9 surprising traits of a dark empath

We all know about empathy and empaths. But what about a dark empath? This is where things get a little trickier. 

A dark empath is an individual who might have empathetic qualities but uses them to control and defraud others for personal gain. 

Think of the charismatic fascist dictator or the cunning cult leader who successfully toys with people’s emotional vulnerabilities to exploit them into becoming supporters. 

We live in a world where fake news and online deceit are rampant, providing a fertile breeding ground for the dark empath to thrive. Once we become aware of the warning signs, we’ll be more equipped to handle them and their manipulative ways. 

In this article, I’ll walk you through the telltale (and surprising) traits of a dark empath. Let’s get to it! 

1) They’re totally charming

Here’s the thing: dark empaths can be a hard read since they often have a very charismatic and charming demeanor. 

Their magnetic personality makes others feel comfortable enough to let their guard down. This “charm” is a tool they use to gain trust and influence over their targets.

People might be shocked to later find out that their charming persona turns out to be fake. In reality, they were just wolves in very convincing sheep’s clothing.

Years ago, I ran a few restaurants. I was approached by a guy on LinkedIn who said he was keen to invest in my business. His profile looked legit so I agreed to meet him. 

He seemed perfectly friendly, charming, and extra inquisitive about my business. I interpreted this as eagerness. He asked to see our kitchen operations and our financial statements. I naively obliged. 

Weeks passed and I hadn’t heard back from him. I soon learned he was setting up restaurants of his own that would compete directly with mine. 

He used his charisma to gain insider knowledge and it paid off for him… while I learned a valuable lesson.  

2) They’re extremely manipulative 

Real talk: dark empaths understand human psychology as if they have a Ph.D. in it. 

They use your own emotions (like fear, obligation, and guilt) against you—a classic form of manipulation, also the oldest trick in the dark empath book. But it still works because still people fall for it. Sometimes we only wisen up to it when it’s too late. 

I remember one afternoon as a homesick and broke student in London, I was walking through the city when a random man approached me offering free therapy sessions. 

Being impressionable, I agreed. He brought me to his nearby office where he grilled me on childhood trauma and past transgressions.

He pressed on and I started to feel weird about it, so I told him I had to leave. The man refused to let me go without buying his overpriced set of books or signing up for one of his paid online workshops. 

From compassionate moments earlier, he suddenly became aggressive. He didn’t care that my wallet was empty, he said he would walk me to an ATM. 

I forcefully stormed out of his office, telling him to leave me alone (in a manner of speaking.) 

3) They’re highly adaptable 

From my experience, dark empaths have the uncanny ability to blend in like chameleons. They can change their personalities and emotions to match whoever they’re dealing with. 

Need a supportive friend? They got you. Looking for a charismatic leader? They’ll be happy to accommodate.  

They effortlessly adjust themselves to fit the situation and methodically gain people’s trust. 

They’re devious and their adaptability makes it difficult to see their true colors… making them all the more dangerous. 

The shameless behavior is rooted in a lack of real empathy. This brings me to my next point…

4) They lack genuine empathy 

The dark empath’s facade may be one marked by kindness and empathy. But beneath the surface, chances are you’ll find something pretty unpleasant.

Dark empaths become nasty to those they consider threats or inconveniences.

In this sense, they’re purely conmen (or women) completing bullsh*tting people to get their way–their so-called empathy being fully contrived.  

Stay on your toes if you suspect someone you’ve come across is displaying these tendencies–they can be pretty ruthless in pursuit of their goals. 

5) They possess a Machiavellian mindset

Morals are a foreign concept to dark empaths. Instead, it’s all about their personal gain. As you know by now, they’re not afraid to manipulate and scheme their way to the top. 

When it comes to rivals, they won’t think twice about outmaneuvering or eliminating them. The ends always justify the means for the dark empath. 

Think about some of the most iconic movie villains. Have someone in mind? Chances are that character has Machiavellian tendencies. 

They may know they’re in the wrong but are so power-hungry that it doesn’t matter. They won’t bat an eyelash as long as they benefit. 

6) They always plan ahead 

Dark empaths are known for their meticulous planning and calculated manipulation. 

Everything is premeditated with a dark empath. And they pride themselves on always being one step ahead. 

