If someone casually uses these 11 phrases, they lack empathy

Empathy is one of the most important qualities people can have if they want to succeed in social situations.

This capacity to recognize, understand, and relate your own emotions and those of others is usually developed during childhood and becomes a useful tool for all of a person’s life.

However, there are many people out there who don’t seem to have any empathy at all, or at least have it at very low levels.

They may find it very difficult to understand other people and their emotional responses, and this can cause them to struggle in social situations. Their ability to connect with others, build rapport and trust, and take action to help others can be severely diminished by having limited empathy.

In extreme cases, people on the autism spectrum, narcissists, psychopaths, and sociopaths may have next to no capacity for empathy at all.

So, how can you recognize a person with limited empathy? Not only their actions but the things they say can reveal this shortage.

If someone casually uses these 11 phrases, they lack empathy or have very little to help them interact successfully with others.

1) “You’re so emotional.”

It should be no surprise that if a person lacks empathy, they’d have a hard time understanding why other people get upset.

It might be about something they did or something totally unrelated, but the issue is that they frequently don’t get why another person has a strong emotional response to something.

For example, if they repeatedly blow off a friend who then gets upset with them, they wouldn’t see why the friend should be getting emotional. They might feel like they explained themself each time they canceled plans, so what would there be to get upset about?

What they’re missing is the feeling of rejection and worthlessness that blowing someone off can make them feel.

2) “You’re overreacting.”

Here’s another classic phrase that shows a really low capacity for understanding other people’s emotions.

Since they don’t connect behaviors to emotional responses in the same way that most people do, they see more extreme emotions as confusing and unnecessary.

Well, if someone ran over your dog with their car and you were bawling your eyes out, this is the last phrase you’d want to hear.

Imagine someone else telling you how appropriate or inappropriate your emotional expression is, especially in such a traumatic situation!

This phrase shows a clear lack of emotional connection and empathy.

3) “You’re being selfish.”

“You’re being selfish” is one phrase that comes right out of the narcissist’s handbook.

In some ways, everyone is self-centered and puts their own needs first; let’s be clear. But most of us understand why and when that’s appropriate.

However, someone with a low capacity for empathy may have trouble understanding that another person has needs as strong as their own.

So they’ll use this phrase to criticize others who are trying to meet their own needs, especially when that seems to get in the way of meeting their own.

Imagine two people at a restaurant where drinks are self-serve. 

One person goes to get a drink and comes back, only to be told they’re being selfish by not getting the other a drink, too. In reality, they didn’t get up and get a drink for anyone either and are now trying to make the other person feel bad for not attending to them. That’s truly selfish.

4) “That’s really badly done.”

I’m sure you’ve heard people utter this phrase or something like it. You’ve almost certainly used it yourself.

However, you also probably know when you can say it and when it’s not a good time.

If this is said in front of a person who has just delivered some work, for example, it can sound terribly callous.

Even if the person clearly didn’t put a huge amount of effort into the work, there are better ways to express criticism, like actually saying something constructive.

This phrase is just going to be insulting and inflammatory instead.

It also suggests a certain amount of arrogance on the part of the speaker, who seems to express that they could have done a better job.

5) “It’s their own fault.”

We all run into trouble in our lives.

We make mistakes or even find ourselves in bad situations out of naiveté or not paying enough attention.

When we do find ourselves in bad situations, do we need help or judgment?

If you said the former, you probably have a normal amount of empathy. On the other hand, people who lack empathy are quick to judge and condemn others.

They seldom offer help or support because they think that’s almost like giving someone a reward when they’ve messed up.

Nice, huh?

6) “I don’t care.”

This phrase gets tossed around a whole lot, and it doesn’t always indicate a lack of empathy… but it can.

Because caring is one pillar of the whole concept.

Think about walking down the street and seeing a young, ragged, scared-looking child who’s clearly homeless and destitute, panhandling on a corner.

Most people would immediately feel a pang in their hearts, and many would search their pockets for spare change.

Some may even talk to the child and ask if they can help them more substantially.

But someone who lacks empathy may not feel anything. Logically, they might think it’s not good for the child’s welfare to be living on the street, but they don’t feel that same sympathy for the child’s condition.

They don’t think, “If that was my child, I’d be distraught.” And because they don’t feel these emotional connections, they essentially don’t care and are far less likely to do anything to help.

7) “Don’t be stupid.”

lacks class and sophistication If someone casually uses these 11 phrases, they lack empathy

Here’s a phrase we’d all love to hear anytime, right?

Don’t think so.

Sometimes, we say this flippantly to someone we care about and instantly try to push the words back into our mouths because we know how much they can hurt.

Well, people who lack empathy don’t.

They can certainly make logical or rational judgments about others and definitely admonish them for what they see as foolish behavior.

What they’re not good at, though, is choosing the right phrase at the right time so that they don’t hurt people’s feelings.

So they’ll quickly and easily use this phrase without worrying if it’s too harsh.

8) “Why are you so upset?”

Here’s another phrase that represents their low capacity for empathy.

Since a big part of empathy is understanding the emotional responses of others, this phrase shows very clearly that the person doesn’t understand.

They face this struggle often because they don’t relate their words and actions to the other person’s emotional responses. Or at least they miss out on a lot of the subtleties that can really upset others.

9) “They deserve what they get.”

Here’s another phrase that shows a lack of sympathy for others.

Here, the person who says this is clearly not relating to the emotions the other people are experiencing when they’re in trouble.

Normal people might say this out of spite when they’ve been hurt by someone else, and now karma’s coming back to bite that person in the butt.

But people without empathy will use this phrase as a judgment. They’ll blame the person for getting themself into hot water without feeling bad for them or trying to understand their motivations.

10) “I’m sorry you feel that way.”

If his phrase sends a shudder down your spine, you’re not alone.

This is the best example there is of a nonapology and it’s something that shows a distinct lack of empathy.

People use this phrase to make it seem like they’ve apologized when they really haven’t taken any responsibility for their actions. While the words “I’m sorry” are there, their meaning is completely canceled out by the words that follow.

This phrase essentially turns the blame around onto the person who was hurt, making it seem like their emotions are the only reason for their ill feelings.

11) “Told you so.” 

Look, we warn people all the time of things that will go wrong if they continue on the path they choose.

And once things do go wrong, we often have a strong feeling of wanting to say, “I told you so.”

But for most of us, empathy keeps us in check and stops us from saying these words.

Instead, we hold this feeling inside and still empathize with the person who’s gotten themself in trouble.

But people who lack empathy don’t.

They’re perfectly happy using this phrase, which quite clearly blames the person for not heeding their advice. To them, it’s just a statement of fact, and they don’t think about how arrogant and heartless it can sound.

Final thoughts

If someone casually uses these 11 phrases, they lack empathy or at least have very little of it.

They clearly have trouble relating to other people’s emotions and seeing past their own, and this makes them struggle socially their whole lives.

Picture of Marcel Deer

Marcel Deer

Marcel is a journalist, gamer, and entrepreneur. When not obsessing over his man cave or the latest tech, he’s failing helplessly at training his obnoxious rescue dog ‘Boogies’.

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