Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on June 11, 2019

Why Some People Have a Lack of Empathy (And How to Deal with Them)

Why Some People Have a Lack of Empathy (And How to Deal with Them)

We all have interacted with some people that seem to have a lack of empathy, at some point of our lives. I know that those experiences can leave us feeling frustrated, unsettled, angry, disappointed, and even betrayed, mainly when we need support.

It gets even harder and more painful if you are in a relationship with someone who is unable to put themselves in your shoes. Especially when we consider some of these people our friends, or maybe even worse, when those people are family members and we have to be in contact with them frequently.

In this article, I will share with you the signs when someone is lacking empathy, why some people seem to lack it, and how to deal with them so that you don’t feel so frustrated and disappointed, and you can lead a happier life.

What Exactly Is Empathy?

According to Dictionary.com, Empathy is:

the psychological identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another.

The word originates from the Greek word “empatheia”, meaning physical affection or passion.

PsychologyToday.com defines Empathy as:

the experience of understanding another person’s thoughts, feelings, and condition from their point of view, rather than from your own. You try to imagine yourself in their place in order to understand what they are feeling or experiencing.

They go on to say that empathy facilitates prosocial (helping) behaviors that come from within, rather than being forced, so that we behave in a more compassionate manner.

In other words, empathy is when you’re able to put yourself in someone else’s position, both at an emotional and intellectual level.

Additionally, Empathy is one of the defining characteristics and foundational pieces of emotional intelligence.

True compassion means not only feeling another’s pain but also being moved to help relieve it — Daniel Goleman

Signs That Someone Lacks Empathy

Even though human beings are social creatures by nature, empathy doesn’t come naturally to all of us. Some people are more empathetic than others. In more extreme cases, some people suffer from Empathy Deficit Disorder (EDD).

As Douglas LaBier, Ph.D., a business psychologist, psychoanalytic psychotherapist, and the Director of the Center for Progressive Development in Washington, DC. said,

Empathy Deficit Disorder is a pervasive but overlooked condition. In fact, our increasingly polarized social and political culture of the past few years reveals that EDD is more severe than ever. It has profound consequences for the mental health of both individuals and society.

He explains that when you suffer EDD, you are unable to step outside yourself and tune in to what other people experience, especially those who feel, think and believe differently from yourself. That makes it a source of personal conflicts of communication breakdown in intimate relationships and of adversarial attitudes – including hatred – towards groups of people who differ in their beliefs, traditions or ways of life from your own.

Advertising

Here are some signs that will help you identify if someone around you lacks empathy:

  • They jump fast into criticizing others without putting themselves in other people’s shoes.
  • They seem to be cold or just out of touch for people that are suffering or are less fortunate.
  • They believe 100% in the rightness of their own ideas and/or beliefs, and judge anyone who does not hold their beliefs as wrong, ignorant or stupid.
  • They have trouble feeling happy for others.
  • They have trouble making or keeping friends.
  • They have trouble getting along with family members.
  • They feel entitled to receiving favors and use you to serve their needs without showing appreciation. They will even get offended if they don’t get their way.
  • In a group setting, they will talk a lot about themselves and their lives without really caring about what other people share.
  • They do or say something that hurts a friend or a loved one, and tend to blame his/her actions on them. They truly believe that the fault is in the person receiving the hurt because they reacted poorly, were rude or were oversensitive.

The truth is that without empathy, it is hard to create deep emotional connections with others.

Why Some People Lack Empathy

Empathy is an innate and a learned skill that is shaped by how we are wired when we are born, and our own environment and life experiences. To experience empathy to some extent, it means that we have to get in touch with our emotions.

People who lack empathy were probably raised in families who were avoiding to get in touch with their feelings and even condemned others for feeling their emotions. Some people have learned to shut down their feelings early in their lives to such a degree that they closed off their hearts and can’t even feel their own feelings – they certainly can’t relate or feel other people’s feelings.

