Feelin' It: 6 Things To Know As A 'Friend Empath'
Love & Relationships

Feelin' It: 6 Things To Know As A 'Friend Empath'

Back when I was in the process of getting my letters in life coaching, something that I spent a good amount of time on is empaths. When it comes to words that are used in the mental health space, it’s kind of interesting that there are two things that I, surprisingly, find narcissists and empaths to have in common.

For one thing, while many people have narcissistic and empath-related traits, far less folks are actually narcissists (meaning they havethe disorder) or are full-on empaths. And two, oftentimes, those two types of people are actuallydrawn to one another. While it’s kind of another article for another time how/why, for the sake of this article, empaths tend to want to help narcissists, and narcissists like to take that help for granted to the nth degree. That’s actually how a lot of folks with narcissistic tendencies and individuals with empathic traits end up being friends…or rather “friends.”

So, is that what we’re gonna talk about today? Eh. Not specifically. This is more about the fact that, as we get older and live and learn a little longer, you start to realize that “friend” is not a simple word and oftentimes we can struggle in our relationships with people because we don’t know enough about ourselves (and/or others) to figure out how to keep the connection healthy and mutually beneficial. An example of that is if you are indeed an empath and you’re trying to navigate through your relationships with people who aren’t or even…are.

Let’s explore that today. If you’re someone who has always wondered why you sometimes have challenges in your friendships that others do not seem to, it might just be that you’re what I call a “friend empath.” Read on to see if that is indeed the case.

Being An Empath. Revisited.


Before getting into what it means to be an empath, let me just say that back when I discovered that I was an ambivert and I started to share the signs of one with other people, it was funny how so many folks who had never even heard of the word before suddenly said, “Yeah, I’m one too then.” Umm, that’s not exactly how it works. LOL. If you really want to discover things like that about yourself, it’s always a good idea to take an actual test. So, if you’re curious to know if you are a true empath (and not just someone who has some of the characteristics because most of us fall under that category), you can take a free testhere,here, andhere (you can also get an “official” assessment with a reputable mental health provider).

And what exactly is an empath? Probably one of the easiest and simplest ways to explain it isan empath is someone who is able to sense, feel, and understand what others do in a way that is very profound. A fictional character who immediately comes to mind isMay from the movie A Secret Life of Bees. If you saw the movie, you might recall that she would write her feelings down on a piece of paper, put them into a stone wall, and grieve. She did this so much to the point that one day, she couldn’t take the burdens of her feelings any longer, and she took her own life.

Being an empath definitely doesn’t mean that life has to be that heavy or grim; however, a common trait for pretty much all empaths is they are very sensitive, and that can make discourse in friendships and also the ending of friendships so much harder for them to deal with than anyone else.

For an empath, it’s almost like they take on the life of their friends and, should things come to an end, the heartbreak of it all, on some level, can seem to last for years — if not, on some level, forever. That’s oftentimes why many empaths prefer to only deal intimately with very few people; it’s literally all that their heart can take.

If all of what I just said actually resonates with you, yet you want to know some telling signs that you could very well be a friend empath (or one of your friends is a friend empath), here are six traits to pay very close attention to.

6 Telling Signs You Are A Friend Empath

1. You Tend to “Absorb” Other People’s Emotions


If you’re a Christian and you’ve never taken a spiritual gifts test before (I Corinthians 12), I recommend that you do (a pretty thorough one can be accessedhere). Long story short, it helps you to understand some of the supernatural abilities that you have that help to edify the Church. The way that most people who specialize in spiritual gifts say that you should really focus on the results is the top three high scores (even if they are five or six different things); those are what you are the strongest in.

Anyway, if one of them happens to be faith, think about how you handle a lot of bad news or a ton of intel about a person or situation. If you prefer to limit your participation, you also may be an empath and not even know it. How did I come to that conclusion? It’s because I know several people with that gift, and all of them say that when they receive too much information, it weighs down their spirit, affects their ability to pray, and can even make them very sad. I think a big part of it is because in order to have faith, you’ve got to believe in things, and in order to believe, you oftentimes need to have some level of sympathy, compassion, and empathy — and if you get too involved, at the very least, it can become emotionally overwhelming to the point that what other people have going on could very well consume you.

