to take care of others at their own expense.

What makes a person an Echoist? ›

What is an echoist? An echoist is most easily defined as someone who is prone to being in relationships with narcissists, either in external relationships or internally manifesting as someone who struggles to exist as a person in their own right.

What causes Echoism? ›

Echoists appear to be born with more emotional sensitivity than most of us—they feel deeply—and when that temperament is exposed to a parent who shames or punishes them for having any needs at all, they're apt to grow up high in echoism.

What is a quiet narcissist called? ›

Covert narcissism is also known as shy, vulnerable, or closet narcissism. People with this subtype tend not to outwardly demonstrate arrogance or entitlement. Instead, they might put themselves down and seem anxious about what others think of them, rather than exuding charm or confidence.

What are the three types of narcissistic people? ›

There are many types of narcissism, but the three most well-known are covert, overt, and malignant.

What are the two types of narcissistic people? ›

What Are the Different Types of Narcissism? There are 2 main types of narcissism: grandiose and vulnerable. Although both types share some traits, they also result in fairly distinct behaviors. In addition to these types of NPD, there are other subtypes of narcissism.

Is an Echoist an empath? ›

(psychology) (countable) An echoist is an empath's habitual refrain from expressing themselves and an erasure of their true identity in favor of agreeability with narcissists, typically stemming from childhood narcissistic abuse.

What are the 4 types of narcissism? ›

Experts work with five main types of narcissism: overt, covert, communal, antagonistic, and malignant narcissism. They can all affect how you see yourself and interact with others. When it comes to treatment, narcissism can be tricky because many people living with it don't necessarily feel the need to change.

What is narcissism confused with? ›

A person living with a narcissistic personality may also share certain similarities with a sociopath. Because of this, narcissism and sociopathy are often mistaken for one another. People with either personality type can become dangerous to themselves and those around them.

What kind of parent raises a narcissist? ›

Cramer (2011) showed that children raised by authoritative and permissive parents (high responsiveness) exhibited more adaptive narcissistic tendencies, such as superiority and grandiosity, whereas children raised by authoritarian parents (low responsiveness) were less likely to exhibit such traits.

What is the weakness of narcissist? ›

A monumental weakness in the narcissist is the failure to look internally and flesh out what needs to be worked on. Then, of course, the next step is to spend time improving. The narcissist sabotages any possibility of looking deep within.

What annoys a narcissist most? ›

Simply put, anything that jeopardizes their basic needs for superiority can quickly irritate them. If you want to know how to infuriate a narcissist, you can look no further than giving them nothing. But you can also stand up for yourself, set boundaries, and refuse their gaslighting strategies.

What angers a narcissist the most? ›

8 Triggers of a Narcissist's Rage

They feel that they've been criticized, even if the critique is constructive or said kindly. They're not the center of attention. They're caught breaking rules or not respecting boundaries. They're held accountable for their actions.

What is the biggest trait of a narcissist? ›

Grandiose sense of self-importance

Grandiosity is the defining characteristic of narcissism. More than just arrogance or vanity, grandiosity is an unrealistic sense of superiority. Narcissists believe they are unique or “special” and can only be understood by other special people.

What is the number one trait of a narcissist? ›

Need for Admiration

One of the most common signs of a narcissist is a constant need for praise or admiration. People with this behavior need to feel validation from others and often brag or exaggerate their accomplishments for recognition.

Is an empath the opposite of a narcissist? ›

Empaths are the opposite of narcissists. While people with narcissistic personality disorder have no empathy, and thrive on the need for admiration, empaths are highly sensitive and in tune with other people's emotions. Empaths are "emotional sponges," who can absorb feelings from other people very easily.

Why do narcissists name drop? ›

While the motivations for name dropping can vary widely, Campbell said name dropping is often a symptom of narcissism, or an over-inflated sense of self. “The relationships become about status-seeking, and dominance, and success,” he said. “That makes it really hard to have a family, or to have close relationships.

Is codependency the opposite of narcissism? ›

Narcissism and codependency aren't always opposites. The desire to feel needed is not that different from the desire to feel important. While many studies find lower rates of narcissism among people with codependency, some have actually found higher rates of narcissism among those with codependent traits.