As a result, these people end up lacking self-compassion, self-love and are disconnected from their authentic self and divine connection to source. They are probably not even aware that such disconnection is like a defense mechanism from their ego because if they empathize, they need to relate, get in touch with their feelings and feel the pain.

In most cases, developing and cultivating empathy is possible only if the individuals are willing to change how they relate with others, and consciously choose to retrain their brains. Due to our brain’s neuroplasticity, we can create new brain patterns.

However, there are other cases in which lack of empathy is associated to severe disorders such as narcissism, anti-social personality disorders, and psychopathy. In these cases, these individuals need to get professional help if they are open to it.

How to Deal with People Who Lack Empathy

I know how difficult it can be to deal with people who lack empathy when you are a sensitive and caring person. When you try to express your feelings, instead of compassion and understanding, you get anger or judgment back.

Advertising

It’s painful because sometimes we can get stuck in a vicious cycle where the more someone doesn’t understand you, the more you feel hurt, and the more you want them to understand your feelings. It’s almost as if you are pleading for validation.

Here’s the thing:

Most of the times, talking with these people will lead you nowhere, and will leave you feeling completely depleted.

Here are some easy-to-follow steps, so you can deal with people who lack empathy:

1. Don’t Take Their Anger or Judgments Personally

By doing this, you can get off the emotional roller coaster. It’s not about you. Remind yourself that they are the ones that have a problem connecting emotionally with others at a deeper level. There’s nothing wrong with you!

2. Don’t Try to Make Them Understand Your Feelings

Trying to instill empathy or insights in them is a waste of your time and energy. This will only increase their anger and judgement.

3. Talk About Facts with Them

Instead of talking to them about how you feel, or how something they did or said made you feel, talk about facts and what you think. It’s easier to communicate this way because they won’t feel blamed or shamed.

4. If You Don’t Live with This Person, Try to Distance Yourself from Their Company

You don’t have to end the friendship or stop visiting your family member, but you need to set some boundaries and be mindful of your interaction with them. Keep the connection superficial to avoid arguments and don’t expect depth and understanding.

Advertising

5. Cultivate or Nurture Relationships with People Who You Trust

Spend time with people who you trust and who make you feel safe so that you can feel comfortable sharing your inner world and your feelings with them. These are people who might have shown signs of empathy in the past.

6. Know That Your Value and Worth Does Not Depend on Their Validation and Opinion of You

Our self-worth should never be based on approval or validation from others. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you realize your true value: How to Build Self Esteem (A Guide to Realize Your Hidden Power)

7. Take Loving Actions Towards Yourself

Offer yourself kindness and practice doing things that reflect self-love – eat healthy, get enough rest, pursue your dreams, work on yourself, develop a spiritual life, surround yourself with loving and positive people.

To give you more ideas, here’s a list of 50 Small Things You Can Do Every Day to Really Love Yourself

8. If You Feel Too Overwhelmed, Get Professional Help

Find a caring and compassionate therapist or life coach who can be there for you and offer guidance during painful times. Unfortunately, our friends and family can’t always provide all of the emotional support that we need at times.

If the person that you’re dealing with shows a willingness to be more open to change and become more empathetic and caring, then you have a real opportunity to strengthen your relationship with them.

Final Thoughts

There are many reasons why some people lack empathy. Dealing with these people is not easy and may leave you feeling frustrated and disappointed. But with my advice, you’ll learn that you can’t change someone, however you can change your attitude towards them.

Remember that you can’t save everyone, but you can love yourself enough to not let people who lack empathy to overpower you. Set boundaries and do what makes you happy. Ultimately, don’t be afraid to get professional help when you are overwhelmed.

