9 signs of genuine empathy that can’t be faked

Empathetic people genuinely care about the well-being of others.

They’re kind, positive and sensitive – both to their feelings and the feelings of others.

These qualities make empaths likable and easy to open up to.

But unfortunately, there are people out there who will capitalize on these qualities and pretend to have empathy when they don’t.

What are the signs of genuine empathy that can’t be faked?

In this article, we’ll look at 9 signs of genuine empathy and some ways to tell real empaths from the fakes.

1) They actively listen

One of the first signs of genuine empathy is when someone actively listens to you in conversation.

Now, there’s a difference between ‘listening’ and ‘active listening’.

When someone actively listens, this means they’re actually listening to the words that come out of your mouth.

When they listen, and I mean really listen, they do it because they want to understand you.

Why you feel the way you do. Your struggles, pain, sadness, anger – whatever you feel, they want to be able to see things from your perspective.

How can you tell if someone is actually listening or not?

Well, there are a few things to look out for. Notably, someone who is actively listening will:

  • Maintain eye contact
  • Nod (and smile)
  • Use open body language
  • Refrain from interrupting you

This helps them to fully understand where you’re coming from and put themselves in your shoes.

2) They ask questions

Another thing a genuinely empathetic person will do when actively listening is ask questions.

But let’s look at the type of questions they ask.

A genuinely empathetic person may ask questions to clarify what you’re saying.

Doing so helps them understand your situation better. That way, they don’t come to the wrong conclusions or misinterpret the situation.

They’ll ask things like, ‘What happened next?’ ‘How did that make you feel?’ or ‘Could you explain that part again?’ which all help them to understand things fully.

Whereas a genuine empath is impartial, a fake empath will hold judgement in their line of questioning.

A fake empath might say, ‘How could you do that?’ ‘What were you thinking?’ ‘Did you think you were going to get away with that?’

See the difference?

Now that I’ve touched on the subject of impartiality, let’s move on to my next point.

3) They are non-judgmental

As mentioned, a genuinely empathetic person wants to understand your point of view, so they’ll take judgement out of the equation.

That means they’ll hold back from giving their opinions on matters you haven’t asked for.

They also won’t try to make you feel bad for your opinions, which is what fake empaths might do!

The thing about empathetic people is that they understand we are all complex.

Every person has a unique journey that has brought them to this point. Even if that journey differs from theirs, that doesn’t make that person’s journey invalid or inferior.

If someone’s story differs, a genuinely empathetic person isn’t going to judge them for it.

Instead, they’ll make an extra effort to try and see things through their lens.

4) They spot non-verbal cues

Another thing about someone with genuine empathy is: they don’t need to be told when something isn’t right. They know.

It’s all in the body language.

They can tell when someone is sad, upset, angry and so forth by how they act.

Even subtle movements or changes are enough for a genuine empath to catch on. These are non-verbal clues that someone who’s faking it will easily miss.

For example, they may notice someone is upset by how they purse their lips, keep their eyes on the floor or shift around.

5) They use open body language

Body language is hard to fake, especially as 60 – 65% of communication goes into it.

A sure sign of genuine empathy is when someone uses open body language when communicating.

These are things such as:

  • Uncrossing arms and legs
  • Leaning forward
  • Sitting or standing up straight
  • Facing towards you (face, body and feet)

Let me remind you that people with genuine empathy are kind and care about others, so their body language will reflect that.

If a so-called empath goes against this and seems closed off, chances are they’re faking it!

6) They’re not afraid to be vulnerable

vulnerable 9 signs of genuine empathy that can’t be faked

Another sign of genuine empathy that can’t be faked is when they’re not afraid to be vulnerable.

The thing is, empathetic people feel things deeply because they’re sensitive. They’re not afraid to show their emotions, and this is part of what makes them so authentic.

They also understand that vulnerability is a two-way street. That means they’ll share if they’ve been through a similar experience. They’ll relate to the pain you’ve gone through.

And more than that, they’ll be honest with their feelings.

But a fake empath may fake vulnerability for their own agenda.

For instance, let’s say you’ve opened up to a fake empath about the tough times you’re going through.

This faker then turns the convo around by making it all about them.

Their agenda in this case? To make you feel sorry for them!

Next thing you know, you’re consoling them and your own issues get swept under the carpet.

7) They offer emotional support

A genuinely empathetic individual feels bad when others are struggling. That’s because, along with positive emotions, they feel the negative too.

And as you can imagine, the negative emotions don’t feel so good.

So, they want to do what they can to help, even if that’s not much. It’s the least they can do.

They’ll offer words of encouragement like, ‘Things will get better,’ and ‘Take things one step at a time’.

They’ll reassure you that ‘You’re doing the best you can,’ and of course, offer to help.

If they can’t, they’ll make sure you know they’re just a phone call away if you need anything.

Now, a fake empath may go the route of telling you precisely what you should do.

It doesn’t necessarily matter if their ‘advice’ is what’s best for you.

They want you to know that they know it all, so you should do what they say!

8) They follow up

When a truly empathetic person offers emotional support, their offer won’t just end after that conversation.

They’ll follow up by checking in with you.

They want to make sure you’re ok or to remind you they’re there if you need help.

It wouldn’t feel right for them to leave you alone until they know you’re well or any negative feelings you had are gone.

As you can imagine, this isn’t the case for a fake empathetic person.

They may act like they care, but there’ll be no following up to be done.

In fact, don’t be surprised if they don’t even bring up your prior conversation when you next see them!

They may have been channelling their best empathetic impression at the time, but if they’re a faker, they won’t keep it up.

9) They go all out to make a positive difference

Empathetic folks get a kick out of helping others and spreading a little positivity. So, it’s no surprise they like to spend time making a positive impact.

People with genuine empathy don’t need prompting to help others. They’ll do it because that’s who they are.

For example, their co-worker lost someone close to them. In response, they buy a ‘Sorry for your loss’ card for everyone to sign, a box of chocolates and flowers, to help them feel better.

In another scenario, they raise money for a charity they hold close to their heart. Or they may donate or volunteer often – all so they can do what they can to make a difference.

Now, a person faking their empathy may talk the talk. But when it comes to actions, that’s a different story.

A fake empath may, for instance, act like they support a cause, but their actions say otherwise!

Final Thoughts

People with genuine empathy are kind, sensitive and genuinely care about others.

They’ll show this in various ways, actively listening, offering emotional support and opening themselves up to vulnerability.

And they are also consistent in their actions.

Whether through their body language, demeanour, or periodically checking up on you, they won’t fail to show you how much they care.

And let’s not forget that they’ll do what they can to help the people around them, positively impacting those they touch.

Picture of Natalya Edwards

Natalya Edwards

Natalya Edwards is a content writer with experience writing content on diverse topics, from entertainment and music to personal development and short stories. When she’s not typing away at the keyboard, she enjoys gaming, reading and watching Korean dramas.

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