What is the difference between an empath and Echoist? ›

Echoists lack a voice and are terrified of confrontation or disapproval. While empaths are different from narcissists in their ability to see and feel things from other people's perspectives, echoists contrast with narcissists in the way they shun the spotlight and stifle their own needs.

What is the Gray Rock method for narcissists? ›

People with narcissistic personality disorder crave attention and making themselves appear like a grey rock is a way to deprive them of the reactions that they're seeking. The tactic includes limiting emotional responses, avoiding eye contact, and removing yourself from situations whenever it's possible to do so.

What is echoism narcissistic abuse? ›

Echoism involves the fear of seeming narcissistic and includes people-pleasing and over-apologizing. A healthy amount of narcissism is required for anyone to self-enhance and grow, experts say.

Why do narcissist look in the mirror? ›

Narcissists do enjoy looking at themselves in the mirror. They may spend more time grooming themselves to bolster their grandiose self-images. In this way, narcissists may be more prone to self-objectify—and identify with and to base their self-worth on their external appearance, instead of their character.

What is the meaning of echoism? ›

: the phonetic assimilation of a following to a preceding sound (such as a vowel)

What in the brain causes narcissism? ›

NPD Brains Work Differently

According to research, people with narcissistic personality disorder have reduced gray matter volume in areas of the brain related to empathy and increased activity on baseline images in brain regions associated with self-directed and self-absorbed thinking.

What are the 5 main habits of a narcissist? ›

Common Narcissist Characteristics
  • Inflated Ego.
  • Lack of Empathy.
  • Need for Attention.
  • Repressed Insecurities.
  • Few Boundaries.

What are narcissists like with money? ›

They are punitive with money. Narcissists often use money as a tool for punishment. They may reward you financially when you do what they want, and then withhold money when they feel vindictive. This can feel unsafe, degrading and confusing.

What are the red flags of a narcissist? ›

Here are some narcissism red flags to look out for: Lacking empathy. They seem unable or unwilling to have empathy for others, and they appear to have no desire for emotional intimacy. Unrealistic sense of entitlement.

What is a Machiavellian person? ›

“Machiavellians are sly, deceptive, distrusting, and manipulative. They are characterized by cynical and misanthropic beliefs, callousness, a striving for … money, power, and status, and the use of cunning influence tactics.

What kind of an ego does a narcissist have? ›

In narcissists, the Ego is dormant, comatose. The narcissist needs the input of the outside world to perform the most basic Ego functions (e.g., "recognition" of the world, setting boundaries, differentiation, self-esteem and regulation of a sense of self-worth). Only the False Self gets in touch with the world.

What is the counterpart to a narcissist? ›

The opposite of a narcissist is called an 'empath'— here are the signs you could be one. People who are very receptive to the emotions of others are known as empaths. They are also very sensitive to noise, smell, and being around people. This means they are overwhelmed in crowds, and get exhausted in social situations.

Does narcissism get worse with age? ›

Summary: For most people, narcissism wanes as they age. A new study reports the magnitude of the decline of narcissistic traits is tied to specific career and personal relationship choices. However, this is not true for everyone.

What kind of woman do narcissists like? ›

In fact, narcissists are often attracted to strong, confident, and self-assured women. While this may seem counterintuitive, it is important to realize that the narcissistic traits of grandiosity and confidence are really a mask for deep insecurity.

How does an empath defeat a narcissist? ›

When the narcissist threatens to ruin the empath's reputation by sharing secrets to keep them dependent, the super empaths will share their secrets first. Although empaths feel shame and guilt, they will take the narcissist's power away at every opportunity. And that will destroy the narcissist.

Can an empath turn narcissistic? ›

Covert narcissists know exactly how to push an empath's buttons, and for a long time they succeed in doing so. But eventually, the empath's discerning mind recognizes this behaviour for what it is-passive-aggression. This is when the empath turns into the narcissist's narcissist.

