Home  >  My Life  >  Relationships

How to Tell if Someone Doesn’t Have Empathy & What You Need to Do

Ever wondered how to tell if someone doesn’t have empathy? Empathy Deficit Disorder is a real thing – let’s explore more.

how to tell if someone doesn't have empathy

One of the most beautiful traits of a caring human being is the possession of empathy. The ability to be able to put yourself in the shoes of another and really understand their emotions and pain is wonderful and extremely useful. As a result, you’re able to listen properly, give advice and probably make a huge difference to someone who might be suffering. But do all of us possess empathy? If you’re wondering how to tell if someone doesn’t have empathy, read on.

Having empathy and being an empath isn’t the same

Before we go any further, we should point out that someone who has empathy is different to an empath. An empath is someone who absorbs the emotions of another person simply by standing next to them. This isn’t what our chat is about. [Read: 12 clear signs to know if you’re a real empath]

Here, we’re going to focus on the ability to act with compassion, by displaying empathy towards 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 being around them can be quite upsetting.

Do some people completely lack empathy?

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. This is a person who finds it difficult or impossible to really step outside of their own situation and their own head, to be able to think how someone else might be feeling. 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 of how to tell if someone doesn’t have empathy, and then you will be able to either side step, 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]

How to tell if someone doesn’t have empathy – 12 signs that give them away

If you have a friend or a partner who displays behavioral traits of someone with Empathy Deficit Disorder, it’s not going to be the easiest relationship. Be on the lookout for these signs:

#1 They criticize the actions of another person without really stopping to think about their particular situation.

#2 They have a certain coldness towards people who have less than them, e.g. less money, those who are suffering.

#3 They think their beliefs are 100% fact and not opinion. [Read: 16 clear signs you’re in a narcissistic relationship]

#4 They don’t have many friends, and they often have arguments with their family.

#5 They don’t really show much joy when something good happens to another person.

#6 They like to have everything their own way.

#7 They like to hear their own voice, e.g. they like to talk and have people listen to them.

#8 They deflect blame back onto the other person, even if it was clearly them to blame in the first place.

#9 They have a real issue controlling their emotions from one minute to the next, which can lead to total overreactions. [Read: How to control your emotions and become the pinnacle of restraint]

#10 They’re often totally oblivious to the fact that someone beside them is upset about something.

#11 They regularly accuse other people of being too sensitive.

#12 They often say the wrong thing, especially in very sensitive situations. They basically have no filter!

[Read: 5 life lessons to deal with judgemental people in your life]

You can easily see a very visible link between EDD and narcissism here, 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.

Is there a reason why some people don’t have empathy?

You might think that once you’ve decided you know how to tell if someone doesn’t have empathy and you’ve identified that person, they’re 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 this very basic human skill.

Much of this goes back to our childhoods. 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 with empathy. If a parent never showed love or empathy to their child, it’s very likely that the child is going to grow up to be cold and lacking in empathy too. [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 – developing empathy from a young age.

The difference between 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 psychologist 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]

What should you do if you’re around someone who doesn’t have empathy?

This depends on how close you are to them. If you’re in a 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]

But how to tell if someone doesn’t have empathy from the get-go? They don’t understand people who show emotions and they belittle you if you do so. That’s a clear indicator and if you’re in a relationship with someone like this, you’ll probably notice this trait very early on. They’re quite cold in general.

Should you stay or should you go?

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, I’d say move on, but I’m not in your situation.

If it’s not a relationship and it’s a friend who you suspect to be totally lacking 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: 15 signs of a bad friend to always be on the lookout for]

One of the key reasons on our “how to tell if someone doesn’t have empathy” list was the fact that they have trouble holding friendships, or basically have very few friends at all. It’s not surprising. People don’t want to feel judged or limited emotionally around another person, they want to feel encouraged and supported.

You could try and sit down with your friend and address the issue, explain how you feel, but if they really do have EDD or they’re really convinced you’re wrong and not them, it’s unlikely that you will get very far. To have tried, however, is probably what you need to be able to say to yourself in the future.

If that doesn’t work, do not 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. [Read: 10 scenarios where it’s okay to ghost a friend and walk away]

Some people simply don’t want to change

It can be upsetting and sometimes even heartbreaking to have to walk away from someone because they really don’t give you the emotional support you need. You will kill yourself on the inside trying to change someone who really doesn’t see an issue with their actions.

If that person really doesn’t want to make a positive change in their life and embrace empathy, then there really is nothing more you can do. In this case, the only sensible answer is to put yourself first and walk away. [Read: How to stop loving someone & read the signs it’s time to walk away]

At the end of the day, however, if you really feel that someone lacks the basic empathy skills to show sympathy or kindness towards another person, really putting themselves in their shoes and attempting to help, there is nothing more you can give that person other than your hand as you bid them goodbye.

[Read: A relationship with a narcissist and what it means to love one]

Figuring out how to tell if someone doesn’t have empathy can be quite clear, or it can be more subtle. But if you’re unable to help this person, and they’re unwilling to emotionally connect with you, is it really worth the trouble to have them in your life?

Liked what you just read? Follow us on Instagram Facebook Twitter Pinterest and we promise, we’ll be your lucky charm to a beautiful love life.

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...
Follow Nicky on