10 signs of a fake empath you need to watch out for

To be empathetic means to be caring, open, altruistic, and loving towards other people.

Having the ability to feel the pain of another person gives you a softer outlook on life, because you can’t ignore the struggles and hardships of those around you.

For the most part, being empathetic is an extremely admirable trait to have.

This is why some people fake empathy, even if they’re the last thing from empathy.

Instead of actually seeing the value of being empathetic, these people want to pretend to have empathy for the benefits surrounding it.

So how can you tell when someone is faking empathy? Here are 10 signs of fake empathy:

1) They Have Very Shallow Emotions

Perhaps one of the clearest red flags of someone who is only faking their empathy is how often they seem to switch moods, meaning they have shallow emotions.

A person who is low in empathy is a person who is also out of touch with their own emotions, meaning they have a weak emotional foundation.

This leads to someone who shifts between moods like crazy.

One minute they’re the happiest person in the room, and the next they’re going through an existential crisis.

It’s difficult to maintain a friendship or relationship with a person like this, because the slightest hiccup to their day can rock their entire world.

But this also means that they’re not comfortable being vulnerable, meaning their default emotion – the emotion they pretend to have when they have nothing going on – is intense happiness.

They fake happiness even when it doesn’t make sense to be happy, because they use their smiles as a shield to cover up what they’re really feeling (until they can’t do it any longer).

2) They Fake Empathy For Their Own Gain

One of the subtler signs of an individual who fakes empathy is the tendency to use empathy to bait certain statements out of a person, statements which are then later twisted and used against them.

This typically comes from people who not only fake empathy but are also toxic in other aspects of their personality.

For example, if you’re going through some personal struggles, a fake empath may reach out to you acting as a shoulder to cry on.

In your vulnerability, you’ll be more than happy to spill the tea to whoever is willing to listen, meaning you’ll tell them everything.

But in a few days, you’ll soon realize that this person has used your story as their own opportunity to gossip.

Instead of talking to you to help make you feel better, they talked to you just so they could have something to share to all your mutual friends, putting them at the center of attention.

3) They “Listen”, But Only To Win Arguments

In situations like these, a person faking empathy may actively listen to everything you’re saying, showing concern and attention at the right moments.

But they’re not actually giving you the chance to vent or share for your benefit, because instead of letting you process your emotions, they’ll instead throw your words back at you in a way that reflects their own agenda.

Essentially, they act like they’re a shoulder to cry on simply so that you will open up and possibly say the wrong thing, to then eventually use your own words against you.

Because what easier way to trap a person than with their own words?

4) They Always Try To Diagnose You

This will be familiar to anyone who’s been around a fake empath before: one of their favorite past times is diagnosing other people.

In other words, they love pretending like they can understand the secret feelings of everyone around them, and won’t accept any other interpretation.

This can be extremely frustrating for those who regularly deal with individuals faking empathy, because they use their “empathy” to put words in your mouth, shutting down arguments and discussions before you’ve even said your piece.

They tell you what you’re really feeling, tell you what you’re really saying, and if you try to disagree with them, they act like you’re simply not in touch with your emotions enough to understand what they can clearly see.

Eventually, it feels like talking to a brick wall, because they’ve already made all their decisions about you on your behalf.

5) They’re Impulsive With Their Decisions

Empathy helps people regulate their own emotions.

The ability to read other people gives us the ability to read ourselves, meaning the more empathetic a person is, the likelier it is that they also understand their own state of mind, which includes their wants, needs, and goals.

A clear sign of someone who struggles with empathy is someone who is incredibly impulsive with their decisions.

One day they might dream of being a writer with a dedicated schedule and routine to create a life with the stability to write novel after novel, and the next day they might want to sell all their possessions and travel around the world.

Having a lack of your own emotional awareness leads to this impulsivity, because you don’t really understand yourself, and you don’t understand the differences between your long-term wants and moods versus your sudden bursts of wants and moods.