With all this being said, think about when your friends call to vent something. Are you present for the call and then when you hang up, it’s easy for you to go on about your day — or does it affect you to the point where you feel stressed out on some level? Almost as if you are now going through the experience with them — or, on some level, even “for” them?

2. You Typically Get Your Feelings Hurt Rather Easily


I have a few bona fide empaths in my life, and in order to be a better friend to them, something that I’ve had to learn to do is be more sensitive to their feelings because, sometimes, they can almost come across as being super fragile. It makes sense because, on the heels of what I just said about how empaths take on other people’s emotions, there’s no way that they would be able to do that if they didn’t feel things very intensely within themselves, too.

For instance, something that I have to do with empaths is be more cognizant of my delivery and tone because they are almost hypersensitive to both.

For a true empath, the saying, “It’s not what you say but how you say it,” definitely resonates because when you’re in the process of communicating with them, it’s almost like all five of their senses (touch, taste, hearing, sound, sight) are involved. This means that if your body language seems off, they are going to notice. If you raise your voice to make a point, they might feel low-key attacked. If you say something flippantly because you’re irritated, they may take it up a few more notches and assume that you are angry.

Can all of this boil down to sometimes feeling like you’re walking on eggshells when you’re dealing with an empath? Quite frankly, yes. However, what makes it worth your while is the fact that the level of sensitivity that an empath will bring to you in your time of experiencing say, a death or a break-up, is incomparable. They aren’t casual or nonchalant by any stretch. They see your pain, feel your pain, and want to be very mindful and present with you in it.

And so, if getting that means that you have to be a little extra cautious with their feelings sometimes…so be it (although empaths, it’s also wise to let people know when you’re feeling a little “tender;” it’s not fair to expect others to assume since not everyone is an empath like you are).

3. You Are Prone to Do Most of the Giving


Now, if there is one thing that I can totally relate with a true empath on is doing most of the giving in relationships; at least, that’s how my world used to be back in the day. Because empaths are highly compassionate (which basically means that they see suffering and want to do all that they can to alleviate it), they have a tendency to go above and beyond to help others out. In fact, it’s pretty common for empaths to end up caring about and doing more for a person’s problems than the person themselves, whether the individual asked them to or not.

For empaths, they can’t see being any other way because if someone has a need, they are typically hyper-focused on meeting it.

Here's the real catcher: even if they are this way with friends who show reciprocity, they are almost always going to “outdo” them because empaths don’t always know balance. If one of their friends needs rent money, they might overlook their own bills to pay it. After a while, that can make their friends feel uncomfortable or even guilty because while they appreciate the empath’s efforts, that doesn’t mean that they think they should respond in the same over-the-top ways.

And don’t even get me started on the folks who take more than they give in the friendship. For them, empaths are like a walking ATM because they know that if anyone will take their sob stories to heart, their empathetic friend will — and if it means that the empath has to go without in order for their own needs to be met…so be it.

This brings me to something else about friend empaths: energy vampires will try to emotionally eat them alive.

4. Energy Vampires Are Drawn to You


Empaths are very sensitive to energy — not just when it comes to people, either. In fact, another trait that is pretty common for empaths, in general, is they like to spend time in nature because it has a way of calming, centering, and replenishing them (so if you are friends with an empath and you want to show them how much you appreciate them, planning some sort of get-together in nature is oftentimes a wise choice). And because energy means a lot to them, energy vampires are always on the hunt for them.

What exactly is an energy vampire? The simple way to explain them is they are the type of people who are extremely draining to be around; some might even go so far as to define them as being toxic individuals. Why? Because of the things that they do.

Energy vampires are known to not take accountability for their actions. Energy vampires will play the victim a lot. Energy vampires might act as if they like you to your face; however, behind your back, they are either jealous of or competing with you (whether you realize it or not). Energy vampires constantly need attention. Energy vampires are always in some sort of drama. Energy vampires make mountains out of molehills. Energy vampires bring you down.

