Some people are pretty decent at picking up on other’s emotions.
Some people are pretty darned lousy at it.
And then there are people who seem to know just about everything about how folks are feeling without them having to say a word.
Who are these incredible empaths?
Are they psychic?
Do they have superpowers?
Or are they just regular people like you and me, except they have really high levels of empathy, emotional intelligence, and incredible intuition?
I’ll let you decide.
For all I know, you could be one of them, especially if you recognize these ten signs you’re an empathetic person whose emotional radar works differently.
What is empathy, actually?
Before we hit that list, I thought it would be useful to give a short explanation of empathy.
People tend to confuse this term with sympathy, which is similar but still different in an important way.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary gives this definition: “Sympathy is when you share the feelings of another; empathy is when you understand the feelings of another but do not necessarily share them.”
So empathy combines emotional intelligence and being able to read the feelings of others. It’s about awareness and perception of other’s feelings and the understanding of how those feelings will affect and motivate people.
Does that clarify things? Great! Now, on to that list.
1) You listen actively.
One of the biggest signs of someone with a lot of empathy is active listening.
This means that they give people their full attention when they’re in conversation with other people and listening to what they’re saying.
They demonstrate that they’re listening by backchanneling, which is what linguists call those “uh-huhs” and “oh yeahs” that you say to show the speaker you’re paying attention.
But they also make comments at appropriate times and, most especially, ask relevant questions.
What’s this got to do with empathy?
The way a person speaks and the words they choose can speak volumes about their emotions. That’s why listening is so important for highly empathetic people.
Are you one of them?
Then active listening is probably second nature to you.
2) You’re fully present with other people.
When you’re there, you’re there.
You don’t only half-listen when someone is talking, and you don’t phub (phone-snub) them by scrolling when they’re talking.
But being present goes a lot farther than just listening.
When you meet a friend, you pay attention to them. You give them your focus and have very engaging one-on-one conversations.
You’re also not secretly wishing you were somewhere else or with other people.
This is partly because you would appreciate other people treating you this way, so you give back according to the golden rule.
But another part of you being present is that you can’t even help it.
Your emotional radar is so sensitive and acute that you unconsciously pick up on the other person’s emotions and get affected by them.
That forces you to tune in and really get into the same head and heart space.
3) You always put yourself in the other person’s shoes.
You know you’re an empathetic person whose emotional radar works differently if you always try to relate to other people’s situations.
You might not walk a mile in them, but you actively imagine what it must be like to be in the other person’s shoes and how they must feel.
And you probably do this both when you’re with that person and when you’re on your own, too.
Thoughts of other people’s motivations, reactions, and emotional states really consume you and take up way more of your time than they do for other people.
Heck, some people never spare a single minute to think about other’s feelings!
But if you’re highly empathetic, this is your m.o.
4) Other people’s deep emotions affect you deeply.
When you’re confronted with other people’s strong emotions like rage, grief, or joy, they affect you deeply.
In other words, you’re a highly sympathetic person as well.
After all, it’s hard to really feel someone else’s pain if you can’t recognize it or understand it in the first place!
The stronger their emotions are, the more they affect you. You can’t keep your eyes dry when you listen to another person’s pain. You also can’t hold back your smile when someone’s happiness is shining bright.
People love this about you – we really feel seen when someone shares our emotional state. But it can also be hard on you and quite draining.
5) You always know when someone needs a hug.
Someone walks through the door, and you immediately know they need a pick-me-up.
This is because your emotional radar is so finely tuned that you can pick up on the smallest hints in posture, body language, and facial expression. They don’t even have to say a word.
You know the power that human contact has and just how much it can mean to someone to feel the embrace of a caring soul. You always know when they need it.
If you have this kind of intuition, you’re probably a highly empathetic person and also one heck of a hugger.
6) People come to you when they need help.
I don’t mean when their computer isn’t working, or their car breaks down.
I’m talking about life problems – that’s what people always seem to be coming to you to talk about.
Well, you’re very empathetic and great at reading their feelings. But on top of that, you’re likely also great at interpreting the social situations that most people’s problems are connected to.
You know the answers to “Why’d she say that?” and “Why are they acting this way?”
That’s why people come to you.
They want to connect with someone, and they also want interpretations and advice. These are things you just happen to be naturally set up for.
7) You find crowds stressful or overwhelming.
Sadness and anger and joy – oh my!
When you’re surrounded by other people, you might find it hard to keep your focus.
There are just so many emotions swirling around; your emotional radar is beeping and blipping constantly, and it can be quite overwhelming.
This can also be true of parties, dinners, and other events when there are enough people around to set off your radar.
And if your radar doesn’t work like most other people’s, most people don’t understand this about you. They might wonder why you’re so great to talk to one-on-one and not so great in bigger groups.
8) You need time to be alone.
Being affected so strongly by other people’s emotions can wear you out, especially when you’re in crowds or dealing with people who have really heavy emotions to share.
One thing, then, that highly empathic people have in common is a strong need for alone time. In fact, it’s probably surprising to most people that lots of empaths are actually introverted.
But that doesn’t surprise you, does it?
There’s so much emotion floating around out there that you often need to be on your own to escape it and recharge.
A lot of empathetic people like to escape to nature for the solace and calm it provides. I bet they’re the original tree-huggers!
9) You genuinely care.
I guess this makes perfect sense.
If you have an incredible emotional radar and the ability to keenly interpret people’s feelings, it probably doesn’t come from indifference, does it?
You’ve learned to understand other people’s emotions because you actually care a lot about others.
You want the people you’re close with to have happy lives and to get over their negative experiences.
When you see people suffering in war zones on the news or hear about a natural disaster, more than just your thoughts and prayers go out to them.
Your heart extends out to them no matter where they are in the world
This is a very special and rare kind of empathy that most people don’t share, which is a shame. If there were more people like you around, the world would probably be in a much better state right now.
10) You sometimes feel like you don’t fit in.
Let’s face it: if you’re a very empathetic person whose emotional radar works differently, you might feel like you’re different.
Well, it’s true. You have a special ability that most others don’t share, and that can always make a person feel different and like they don’t fit in.
Most people don’t understand just how much their emotions can affect you and how draining it can be to constantly deal with all the feelings around you.
If these ten signs you’re an empathetic person whose emotional radar works differently sound pretty familiar, I feel you.
You’re a unique type of person, and your ability can sometimes feel like both a superpower and a super-big challenge. But ultimately, your empathy is a beautiful quality that makes you truly shine.