If someone displays these 9 behaviors, they probably have selective empathy

Selective empathy happens when people only care about certain people or situations and ignore the rest.

Some do it to protect themselves from getting too emotional, while others just don’t have the energy to care about everyone.

Past bad experiences can also make them wary of who they show empathy to, and social rules might say it’s okay to only care about certain people.

So, it’s time to find out what behaviors people who have selective empathy show. 

1) They only seem to empathize with certain people or groups

They’re like those friends who only care about certain people in their lives, ignoring the rest. 

They’ll be all ears for their besties but won’t give a second thought to others who might need their support.

They’ll go out of their way to understand and support the people they have compassion toward and offer a listening ear and a shoulder to lean on whenever needed.

But to everyone else, they’ll probably seem like stone-cold bastards. As if their emotions and struggles don’t matter as much in the eyes of the selective empathizer. 

They’ll receive minimal attention or support, if any at all, leaving them feeling isolated and unimportant.

2) They don’t acknowledge or care about others’ emotions unless it benefits them

Other times, when you’re pouring your heart out to them, they’re just staring into space like they couldn’t care less. They might even change the subject or pretend they didn’t hear you.

In fact, they’ll listen and show concern, but only if they think they’ll get something out of it, like approval, favors, or control. 

If there’s no payoff for them, they’ll simply brush off or ignore your feelings altogether. It’s a bit like they’re using empathy as a currency, only spending it when they think they’ll get a return on their investment. 

It’s needless to say that this kind of behavior can make relationships feel shallow and transactional, lacking the genuine care and understanding that true empathy brings.

3) They use empathy as a tool to manipulate situations or people

Now imagine someone who acts like they understand your problems but only because they want something from you. They’ll pretend to be there for you, but really, they’re just looking out for themselves.

They’ll act all caring and sympathetic, but behind the scenes, they’re just using these emotions to get what they want.

For example, a colleague pretends to empathize with your workload and offers to help but later uses that as leverage to gain credit for your work or to request favors from you in return.

I mean, sure, they helped you out, right? But they also did it by knowingly having a secret agenda to take advantage of you. Now, or in the future.

4) They downplay or ignore the problems of those they don’t empathize with

Ever shared something that’s bothering you only to have them brush it off like a speck of dust? It felt like to them, your feelings are insignificant crumbs, easily swept aside without a second thought.

Instead of offering support or understanding, they choose to minimize or disregard the importance of your problems.

And that can be extremely hurtful and dismissive. 

In some cases, they even go a step further and actively ignore the problems of those they don’t empathize with. 

They change the subject, avoid conversations about sensitive topics, or simply distance themselves from those who are experiencing difficulties.

But why do they do that?

5) They struggle to see things from different perspectives

phrases manipulative people use to undermine your sense of self certainty If someone displays these 9 behaviors, they probably have selective empathy

When someone struggles to see things from different perspectives, they’re in tunnel vision and only see their own point of view. 

They have a hard time understanding where others are coming from or what they’re going through. No matter how much you try to explain, they just can’t seem to get you. 

So when others share their problems, they often just shrug it off or not take it seriously because they can’t really grasp how it feels. 

They’re simply stuck in their own bubble, so to speak, and can’t step outside of it to see things from someone else’s perspective. 

And we see that happening more and more, don’t we? 

Living inside a bubble is comfy. You never get your ideas challenged, and everyone agrees with you. 

6) Their empathy is often focused on how situations affect them personally

They’re all about themselves, plain and simple. If it’s not about them, they’re not interested. They’ll talk about their own stuff all day but won’t spare a moment for anyone else.

And I’m sure you already know a person or two like that. They’re narcissistic and only see the world through a “me, me, me” lens.

They’re really good at understanding how things impact them directly, but, again, they struggle to see things from other people’s perspectives.

That’s why when someone else shares a problem or situation, they might immediately relate it back to themselves, making it all about their own experiences and feelings.

7) Their empathy fluctuates depending on their mood or the situation

One day, they’re your best buddy, and the next, they’re nowhere to be found. You never know where you stand with them because they’re as unpredictable as the weather.

On good days, when they’re feeling happy and positive, they’re all ears and ready to lend a hand. They’ll listen, offer advice, and really try to put themselves in your position.

But when they’re feeling down or stressed out, their empathy takes a backseat. They’re so wrapped up in their own stuff that they don’t have the energy or focus to tune into others’ emotions.

And depending on the situation, their empathy levels can vary, too. If it’s something they can relate to or if it’s a big deal, they might be super empathetic. 

But if it’s not their problem or if they’re not in the mood, they might not give it much thought.

8) They have a judgmental attitude 

As you can see, selective empathy is really interesting, isn’t it? You see how some people think completely differently than we do. 

So, for example, some people will be quick to judge and slow to empathize. Instead of understanding where you’re coming from, they’ll criticize or make you feel bad about your feelings.

Instead of giving people the benefit of the doubt, they’re all about making snap judgments based on stereotypes or appearances.

And, again, we see that happening all around us. In fact, we all more or less judge others, like it or not. 

It happens subconsciously, and we can fool ourselves all day long that we don’t do these things, but that doesn’t change the facts. 

However, people who have selective empathy are something else. 

For instance, if someone messes up or has a problem, instead of offering a helping hand, they’re more likely to point fingers and blame. 

They judge people based on how they look or where they come from instead of seeing them for who they really are.

9) They can’t empathize with experiences or emotions they haven’t personally felt

These kinds of people can only really get what they’ve been through themselves. So if a friend is going through something they’ve never experienced, like losing a job or dealing with a health issue, they’ll have a tough time connecting with how they’re feeling.

It’s not that they don’t care. It’s just that they can’t fully grasp what their friend is going through because they haven’t been there themselves.

As a result, they won’t offer the kind of support and understanding that their friend really needs during tough times.

And we see this happening with our politicians. They don’t care about you or your problems. But if something is affecting them personally or their family, they’re suddenly all hands on deck. 

Final thoughts

If someone consistently displays behaviors such as choosing favorites, ignoring others’ feelings, using empathy manipulatively, dismissing others’ problems, lacking understanding, and similar, it means they have selective empathy.

This obviously puts a strain on their relationships with other people because they often see them as heartless and oblivious to people’s problems. 

Adrian Volenik

Adrian Volenik

Adrian has years of experience in the field of personal development and building wealth. Both physical and spiritual. He has a deep understanding of the human mind and a passion for helping people enhance their lives. Adrian loves to share practical tips and insights that can help readers achieve their personal and professional goals. He has lived in several European countries and has now settled in Portugal with his family. When he’s not writing, he enjoys going to the beach, hiking, drinking sangria, and spending time with his wife and son.

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