Advertising

More About Empathy

Featured photo credit: Stocksnap via stocksnap.io

More by this author

Patricia Young

Certified Professional & Holistic Coach, bestselling author, host of the Awakening to Life podcast

Why Some People Have a Lack of Empathy (And How to Deal with Them) How the Power of Positive Thinking Can Pay Off in Your Career How to Forgive and Live a Happy Life Again (A Step-By-Step Guide) The Guided Morning Meditation for Beginners (That Will Change Your Day)

Trending in Social Animal

1 Why Some People Have a Lack of Empathy (And How to Deal with Them) 2 19 Golden Pieces of Relationship Advice From the Experts 3 13 Simple Things Happy Couples Do Every Day 4 How to Stop Yourself from Sabotaging Relationships 5 How to Raise a Confident Child with Grit

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on June 21, 2019

How to Deal with Anger (The Ultimate Anger Management Guide)

How to Deal with Anger (The Ultimate Anger Management Guide)

We all lose our temper from time to time. It’s a natural part of our emotions. And expressing anger is actually a healthy thing to do in our relationships with others. Expressing our differences in opinion allows us to have healthy conflict and many times come to an agreement or understanding that works for everyone.

That being said, too much anger is counterproductive. Expressing anger inappropriately can be harmful to relationships, both personal and at work. Inappropriate in this context can be too much anger, too often, or a times that are only going to make things worse, not better. In this article we will look at how to deal with anger and better control your emotions.

Let’s take a deeper look at how to deal with anger.

Expressing Anger: Unhealthy vs Healthy Ways

Anger is a natural and normal part of almost any relationship. This includes relationships with your spouse or significant other, kids, bosses, friends, family, etc. Anger provides us with valuable information, we just have to be willing to listen to it. It clues us in to areas where we disagree with others and things that need to be changed or altered.

3 Common Unhealthy Ways to Express Anger

Here’re some common yet unhealthy ways to express anger that you should avoid:

Being Passive-Aggressive

This is a term many of us are familiar with. Passive-aggressive behavior happens when someone is angry but uses indirect communication to express their anger.

Some of the more common passive-aggressive behaviors include the silent treatment, making comments about someone behind their back, being grumpy, moody, or pouting, or simply not doing tasks or assignments that they should.

This is a passive-aggressive person’s way of showing their anger. Not very productive but extremely common.

Poorly Timed

This is something I’ve been guilty of. I tend to be pretty open and out there with my emotions. As such, I’ve been known to express my anger in a situation where it can’t really do any good.

Advertising

An example would be getting angry at one person in front of a crowd of people. All that does is make people uncomfortable and shuts them down. It’s not a healthy way to express anger or disagreement with someone.

Ongoing Anger

Being angry all the time is most often a symptom of something else. It’s healthy and normal to express anger when you disagree with someone. However, if someone is angry most of the time and always seems to be expressing their anger to everyone around them, this won’t serve them well.

As a matter of fact, over time, people will start to avoid this person and have as little contact as possible. The reason being is no one likes being around someone who is angry all the time and it’s a no-win situation.

3 Healthy Ways to Express Anger

What about the healthy ways to adapt? Some healthy ways to express anger in our relationships include:

Being Honest

Expressing your anger or disagreement in an honest fashion. By this, I mean be truthful about what it is that is making you angry. Sometimes this will entail walking away and thinking about it for a bit before you respond. But that’s okay because you want to be honest.

Don’t say you’re mad at something someone did or said when it’s really something else that upset you.

Being Direct

Similar to being honest, being direct is a healthy way to express anger.

Don’t talk around something that is making you angry. Don’t say that one thing is making you angry when it’s really something else. And don’t stack items on top of each other so you can unload on someone about 10 different things 6 months from now.

Be direct and upfront about what is making you angry. Ensure you are expressing your anger to the person who upset you or you are angry at, not to someone else. This is very counterproductive.

Advertising

Being Timely

When something makes you angry, it’s much better to express it in a timely manner. Don’t keep it bottled up inside of you, that’s only going to do more harm than good.

Think of the marriages that seem to go up in flames out of nowhere when the reality is someone kept quiet for years until they hit their breaking point.