How can empaths avoid narcissists? ›

Here are four ways to protect yourself from a narcissist if you're an empath:
  1. Set Clear Boundaries. First, it's important to set firm boundaries and understand that the narcissist will try to push and test these limits. ...
  2. Take an Outsider's Perspective. ...
  3. Remember That They Won't Reciprocate. ...
  4. Don't Give Second Chances.
Aug 27, 2021

What are the 12 signs of narcissism? ›

12 signs of narcissism
  • Superiority and entitlement. The world of the narcissist is all about good-bad, superior-inferior, and right-wrong. ...
  • Exaggerated need for attention and validation. ...
  • Lack of responsibility—blaming and deflecting. ...
  • Lack of boundaries. ...
  • Lack of empathy. ...
  • Emotional reasoning. ...
  • Splitting. ...
  • Fear.
Nov 24, 2018

Are narcissists born or made? ›

Narcissism is one of those traits that appears to be programmed into a person's behavioral repertoire after birth, not before. It's one of those byproducts of consistent pre-verbal interactions that can shape our adult lives, according to current thought.

What is worse than a narcissist? ›

Sociopaths are more dangerous than narcissists. People with antisocial personality disorder are more likely to be engaged in an abusive or controlling relationship. They're also more likely to be involved in illegal activities or financial fraud schemes. If dating someone like this, you're in trouble.

What's the most overlooked symptom of narcissism? ›

Habitual Non-Listening

The narcissist knows best, after all, so why bother listening to what others have to say? Ever spoken with someone who responded dismissively to everything you said? Narcissists brush aside or deprecate what others say instead of truly listening.

What happens when a narcissist knows you figured them out? ›

When a narcissist is exposed or when the narcissist knows you have figured him out, they will never admit the truth even if it is staring them in the face. A narcissist will lay several false accusations and try to make him right. They will say things you didn't utter and misinterpret all your intentions.

What is higher than a narcissist? ›

Both personalities may be calculating, but a sociopath may rank higher. They will act without regard to how anyone may view them, while narcissists ultimately need admiration and are very interested in the impression they leave on others.

What is an Echoist? ›

What Is Echoism? Again, echoism is the opposite of narcissism. Echoists are often people who feel the need to take care of others at their own expense. They shy away from any form of praise or recognition, instead wishing to remain anonymous and in the shadows.

What can mimic narcissism? ›

Asperger's Disorder is often misdiagnosed as Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), though evident as early as age 3 (while pathological narcissism cannot be safely diagnosed prior to early adolescence). In both cases, the patient is self-centered and engrossed in a narrow range of interests and activities.

Does a narcissist get worse with age? ›

3% of subjects showed increased narcissistic traits between the ages of 18 and 41. The belief that one is smarter, better looking, more successful and more deserving than others — a personality trait known as narcissism — tends to wane as a person matures, a new study confirms.

What is a dark empath? ›

What Is a Dark Empath? A dark empath is a term that describes someone who exploits their ability to understand how other people think and feel. They can recognize another person's perspective while also showing signs of psychopathy, narcissism and Machiavellianism.

What are the 3 types of empath? ›

According to Orloff's own experiences (rather than empirical research), there are three types of empaths:
  • physical empaths.
  • emotional empaths.
  • intuitive empaths.
Apr 6, 2021

What are two sides of narcissism? ›

In the past two years the study of narcissism has gotten a face-lift. The trait is now considered to have two distinct dimensions: admiration seeking and rivalry.

What childhood trauma causes narcissism? ›

Narcissism tends to emerge as a psychological defence in response to excessive levels of parental criticism, abuse or neglect in early life. Narcissistic personalities tend to be formed by emotional injury as a result of overwhelming shame, loss or deprivation during childhood.

What do people confuse narcissism with? ›

Based on overlapping symptoms, Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) are often mistaken for one another. The two personality disorders even have a rate of co-occurrence of about 25 percent, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).


1. Echoism: The Opposite of Narcissism (Narcissistic Personality Disorder)
(Angie Atkinson)
2. Narcissist vs Echoist: Who is Who in this couple?
3. Narcissism, Echoism, and Need Panic
(Craig Malkin)
4. The Spectrum: From Echoism to Narcissistic Personality Disorder
(Craig Malkin)
5. S1E1 Dealing with a narcissist vs an echoist #FAQAMT
(FAQ At My Table)
6. Stop Doing This if You're with a Narcissist
(Craig Malkin)
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