Does other people’s lack of empathy upset or annoy you?  Is your manager, colleague, family member or friend coming across as uncaring or cold?  Are you feeling unsupported as a result of others’ lack of empathy?

Empathy Empowers

When we feel empathy, we feel how another person feels. We see the situation from their perspective. We are putting ourselves in their shoes.  In the absence of empathy from others we can feel unsupported, lonely, isolated and disempowered.

When we feel empathy, we empower others.  By feeling empathy, we strengthen our communication and connection with others. With empathy, there is a much deeper rapport and understanding.  Solutions are far easier and more relevant.

Empathy is a key foundation of emotional intelligence.  It avoids inaccurate assumptions and mind reading.  Without empathy, conversations can end up in disagreements, conflicts and soured relationships.

Signs of Lack of Empathy

Empathy does not come naturally to everyone.  Some people are more empathetic than others. Here are some signs that a person may lack empathy.  They:

  • talk mainly about themselves and do not express any interest in others
  • find it difficult to feel happy for others
  • have difficulties getting along with people at work, home or socially
  • are “cold” towards others’ plight
  • feel entitled or use others to serve their own needs
  • get easily upset if they do not get their own way
  • hurt others and blame the other person for feeling hurt, etc.

Causes of Lack of Empathy

Empathy is developed in our early years based on our upbringing at home and school, our interpretation of our upbringing, our experiences, our peers, etc.  A lack of empathy can develop as a result of:

  • a preference for seeing the world objectively and rationally rather than through emotions.  This is often reflected in our communication style and the words we use.
  • modelling family, peers and others in our early years e.g. if our family never expressed their feelings or showed empathy towards others we can model the same traits
  • significant emotional experiences that have us feel hurt, rejected, etc. and we can shut down our emotions/avoid feeling to avoid further hurt, etc.
  • past experiences where we expressed our emotions and we were judged or put down for having or expressing our feelings, etc.
  • traumatic events in the past that have the person disconnect from their feelings in order to cope with situations and life.

In extreme cases of lack of empathy, people will exhibit conditions such as narcissism, sociopathy or psychopathy.  Too much empathy can also be a problem.  Being overly empathetic towards others can cause us to rescue and disempower them.

How to Deal with Others’ Lack of Empathy

Here are four tips to assist you.

  1. When dealing with a manager, colleague, partner, family or friend who lacks empathy remember that their lack of empathy is a reflection of their values, beliefs, past experiences, and their deeper issues.
  2. Gauge your response to their lack of empathy.  Does it push your “buttons”?  Do you overreact or get overly emotional? If so, identify and address your “buttons” so that you are more in control of your own response.
  3. Then change your approach to them.  If you keep communicating with them in the same way, you will keep getting the same response from them. This will only frustrate you. Communicate with them in their communication and personality styles, while being true to yourself.
  4. Refocus on you and ensure your self-worth and confidence is based on your opinion of yourself, rather than that of other people, especially the unempathetic ones.  Show yourself more self-love, empathy and self-care so you attract it from others.  Like attracts like.

Remember you are unable to change people who are unwilling to change themselves.  By changing your response to others and how you relate to them, you can empower yourself to more effectively deal with people who lack empathy.