Wondering whether someone you know lacks empathy? Worried you might?
Well, you’ve come to the right place!
But I have to say, empathy is not as straightforward as you may think. It’s a complex psychological trait that can manifest in various ways and it’s not always easy to figure out whether or not someone has it.
That being said, there are certain traits that people who have little or no empathy display, let’s take a look.
1) Disregarding other people’s feelings
Instead of validating the feelings of someone who is upset or trying to help them out, a person who lacks empathy will minimize their feelings and what they’re going through.
They’ll say stuff like, “Stop crying, nobody died.” or “Just get over it, there’s no reason to cry about it.”
It doesn’t matter how insignificant the reason someone is upset may seem to you, what’s important is that to them, it’s obviously an emotional time and someone empathetic would know to respond with care.
And if you don’t?
Then I’d have to say that you lack empathy.
2) Failing to recognize or respond to nonverbal cues
Here’s another way to spot someone who lacks empathy – they don’t understand or they choose to ignore nonverbal cues.
I’m talking about body language and facial expressions of course.
You see, someone with empathy uses nonverbal cues to get insight into how someone is feeling and what they’re thinking so that they can respond in the appropriate way – whether that’s to share in their happiness and excitement or their sadness or disappointment.
But a person who lacks empathy either “doesn’t speak” body language, or, they choose to ignore it.
The result is the same – when someone is clearly experiencing a very strong emotion, they’ll carry on as if everything was normal.
Does that sound like you? Do you speak “body language”?
3) Saying people are to blame for their misfortune
You know how the super-rich like to say that you shouldn’t give money to the poor because “they choose to be poor”?
Well, that’s because a lot of them lack empathy.
They see other people’s misfortunes as being their fault somehow. They fail to see how a series of events could lead to someone’s misfortune.
So, instead of saying, “Oh how horrible! His house and all of his possessions burned in a fire!” – they’ll say something like, “I bet he got drunk and fell asleep with the cigarette.”
It’s like they’re actively trying not to put themselves in the other person’s shoes. If you recognize yourself in such behavior, it’s another sign that you lack empathy.
4) Acting without considering the impact on others
Often, when someone acts in a way that we consider to be selfish or thoughtless, it’s another trait of someone who lacks empathy.
They’ll act in a way that benefits them without stopping to think that their actions can also affect other people’s lives, and not always in a good way.
And even when they realize that their actions hurt or affect someone negatively, they don’t feel guilty or sorry about what they did.
Now think, do you consider how your actions may impact others?
5) Being overly critical or judgmental of others
I’m sorry to say it but people who lack empathy can be total jerks.
They’re the types who blame the victim – you know, “If you didn’t wear a short skirt…”, yeah, those types.
Instead of being there as a source of comfort for the other person, they make things worse by telling them, “I told you that was a bad idea.”
So, if you’re critical and judgmental, stop and ask yourself, “How would I feel if that happened to me?”
6) Inability to understand or relate to the experiences of others
They just can’t put themselves in the other person’s shoes – they think something like that could never happen to them.
People without empathy think that they’re too clever to – be tricked, get fired, be manipulated, lose their savings, get cheated on by their partner… and the result?
Well, they can’t connect to the other person who is actually experiencing a hard time.
If you think this sounds like you, the good news is that you can learn to be empathetic, but more on this further down…
7) Behaving inappropriately
It’s like people without empathy are completely oblivious to what’s going on with the people around them.
For example, if someone is feeling sad and depressed because they were dumped by their partner, a person that lacks empathy will say something like, “Forget about him, he was so annoying I’m glad I won’t have to pretend to like him anymore!” And then they’ll just carry on talking about their lives as if nothing happened.
It’s no wonder then that people without empathy have…
8) Trouble keeping friends
Here’s the thing: empathy helps us relate to other people on an emotional and human level. It’s one of the key ingredients to making and keeping friends.
So, needless to say, if you lack empathy, you’re going to have a hard time maintaining a relationship.
That’s because, without empathy, you’re going to have a hard time understanding what someone is feeling and how you should react to their emotions. You’ll say the wrong thing at the wrong time and come off insensitive, you won’t recognize that someone needs words of comfort instead of a joke at their expense.
The bottom line is that if you want to make friends and learn to keep them, you’re gonna have to learn to be empathetic.
So, does a lack of empathy make someone a psychopath?
No, it does not!
While it’s true that one of the traits of psychopathy is a lack of empathy, there are many other conditions and reasons that could explain someone’s lack of empathy.
For starters, if someone was horrible to you or harmed you in some way, when something bad happens to them, it’s only natural that you’re gonna have a hard time feeling empathy toward them, right?
Then of course there are various personality and developmental disorders that could cause a lack of empathy, such as:
- Antisocial personality disorder (psychopathy)
- Borderline personality disorder
- Machiavellianism (these are people who manipulate others for their gain)
- Narcissistic personality disorder
Another reason for a lack of empathy is that empathy is in part something that empathy is partly determined by biological factors, but partly learned. That means that if someone wasn’t exposed to empathetic behavior, they wouldn’t have had much of a chance to learn it.
Finally, factors such as stress, emotional avoidance, and low emotional intelligence also result in someone lacking empathy.
The good news is that empathy can be learned and developed.
Tips for becoming empathetic
Now, if you want to develop empathy, you should start by practicing self-reflection and becoming aware of your own thoughts, feelings, and biases.
Try practicing mindfulness to become more aware of your own emotions and how they might affect your interactions with others.
By developing greater self-awareness, you’ll have an easier time developing empathy for others who may be going through similar experiences.
Try to see things from others’ perspectives
So, whenever you come across a different perspective or opinion from your own, try to understand where that person is coming from.
Picture yourself in their shoes and think about how you would feel if you were in their position. It may not be easy at first, but if you keep trying you’ll get there.
Seek out diverse perspectives
If you’ve had limited exposure to people who come from different backgrounds and cultures than you, then you need to change that. Surround yourself with many diverse people who’ve had different experiences from you and thus have different viewpoints.
I believe that this kind of exposure will help broaden your understanding and empathy for others, you just have to be open-minded.
Challenge your assumptions
There’s nothing easier than making assumptions about people based on their appearance or behavior. But that doesn’t make them true.
So instead of making assumptions, try to see beyond the surface to see and understand the person as a whole.
Practice active listening
Finally, learn to listen!
When someone is speaking to you, really focus on what they’re saying. Don’t interrupt or plan your response.
Try to understand their point of view and don’t be afraid to ask questions to clarify anything you don’t understand.