People who are deeply empathetic often display these 10 behaviors (without realizing it)

Empathy is a superpower, but not everyone realizes they possess it.

You see, being deeply empathetic isn’t just about understanding people’s feelings. It’s about unknowingly adopting behaviors that make others feel heard and validated.

People with high levels of empathy unconsciously exhibit certain behaviors that set them apart. And often, they don’t even realize they’re doing it.

Below are ten behaviors commonly displayed by deeply empathetic individuals, who may not even realize the impact they’re making. Let’s dive in!

1) Active listening

Ever wonder why you feel so comfortable opening up to certain people?

It’s likely because they’re excellent at active listening. This behavior is a hallmark of deeply empathetic individuals.

Active listening is more than just hearing words. It’s about truly understanding and absorbing what someone is saying. It involves giving undivided attention, offering thoughtful responses, and showing genuine interest in the speaker’s feelings and experiences.

Empathetic people listen with their whole being. They’re not just waiting for their turn to speak or thinking about their own experiences. They’re fully engaged, making the person they’re speaking with feel heard, seen, and valued.

2) Picking up on subtleties

Let me share a personal experience with you.

A few weeks ago, I was catching up with a friend over coffee. As we sat and chatted, I noticed her expression shift slightly when she mentioned her job. It was a subtle change – a brief flash of frustration across her face.

Now, most people might have missed it. But being a deeply empathetic person, I picked up on it immediately. I gently asked her if everything was okay at work, and that opened up a whole conversation about challenges she was facing.

Empathetic individuals have this knack for picking up on the subtlest cues – an offhand comment, a slight change in tone, or a fleeting facial expression. And often, they don’t even realize they’re doing it.

But this ability to sense subtle shifts can make a world of difference to someone who’s struggling. It shows them that you truly care and are present with them in that moment – a gift many don’t even realize they’re giving.

3) Putting themselves in others’ shoes

Empathetic people have an uncanny ability to put themselves in another person’s shoes.

It’s as if they have their own built-in, high-resolution empathy radar that enables them to perceive the world from another person’s perspective. This is not as simple as it sounds. It requires a deep sense of understanding and emotional intelligence.

Research has shown that highly empathetic individuals can even sync up their brainwaves with those of the people they’re communicating with, mirroring their emotions and experiences.

They do this without even realizing it, creating strong emotional bonds and helping others feel less alone in their struggles.

4) Offering comfort

Empathetic individuals are often the first ones to notice when someone is troubled and the first ones to offer a comforting word or gesture.

Whether it’s a warm hug, a supportive message, or simply their quiet presence, they naturally know how to make others feel better.

This instinctive desire to comfort doesn’t just apply to their close friends and family. They can extend this empathy to strangers, animals, and even fictional characters in books or movies.

5) Validating feelings

One of the most powerful things you can do for someone is to validate their feelings. And this is something deeply empathetic people do almost instinctively.

Instead of immediately jumping to solutions or advice, they acknowledge what the other person is feeling. They say things like, “That sounds really tough,” or “I can see why you’d feel that way,” creating a safe space for the other person to express their emotions.

This act of validation makes people feel heard and understood. It’s like saying, “I see you. I hear you. Your feelings matter.”

6) Sensing discomfort

Have you ever been in a room where the tension is so thick, you could cut it with a knife?

Deeply empathetic people can sense this discomfort even when it’s not that palpable. They can effortlessly pick up on the smallest signs of unease or distress in others.

It might be a slight shift in body language, a change in tone, or even a particular choice of words. These subtle cues are enough for them to realize that something’s not right.

And they don’t just stop at recognizing the discomfort. They feel compelled to address it, to alleviate it somehow. They might steer the conversation in a different direction, offer a comforting word, or simply be there for the person in distress.

7) Valuing connection over being right

I remember a heated discussion I once had with a close friend. She held views that were diametrically opposite to mine. In the heat of the moment, I felt my ego rising, pushing me to prove my point, to win the argument.

But then, something changed. I realized that our friendship was more important than winning an argument. So, I let go of my need to be right and instead focused on understanding her perspective.

This is a trait common among deeply empathetic people. They prioritize maintaining connection and understanding over proving a point or winning an argument. They would rather understand where you’re coming from than force their perspective onto you.

8) Being non-judgmental

Empathetic individuals have a unique ability to keep their judgments at bay, creating a safe and open environment for others to express their feelings and thoughts.

Whether it’s a friend sharing a personal struggle or a stranger expressing an unpopular opinion, empathetic people listen without judgment. They understand that everyone has their own journey and that it’s not their place to pass judgment on someone else’s experiences.

9) Showing kindness even in small ways

At the heart of empathy is kindness. Empathetic people understand this deeply, often showing kindness in small, subtle ways that make a big difference.

It might be as simple as a warm smile, a thoughtful word, or a small act of service.

According to research, people often don’t fully grasp the impact of their small, spontaneous acts of kindness. Whether it’s carrying heavy stuff for an elderly neighbor or cooking for the underprivileged, these seemingly insignificant gestures have the power to bring joy to others.

These gestures of kindness, no matter how small, have the power to brighten someone’s day, lift their spirits, and let them know they’re valued.

10) Adapting communication style

Empathetic people have a remarkable ability to adjust their communication style in response to the emotional needs of those around them without realizing it.

For example, they would provide constructive feedback in a direct manner for someone who prefers clarity but employ a more diplomatic approach for someone who values a gentler delivery.

Deep down, they want to create a safe and supportive space where everyone feels comfortable sharing their feelings freely without fear of judgment. It’s their secret to building trust and making stronger connections.

Also, different situations call for different forms of communication. Empathetic individuals understand that tailoring their responses to the emotional context is not only compassionate but also more effective. 

Final thoughts: Empathy is a choice

The beauty of empathy lies in its accessibility. Despite its roots in our emotional intelligence, empathy is not a fixed trait. It’s a skill that can be nurtured and developed over time.

Deeply empathetic people often display these behaviors unconsciously, but that doesn’t mean the rest of us can’t learn from them and cultivate our own capacity for empathy.

So, let’s strive to be that person for others. Let’s choose empathy and create a world where everyone feels seen, heard, and understood.

Lucas Graham

Lucas Graham, based in Auckland, writes about the psychology behind everyday decisions and life choices. His perspective is grounded in the belief that understanding oneself is the key to better decision-making. Lucas’s articles are a mix of personal anecdotes and observations, offering readers relatable and down-to-earth advice.

10 subtle behaviors that show a man values loyalty over everything else in a relationship

9 signs you apologize too often in life (and “sorry” has lost meaning)