And you know what? I’m pretty sure that after all of what I just said about empaths, you can get why these types of people like empaths because if anyone is going to have tolerance for their “extra-ness,” it’s going to be an empath. And that’s why empaths have to be intentional about setting boundaries with these types of individuals.

In fact, because energy vampires can be a bit of a weakness for empaths, they might have to be a little more extreme than others and avoid being friends with these types of people altogether since saying “no” isn’t typically their strong suit.

5. You Can “Ghost” Folks


Charge it to what I do for a living (communicate…A LOT), yet if there is one thing that irks me to absolutely no end, it’s ghosting. Personally, I find it to be selfish, cowardly, and relationally irresponsible. Folks in my world know that if you want a line to be drawn, oh so very clearly in the sand with me, get ghost.

Interestingly enough, this is a common characteristic for a lot of empaths — although it’s usually not for malicious reasons. Because they care on such a deep level, sometimes their own feelings for others can overwhelm them; when that happens, what they tend to do is retreat, oftentimes without saying anything at all.

If you read that and are nodding your head up and down, let me just say that while other empaths may give you an automatic pass on this, people like me will not. It’s so much more effective — even if it’s via a text, email, or voicemail — to convey that you’re feeling a certain way and need some time to yourself than to abandon the friendship altogether and then expect someone to be fine with that and to pick up, just where the two of you left off, later on (whenever that later may be because…who knows?).

Yeah, as much as empaths may feel other people, they aren’t always or necessarily the clearest communicators on the planet. That’s something that can make being friends or in a romantic relationship with one hella challenging (at times).

6. Intimacy May Overwhelm You Sometimes


Last one. At the end of the day, intimacy is simply experiencing some level of closeness with other individuals, whether it’s mental, emotional, spiritual, or sexual. And again, because empaths feel so deeply, intimacy might be an internal struggle sometimes.

For instance, while they might be ready and willing to hear all of your problems, it could feel like pulling teeth to get them to do the same. Why? Because it’s natural for empaths to take on other people’s stuff, yet they oftentimes are “afraid” of the vulnerability that comes from sharing their own feelings, thoughts, and needs with other people. Why? Because if someone disappoints them, an empath may wonder if they will fully recover from it — and so, rather than take the risk, they keep (certain) things bottled up inside.

This is actually one of the reasons why I think it’s a good idea for engaged couples to take certain personality tests before saying “I do.” Imagine being married to an empath, not knowing it, and after a really heavy conversation or a very intense and intimate sexual experience, out of nowhere, they clam up on you. If you don’t know more about your partner’s personality traits, it can come off as out-of-nowhere rejection; if you’re aware that they are an empath, some extra tolerance and understanding will be easier to extend.


Was this a lot? I mean, in many ways, empaths are a lot. Still, if you know more about how they think and move, if you are one, that can make it easier for you to express what you need to others, and if you have a friend who is one, that can make it easier for you to understand how to be a good (and lasting) friend to them.

Author Dean Koontz once said, “Being an empath is like seeing with the soul.” And so yes, being a friend empath can be a true blessing — so long as all parties involved know how to handle it with care.

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Featured image by Delmaine Donson/Getty Images




This article is in partnership with SheaMoisture

Skylar Marshai is known for her extravagant style, and her hair is no exception. But now, she’s giving her hair a break and focusing on hair care with SheaMoisture’s Bond Repair Collection. “I feel like my hair has always been an extension of my storytelling because I know it's so innately linked to my self-expression that I've been thinking a lot about how my love for crafting my hair into these different forms and shapes has honestly never given it a chance to just be,” Skylar explains.

Gail Bean

When I was a child, one of my favorite pastimes was theater. There was something so fulfilling about being on stage and connecting with the talented individuals breathing life into characters and stories. So naturally, I entered college as a theater major, hopeful of creating more of these moments; I ended up switching later on. However, the love for the craft never left, and my respect for actors only grew. And every now and then, I watch a movie or television show, come across a new actor, and think to myself, ‘Ooh, you can tell they’re for real about this.’ This background brings me to the present and our conversation with NAACP award-winning actress Gail Bean.