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24 Signs of People Who Lack Empathy to Know They Don’t Care What You Think

It’s easy to assume that everyone develops empathy, but that’s not the case. These signs of lack of empathy will tell you if someone lacks empathy. 

signs of lack of empathy

One of the most beautiful traits of a caring human being is the possession of empathy. The ability to put themselves in the shoes of another and be able to understand their emotions and pain is wonderful and extremely useful. But not everyone experiences empathy and by learning the signs of lack of empathy you’ll be able to deal with these kinds of people better.

Having empathy means you have the ability to listen properly, give advice and put yourself in someone else’s shoes. So a lack of empathy can create a big problem. [Read: The simple ways to calmly deal with difficult people]

People who lack empathy are difficult to be around

Empathy is one of the most essential traits you can have, and without it, you lack the capacity to basically connect with anyone else.

Instead of listening or supporting you when you need someone, they suck the energy right out of you.

They refuse to listen, and the worse part is that they might even make it all about them. They do absolutely everything except put themselves in your shoes. 

Empathy is a fundamental and extremely powerful force. It allows us to understand how people around us feel and think. Most importantly, it allows you to show that you care.

Those who can’t empathize with other people’s sufferings will exhaust the life out of you, which is why they can be toxic to be around. [Read: Why empathy is so important for a successful relationship]

Having empathy and being an empath isn’t the same

Before we go any further, we should point out that empathy doesn’t equate to being an empath. An empath is someone who absorbs the emotions of another person simply by standing next to them. That isn’t what our chat is about.

Here, we’re going to focus on the ability to act with compassion, by displaying empathy toward another person. What we need to really think about, however, is those people who don’t have any amount of empathy at all. They exist, and as we’ve already established, being around them can be quite upsetting.

About empathy deficit disorder

Whilst empathy is quite a natural trait, it isn’t something that everyone has, or finds easy to show. There is actually a condition associated with this problem, called Empathy Deficit Disorder or EDD for short.

When people suffer from EDD, they find it difficult or impossible to really step outside of their own situation and their own head, to be able to think about others’ cognitive and affective states. Obviously, being in a relationship with someone with EDD would be quite hard.

If you want to protect yourself from those who lack empathy, it’s important to know what to look for. To help you out, we’re going to talk about the signs someone is lacking empathy, and then you will be able to either sidestep, or attempt to help *if you really want to* that particular person. [Read: 23 secret signs of narcissism most people overlook until it’s too late]

Lack of empathy signs

Some people just get you. You can tell them anything, and they understand what you feel and how you think. Those are pretty special friendships, so hold on to them because they’re not easy to findThey’re the total opposite of someone without empathy.

In this feature, we’ll be listing down the concrete signs of a lack of empathy. This way, you’ll have the awareness of which people to avoid before they even have the chance to suck the life out of you.

As you move through the list, you’ll see a very visible link between EDD and narcissism, and that is one of the main traits of the latter condition – a total lack of empathy for other people.

Of course, those with narcissism have a personality disorder, namely NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder), but that doesn’t make dealing with them any easier. [Read: Selfish friends – Why they take so much and give nothing in return]

1. You feel something is off

Your gut instinct proves to be beneficial whenever something’s wrong – and in this instance, whenever you talk to them, it’s always telling you to stay away. It’s as if your instinct already knows their lack of empathy.

When you try and talk to them about things going on in your life, you don’t get the response you were looking for. This is an obvious reflection of their lack of ability to sense another person’s emotional needs. [Read: How to recognize the emotionally unstable people in your life]

2. They get into many arguments

Since they’re unable to connect with others, you can expect them to piss a lot of people off unintentionally. Your capacity for empathy and sympathy allows you to experience and express emotions and process different perspectives. But without it, you feel entitled to just one perspective – your own.

To put it simply, they don’t know how to read people’s feelings, and they don’t bother figuring it out. [Read: Understanding how people use emotional manipulation]

3. They don’t understand emotions

The only emotion that matters is their own, which implies that everyone else’s emotional reactions are irrelevant. While they’re aware of everyone’s emotional nature, they don’t understand how it works.

In an extreme case, they may cheat on their partner, but they don’t understand why their partner would be angry or hurt by their actions. As someone who lacks empathy, they can’t relate to the emotional experiences of other people.

4. They think people are too sensitive 

Whenever you even attempt to open up to them, they might perceive you as dramatic, sensitive, or weak.

Since they don’t understand your emotions, their lack of empathy can also make them think that feeling and expressing them equates to weakness. They tell disrespectful jokes and don’t understand how they can hurt others.

This isn’t because of their ego – it’s primarily because they don’t understand the effect their words emotionally have on others. And if you try explaining this to them, they just tell you you’re being way too sensitive! [Read: How to quickly spot narcissistic traits in a relationship]

5. They’re self-absorbed

One of the adjectives to describe those who lack empathy is being self-absorbed. They are incapable of caring about anyone other than themselves.