Like talented chess players, they take calculated risks, strategically moving to minimize potential consequences— consistently having two things on their minds: power and control. 

The bleak reality is that the dark empath may be hurting others even when they don’t even realize it. 

Maybe they were once positive people but something changed and they picked up their toxic habits unknowingly. Maybe they’re still in denial. 

I’ll be honest, this can happen to any of us. You don’t want it to reach this point so it’s wise to start looking inward.

In this eye-opening video, the shaman Rudá Iandé explains how so many of us fall into the toxic spirituality trap. 

As he mentions in the video, spirituality should be about empowering yourself. Not suppressing emotions, not judging others, but forming a pure connection with who you are at your core–and once you get there, expect some huge changes. 

If this is what you’d like to achieve, click here to watch the free video. It’s never too late to start your spiritual journey. 

7) They regularly display a lack of remorse

As we’ve established, the dark empath tends to remain unfazed by the harm they inflict on others. 

They don’t experience the feeling of guilt or regret when they manipulate or exploit someone that many of us do. 

Their sociopathic ability to detach themselves emotionally lets them get what they want without feeling the burden of sympathy or responsibility for consequences. 

So if you’ve been victimized by a dark empath, it’s unlikely they lost much sleep over their actions. 

8) They are emotional vampires

Alright, get this: dark empaths have a knack for sucking up other people’s emotions, much like a blood-thirsty vampire. 

They feed off the negative vibes and suffering of those around them, either intentionally or without even realizing it. If you’re happy about something and a dark empath is in the vicinity, don’t be surprised if they find a way to bring you down. 

They get a strange and twisted satisfaction from witnessing other people’s pain. 

Sometimes dark empaths actively seek out chaotic scenarios that involve plenty of intense and negative emotions to satisfy their thirst for disharmony. 

If this sounds familiar, try to cut these people out of your life. You don’t need the extra toxicity.

9) They’re hardcore narcissists 

This one is a no-brainer. Dark empaths have a penchant for seeing themselves as the perpetual star of the show

They typically have an inflated sense of self-importance, seeking constant attention, admiration, and validation. And of course, their needs always come first. 

Maybe they even surround themselves with ‘yes men’ and women, who validate their appetite for attention and praise. 

In extreme cases, they’ll assume a god-like status and actually believe it! 

How to deal with a dark empath

Since dark empaths use their understanding of human emotions to exploit and control others for their own gain, they can be really difficult to deal with. Here are some strategies to make that process a little easier:

Be cautious with personal information: Dark empaths will have no qualms about using your personal information against you. Be careful with what you share with them, particularly private or sensitive information about yourself. Keep conversations superficial without going into too much detail.

Develop emotional resilience: Trademark dark empath behavior means manipulating your emotions, so it’s worthwhile building emotional resilience. Practice self-care, seek support from trusted friends or professionals, and learn techniques to manage stress like meditation and mindfulness. 

Trust your intuition: If something feels off or manipulative about a person, trust your instincts. As you know, dark empaths are incredibly skilled at presenting themselves in a positive light, so use your intuition to pick up on underlying motives or energies. Always be on the lookout for red flags and inconsistent behavior!

Limit contact if necessary: If the dark empath’s influence is really having a detrimental effect on your mental state or refuses to respect boundaries, stand up for yourself by limiting or cutting off contact with them completely. Safeguarding your own mental and emotional health should be the priority. 

Final words

To conclude, I’d like to say that not all highly empathic people who display these traits are “dark empaths.” 

In the same vein, it’s also worth mentioning that being empathic and being manipulative are not mutually exclusive; the vast majority of people with high levels of empathy use their abilities to help others, rather than to manipulate them.

Having said that, it’s still wise to make yourself aware of the dark empaths, since they very much exist in our society. 

So if you know someone who exhibits these signs and is in a position to potentially hurt others, it might be worthwhile to dig a little deeper and take the necessary precautions. 


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Justin Brown

I'm Justin Brown, the founder of Ideapod. I've overseen the evolution of Ideapod from a social network for ideas into a publishing and education platform with millions of monthly readers and multiple products helping people to think critically, see issues clearly and engage with the world responsibly.

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