Expressing anger as it occurs is a much healthier way of using anger to help us guide our relationships in the moment.

How To Deal With Anger

So if you feel angry, how should you deal with it right at that moment?

1. Slowdown

Maybe this has happened to you as well. From time to time, I receive an email at work that makes me so angry that steam is probably pouring out of my ears.

In my less restrained moments, I have been known to fire off a quick response. And that typically has ended about as well as you might imagine.

When I actually walk away from my computer and go do something else for a while, I am able to calm down and think more rationally. After that happens, I am able to respond in a more appropriate and productive manner.

2. Keep It to the “I’s”

As in it’s you that is upset. You are upset because of something. Don’t accuse people of making you upset. You don’t want to place blame by saying something like “You always want to upset me because you don’t put away your dishes”. Say something more like “Having dirty dishes laying on the counter upsets me – can you work with me to come to a solution?”.

When you are accusatory towards someone, all that does is increase the tension. This doesn’t usually do anything except make your anger rise higher.

Advertising

3. Workout

I have definitely used this technique when I have been upset. If something happens that angers you, see if you have the opportunity to burn off some of the anger.

Being able to hit the gym to get a hard workout in is great. If this isn’t an option, see if you can go for a run or a bike ride. If you are at work when you become angry and the weather permits, at least go outside for a brisk walk.

Besides working some of your anger out through exercise, this also helps to give your mind a chance to work through some ways to address what it is that upset you.

4. Seek Help When Needed

There are times when we could all use some help. Life can be stressful and overwhelming. It’s perfectly fine to seek some help from an expert if it will help you get back to a healthy balance.

If you find that you are angry all the time, it might be a good idea to go talk to an expert. They can give you some sound advice and ideas on how to get your anger to a more manageable, and healthy level.

How To Control Your Emotions

Having out of control emotions other than anger can lead to similar challenges in our lives. If you find yourself with emotional overflow here’s some ideas to help get your emotions under control.

Practice Relaxation

We all seem to lead incredibly busy lives, and that’s a good thing if we are loving the life we are living. That being said, it is very beneficial to our physical and mental well-being to take time out for relaxation. That can mean spending time doing things that help us calm down and relax like being around people we enjoy. It could be making time for things that help bring us balance like a healthy diet and exercise.

Many people incorporate techniques such as yoga and meditation to calm their minds and balance their emotions. Whatever your choice is, ensure you take time out to relax.

Laugh

Incorporating humor and laughter on a regular basis will help keep emotions in check and things in a healthy perspective.

Advertising

Remember, life isn’t a race. It’s a journey meant to be enjoyed fully along the way. Make sure you take time out to laugh and have fun.

Surround yourself with people that like to laugh and enjoy life. Don’t work at a job that just causes you stress which can lead to anger. Work at something you enjoy doing and brings a smile to your face.

Be Grateful

I was just having this conversation with one of my daughters who was stressed about school. We talked about the importance of being grateful for the many things in our lives that we seem to take for granted.

It’s easy to focus on the bad in life and the things that cause us negative emotions. It’s vitally important to remind ourselves of all the wonderful things in life that bring us positive emotions, things that we easily forget because we get caught up in the whirlwind of day to day life.

Take time out each day to remind yourself of a few things you are grateful for.

Final Thoughts

Life can be overwhelming at times. We seem to have constant pressure to achieve more and to always be on the go. People we are around and situations we are in can cause stress, anger, and negative emotions. At times, it can seem to be too much and we get angry and our emotions start to get out of control.

During these times, keep in mind that life is an incredible journey, full of wonder and things that bring us smiles and joy. When you find yourself angry more often than is healthy, take time out to remember the good things in life — the things that we seem to forget easily yet bring us so much positive energy and emotions.

Use some of the tips included here to help with how to deal with anger and better control your emotions. You’ll be glad you did.

More Resources About Anger Management

Featured photo credit: Patrick Fore via unsplash.com

Read Next