Simply put, your issues and/or problems mean nothing to them. Their narcissism is the primary root of why you feel so disconnected from them, and it’s one of the concrete signs of lack of empathy. [Read: How to deal with a narcissist in the best way you possibly can]

6. They’re insecure 

This is somewhat ironic – you would never think someone who might lack empathy would be insecure, but it’s true. People who don’t understand basic emotions are usually very insecure.

Their lack of processing and reading emotions is tied to their self-worth, especially because they can’t connect with others. Their insecurities and doubts come deeply from their apathy. [Read: The 20 signs of insecurity people can’t hide]

7. They have trouble keeping friends

This shouldn’t come as a surprise. You make friends because you have the ability to connect with the thoughts and feelings of others, and you also feel comfortable sharing your inner feelings. It’s practically impossible to stay friends with someone who lacks empathy – not unless you force yourself to stay.

Even then, you’re just putting yourself through a lot of unnecessary torture just to be friends with an apathetic person. 

8. They’re judgmental

Since they don’t care about the feelings of others, it’s only natural they’re first to criticize and judge you. They will point fingers and judge you, given that it’s easier for them than trying to understand you.

If they perceive you as different from them, they’ll judge you harshly, and they won’t hold back from revealing their thoughts to your face with their snide and hurtful comments. It’s easy to take it personally but don’t. [Read: 25 signs of a mean friend who just doesn’t care about you at all]

9. They refuse to accept your point of view

People without empathy see other perspectives as inferior to their own. They will defend their opinion until death, even if they’re wrong. In their eyes, only one opinion matters, and that’s their own.

Whatever you have to say, they simply don’t care as they always believe they’re right. As we said, it’s similar to conversing with a rock. 

10. It’s never their fault

Since they don’t have the empathy and emotional intelligence to be accountable for their mistakes, they won’t apologize or even admit their wrongdoings. You can expect that they’ll always point the finger at you in pointing blame.

There’s always someone or something who did something to them. They’re basically incapable of accountability and responsibility because they can’t understand anyone else’s emotions. [Read: 15 signs you have shitty friends and need to get new ones]

11. They’re selfish

If they’re self-absorbed, then you already know they must be selfish. They only look out for themselves, and this kind of selfishness is what pushes people away from them.

It’s also one of the traits that make them so toxic and exhausting to be around. [Read: How to stop selfish people in their tracks before they hurt you]

12. They can’t handle emotional situations

Someone with low empathy might do everything to deflect or avoid the situation completely when placed in an emotional situation.

Since they find it hard to identify emotional responses, it makes them extremely uncomfortable to be in one. They wouldn’t know what to do in that situation – it’s completely uncharted territory for them. 

13. They have outbursts

People lacking empathy may have outbursts more often than you would think. They feel confused by their own emotions and they don’t know the first thing about processing them.

Should they cry, should they accept fault, should they blame someone else, should they scream? They won’t know where to begin, especially when confronted with overwhelming emotions or their own faults. [Read: What to do if someone you know doesn’t have empathy]

14. They can’t handle relationships

Obviously, if they can’t manage interpersonal relationships and social connections like friendship, then this applies to more intimate connections like a relationship as well.

They wouldn’t even know the first sign of someone being upset, which makes them incapable of handling their partner’s needs.

People who don’t show empathy will end up pushing others away unintentionally with their inability to understand emotions. [Read: Fear of commitment – 47 signs, why’s and ways to get over your phobia]

15. They can’t be happy for others

If they can’t be selfless for even just a fraction of their time, then they can’t be happy for others either. If you talk about that big promotion you got, they’ll likely end up dismissing it entirely and use any chance to talk about themselves.

In fact, they may even feel threatened by your joy and accomplishment and invalidate your success completely. 

16. They’re toxic to be around

No matter how hard you try, you always end up exhausted and drained because of them. After all, who wouldn’t be drained when you’re dealing with someone self-absorbed and narcissistic in every way?

Even if you do try to understand their point of view and try to relate with them, connections are still a two-way street. And they don’t make the same effort. [Read: Am I toxic? How to tell if you’re the toxic one & not everyone else]

17. They bring out the worst in you

A toxic person will bring out the worst parts of you, without even trying.

People with no true empathy tend to bring you down, focus on your insecurities, and criticize you since they don’t understand emotions. They might even say a disrespectful joke or two, without comprehending why this offends you. 

As a result, you may find yourself constantly angry or upset, which doesn’t show your best side. [Read: The toxic dating habits that you think are normal]

18. They can’t read between the lines

Any average person would be able to know when someone is deeply upset or frustrated, even without verbal assurance.

People with a lack of empathy don’t have this skill. That is why they can’t be intimate with any individual since they can’t understand another person’s emotional state and tell if someone is upset, be it through facial expressions or tone of voice.

19. They’re indifferent

Understanding emotions isn’t part of their nature, so if they feel joy, excitement, anxiety, worry, or even sadness, it won’t be obvious in their facial expressions or even body language.

They deal with their emotions the best way they can, which is through avoidance and deflection. Unless they learn to understand how emotions work, they won’t know how to show their emotions to others. [Read: How to become more empathetic and forge emotional connections]

20. They often end up alone

Nobody wants to be around someone who drains their energy and emotional capabilities entirely. They’re often alone because people don’t want to stick around once they get to know them.

