Top 5 Ways to Effectively Deal With People Who Lack Empathy

By Krista


Last Updated: September 24, 2021

Have you ever just wanted to vent only to be met with someone who won’t level with you?

You long for understanding. However, you’re left feeling invalidated, misunderstood, frustrated, and disappointed.

Trying to express your feelings to someone that lacks empathy is like trying to hammer a nail into concrete. It’s not going to go well. 

Yet, you might not fully realize you’re dealing with someone that lacks empathy until you’re in the thick of it.

So, how can you deal next time? What can you do to effectively interact with people who lack empathy?


What is Empathy?

Empathy refers to the ability of a person to understand and feel what another person is going through.

It’s that drop you feel in your chest when your best friend calls you crying about her most recent break-up. It’s the longing to hug your sister when she vents to you about the recent surgery your niece has to undergo. 

As Barack Obama once said:

Learning to stand in somebody else’s shoes, to see through their eyes, that’s how peace begins. And it’s up to you to make that happen. Empathy is a quality of character that can change the world.

Human connection is important. And this isn’t anything new. In fact, this dates back to the days of our hunter-gatherer ancestors. As a tribe, everyone worked together. Thus, fostering community, cooperation, and understanding was crucial, specifically for survival. 

If you didn’t cooperate or get along well with others, you got the boot. And being left out in the wild wasn’t a place where anyone wanted to be.

Today, this connection isn’t as necessary for survival. At the same time, sociological experts indicate that a lack of connection can quickly lead to depression and other mental health conditions. And a lack of empathy can play a huge part in this. 

After all, many of us just want to feel understood and accepted. In fact, many individuals would agree that feeling understood is a fundamental human need.

But what happens when you’re dealing with someone who doesn’t want to understand? 

Related Article: Empathy: What Is It? Why Is It Important?


The 5 Best Ways to Deal With Someone Who Lacks Empathy

Someone that lacks empathy might:

  • Quickly criticize or judge others.
  • Come off as “out of touch.”
  • Feel righteous in their opinions or ideas and believe that anyone who disagrees is wrong.
  • Struggle to be happy for others.
  • Have difficulty getting along with others.
  • Talk a lot about themselves, without asking about others.
  • Hurt someone and then assume it’s the other person’s fault.

A lack of empathy fosters superficial and short-term connections, which means a person without empathy might lack deep emotional bonds with others.

Unfortunately, this means that talking with individuals who lack empathy might set you down a path that goes nowhere. Instead of having a productive conversation, you might end up feeling emotionally drained and trampled.

So, how can you protect yourself and avoid this at all costs?

1. Avoid Taking Things Personally

Emotional connection brings us closer together. But it isn’t your fault that someone lacks that or hasn’t learned how to be empathetic toward others’ feelings and situations. You can’t force someone to try to relate to you. It just doesn’t work that way. 

If you’re noticing all the signs of an un-empathetic person, know that you don’t have to convince them of anything. In fact, you can decide to not let them in. It’s your choice whether or not their words hurt you. 

2. Stick to the Facts

It’s tough when all you want is for the other person to understand how you feel. Yet, telling an un-empathetic person your feelings might only result in quick judgments and anger. 

Instead, only talk about facts with them (if you must). State the facts and what you think. And be prepared: This person might still bulldoze all over you. But at least you tried, especially if they’re a family member or someone you consider close.

3. Distance Yourself From Them

As much as you might not want to, distancing yourself might be the only way out. You need to have boundaries for yourself and your relationships. 

If you feel you aren’t getting what you need, such as someone else not being open to your feelings and perspective, then you have the choice to leave that relationship. Instead, fill your social circle with friends you trust and feel safe with. 

4. Know Your Self-Worth is Not Dependent on Anyone Else’s Opinion of You

Dealing with a person who lacks empathy can leave you feeling worthless and “less than.” However, remember that your self-worth and confidence don’t depend on anyone else’s perceived opinion of you. You don’t need someone else’s validation to know your feelings are okay. You don’t need others to approve of your actions or thoughts.

Yes, we should be open-minded to other ideas. Yet, at the end of the day, you are in full control of your self-worth. And we can tell you right here that you are 110% worth it. If someone else can’t see that and accept you where you’re at, they aren’t worth your time.

Related Article: Why Self-Worth Matters And How To Recognize And Improve It

5. Remember That No One Has “Perfect” Empathy

While this might sound counterintuitive to the above, it’s important to note that just because a person is lacking empathy in a certain situation, it doesn’t mean they lack empathy overall.

Sometimes, they might find it harder to relate to a specific situation. Sometimes, they might not be thinking intentionally about their behavior or words.

If you feel a lack of empathy is coming up during a disagreement, fight, or heated conversation, take a few moments to cool off.

Reconvene when you have both calmed down. Be patient. But also be willing to walk away if the behavior continues.

Focus On Connections Where You Feel Safe

Fostering deep emotional connections with others can only happen in an environment where you both feel safe and where you can both be vulnerable. Often, this means that if a person is lacking empathy, you likely won’t get to that deeper level of connection. 

In fact, pursuing a relationship with someone who lacks empathy can begin to significantly impact your mental health.

Instead, focus on those relationships that bring you joy and that feel safe and secure. Everyone deserves to feel understood and validated. If you continually aren’t getting that, it could be time to look for the exit.

Read Next: 6 Warning Signs to Know If You Are In a Toxic Relationship

Photo by Anthony Shkraba from Pexels


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