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Lack of empathy: 12 signs that give it away

Lack of empathy: 12 signs that give it away

April 28, 2024

Empathy is a basic skill that allows us to successfully relate to other members of our species and society, allowing a healthy coexistence and respecting the rights, freedoms and needs of each of its components.

Thanks to it we can relate to a deep level and value and feel valued by others. But the truth is that not everyone is equal to empathic, and there are even people who completely lack this ability. Not having it can lead to very understandable channels for the majority and a great disability, and in some people even to trigger aggression or violence. How can we recognize someone who lacks it? In this article, we are going to talk about different signs that betray someone with a lack of empathy .


  • Related article: "Empathy, much more than putting oneself in the place of the other"

What is empathy?

We call empathy the ability to put oneself in someone else's shoes, understanding the feelings and thoughts that others may have and how situations affect them or even our own actions. It is about seeing things not objectively and coldly, but to see them as the other experiences them: the implications for the person, their subjectivity, their context and their circumstances, as well as their idiosyncrasies and values, must be taken into account. personality.

Empathy is a basic element of deep interpersonal relationships , as well as the interpersonal and emotional intelligences, allowing us the adequate and adaptive contact with others as well as the management of our own emotions and the recognition of the rest of the people in our environment. Its lack can have repercussions in the life of the person who lacks it and also in its environment, generating instability, loneliness and even problems of adaptation to society or the monitoring of social norms.


There can be many causes that can generate lack of empathy: from the deprivation of affect throughout childhood to the experience of physical, psychological and / or sexual abuse, also passing through various neurological, neurodevelopmental or psychological problems. It's important to put attention on each person has their own capabilities and empathy may be more or less developed in each one of us, but the total absence of this capacity is difficult and usually occurs in different disorders.

An example of this is the set of autism spectrum disorders. Another, the narcissistic personality or the limiting personality. Finally, and in addition, the latter in which the lack of empathy can go hand in hand with the exercise of violence, disobedience of rules and laws and even crimes, is the case of people with antisocial disorder or the case of psychopathy and sociopathy.


Signs that show the lack of empathy

Below we indicate some signs that reflect the presence of a difficulty or absence of empathy, regardless of their reason for appearance. Keep in mind that lack of empathy can occur at the cognitive level (ie not knowing how the other can feel), emotionally (although you know how you can feel the other it has no emotional impact) or both senses. In addition, in addition to all this, we must bear in mind that lack of empathy can be associated with different characteristics depending on other facets of personality and cognition , not being applicable all the items that follow all the subjects with lack of empathy.

1. Immersion in oneself

A characteristic that people with a lack of empathy tend to have in common, especially those who have autistic characteristics, is the feeling that they are centered in their inner world and that they do not have total awareness of the people around them.

2. Problems of understanding

Not being able to put oneself in the place of others means that for many people with problems of empathy it can be difficult to understand the actions and words of others, as well as the reaction to one's own actions. This can generate suffering in the subject itself or be something indifferent, depending on whether there is a desire for a relationship (such as in people with Asperger) or it is indifferent.

3. Theory of the distorted mind

The theory of the mind is the ability we have to realize that other people have their own mind, motivations and desires, and that these may be different from ours. The existence of a lack of empathy can lead to or be related to a problem in this capacity, there being a certain inability to separate one's point of view from what others can have.

4. Egocentrism

Something common in all people with a lack of empathy is self-centeredness: they see everything from their point of view, being the only valid and not considering the validity of others . There can also be selfishness: the only or the most important thing is what one wants, the defense of their rights and the achievement of their objectives.

  • Maybe you're interested: "Self-centered personality: 15 characteristic features"

5. Narcissism

Although it is not essential, it is common for those who lack empathy to develop a certain degree of narcissism, considering themselves superior or more valuable than the rest and making your needs something above the rights of other people . This aspect is strongly linked to the previous point.

6. Lack of tact and contextual inadequacy

In contact with others, someone who does not have empathy will be characterized by a communication that does not take into account or for which it is indifferent how others can react. Thus, they can leave aside pragmatic aspects of the language and send messages of great hardness without any tact towards their issuers. This sign may not be evident in case of manipulation attempts, if the person has a great intelligence and is able to cognitively know how they affect things to others.

7. Impatience

Another characteristic common to non-empathic people is impatience with others: they can not understand or value the needs of others and they find it irritating to have to repeat or invest time doing things with others , integrating them.

8. Stereotypes and prejudices follow

The fact of not being able to empathize makes it habitual for these people to use stereotypes and prejudices, acting on a cognitive level and using the labels in order to guide their behavior and thinking. Nor are they able to see how they affect the behavior of others.

9. Surface, destructive or avoided relationships

Something common to most people with a lack of empathy is the fact that, not being able to identify and value the other's emotions and thoughts as something valuable or interesting and not being able to put themselves in their place, they generally maintain shallow relationships and superficial It is possible that this type of relationship is simply cordial or that there is seductive behavior to satisfy their needs, or that they are directly avoided because they are incomprehensible.

10. Utilitarian behavior

A person with a great lack of empathy will tend to employ other people as a resource to achieve their ends. The fact of not being able to put oneself in the place of the other makes them devalorize and reify the other, using it directly or indirectly to achieve personal goals regardless of their feelings.

11. Aggression and violence

While not all people who do not have empathy develop violent attitudes (for example, people with autism have problems with empathy and are not usually violent), the truth is that having no empathy makes it easier resort to aggressive or even violent problem solving styles in the absence of awareness of what this implies for the other or the suffering they can cause.

12. Lack of remorse

Doing something that harms others often leads to a certain amount of remorse in most people. However, in those who lack empathy remorse is nonexistent or much less than usual, although they can apologize if they have the knowledge that others have suffered or if it suits their purposes.


10 Traits Of An Empath - Signs You Are A Highly Sensitive Person (April 2024).


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