8 habits of people who lack empathy and emotional maturity

We’ve all encountered someone who looks like an adult but acts like a child.

Similarly, we’ve all met someone who is downright mean to everyone they meet.

Unlike physical development, we all mature at different stages. But unfortunately, some people never seem to reach emotional maturity.

There are various reasons why someone may not develop normal levels of empathy and maturity. 

However, regardless of the reason, we should never feel compelled to put up with an emotionally immature person, nor should we ever excuse their behavior. 

Dealing with someone who lacks empathy is not just frustrating, but it can negatively impact your mental and emotional well-being. 

So, to protect yourself from harmful individuals, it helps to know their typical behaviors. Here are eight habits you will often see in people lacking emotional intelligence. 

1) Thinking only about themselves

One of the most apparent habits of someone who lacks empathy and emotional maturity is only thinking for themselves.

Every decision they make with someone else will be based on their wants. 

Let’s take the example of your partner complaining that you spend too much time with your friends and not enough time with them.

If you’re emotionally mature, you will listen to their concerns and find a way to compromise to make you both happy.


If you’re immature, you would brush off their concerns, claiming they are being too needy. You would emphasize that spending time with your friends is important to YOU but fail to address what is important to your partner.

Moreover, people who lack empathy only do something for others if they believe they will get something in return.

So you’ll never see someone who lacks empathy doing acts of kindness, good deeds, or charity work.

To them, if they do not benefit directly from something, they are not interested.

2) Pushing people away

If someone lacks empathy, they will fail to understand the needs of their loved ones.

For example, they won’t pick up on the obvious signs that their partner is unhappy with them. 

As a result, they will constantly struggle to maintain relationships. 

They will unknowingly push people away and sabotage their relationships

So, if someone has a string of short, failed relationships and has never had a long-term, meaningful partnership, this is a sign that they lack empathy.

Likewise, if they have lots of acquaintances but no close friends, this signifies that they have trouble understanding others.

They might claim that they are independent, but in reality, they cannot form meaningful connections.

This is partly down to the following habit… 

3) Not talking about their feelings

Emotionally immature people not only keep their feelings inside, but they push them as far down as possible.

They struggle immensely to tell someone how they feel or to raise their concerns.

So, instead, they get into the habit of avoiding tough conversations. 

And if you try to get them to open up, you’ll be met with resistance.

They might:

  • Pretend they didn’t hear you
  • Change the subject
  • Make a joke
  • Find an excuse to leave the room
  • Tell you they are too busy to talk about it now

Having tough and honest conversations feels uncomfortable for most people. But generally, we know when we have to face the music. 

However, someone who lacks emotional maturity will continue avoiding the issue for as long as they can.

4) Judging everyone (including strangers)

Those who lack empathy also cannot see things from other people’s perspectives. 

Psychologist Douglas LaBier, Ph. D., explains this in more detail. He says people with empathy deficit disorder (EDD) cannot step outside of themselves to tune in to what other people experience, especially those who feel, think, and believe differently from them.

As a result, they struggle to understand why people do the things they do. Instead of trying to understand their actions, they judge, condemn, and criticize them. 

But the thing they criticize the most is people’s display of emotions. 

If someone has ever told you you’re too sensitive or ridiculed you for crying in public, this is someone who is immature and unempathetic. 

5) Attracting drama

phrases theyre being rude without realizing it 8 habits of people who lack empathy and emotional maturity

You know those people who seem like drama follows them everywhere they go?

That’s because they are emotionally immature. 

But it’s not drama following them around; they are attracting it.

They are what’s known as a ‘drama magnet.’ According to motivational speaker Connie Podesta, drama magnets attract drama by:

  • Not listening to the concerns or perspectives of others
  • Blaming everyone else for their mistakes
  • Refusing to back down or compromise 
  • Rejecting all advice they’re given

Drama magnets feed off negativity. According to psychologists, this is often down to early developmental trauma, neglect, or emotional deprivation. These causes are also the root of the person’s lack of empathy and emotional immaturity.

It’s also why it’s not uncommon to find them doing this next thing…

6) Starting arguments all the time

Dealing with an emotionally immature person can be exhausting, as you’re constantly worried that you’ll accidentally end up in a conflict with them.

Because they are always looking for drama, emotionally immature people will turn on you the minute you question their views or beliefs.

To them, if you’re not 100% on “their side,” then you are the enemy.

Moreover, because emotionally immature people cannot see beyond their perspective, they constantly argue with strangers. 

For example, if someone displays a behavior they do not like, they will get personally offended and feel the need to “teach them a lesson.”

And the problem is once you get into a conflict with an emotionally immature person, it’s hard to get out of it because of this annoying habit…

7) Refusing to apologize

Another thing you might notice about people who lack empathy and emotional maturity is lack of remorse for their mistakes and wrong actions.

Here are some typical examples:

  • Refusing to apologize for something they did despite evidence proving it.
  • Preferring to let a friendship/relationship break down than admit they are wrong.
  • Creating elaborate excuses to justify their actions.
  • Believing everyone is out to get them.
  • Blaming others for their behavior (i.e., “If you didn’t wind me up like that, I wouldn’t have got angry and shouted.”

While lack of remorse is associated with mental health conditions like psychopathy, most people don’t take responsibility for their actions simply because they don’t realize the hurt they have caused.

Moreover, remember that emotionally immature people struggle to manage their emotions, so they prefer to push their feelings away rather than sit with them. 

When we apologize, we put ourselves in a vulnerable position, opening the floodgates to a range of emotions.

8) Mistreating animals

It’s not only humans that people who are emotionally immature struggle to connect with. 

Most people who lack empathy dislike animals and sometimes even mistreat them.

Some emerging research supports this. For example, a recent Spanish study found correlations between a lack of empathy toward people and animals. 

However, interestingly, they found a closer link between a lack of empathy for nature and animals. 

So, if you want to understand how empathetic someone is, watch how they act around your pet or a stray animal.

As a huge animal lover, if I see someone kick a stray dog, act awkward around my cat, or mistreat their pet, I know they lack empathy and emotional maturity.

And remember, they may say they like animals, but actions always speak louder than words.

Final thoughts

So what should you do if you encounter someone with these habits? 

Well, it depends on your relationship, but in general, it’s best to distance yourself from them by setting boundaries.

Moreover, when communicating with an unempathetic person, express your feelings honestly and directly. For example, use “I” statements to emphasize how their actions impact you. 

Finally, while we cannot make someone more compassionate, we can lead by example. 

So don’t let them drag you down. Instead, demonstrate empathetic behavior in your interactions with others. You never know; it might prompt them to reflect on their actions!

Gemma Clarke

Gemma Clarke

I am a certified yoga and mindfulness teacher and an experienced content writer in the spirituality and personal growth space. I’m passionate about sharing my expertise through the power of words to inspire and guide others along the path of personal and spiritual development.

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