Empathy is the ability to understand and care about others. It’s such an important behavior for society and individuals to get along, work together and get through conflicts and hard times.
Here’s the thing:
Not everyone has empathy, or at least not very much of it.
The folks who are exceptionally empathetic tend to share certain traits which I’ll go through below.
If you meet or know somebody like this you can be certain: this is an extremely empathetic person who we can all learn from.
1) They’re very sensitive overall
Empathetic people are generally HSPs (highly sensitive people).
They feel deeply, can be moved to tears by a song and will look at a field of blooming flowers in awe.
They may shake with anger at witnessing injustice and laugh until they can’t breathe from watching a funny comedy film or a friend who’s joking around.
Whereas other folks have their fair share of emotions, the empathetic individual experiences feelings in HD.
2) They can’t help but feel deeply (no ‘off switch’)
People who are exceptionally empathetic with others don’t have an off-switch.
They can’t just ignore the plight of a family member who’s depressed, or take some melatonin and sleep soundly after hearing of a close friend who just got dumped.
They feel deeply for others at the instinctual level, and that empathy doesn’t wax or wane.
It’s just there.
They feel what somebody else is going through in a primal way where it’s almost like they’re experiencing it themselves.
3) They know what you’re going through even if they haven’t been there
We’ve all had different experiences.
The empathetic person is deeply genuine. They hate lies and will never say:
“I know what it’s like to get divorced” if they don’t know what it’s like to get divorced.
But they will say “I’m here for you, I feel you.”
The empathetic person knows the feeling of churning disappointment, frustration, hopelessness.
They know how it feels to feel completely alone, unwanted, abandoned.
Their empathy tunes into the emotions of those around them and provides support and understanding.
Even if they haven’t experienced what you are right now, they are able to relate to the emotions you’re experiencing.
4) They’re excellent listeners
The most important part of communication is listening.
Clearly, somebody has to talk. But in order to say something worth saying, it’s necessary that what’s each is saying.
The empathetic person is a great listener.
They actively listen such that they aren’t only hearing the words that are spoken but also the needs, fears and confusion behind the words that are said.
As a result of listening so well, they are very attuned to the emotions being felt by others and give outstanding counsel.
This brings me to the next point…
5) They give great advice
Because of their ability to feel the emotions of others and grasp what they’re going through, empathetic people give outstanding advice.
They don’t tell anybody what they “should” do or “must” do, but they will make suggestions and observations that are extremely helpful.
They have the kind of insights that can break through clouds of confusion.
They are able to identify a core emotion somebody is struggling with that needs to be resolved.
Their advice is helpful because it doesn’t force anything, it just perceives, feels and reflects.
6) They seek out win-win scenarios
Empathetic people feel deeply, and they see the world as a place that can be improved.
They use their time and energy to try to build bridges and seek out win-win scenarios.
In business, in romance, in their friendships and other connections, the empathetic person looks for ways they can work together with others instead of against them.
Healthy competition is one thing, but the idea of a zero-sum game where one has to lose for the other to win is something that doesn’t appeal to the empathetic person.
In fact this sort of zero-sum ideology repels them at the instinctual level.
7) Empathetic people have a special bond with animals
In addition to their close bond with other people and understanding of the emotions of others, empathetic people bond closely with animals.
Dogs and cats are drawn to them.
Horses whinny and canter over to get closer to them at the paddock.
They go for a walk in the forest and birds seem to flutter just a little bit closer.
This is no surprise, since emotions are felt by all living creatures and creations including plants.
The strong human-animal bond is exemplified by St. Francis of Assissi, who revitalized an austere church with his teachings of a return to non-intellectual experiences of love and connection to nature.
As he says in his prayer, those who seek salvation and happiness should seek out any opportunities to love and give, rather than to seek out love or focus on what one is getting.
8) They have trouble with large crowds
Empathetic individuals often have issues with large crowds.
They do their best to avoid massive concerts, crowded malls, busy airports and swarming urban cores.
Because they absorb so much stimuli from the environment and feel so strongly, being around so many people can be overwhelming.
They are so intuitive and pick up on so many different emotions and vibes in the crowd that it can crash the empathetic person’s system leading to a sort of nervous breakdown or anxiety attack.
9) Empathetic people are sensitive to loud or unusual sounds
Part of the reason that crowds are overwhelming for empathetic people is the amount of noise and unexpected clamor.
The empathetic person finds loud and sudden noises hard to deal with.
Even the general hubbub of a busy and hectic place can quickly become too much for them.
They long for the gentle sighs of nature and the rustle of the fields, a soundproofed apartment not open to the noisy traffic, or a quiet country road with the crickets singing their chorus.
Big crowds aren’t their jam!
10) They are extra-sensitive to substances
In addition to large crowds, empathetic folks are extra-sensitive to various substances.
They may get jittery from caffeine, highly anxious or disoriented from drugs including marijuana, tired and headaches from tobacco and so on.
They are not like those who can just slam 10 shots and be fine, or those who smoke skunk weed and wake up feeling more or less fine.
The empathetic person is a finely tuned individual who needs to watch their mental and emotional health quite closely.
11) Electronics sometimes act strange around empathetic people
Technology sometimes acts a bit odd around highly empathetic people.
Phone batteries suddenly drain of life, computers freeze and lights flicker.
This is one of the more esoteric signs of a highly empathetic person and it’s not always going to occur.
But if there is somebody who seems to have a lot of strange electronic occurrences going on when they’re around, there’s a good chance it’s related to them being a highly sensitive and spiritually-attuned empathetic person.
12) Empathetic people hate narcissism
Empathetic people are attuned to the needs of others and they have an especially hard time with narcissists.
In fact, you can say that narcissists are the one type of person that an empath has a hard time fully understanding.
They feel a bit bad for the kind of person who considers themselves the center of everything, but the empathetic individual also finds it hard to connect with such a person.
After all, how can they get through to someone and open them up to what a big place the world is, if that person is only focused on their own needs and their own experiences?
The empathetic experience
Those who are excellent empaths have a blessing and a burden.
They feel deeply and are able to understand and advise others in a uniquely helpful and insightful way.
But they also take longer to adjust to social situations and feel more drained from the hubbub of daily life.
Empaths make all of our lives better, and we can each make an effort to also be understanding and caring towards them, too.