I would describe a particular person in my life as a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It’s not the nicest thing to say about somebody, but I regarded this person as a close friend only to discover that behind their smile, they were only interested in getting information from me and didn’t care about my situation or feelings at all.
The sad part is that only once you’ve given them what they’re looking for do you realize that they’re not who they’re pretending to be. That’s because unempathetic people have mastered the art of being all smiles and laughs but lack genuineness and sincerity.
When you have empathy, caring about others comes naturally, but when it’s missing, you struggle to relate to people, and this comes through in what you say and how you behave.
You’ll find that people who seem friendly but, deep down, lack genuine empathy often display these 8 subtle behaviors that I break down below.
To protect yourself from being taken advantage of, your best bet is to learn how to identify these types of people and the tricks they have up their sleeves.
Let’s get started.
1) They believe that other people are too sensitive.
This might seem like an obvious behavior, but individuals with low empathy have a way with words.
They see emotions as weakness because they don’t understand why people feel like they do.
I can relate to this because I was involved with someone I thought was a good friend until I found myself in a very tough position, but as I opened up about how I felt, I first picked up on their blank expression, and then before I could finish my story, I got a long speech about needing to be strong in the face of adversity.
You could look at it as a friend trying to motivate you to get you out of a slump, but this interaction wasn’t that. It’s as if they’re dismissive of what you’re saying or aren’t that interested in how you feel. They’re quick to tell you to get over it or to move on without listening or being supportive.
If you aren’t paying attention, you might just think that they’re being straightforward, but their dismissive attitude is coming from a lack of deep empathy for you.
2) They joke at inappropriate moments.
Because these individuals cannot put themselves in someone else’s shoes, they make light of challenging situations.
They tend to joke inappropriately when faced with emotional events because they don’t know how to deal with it.
For example, if you’re feeling down, they might overdo the jokes or lay the positive phrases on really thick to improve your mood, but it’s not coming from an authentic place of wanting you to feel better.
If you’re visibly upset, you’ll hear them say things like, “It’s time to quit crying; it won’t change anything,” or “Put a smile on your dial.” Your display of emotions makes them uncomfortable, so rather than offer their unconditional support, they joke about it because they want you to move on.
It’s a subtle behavior because you might initially believe that they’re just trying to lift your mood, but the more they do it, the more it should serve as a sign of their poor level of empathy.
3) They come across as disingenuous.
Unempathetic people try to mimic your emotions when they talk to you. It’s a tricky and subtle behavior that you’ll only recognize if you pay close attention.
When you talk about something distressing, they’ll try to show concern through their expressions, and they may use words like “That’s terrible” or “You must be upset” because it’s expected or considered a decent response.
Despite trying to come across as interested in your emotions and circumstances, they still appear cold.
You can’t fake genuine warmth and sincerity, and this is how you can spot people who seem friendly but don’t have an ounce of empathy.
4) They’re overly friendly.
If you don’t really care about other people, how do you get them to like you?
You would fake a smile, use lots of hand gestures, and probably say a lot of nice things in conversations to win people over.
While interacting with someone like this, you might think that they’re just being extremely friendly, but in reality, they’re using these expressions to their advantage. You might even find yourself questioning their genuineness.
Their efforts are unnatural, and only if you become aware of their overly friendly approach will you detect their lack of authenticity.
5) They’re unable to read your emotions.
As an emotionally intelligent person, if you saw someone clearly in distress, you would know to go over to comfort them or simply ask them if they’re okay.
But when you have no empathy, you don’t immediately see the signs when someone’s concerned, stressed, or needs some company.
Empathetic individuals may avoid talking to someone upset, or they may continue a normal and “friendly” conversation without asking the person if they need help or someone to talk to.
Their inability to sense or read your emotions often leads to avoidance.
You might be under the impression that they’re simply distressed by your sadness, and that’s why they don’t know how to respond to you, but the truth is that their absence of empathy makes it challenging for them to offer the tenderness that you need.
6) They struggle to maintain relationships.
There’s no doubt that a low level of empathy makes it hard to develop and maintain strong emotional connections.
Think about it.
If you can’t relate to or respond to someone else’s emotions in a healthy and caring manner, how can you become a dedicated and supportive partner?
Having empathy is about taking the time to really listen to the experiences and thoughts of others without judgment. In a relationship, if you’re a selfish person and you don’t have empathy, you’ll never be interested in how your partner feels or what their perspectives are.
As a result, this type of emotional absence leads to problematic relationships or constant breakups. But it doesn’t start this way, and usually, these individuals are charming and friendly to create a positive impression.
When things go wrong, however, they’ll place the blame on their exes, but this pattern of behavior is associated with their absence of empathy.
7) They don’t believe bad things will happen to them.
A person who doesn’t have emotional intelligence won’t outright say that bad things only happen to other people. They will disconnect from the situation and cast judgment.
In conversation, they’ll point out how they would have made different decisions or that they would have been a lot stronger and not fallen apart like the victim. They’ll talk about themselves with a broad grin or laugh at the “bad decisions” of someone else in a joking way.
You wouldn’t see it as insensitive at first because we all handle trauma and challenges differently, but gradually, you’ll detect the same attitude towards others who fall on hard times, and you’ll question their intentions and insensitivity.
8) They don’t bring out the best in you.
There’s a specific type of person associated with the absence of empathy, and they’re called manipulators.
I’m not saying that every person who has little to no empathy is a manipulator, but there’s a very important subtle behavior that you should always be aware of so that you never fall into the grip of one.
A manipulator will groom you at the beginning of a relationship, saying what you want to hear and making the effort to build a strong yet fast connection. Once you trust them, their goal is to start controlling you to get their way, and they do this by targeting your self-worth and confidence.
They’ll appear friendly and joke about how you can’t do something, or they’ll give you a backhanded compliment, causing you to second-guess yourself.
This behavior is so subtle that you’ll often find yourself thinking that you misheard what they said. In other instances, the person might convince you that they never insulted you or that you’re being too sensitive, and end up you believing them.
If someone is making you doubt yourself, pay close attention to what they say and how they behave because they could be manipulating you.
Empathy is an underestimated value and personality trait that gives us the ability to be respectful, kind, and considerate.
You may be born with emotional intelligence, but most learn this trait in childhood by sharing with their peers and being attentive to their moods.
Sadly, some people never develop a true sense of empathy, and because we need this trait to develop healthy connections and read other people, they have to fake it to make it.
So if you’ve found yourself questioning the authenticity of certain people in your life, consider the subtle behaviors of those who seem friendly but, deep down, lack genuine empathy.
Your awareness can help you protect your emotions and self-esteem from people who lack compassion and sensitivity.
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