6) Their Caring Is Extremely Short-Lived

People who fake empathy aren’t always doing it for directly malicious purposes.

Some people just like feeling good about themselves, and what easier way to make yourself feel good about yourself than by convincing yourself and others that you’re an empathetic angel who deeply cares about pain and struggle?

But one clear and obvious sign that a person is just pretending to be empathetic?

Their caring is extremely short-lived, but in terms of time and effort.

Instead of truly caring about something, they’re the kind of person who posts a passionate speech about an issue one day, and then never says anything about it ever again.

This kind of short-lived empathy is rampant in the age of social media, and it’s commonly seen in the form of “slacktivism”.

This is where we satiate our needs to care about something with the bare minimum engagement on social media.

7) They Have Intense But Short Relationships

One important quality for maintaining a strong, healthy, and lasting relationship is empathy, if not from both partners then at least one.

Being empathetic towards your partner is essential for quickly solving issues or disputes, problems that mostly arise from two people who love each other and not being on exactly the same page.

Because at the end of the day, no real couple wants to fight – fighting is simply an escalated misunderstanding.

But a person who is simply faking empathy is someone who can’t truly understand their partner’s feelings, meaning no matter how good they are at faking it.

They can’t keep it up long enough to maintain a lasting, long-term, happy relationship.

They may have intense bursts of amazing relationships – because they’re so good at mimicking positive emotions, but they can’t survive through the rough patches.

8) They Hold Onto Negative Memories and Emotions, Nothing Positive

Truly empathetic individuals understand the importance of recognizing the full spectrum of emotions, from the negativity of anger and depression to the positivity of love and excitement.

Empathy isn’t about “catching” a person’s true feelings; it’s simply about understanding how a person is feeling right here, right now, and using that understanding to feel their current needs.

But people who fake empathy only see empathy for its uses as a tool for them against other people, not a way to understand others.

Fake empaths try to “catch you out”, as if they’re revealing emotions that you’re trying to keep secret.

So they love hyper-focusing on their negative memories and experiences with you, reading only the negativity and completely ignoring and even forgetting the positivity.


Because there’s nothing dramatic or exciting about positive emotions; they can’t use any of that against you.

9) They Can’t Take “No”

The worst thing you can do with someone faking empathy? Tell them that they’re wrong.

A fake empath is someone who sees their ability to read other people as a kind of superpower, as if it makes them superior to others because they can understand what people are feeling before those people even know it themselves.

But if you tell them that they’re wrong, that they’re making a wrong assumption about you or someone else, they’ll blow up on you.

They’ll insist that you just don’t understand because you haven’t taken the time to learn about yourself, and you shouldn’t argue with someone who is so in tune with their ability to read emotions.

They’ve utterly convinced themselves that they can’t be incorrect, even if everyone is telling them otherwise.

10) They Love Telling People That They’re Empaths

It’s no secret that being empathetic is an admirable trait.

Empathetic people tend to be more compassionate, caring, altruistic, and open to the world, willing to be vulnerable in ways other people shy away from.

But truly empathetic people will never brag about it, because they don’t wear their empathy like a badge of honor.

It’s just a part of who they are, like their height or their personal preferences.

This is why it’s always very unusual when someone starts oversharing how much of an “empath” they are, talking about their inherent, natural ability to read other people.

So whenever someone talks about their empathy, chances are they’re not really empathetic at all.

Empathy is not something that should be bragged about, and only people who actually have it understand why.

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Lachlan Brown

I’m Lachlan Brown, the founder, and editor of Hack Spirit. I love writing practical articles that help others live a mindful and better life. I have a graduate degree in Psychology and I’ve spent the last 15 years reading and studying all I can about human psychology and practical ways to hack our mindsets. Check out my latest book on the Hidden Secrets of Buddhism and How it Saved My Life. If you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Facebook or Twitter.

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