Empathy is a powerful thing. After all, if humans didn’t have the ability to understand how one another is feeling, we would never have been able to make the amazing scientific and social progress we have.
Our empathy is what has allowed us to stop living in the jungle and conquer the world.
But we all have different levels of empathy. And we are often not the best judges of our own character.
That’s why it’s possible to be a highly empathetic person without knowing it.
Keep an eye out for these behaviors. If you recognize these traits in yourself, it’s probably because you’re a highly empathetic person.
And although it can sometimes be painful, it’s a great thing to be.
1) Showing interest in others
Being empathetic fundamentally means being interested in other people. Their lives, their feelings, and their experiences are all fascinating to a true empath.
No wonder empaths usually get along well with a broad variety of people. Often, highly empathetic people find that they have a wide variety of different personalities in their circle of friends, just because they are so open and able to understand others.
This also means that highly empathetic people often show a boundless curiosity about others.
Do you find yourself asking new people all about their job, their interests, or their families? Do you have a burning need to know what it’s like for other people to live the lives they do?
If so, you may be a highly empathetic person.
2) Listening effectively
Of course, it’s no good being interested in other people if you don’t know how to listen. Luckily, highly empathetic people are some of the best listeners you’ll ever meet.
Empaths practice active listening, meaning they pay close attention to people when they talk. It also means they pay attention to nonverbal cues such as body language, and they give people the conversational space to really reveal themselves.
On the other hand, it’s not all one-way. Empaths aren’t afraid to be vulnerable to others, and often open up themselves to get others to feel more comfortable around them.
If you’ve been told that you are a great listener, it’s likely it’s because you’re an empathetic person.
3) Looking for similarities
Whenever an empath meets someone new, they don’t focus on how different they are from one another. Instead, they look for similarities.
You see, a true empath knows that no matter how different two people may appear on the surface, there’s always some common ground to find.
Two people can completely disagree on questions of politics but share a deep love for their country, for example. Or maybe you have completely contradictory opinions on society but are united by a deep love for your family.
Whatever the common ground is, you can rely on a highly empathetic person to find it quickly.
And that common ground provides a strong foundation for building a relationship, even between two people with lots of differences.
4) Withholding judgment
Here’s the thing: part of what makes empaths so good at getting along with others is that they are not judgmental.
Empaths understand emotions well, and they know that we all make mistakes in life. This results in a nonjudgmental outlook that doesn’t hold people to impossible standards.
Instead of looking for reasons to condemn someone, empaths will always look for reasons to explain their behavior that they can understand.
And thanks to that lack of judgment, highly empathetic people are better than most of us at getting along with others.
5) Avoiding gossip
By now, you’ve probably noticed that highly empathetic people have the ability to get others to open up to them. Part of an empathetic person’s special gift is to make people feel comfortable being more vulnerable with them than they would with other people.
That means if they wanted to, empaths would be uniquely able to talk about others behind their back.
But they don’t.
That’s because empaths are always putting themselves in other people’s positions. They can clearly imagine how it would feel to have their trust betrayed, so they never do it to other people.
If you refuse to engage in gossip and talking about others behind their back, it may well be because you have a high level of empathy.
6) Putting others first
This next point can be a gift and a curse. But there’s no question that empaths tend to put other people’s feelings and needs ahead of their own sometimes.
There are lots of different ways this can manifest. Maybe:
- You always go along with other people’s suggestions of things to do
- When grocery shopping, you buy all the foods your partner likes rather than the ones you want
- You always return a borrowed car with a full tank of gas, even when it’s not convenient for you to fill it up
- You are the first to help colleagues with difficult projects, even when it isn’t your job
- You always do more than your share of chores around the house so the rest of your family can relax
Empathy is an admirable quality, and making other people feel good can be good for the person who does it, too.
However, highly empathetic people need to remember that their needs are just as important as those of the people around them.
It’s nice to do nice things for people, but make sure you don’t become a doormat in the process.
7) Feeling the feelings of others
This is one of the truest signs of a highly empathetic person. In fact, there are even super empaths who literally feel what other people are feeling.
This makes it impossible for them to watch scary movies or see violent scenes on TV, because they will fully feel all the emotions of the characters as they go through a traumatic experience.
But even if you don’t take things to that level, an empath is defined by their ability to put themselves in the position of others and understand how they are feeling.
This is what makes empaths so good at relating to other people. But like so many of the other traits on this list, this can be both a blessing and a curse.
8) Being unable to ignore suffering
Unfortunately, suffering is a fact of life. That’s as true for us humans as it is for other members of the animal kingdom.
But for a highly empathetic person, witnessing suffering can be extremely painful. And many empathetic people are unable to ignore suffering when they are confronted with it.
This can be something as simple as comforting a friend who has had their heart broken, or something grander like involving yourself when you see violence taking place in front of you.
No wonder highly empathetic people often end up in professions such as counseling where they can help people escape suffering for a living.
The truth is, no psychologically healthy person takes joy in watching other people suffer. But empathetic people find it so painful that often, they have to do something about it.
9) Defusing conflict
It’s not just acts of violence, either. Empathetic people hate conflict, and will do everything in their power to defuse it.
Because empaths are such good listeners and are so able to understand the feelings of others, they are generally great at avoiding conflict in their conversations with other people.
After all, they have that wonderful ability to understand other people’s points of view, which is a great way to defuse conflict.
However, if you’re a highly empathetic person, you may find your need to defuse conflict going beyond conflicts involving yourself. Often, empathetic people hate any conflict around them, because they tend to soak up the emotions of everyone near them.
That means empathetic people will often involve themselves in conflicts that are nothing to do with them, using their listening skills to help everyone feel heard and defuse the conflict.
10) Needing time to recharge
If all this sounds exhausting, you’re absolutely right. Feeling what others feel so keenly can be extremely draining.
Therefore, although empaths often love people, they need time away from them, too.
Time alone helps highly empathetic people to recharge so that they can continue to use their empathetic skills to help the people around them. If you often find yourself having to take breaks from people to recharge your energy, it might be because you’re an empath.
The reality of high empathy
Empathy is a wonderful thing. And people who can put themselves in the minds of others have a big advantage when it comes to making friends and defusing conflict.
If you display the behaviors in this list, you’re probably a very empathetic person. Congratulations!
If you are a highly empathetic person, remember to take care of yourself, too. You probably need time away from other people to recharge your batteries, and you may tend to put your own needs aside in favor of others.