The lack of empathy: how to recognize it

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Robert Maurer
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The lack of empathy: how to recognize it

Lack of empathy impoverishes life and relationships. It is a great obstacle reinforced by selfishness, stereotypes and prejudices.

Last update: 10 September, 2020

Lack of empathy is a big obstacle in building harmonious relationships with others, but also with themselves. In fact, the self and the others are two realities that influence, complement and determine each other. Failing to understand others indicates that you most likely don't fully understand yourself either. Let's see in this article 5 signs that indicate a lack of empathy.



Individualism and the inability to adopt new points of view are traits that end up giving rise to destructive behaviors. One of the aspects that allowed the human being to separate from nature and give life to civilization is cooperation. Lack of empathy limits this operation with others.

The life, thinking and the emotional world are noticeably impoverished in the absence of empathy. Many people are unaware of this and even confuse empathy with certain traits of generosity or detachment. This is why it becomes so important to recognize the signs that indicate a lack of empathy.

"Empathy is the ability to be present without having an opinion."

-Marshall Rosenberg-

5 signs that indicate a lack of empathy

1. Set yourself as an example

This trait often goes unnoticed because it manifests itself when you want to give advice. This resource is also used as an apparent motivational element. Whoever sets himself as an example when someone tells him a problem, responds by saying how he solved a similar problem.

Likewise, if a person has difficulty doing something, list the virtues they have demonstrated in similar situations. All of this is a clear sign of a lack of empathy. Empathy allows you to see situations from the position of the other, not from your own.



2. Lack of tact in language

These days it is not uncommon to meet a "sincericide", the kind of person who prides himself on being frank or expressing his ideas spontaneously and without ulterior motives. But in practice she is offensive, rude and tactless.

In human communication the interlocutors are important, as well as the type of bond that exists between them. Using too crude language is not recommended, unless it is strictly necessary. Otherwise it becomes a means of making others uncomfortable.

3. Stereotypes and prejudices, signs of lack of empathy

There is nothing more alien to empathy than stereotypes. Precisely this tendency to generalize and simplify the characteristics of others is a sign of a great inability to see the other in his integrity and in his difference. Things can have identical characteristics, people don't.

Biases involve a similar mechanism: they are based on generalizations with no supporting evidence. They are maintained only by the lack of knowledge or reflection. Empathy requires openness to the world of the other, instead of closing on a superficial label.

4. Spreading gossip

Gossip is an act of contempt towards others. They constitute a lack of respect because they question someone's personal or private life. Gossiping about another person out of curiosity, envy or lack of autonomy is the least empathic gesture of all.

Gossip creates a kind of mirror game. Everyone is reflected in the person about whom the rumor has been spread to make a comparison between himself and herself and to know the opinion of others in the face of the weaknesses or errors of the person who is the subject of the gossip. This attitude only reveals a childish selfishness that ruins the image of others and self-autonomy.




5. The lack of empathy and utilitarianism

Utilitarianism is sometimes expressed through conduct aimed at making the other a tool to achieve one's goals or satisfy one's needs. At other times it manifests itself as a partial evaluation of others based on utility to achieve group or social goals.

In both cases, utilitarianism is a sign of a lack of empathy. Every human being has value and dignity for the simple fact of existing. It deserves the respect and consideration of others simply because we are part of the same species. It doesn't matter if he is in hospital, in prison or in court.


All of us, to some extent, are able to see, understand and accept the reality of others. If we fight the lack of empathy, through a continuous exercise of understanding and compassion, we will be the first to win. That is it will ensure us access to unknown worlds that will enrich us.

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