Solitude and isolation are both common themes in their life, even though they don’t intentionally mean to push people away.

They may make a lot of new friends and draw people in with their “cool and careless” attitude, but the minute people see this person’s true colors, they’ll start to give them a wide berth.

21. They always go for the finer things in life

Signs of lack of empathy entail exhibiting a certain coldness toward people who have less than them, e.g. money, less well-traveled, lower career level. Someone with no empathy is also very unsympathetic to anyone who is suffering.

They care too much about what others think of them, and they assume that to get the best validation, they need the so-called best things in life. [Read: 16 clear signs you’re in a narcissistic relationship]

22. It’s their way or the highway

Put simply, low-empathy people always have to have everything their own way. They don’t understand why that is such a problem, because they don’t recognize the emotions of those around them.

As such, they believe they can do or have what they want, and they don’t really care if it upsets anyone else.

Being in a friendship or relationship with a person who lacks empathy is hard enough, but when you never get your needs met because theirs always come first? Downright impossible to deal with.

23. They love the sound of their own voice

A person without empathy often needs to be the center of attention. This is a common sign of narcissism too, which as we know, has lack of empathy as one of the main signs too.

Basically, they like to hear their own voice, e.g. they like to talk and have people listen to them. If they’re not heard? That’s when you’re likely to see one of those explosive outbursts we mentioned earlier. [Read: Conversational narcissist – Do you love talking and hate listening?

24. They often say the completely wrong thing

We know that one of the signs of lack of empathy is not being able to handle difficult situations because they really can’t handle the subject of emotions. Another issue linked with that is that they often say the completely wrong thing in such situations.

For instance, if someone has passed away, they’ll probably say the completely wrong thing to the person who is grieving.

They have no filter, and they’re not likely to know how to handle people who struggle emotionally. [Read: The life lessons to deal with judgemental people in your life]

Is a person lacking in empathy always bad?

A person who struggles with empathy does not mean that they are a terrible human and you should steer clear of them. That might be the case, but it’s probably not the reality. There might actually be some deep-seated reasons why a person lacks some levels of empathy.

Much of this goes back to childhood. Yes, we’re really going to go there! In order to display empathy, we need to have seen it in action. Children learn by seeing and copying, and that is the very same thing as feeling empathy.

A parent who never showed love or empathy to their child and discouraged them from feeling their emotions can cause a lack of empathy for that child as they grow up. [Read: The child of a narcissist and 16 lasting effects you can’t ignore]

As a result, it’s important to show children that being in touch with your feelings and displaying your emotions clearly is not a weakness and is actually a strength. By doing this, you’re helping them be more in touch with the feelings of others too, as people can develop empathy from a young age.

The difference between Empathy Deficit Disorder *EDD* and some other personality disorders is that there is hope that someone with EDD, or basically someone who just lacks empathy, will be able to change the way they think and put themselves back on the right road.

In this case, speaking to a mental health professional and doing some cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a good option. For that, however, the person needs to understand the issue and be willing, which many people aren’t open to. [Read: Emotionally stable – How to find your zone of perfect calmness

How to deal with people who lack empathy

That depends on how close you are to them. If you’re in a personal relationship with someone who lacks empathy, you’re probably going to have a pretty miserable time. It’s really that simple.

Unless the person you’re with can see they have a problem with empathy and are willing to put it right, you’re never going to get that loving connection that you crave, and that you deserve. [Read: Relationship therapy and 25 clues to know if it can change your life]

What you should ultimately do is decide whether you’re happy to put up with this rather miserable relationship, or whether you want to move on. Personally, we’d say move on, but we’re not in your situation.

If it’s not a relationship and it’s a friend who seems to lack empathy, perhaps try and limit your time around them. It’s not selfish to want to do things for yourself and to want to feel good about who you are.

If you’re constantly feeling belittled and dragged down by this person, and they really can’t see that what they are doing is hurtful, why would you want them in your life? [Read: 30 signs of a bad friend to always be on the lookout for]

If nothing works, don’t feel guilty for walking away. You deserve to be supported, just as you would surely support them if they would just open up to you.

Are you in a relationship with someone who shows signs of low empathy?

While this seems like a frustrating scenario, it takes a lot of patience and willpower to deal with someone who is low on empathy. Refrain from looking for an apathetic person’s best potential, and realize that they’ll never change – not unless they want to.

In order to avoid getting the life sucked out of you every time you’re with them, the best thing you can do is to stay away from them if it’s something you can control. 

[Read: How to be more empathetic and 16 ways to make anyone feel heard and understood]

Are you surrounded by those who exhibit signs of a lack of empathy? Don’t worry – you’re not alone. All you need is to acknowledge the signs and start keeping your distance.

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Nicky Curtis
Nicky Curtis
Having stumbled from one relationship drama to another throughout her 20s, Nicky is now somewhat of a guru in the crazy world of life and love. Telling it how i...
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