There’s no doubt that emotions can be tricky. Both to navigate and simply to feel too.
But some people struggle more with them than others.
People who lack emotional depth tend to have a hard time managing emotions.
They may find it difficult to read and respond to what people are experiencing.
When you come across someone emotionally shallow, it can be quite easy to spot. Just look for the following behaviors…
1) When you try to explain how you’re feeling, they don’t get it
We all want to feel understood.
For that reason, it can be incredibly frustrating when we are trying to bare our souls, but someone just isn’t getting it.
Empathy can be very tricky for someone who lacks emotional depth. Yet it’s empathy that allows us to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes.
Without this skill, it can sound like someone is talking in another language when they try to explain how they are feeling.
No matter how many different ways you try to say it, you still don’t feel truly heard by them.
2) They find it tough to express themselves too
Getting them to explain how they feel can be as equally challenging.
It may feel a bit like getting blood from a stone.
They might say that they’re not good with words or talking about feelings and “stuff like that”.
They may use dIversion tactics and try to change the subject. Or they may be dismissive about the extent of their feelings.
Passive aggression tends to happen more when we can’t express our emotions.
The problem is that it’s tough to say how you are feeling to others when you don’t really understand it yourself.
So many of their opinions, thoughts, and beliefs may be a total mystery to you.
3) They don’t open up
They’re happy enough to give details about their day to day life, but never the bigger things.
It may seem like they’re more concerned with maintaining an image rather than keeping it real.
You probably don’t know very much about their deeper thoughts and feelings on things.
They much prefer to keep the conversation light.
4) Their conversations stay on the shallow side
There’s a place for polite chit-chat. Small talk can actually be a really good way to start off connections.
It’s how we politely show interest without going in too hard and heavy too soon. Because it’s important to develop a relationship with someone first.
But after a while, we need to delve deeper.
In order to have meaningful relationships, we can’t always talk about the weather.
Much of real life tends to revolve around our emotions.
But you may find that people who lack emotional depth avoid topics that stir powerful feelings such as love and romance, loss and death, passion and politics.
They may suggest that these sorts of things are “too heavy” and accuse you of being boring for bringing them up.
5) They rarely admit fault
Taking responsibility involves a certain amount of reflection.
We have to be able to step back and look at how our words or actions have impacted others.
But that sort of self-awareness is very difficult for someone who has little emotional depth.
It may seem like they are blinded to their part in things. That’s because they are.
Life is rarely black or white. Yet they don’t spend time considering the complexities of a situation.
When we can’t take a long hard look in the mirror, we’re unlikely to say sorry for the things we’ve done.
If they do apologize, it’s likely to feel insincere.
It may seem more like they’re saying it to appease you rather than because they mean it.
6) They are so-called “fair weather” friends
Relationships are usually more transactional to emotionally shallow people.
Rather than being based on deeper abiding bonds, they often rest on feel-good factors.
All is hunky dory when:
- They’re having a good time
- All is light and easy-breezy
- They feel like they’re getting plenty out of the relationship
But when the going gets tough, someone without emotional depth is more likely to get going.
And I don’t mean be propelled into action, I mean heading out the door!
That can be because they lack the empathy and compassion to show their support.
But it could also be that they don’t have the emotional toolbelt to deal with more confronting emotions.
So they simply feel awkward and want to run away.
7) They’re always putting their foot in it
The skill of emotional intelligence is very good at keeping us out of hot water.
It’s what helps us read the room and decide what is suitable behavior, and importantly, what isn’t.
Without that social antenna, we can end up saying and doing the wrong things.
Sure, we’re all capable of speaking or acting without thinking from time to time.
But someone emotionally shallow more often than not seems totally oblivious.
They struggle to get a feel for people. And as they don’t pick up on the moods and emotions of others, they aren’t sensitive to them.
That means they may constantly behave in indelicate and inappropriate ways.
It seems obviously crass, rude, and downright idiotic to you — but to them, it just doesn’t register.
8) They come across as cold or unfeeling
Another consequence of lacking empathy is that they can seem pretty uncaring.
If someone comes across as a bit of a cold fish, then they are more than simply reserved — they appear lacking in sympathy.
They aren’t necessarily trying to be aloof. But they don’t get emotionally involved quite so easily.
And even when they do, those emotions are still limited.
If you’ve ever found that someone was able to ditch you without a second thought about it, they most likely lack emotional depth.
9) They can’t see things from other people’s side
Judgmental people for sure lack emotional depth.
In their limited perspective, they can only see the world through one viewpoint —their own!
It takes mental and emotional complexity to take on board new ideas, concepts, and opinions.
You have to be able to see the world from another angle, both emotionally as well as analytically.
Not everyone can do this.
When you meet someone who can’t, it may seem like they’re not even trying to see your side.
And you’re probably right.
10) They can come across as dismissive or condescending
My dad was a very clever man. His IQ was through the roof, yet he always struggled with his EQ.
He could be pretty stuck in his ways and had a quite contemptuous way of handling things.
When I’d ask questions, he’d often scoff before saying something sneering and pretty patronizing.
I’d always felt bad about it when I was young. It seemed like he was frequently dismissing my feelings and thoughts.
But as I got older I came to realize that he didn’t have the communication skills and insights to handle it differently.
Despite the depth of his intelligence, he was still quite shallow emotionally.
11) They don’t really listen to you
Many years ago I had a friend who quite frankly sucked at listening.
We were just getting to know one another, so initially I tried to give her the benefit of the doubt.
Until one day when I hit a wall.
We were having an evening out and I’d spent the first couple of hours diligently listening to some romance drama she was having.
I tried my hardest to give her the space to talk, whilst simultaneously asking thoughtful questions to find out more.
Yet later in the night after spending less than twenty seconds talking about something going on in my own life, I could see she wasn’t listening to a word I was saying.
Despite nodding her head, her eyes were frantically scanning the bar. She was clearly disengaged and uninterested.
Quality relationships demand that we both speak and listen. It takes emotional depth to appreciate this and to be able to execute it.
12) Blaming other people for how they behaved
“I only did it because of how he spoke to me.”
It’s a childish response, but one that all too many adults have too — a failure to hold ourselves accountable.
Some people cannot see that nobody can make them do something. They are 100% in control of their thoughts, feelings, words, and actions.
Yet try to explain that to someone lacking in emotional depth and they can’t grasp it.
They will instead talk about how it’s not fair or that they are the victim.
Their problems are rarely their own, the fault always seems to lie elsewhere.
It’s possible to find greater depth
Your emotional pool isn’t defined. It can be changed.
We may not think of emotional depth as a skill, but it is something that can be both learned and developed.
That’s why when we strive to improve our emotional intelligence the world becomes a more profound place.