6 signs someone is a truly empathetic person (not just nice)

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You know those people in life who are more than just nice?

I mean those rare gems who are deeply caring and considerate. They constantly put others first and they’re always there if you need someone to talk to. 

I’m talking about truly empathetic people: the ones who can see things from your perspective and seem to understand exactly how you’re feeling in that moment. 

Psychiatrist Dr. Nereida Gonzalez-Berrios, MD explains “When someone becomes empathetic towards others, it means they possess the ability to put themselves in someone else’s place and understand the situation and feelings associated with it from another person’s point of view.”

But lots of people are nice and kind, right? So you might be wondering how can you tell the difference between that and empathetic people. 

To answer that question, we’re sharing 7 signs that someone is a truly empathetic person. Who knows, maybe you’ll realize you’ve got some truly empathetic friends in your life, or maybe you’re an empathetic friend to others. 

 Let’s dive in. 

1) They’re great listeners 

Are you the go-to guy or girl among your friends when someone needs a listening ear? 

Truly empathetic people tend to be great listeners because they understand that it’s about more than waiting for their turn to speak. They’re fully present in the conversation and they’re genuinely interested in understanding the emotion behind someone’s words.

Being able to actively listen like this is a trait shared by empathetic people. They’re not interested in interrupting or chipping in. 

Instead, they’re fully engaged, asking thoughtful questions and showing a genuine interest in what their friend is saying, making them feel valued and respected. 

The best part of all is: genuinely empathetic people are naturally great listeners, they don’t have to try hard to understand and care about what other people are saying. 

2) They’re highly intuitive 

Do you feel like you have a sixth sense about stuff? You have hunches that turn out to be right a lot and sometimes you can just sense things that others can’t.

Being highly intuitive like this is a common trait of truly empathetic people. They’re the type of people to trust their gut and follow their instincts and they usually turn out to be right. 

Deeply intuitive people are great at picking up on subtle social cues like if someone is feeling uncomfortable, they’ll notice and help them out. They can read someone’s facial expressions and body language and instantly know what they need without anyone having to say a word. 

Some of the most successful people in the world including Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, and Oprah Winfrey have credited much of their success to trusting their gut. Oprah once said:

“I’ve trusted the still, small voice of intuition my entire life. And, the only time I’ve made mistakes is when I didn’t listen.” 

If you can rely on your intuition or you know someone who can, it’s a sign they might just be a truly empathetic person.

3) They’re deeply compassionate

Another telltale sign that someone is truly empathetic is their desire to help others

I know what you’re thinking, most nice kind people would like to help others. But this goes way deeper than politely offering to help someone in need. 

Empathetic people are hardwired to help others. They don’t just offer to help because that’s what you’re supposed to do, they’re deeply compassionate and feel a strong urge to ease the pain of others. 

Compassion “is what happens when those feelings of empathy are accompanied by a desire to help”.

My friend Aisling is a deeply compassionate person. When she sees suffering, she does what she can to help without a second thought. When a hurricane hit a neighboring state where she lived, she immediately took 4 days off work and drove to the disaster site to volunteer. 

Do you have an Aisling in your life who’ll stop at nothing to help others? Or maybe you’re that person for your friends? Either way, compassion like this is a sure sign that someone is truly empathetic

4) They can put themselves in someone else’s shoes

The first time I ever came across the idea of putting yourself in someone else’s shoes was when I was 14, reading ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ by Harper Lee. Scout’s father, Atticus was teaching her a life lesson when he said:

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”

At the time I don’t think I fully understood it but the quote has stuck with me and I now realize most of us are so caught up with our own perspectives, it’s hard for us to view things from any other angle.

This isn’t a problem for truly empathetic people though. They’ve got this knack for always being able to see things from another person’s perspective no matter how tough the situation is. 

Having enough empathy to look at things through another’s eye indicates someone is highly empathetic and it’s pretty rare, so if you can do this, or you know someone else you can, don’t take it for granted.

5) They make people feel seen, heard and acknowledged

One of the greatest gifts you can give to someone is to make them feel seen, heard, and acknowledged, and highly empathetic people do this without even trying. 

Their ability to be incredibly understanding and non-judgmental combined with their listening skills makes them fantastic at validating others

I never realized how important it was to feel seen and heard until I got into my first relationship. I found that sometimes I just wanted to express my feelings and I didn’t want my partner to fix anything or apologize for anything, I just wanted him to see me and acknowledge my feelings. 

Lucky for me, he was a fantastic guy who did a great job of this most of the time and it highlighted to me just how important it is for me to do it for other people. 

People with lots of empathy know this without having to be told, they’re naturally great at validating others.  

6) They’re not afraid to be vulnerable

Truly empathetic people aren’t afraid to be vulnerable in front of others. 

They know that being honest about their struggles and opening up about things they find difficult creates space for others to do the same. This is the perfect environment for mutual understanding and empathy to thrive. 

They view vulnerability as a strength and not a weakness. They share the perspective of renowned researcher and author Brené Brown when she said;

“Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable”.

Being brave enough to embrace vulnerability and show the world who you truly are is a big hint that someone has a lot of empathy. 

Final thoughts

How many of these traits do you recognize in some of your friends? And in yourself? 

Lots of people do their best to be nice and kind but empathetic people take it to the next level. They’ve got all the desirable qualities of a great friend, naturally. 

If you’ve just realized that you’ve got some truly empathetic people in your life (or you are one yourself) count yourself lucky because it’s rare and an incredible trait to have in your life.

Cat Harper

Cat is an experienced Sales and Enablement professional turned writer whose passions span from psychology and relationships to continuous self-improvement, lifelong learning and pushing back on societal expectations to forge a life she loves. An avid traveler and adventure sports enthusiast, in her downtime you'll find Cat snowboarding, motorcycling or working on her latest self-development project.

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