8 subtle signs someone isn’t a very kind person, according to psychology

Most people like to think they’re quite kind, right?

After all, you wouldn’t want to think of yourself as some kind of selfish monster.

However, there is actually quite a big difference between people who are genuinely kind and those who are nice because they want to reach a certain result.

No, the latter still doesn’t qualify you as a monster. Don’t worry. But it could very well mean that you’ve got some self-development work cut out for you.

Let’s have a look at the 8 subtle signs someone isn’t a very kind person, shall we?

1) Their conversations are usually one-sided

I used to have a friend at university who would only ever talk about herself. The moment I acknowledged what she said and went on to share my own news, I could see her zoning out.

It’s safe to say our friendship didn’t last very long. After every interaction, I felt drained; during every conversation, I felt invisible and replaceable. What’s more, she shared so many details of her day-to-day life that I soon grew bored of it.

Why would I listen to how many reps she did on which machine in the gym when she couldn’t even hear me out when I was going through a tough time?

Exactly.

The thing is, my friend wasn’t evil. She wasn’t cruel. She just wasn’t a super kind person because she spent too much time stuck in her own head.

She wasn’t the only one. According to psychology, 96% of people think they’re good listeners but only retain half of what others tell them.

And as educator and author Clay Drinko, Ph.D. says, “People are often distracted, thinking about what they are going to say or making assumptions when listening, which can lead to misunderstandings.”

He recommends that we:

  • Stay curious
  • Avoid making assumptions
  • Remove distractions
  • Ask questions
  • Allow silence

Remember: a conversation shouldn’t be a monologue.

2) They put in effort only when it’s convenient for them

The very same friend I mentioned above used to ask me for favors but would rarely reciprocate.

When she did, it was only out of convenience. The moment my requests inconvenienced her just a tiny bit, though…

It was a no-go.

Including the time I asked her to print something out for me at the library while she was already there and I was on the other side of the city. I eventually had to go print it out myself because she couldn’t be bothered.

As psychologist John A. Johnson Ph.D. explains, selfishness isn’t always bad. Self-care is, after all, a bit selfish – it’s about prioritizing yourself and your mental health first and foremost.

However, the healthy kind of selfishness doesn’t have a negative impact on your (healthy) relationships with others. It may lead to uncomfortable conversations, sure, but at the end of the day, a good friendship isn’t going to fall apart when you set some boundaries.

The moment your selfish behavior makes others feel like they’re invisible, replaceable, or used only when it’s convenient for you, though…

That’s the moment you’re not being very kind. Not to mention you’re ruining your relationships in the process.

3) They use subtle manipulation to get what they want

One time, a relative of mine pressured me to get something at the supermarket when they were doing a grocery shop. Since they couldn’t take no for an answer, I put something in the shopping basket and let them get it for me.

Later in the day, they used that act of kindness against me, telling me they went above and beyond for me – even bought me food! – but I never returned the favor.

This is the perfect example of subtle emotional manipulation, ladies and gentlemen. And it’s the complete opposite of kindness precisely because it uses kindness as a means to an end.

The same applies to guilt-tripping, bringing up grudges from the past, gaslighting, projecting, and other forms of manipulative behavior.

A kind person will always have your best interests at heart because they inherently respect your autonomy and wish you well. A not-so-kind person will always try to gain something from you, be it pity, material possessions, or attention.

4) They are dismissive of other people’s concerns

According to Psychology Today, “Developing empathy is crucial for establishing relationships and behaving compassionately. It involves experiencing another person’s point of view, rather than just one’s own, and enables prosocial or helping behaviors that come from within, rather than being forced.”

More often than not, empathy is how you recognize just how kind someone genuinely is. And that’s because kindness is usually motivated by empathy more than anything else.

We empathize with someone who’s suffering and therefore want to make them feel better.

We empathize with an angry friend and therefore want to fight against establishments that disadvantage them.

We empathize with a partner who’s crying and therefore look after them with loving care.

If you struggle to feel empathy for another person, you’re going to have a harder time helping them and viewing their feelings as valid.

This isn’t to say that everyone who finds it difficult to empathize with others is an evil person. Things aren’t as simple as that.

But if someone acts based on their low levels of empathy – for example, if they dismiss your concerns, mock you, or ignore your struggles so that they don’t have to deal with it – it’s yet another sign they aren’t very kind.

5) They are very close-minded

someone lying to you 8 subtle signs someone isn’t a very kind person, according to psychology

Empathy is the gateway to understanding other people’s experiences even if you’ve never been in their shoes. It’s how you connect with people from different walks of life and how you keep your mind open.

It stands to reason that someone who stubbornly clings to their beliefs, refuses to learn about different human experiences, and has a judgmental outlook on life is more likely to be self-absorbed and unkind.

So, here’s a little trick for you: if you want to find out whether someone’s truly kind, express some kind of disagreement and see how they react.

If they flip out, dismiss you, roll their eyes, or immediately exit the conversation, they’re probably quite close-minded.

If they ask you more about your perspective and treat you with respect even if they openly disagree…

Jackpot.

That’s a kind and respectful person right there.

6) They use humor as an excuse to put people down

  “Come on, it was just a joke.”

Oh, how I hate that phrase.

If it was just a joke, how come I didn’t laugh?

If one person makes a joke and the other feels wounded, it was probably hurtful rather than funny. I’d even dare to say it was an insult veiled behind humor.

As psychologist David J. Ley Ph.D. writes, “We must acknowledge that humorous intent doesn’t excuse, or mitigate violent motivations or intent.”

If someone keeps making jokes that make you feel bad about yourself, they aren’t being kind. Full stop.

7) They treat people in the service industry with contempt

I was recently on a bus, minding my own business, when suddenly, a woman got on and started causing a fuss.

She had a hard time understanding the driver’s accent, there was a misunderstanding, and it all led to her shouting, “This is such terrible customer service!”

You could tell she expected to be treated as someone above the driver’s station, her voice full of contempt and entitlement. Never mind that he was the one who drove her to her destination and without whom she’d have to use other means of transport.

You can tell a lot from how someone treats people in the service industry, from bus drivers to hospitality and retail workers.

And that’s because no matter who you are, you should always respect other people’s jobs and sense of dignity. Treating everyone with respect shows humility, wisdom, and most of all, kindness.

8) They struggle to apologize properly

“I’m sorry that’s how you feel.”

“Look, I’m sorry but I only did it because of X and Y.”

“I already said sorry, move on already!”

None of these are very effective apologies, and that’s because they tend to dismiss the other person’s feelings, minimize the severity of the issue, or shift a sense of responsibility to the other person’s shoulders.

The truth of the matter is that a kind person knows how to apologize.

It’s really not that hard. Not when you are willing to admit you made a mistake and take accountability for your actions, that is.

As psychiatrist Samantha Boardman M.D. writes, “Factors that make an apology effective include taking responsibility and accepting fault, expressing empathy, and willingness to make it right.”

It’s never too late to change one’s ways

While the 8 signs above indicate someone isn’t a very kind person, remember that people’s personalities aren’t set in stone.

We continually change, after all, and with enough self-awareness and effort, people can become kinder and more empathetic over time.

All it takes is the courage to admit you’ve got stuff to work on… and then make the first step.

Picture of Pearl Nash

Pearl Nash

Pearl Nash has years of experience writing relationship articles for single females looking for love. After being single for years with no hope of meeting Mr. Right, she finally managed to get married to the love of her life. Now that she’s settled down and happier than she’s ever been in her life, she's passionate about sharing all the wisdom she's learned over the journey. Pearl is also an accredited astrologer and publishes Hack Spirit's daily horoscope.

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