But that doesn’t mean that we all have the same capacity for these characteristics.
Some people are highly empathetic and able to understand and relate to what others are thinking and feeling with great ease. They may even be so empathetic they become overwhelmed by other people’s emotions.
Other people can figure out what others are feeling easily enough and feel some level of compassion for them.
Still, others have very little capacity for empathy to the point where they might have unusual behaviors or even personality disorders.
This can make connecting with them different and also allow them to engage in behaviors that can cause damage to others.
And while you can often tell, sometimes it’s not all that easy to see what level a person is at.
But if someone uses these 14 phrases, it’s clear that they lack empathy and compassion.
1) “I don’t care.”
Empathy and compassion are built on two things: recognizing other people’s emotions and caring about them.
Some people have cognitive empathy, which means they can understand what other people are thinking. But this doesn’t mean that they care about what they’re feeling.
If someone can look right past emotional outcries again and again and say they just don’t care, it’s a clear sign that they don’t feel a great deal of compassion.
2) “It’s your own fault.”
Have you ever told someone a story about a bad situation you were in only to hear them say this back to you?
You’re relating the story so that they could relate to what happened and what you did, but instead, you receive heavy judgment.
That’s not what you were looking for, but that’s what people who lack empathy and compassion are able to offer.
It may also be true, but a logical judgment of your behavior rather than an “I understand why you did that” is not what you normally want to hear.
3) “They deserve what they get.”
People do normally deserve what they get.
And while most of us believe in this karmic rule, we still may often feel pity or compassion for people who do bad things.
Their circumstances may have led them to make really tough decisions. They may have had little choice.
But for a person who has a low capacity for empathy, none of this matters.
They’ll just judge the situation through a narrow scope and put the blame where they see it should go without considering the bigger picture.
4) “That would never happen to me.”
Because they can’t relate well to other people’s situations, people who lack empathy may not see how similar things could happen to them.
They may not understand how a person’s circumstances could push them into a certain action.
Even if they can understand this, they don’t relate to it and don’t expect that they’d do the same thing in the same situation.
5) “You’re too sensitive.”
I don’t know about you, but this is one of the things I hate to hear most.
It’s right up there with “Calm down!”
Being sensitive isn’t a curse; it’s a blessing.
It means you can understand people and relate to them better, even if it also means you feel their pain more acutely.
But emotional information isn’t something people take into account or give much credence to when they lack empathy.
They tend to see emotionality as a weakness and can be openly disparaging about it.
6) “Don’t be a crybaby.”
This is something that people with low empathy might say, ignoring the fact that crying is a natural human reaction to sorrow.
They may even have trouble connecting to people crying to grieve or when they suffer great loss.
In fact, crying can be good for you. According to Harvard Medical School, crying can help relieve stress and improve your health. It makes your brain release dopamine and oxytocin, which help you feel better.
But this is yet another thing that people who lack empathy see as a weakness, and they’ll show that in their words.
7) “How is this my fault?”
When you’re used to hearing this phrase, it’s probably because you’re wrapped up with someone who has a low capacity for empathy.
“What did I do?” is another good one.
People say these things for two reasons.
First, it could be a refusal to accept connections between their actions and the results. They’ll make someone upset and then say this sarcastically because they don’t even see what they’ve done.
The other reason is that they’re genuinely puzzled and ask this question honestly.
They seem to notice a connection, but it doesn’t really compute to them.
8) “This sucks.”
Complaining or insulting things other people like shows a lack of diplomacy, which is acting to keep things positive and consider everyone’s emotions.
When you announce that something is no good in front of other people, it shows that you haven’t considered their feelings. Or you have, but you don’t care.
Either way, this is an example of how lacking empathy can make a person pretty difficult to get along with.
9) “I’ll never forgive this.”
Because they can’t relate to others’ motivations, they can’t see why they would reasonably do what they did. Therefore, don’t forgive easily.
People who lack compassion don’t even feel any need to forgive others.
They process experiences in very black-and-white terms, and when someone harms them, they decide they are bad and leave it at that.
They don’t work to understand and relate to them but instead, just pass judgment and cut them off.
10) “That’s just like the time I…”
While just saying this isn’t a sure sign that a person lacks empathy, it could be if it gets repeated over and over again.
We tell stories of our own experiences to show others we relate to what they’re saying.
But the key here is “relate”.
Someone tells you a story about getting their heart broken when they saw their partner kissing someone else at a party. You probably know that this isn’t your cue to jump into a story about the awesome party you went to last week.
But people who lack empathy don’t recognize this and, in fact, will do this exact kind of thing.
11) “What was that?”
We all say this sometimes, but for different reasons.
When we’re actively trying to listen to someone, but we miss something they say, we’ll say this or something similar to ensure we get all the details.
But for a person who lacks empathy, personal stories can often get boring. They focus on the practical details rather than the emotional information the story is conveying.
And if the details aren’t all that interesting to them, they’ll drift off and then have to ask this question to find their way back into the story.
12) “This is a waste of my time.”
Because they don’t relate well to other people’s feelings, they may see a lot of what people do as a waste of time.
I’m thinking of things like holding a farewell party to see off a retiring colleague or taking a moment of silence for a terrible catastrophe.
They don’t realize that these emotionally-guided activities reinforce people’s bonds and also help them deal with changes.
To them, it’s just time wasted doing something they don’t feel has any relevance to their lives.
13) “It’s my way or the highway.”
This totalitarian attitude conveys a complete disregard for the opinions and thoughts of others.
Sure, in some cases, it’s necessary to lay down the law.
But if this is the way someone is always thinking and they say this as a sort of mantra, they have very little capacity for empathy.
They don’t see the value in trying to make others happy, so they refuse to compromise and don’t like to accept anything but their own opinions.
14) “That makes no sense.”
People who lack empathy can be quite intolerant of opinions that differ from their own.
They often don’t get the connections that form these opinions and ideas if they’re based on emotion, so they don’t feel that they make sense.
They often like to be surrounded by people who will kiss up to them and go along with whatever they say so that they don’t have to deal with challenges to their ideas that they think are illogical.
Who lacks empathy?
If someone shows a low capacity for empathy, it could be because they have a personality disorder like psychopathy (one percent of the population) or schizophrenia. It’s also a characteristic of people on the autism spectrum.
Or they could just be a man, as men tend to rank lower in empathy than women.
But if someone uses these 14 phrases often, they lack empathy and compassion, and you’ll have to use a lot more of yours to deal with them!