People who are truly empathetic and never judge others usually display these 7 behaviors

We all tend to make quick assumptions about others. Our brains take in all the relevant input, and before you know it, you’ve made up your mind about something before you’ve even learned all the complexities of the situation at hand.

Luckily, it is possible for us to take a step back, view our assumptions for what they are – unfounded thoughts – and stop judging before we get to know the full story.

And having large reserves of empathy helps a great deal.

Want to learn more?

Let’s dive in. People who are truly empathetic and never judge others usually display these 7 behaviors.

1) They take their time before they respond

When someone tells you a piece of new information, you can either react – that is, offer the first kind of reaction that comes to mind, even if it’s judgmental – or respond.

The latter is different in so that it involves a bit of careful thought before you make your feelings apparent.

Let’s say your friend has told you they’ve recently met up with their ex. Based on what you know, their ex has broken their heart in the past, and they’ve spent the last few months venting and complaining about the relationship.

Once the words leave their mouth – “I’ve gone to see (name)” – your automatic reaction may be to gasp in shock and reprimand.

The non-judgmental thing to do, however, is to keep it together and immediately go into a mode of understanding and acceptance.

Perhaps there’s a specific reason your friend’s done what they’ve done. Perhaps there are certain parts of the story you don’t know. Perhaps you need to learn more about what happened before you can make an opinion on it.

Therefore, the first step is to try your best to remain calm and open-minded.

And the next thing that people who never judge others do is…

2) They ask questions before making assumptions

Questions are everything.

If you ask the right questions, you’ll get a much better understanding of where someone else is coming from, which is basically the number one method to prevent judgment and place yourself in other people’s shoes.

If you’re a highly empathetic person, you won’t just try to imagine what it’s like to be the person you’re talking to – you’ll actually make an active effort to understand them on an emotional and intellectual level.

Let’s stay with our previous example for a bit.

Your friend has met up with their ex. You don’t know the context. The questions you might want to pose are:

  • How did that happen?
  • What was your reasoning behind it?
  • How do you feel now?

One important thing to remember is to keep your tone calm and neutral. If you show open judgment, other people won’t want to confide in you because they’ll feel scared of what you’ll think of them.

People who are genuinely empathetic and try not to judge always aim to gain a better sense of understanding first and foremost.

Lead with compassionate curiosity, not contempt.

3) They use their own emotions to better understand the experiences of others

Contrary to popular belief, the art of empathy isn’t just about immediately knowing how everyone around you feels.

Oftentimes – especially if you find it difficult to understand the other person’s point of view – empathy is the skill to use our own emotions in order to connect with what someone else has experienced.

If you’ve never gone through a rough breakup, you may not fully grasp why your friend’s still in contact with someone who hurt them, but that doesn’t matter.

You’ve gone through loss in other areas of your life. You’ve missed someone dearly before. You know just how complex human relationships can be, even if they’re not of a romantic nature.

This in and of itself is enough to empathize with someone.

And even if you’re struggling to understand after having tried that, it’s still possible to hold space for someone and avoid judgment. As the scholars Lidewij Niezink PhD and Katherine Train PhD write:

“Empathizing with others is empathizing with the inherently unknowable experience of other people. Their experiences, thoughts, and feelings are not yours. And more importantly, they are not meant to be either.

Empathizing with others does not mean experiencing what others are going through. It is meant to attentively tune into their expressions of those experiences. To open up to their perspectives on a given situation, to broaden your own views on it, and to hold a space for others to be as they are.”

4) They understand the world is more complex than meets the eye

Many people like to think of the world as a simple place to be.

Either you believe X or you believe Y. Either you’re an introvert or an extrovert. Either you’re on the left side of the political spectrum or the right. Either you’re in love or not.

I’m not going to lie, sometimes I wish things were as easy as that. However, the truth is that humans are anything but.

You won’t always understand why people do what they do. You won’t always have a clear opinion that is set in stone for decades. You won’t always know the full story.

This is why it’s extremely important to approach everything with care and careful consideration.

If one of your co-workers complains about another one, keep in mind you haven’t heard the other side of the narrative.  

If you read certain information on a specific topic, remember that you haven’t fully researched the counterarguments.

I like to think I’m a highly empathetic person, and if there’s one thing that fuels my empathy, it’s the inherent understanding that things are never black-and-white.

Humans are complicated. Trying to sort us into categories or encapsulate us in a few simple words does not do us justice.

5) They may give others too much benefit of the doubt

You didn’t think this whole article would be just praise, did you?

No, high empathy and a lack of judgment aren’t always a benefit.

While I wouldn’t change my empathetic nature for the world, I am very aware of the fact that it can be a hindrance – especially when it comes to choosing who to let into my life.

Asking important questions and trying to empathize with someone before making assumptions is wonderful. However, there’s a limit.

The sad truth is that not everyone has your best interests at heart.

Yeah, I know. It’s disappointing.

Growing up, I used to think everyone was just as honest as me. I had to go through some rough lessons before I finally came to terms with the fact that some people did not have good intentions.

Not everyone wants to be your friend. Not everyone deserves your understanding or energy. Not everyone should be given a fifth or a tenth chance to redeem themselves.

Sometimes, enough is enough. It’s okay to give people the benefit of the doubt, but if they don’t take you up on the offer, it’s also more than okay to cut them out of your life.

Reserve your time and energy for people who genuinely care about you and love you.

6) They might struggle to establish emotional boundaries

Another downside of being an open-minded empath is that we tend to soak in other people’s emotions like a sponge.

When someone’s visibly upset, we feel rattled. When there is a lot of stressful energy around us, we get anxious. When the atmosphere in the room changes, we notice it and feel it deeply.

Fortunately, there is a way out. I say that as someone who used to be constantly affected by the feelings of everyone around me and who is now doing much better.

In order to establish firm emotional boundaries, try to:

  • Remind yourself that you carry no responsibility whatsoever for how someone else feels. Even if your actions have caused hurt, there is only so much you can do to repair this. Other people’s feelings are ultimately their business to deal with
  • Spend enough time alone in order to separate your emotions from those of others and get to know yourself better
  • Practice mindfulness, meditation, and the art of detachment

7) Their presence feels like a safe space

On a final note, the best thing about people who are truly empathetic and who never judge others is that being around them makes you feel genuinely safe to be your authentic self.

If you do something you’re not exactly proud of, you can tell them and ask them for advice. If you’re having confusing feelings, you can confide in them and see what they think.

When you have a friend like that, you don’t need any filter. You can just be yourself – a wonderfully complicated human – and trust that they will accept you exactly as you are.

I don’t know about you, but to me, that’s essentially the definition of love.

Ava Sinclair

Ava Sinclair is a former competitive athlete who transitioned into the world of wellness and mindfulness. Her journey through the highs and lows of competitive sports has given her a unique perspective on resilience and mental toughness. Ava’s writing reflects her belief in the power of small, daily habits to create lasting change.

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