Empathy requires courage because it requires us to view people with curiosity.
It requires us to allow people to surprise us. While that can be scary, it can be rewarding as you experience life through new lenses.
There are 3 types of empathy:
Cognitive empathy is led by logical understanding. It’s the act of walking a mile in someone’s Louboutins.
Emotional empathy is not necessarily explainable through logic. If cognitive empathy gives you the ability to wear someone’s shoes, this one is like wearing their nervous system.
Compassionate is when you’re able to both understand and feel them. Which allows for you to take inspired action that offers someone support in a way that makes sense to them.
It’s like offering a friend a ride when their nervous system is shot because they need a safe place to rest. And you know they aren’t going to get there wearing 8-inch Louboutins.
Now with that out of the way, here are 7 traits of someone that lacks empathy for others.
1) Judgemental and critical of others
I believe that empathy grants us the ability to think with nuance.
It allows us to see situations beyond dichotomies that only aim to simplify people. It’s what allows us to truly get to know people as individuals.
When people lack empathy, it is difficult for them to meet people and not make assumptions about them.
But don’t we all do this to a certain extent?
Yes! That’s true.
It should be noted that everything exists on a spectrum, including closed-mindedness.
The difference between someone who is just utilizing their past knowledge and someone who lacks empathy can come down to how aware they are of their fears.
A lack of empathy adds a layer of negativity, so instead of using their entire library of knowledge, they limit their judgment to things they fear.
So instead of saying that something or someone is “for them/not for them” they might view them as “bad/good.” As if their word is the rule.
And because fear has a social element to it, a lack of empathy can also be seen in the way people treat those that deviate from social norms.
I know, I thought it was a name for an alien species, too.
But no, it’s a word used to describe someone who likes to give their two cents on everything. Even if they have no expertise in that area.
We’re all a little ultracrepidarian; in fact, it’s fun to talk without thinking too much sometimes.
But someone who lacks empathy will speak in a way that diminishes or invalidates someone else’s experiences. Especially their struggles.
It’s a lack of understanding that some people’s circumstances are not always in their control. Or the act of victim blaming because you couldn’t ever see yourself in their situation.
But the truth is, life is built on a bed of unknowns. Control is an illusion.
And whether someone’s actions drove them to where they are shouldn’t exempt them from receiving compassion. Nor do they deserve to hear someone’s two cents on top of their suffering.
They do not want to try on your shoes or nervous system. So offering you a ride isn’t an option.
Instead, they may give unwanted advice that only makes the other person feel ashamed.
3) Disagreement equals argument
Empathy requires us to let go of the need to be correct.
So those that lack empathy for others can have an overly logical approach to disagreements where the objective is to win, instead of being understood.
Personally, I don’t like to argue over everything because not only does it exhaust me, but I don’t want to put someone else through that either.
Sure, you need to hash it out sometimes, but people who lack empathy aren’t able to pick and choose their battles.
An affinity for arguing can also mark a detest for reconciliation. Someone who can’t apologize won’t likely be able to forgive either.
Forgiveness is a complex process. It’s important to use discernment when it comes to reconciliation. I, for one, don’t believe that you need to forgive everyone or anyone.
But someone who lacks empathy may withhold forgiveness for reasons unrelated to self-preservation or personal boundaries.
It may stem from their lack of control over their emotions which turns impersonal conflict personal.
4) A lack of emotional intelligence
A huge sign of emotional intelligence is self-regulation backed by self-awareness. With a handful of personal values and morals thrown in there, too.
When someone with low empathy for others lacks emotional intelligence, they may be unpredictable.
This usually stems from their inability to sit with uncomfortable subjects or feelings.
As we get older, we experience a range of different scenarios that force us to figure out solutions to help process them.
It’s one of the many reasons why it’s important to expose yourself to different perspectives even if it’s difficult… So you can learn different perspectives!
And it also explains why your 20s suck.
Anyways! If your understanding of the world starts off as primary colours, emotional intelligence is what gives you secondary colours. And hopefully even tertiary colours.
So, someone with a lack of empathy might have a hard time understanding someone because they’re observing purple when they only have red and blue in their emotional repertoire.
Conflict resolution and objectivity require growth and patience to do so. Which is why this can explain how someone who lacks empathy might be reactive when faced with complex scenarios.
5) Difficulty forming and maintaining relationships
It’s normal to lose friends or grow apart from people during different phases of your life.
But what might signify a lack of empathy is when someone has a hard time responding appropriately in social situations.
Considering the 3 types of empathy, they might lack sensitivity, responsiveness, dependability, consistency and reciprocation. Which all affect how someone can feel in your presence.
And while it’s healthy to give and not expect anything in return, constantly being the giver can be draining.
People who have a healthy amount of empathy both understand this, and return the favour with enthusiasm. This type of gratitude is what separates receivers from takers.
Which is why you can also tell if someone lacks empathy if you intuitively feel unsafe or exhausted around them.
6) Chronically disconnected from themselves
It makes sense how your relationships might be affected when you can’t connect with others.
But we also need to talk about how it resembles a disconnection from the self.
As we’ve covered in this article so far, a lack of empathy is characterized by the following:
This sounds like someone who is deathly afraid of change, is actively grieving or is in survival mode.
So sometimes, a person with low empathy can be characterized as someone who doesn’t have a sense of self. They are constantly reacting to their life instead of living it.
And it’s important to note that everyone is capable of lacking empathy at certain points in their lives. Especially when you’re younger, it’s quite normal to feel lost and act selfishly.
Or when you’ve experienced something tragic, it’s hard to have the energy to experience all 3 types of empathy.
But like with everything, there’s levels to this.
7) Lack of accountability and change
Empathy is also about how you respond to these fluctuating eras of your life. There’s that self-regulation again.
It’s being able to notice when you’re on a lower-than-usual side of the spectrum. That awareness is a sign your empathy is still present – maybe it just needs a little TLC.
And using that information to grow in a way that keeps you from treating others unfairly is a way you can grow it again.
Some ways you can grow empathy is by facing your fears and getting out of your comfort zone.
Of course, do it when you’re ready! But there will be a moment when you’re unsure if you’re ready and you’re asking yourself if you are.
That means you’re ready.
From then on, try getting reacquainted with the greater good by listening to other people’s experiences. Go in with the intention of learning something new, rather than fully understanding.
Forget easy, it will become more fun with practice.
Empathy is a muscle that needs to be exercised
That means anyone is capable of losing it or gaining it. And you’re the only person responsible for taking your empathy to the gym.
I think we often link empathy with the ability to understand people’s struggles. But I think it should extend to believing in people’s capabilities.
This way, you can have healthy boundaries that keep you from being overwhelmed by those that don’t.
And from wearing someone else’s shoes for too long.