If someone uses these 7 phrases, they lack empathy and understanding

Have you ever had a conversation with someone so devoid of empathy, that you wonder why they’re still in your life?

You know the type.

They’re so lacking in compassion (and EQ) that you may as well be talking to a blank wall. 

But consider this.

Not everyone is gifted with the ability to identify how someone else is feeling. 

It’s just not in them. 

So, how do you spot these real-life NPCs?


Take a look at these seven phrases. If someone regularly uses them, they probably lack empathy and understanding.

1) “You’re blowing it out of proportion.”

This statement is super dismissive.

It fails to acknowledge how someone feels (in other words, it completely lacks empathy).

Sure, the person could be overreacting or creating drama out of something insignificant. But that doesn’t change the fact that they’re anxious. For them, it could be a big deal.

It reminds me of a friend who used to get seriously stressed when faced with any kind of criticism.

Their annual appraisal didn’t go perfectly, apparently, they needed to be a better team player.

I remember the conversation we had afterward.

“I’m going to lose my job! How am I going to pay my rent!?”

Now, don’t get me wrong.

I felt like telling them to snap out of it and stop blowing things out of proportion. After all, their annual review wasn’t all bad news (they were just focusing on the negatives).

But I’m happy I didn’t as it wouldn’t have been very understanding!

Instead, I actively listened to their fears, remained calm, and validated their feelings as best as I could, while gently nudging them into a more positive mindset.

2) “Stop being irrational.”

Some people are just fusspots. They worry about everything.

They’re naturally anxious people, who struggle to live in the moment. Constantly preoccupied with past mistakes or an uncertain future.

One common example of irrational anxiety is the fear of flying.

With a whopping 40 percent of the population suffering from some form of aviophobia.

Here’s the thing.

Despite air travel being one of the safest forms of transport, it doesn’t change how someone actually feels.

People that lack empathy don’t get this.

So they’ll often say stuff like: “Stop being irrational.”

Remember, for the person who’s scared of flying, they’re not being irrational. They genuinely perceive boarding a flight as a risky endeavor.

3) “You need to get over it.”

We’ve probably all used this before (I know I have).

But the fact of the matter is, it’s not very empathetic.

While you might have their best interests at heart, coming up with solutions isn’t the best approach. Even though it might come from a position of empathy, it doesn’t express empathy.

It’s kind of like telling someone to “Cheer up.” or “Don’t stress.” (If only it was that easy).

The next time someone is feeling hurt, maybe after a traumatic break-up, it’s better to listen than to problem-solve.

Because at the end of the day, no amount of problem-solving can help their heartbreak. These things take time.

4) “It could be worse.”

Comparing things isn’t the most understanding thing you can do.

I know it’s tempting.

Especially when someone is panicking over a 1st-world problem. In other words, a small issue in the context of a relatively high living standard.

For example, they’re upset about not having anywhere to charge their $1000 smartphone.

Someone who lacks empathy might reply with “It could be worse, you could be starving and homeless.”

Which is kind of true.

But your mental health and well-being isn’t relative. Millionaires can still become depressed, so their feelings need to be validated just like anyone else.

While it’s important to practice gratitude and remember how lucky we are, it’s also okay to feel down (despite living in relative comfort).

5) “I told you so.”

Nobody likes a know-it-all.

It’s one of the most obnoxious personalities out there!

This kind of phrase usually comes after we’ve made a mistake, or ignored someone’s advice.

While it’s great for your ego (well done, you were right), it doesn’t demonstrate much empathy.

This is an important point.

The ego is a powerful thing. It can make us behave strangely. And in this case, it overrides any sense of understanding or support. It’s bursting to be heard. To let everyone know you were smart enough to see this coming.

But who cares?

In reality, blowing your own trumpet will only alienate you from others.

It’s much better to remain humble and be an understanding, supportive friend.

6) “Wow, you’re still upset about that?”

This is an example of a passive-aggressive phrase.

It’s not only invalidating but it also implies they’re somehow wrong or weird to still be feeling down.

But remember this.

We all recover from upsetting events differently.

While you might be totally over your ex-partner after just six months, some people might take six years (or even never fully recover).

This statement fails to acknowledge their feelings (and shows a serious lack of understanding).

As always, simply being there for your friend and lending an ear might not seem like much, but is a great place to start.

7) “I can’t change how I feel.”

Have you ever met someone so stubborn that they refuse to budge in the slightest when it comes to their opinions, beliefs, and general outlook?

If so, they’ve probably said this “I can’t change how I feel.”

Along with stuff like: “I’ve always done it this way.” and “I don’t care what you think.”

They probably have a fixed mindset.

It goes hand-in-hand with a lack of empathy and basically means it’s their way or the highway.

People with a fixed mindset also believe they’re either good or bad at something, and there’s not much they can do about it.

Conversely, people with a growth mindset are open-minded, empathetic, and genuinely believe they can do anything or change their behavior with enough dedication and practice.

Come to think of it, every phrase in this list has a fixed mindset vibe to it.

Which I hope helps you put things into perspective and spot people struggling with empathy and understanding.

Leila El-Dean

Leila is a passionate writer with a background in photography and art. She has over ten years of experience in branding, marketing, and building websites. She loves travelling and has lived in several countries, including Thailand, Malaysia, Spain, and Malta. When she’s not writing (or ogling cats), Leila loves trying new food and drinking copious amounts of Earl Grey tea.

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