Spotting Selfishness: 17 Telltale Signs That Someone Lacks Empathy

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By Jonathan Trent

Selfishness can jeopardize relationships and lead to other people losing respect for you. In fact, with a selfish person, resentment can build up quickly as one person continuously prioritizes their desires over others without remorse. Here are 17 signs that someone doesn’t have empathy.

Lack of Interest in Others

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As a selfish person is self-serving, they’ll rarely ask about others’ well-being or feelings. While The Independent notes that our level of empathy isn’t necessarily fixed for all situations and right across our lives, someone completely lacking empathy will never be interested in others’ accomplishments or struggles.

Difficulty in Apologizing

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Those without empathy can’t put themselves in other people’s shoes or relate to the pleas of others. As a result, they’ll avoid taking responsibility for their mistakes. Instead of saying sorry, they may offer excuses or blame others, showing little remorse for hurting others’ feelings.

Manipulative Behavior

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People lacking empathy will resort to charm or flattery to get what they want, regardless of who it hurts. Instead of being honest and straightforward, they may employ guilt trips or emotional blackmail. They’ll manipulate situations to benefit themselves at the expense of others.

Inability to Listen

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It’s easy to spot someone who has no empathy, as they’ll regularly interrupt or talk over others in conversations. Conversations are meant to be balanced between two people or groups. However, these people will dominate conversations and will show impatience when others speak.

Indifference to Others

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Being indifferent to the emotions or struggles of others is a typical trait of someone void of empathy. As they fail to comprehend or acknowledge other people’s perspectives, they’ll refrain from showing sympathy or compassion towards others when they’re in pain.

Frequent Self-Centered Behavior

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Empathetic individuals will assess how their actions impact others, changing their habits to accommodate other people’s feelings. Their adversaries, however, will consistently prioritize their own needs and desires. They’ll go to the extent of expecting others to cater to their wants without reciprocating.

Disregard for Boundaries

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According to Psych Central, ignoring people’s boundaries may be either conscious or unconscious; a lack of self-awareness means someone might forget boundaries unconsciously. This is synonymous with a lack of empathy, and means someone will overstep and violate boundaries without apology or concern.

Lack of Accountability

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Accountability is alien to those who don’t have empathy, as they’ll shift blame onto others or external factors. In most circumstances, they’ll avoid taking responsibility for their actions and will never take practical steps to learn from the past or improve their behavior.

Frequent Criticism of Others

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When empathetic people judge others, they may feel guilty for doing so, leading them to stop. However, those who have no empathy will be stuck in a cycle of finding fault in others’ actions or decisions. They’ll use criticism as a means to feel superior or maintain control.

Difficulty in Maintaining Relationships

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It’s not uncommon for people who aren’t empathetic to drive other people away. This is because they experience conflicts or misunderstandings in relationships due to their lack of compassion. They’ll struggle to sustain long-term friendships or romantic partnerships because of their patterns of manipulation or emotional abuse.

Lack of Reciprocity

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Relationships and friendships aren’t a two way street for selfish, apathetic individuals. Instead of seeing relationships with others as mutually beneficial or valuable, they’ll expect others to meet their needs without considering others’ requirements in return, meaning that they’re entitled.

Dismissive Attitude

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Adopting a dismissive attitude is common for those lacking empathy. The American Psychological Association reveals that empathy is imagining other people’s perspectives, and it’s also caring, compassion, and concern for others. However, those without empathy will disregard others’ opinions or feelings as unimportant.


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With a lack of empathy comes an excess of impulsivity. These individuals will act on their immediate desires without considering long-term consequences. As they can’t understand or relate to the emotions of others, they’ll only make decisions that benefit themselves or align with their interests.

Lack of Genuine Connection

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Maintaining a relationship with someone who doesn’t possess empathy can feel confusing. Apathetic individuals will appear emotionally distant or detached in relationships as they struggle to form deep, meaningful connections with others. Instead, they value superficial interactions over genuine emotional intimacy or closeness.

Exploitative Behavior

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Exploiting people and situations comes second nature to people without empathy. They’ll take advantage of others’ generosity or kindness and use others for personal gain without consideration for their well-being. Manipulative tactics will be used by these individuals to exploit others’ vulnerabilities.

Avoidance of Emotional Responsibility

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As stated by Psychology Today, an individual who dismisses their partner when they voice a feeling that they don’t like may be deficient in empathy. Those without empathy will dismiss everyone around them, shying away from emotionally challenging situations and avoiding discussing feelings or emotions, especially their own.

Narcissistic Traits

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Having no empathy is a trait associated with a narcissistic individual who exploits others for personal gain. Therefore, it’s not uncommon for people without empathy to have other narcissistic traits, such as a grandiose sense of self-importance or an inherent need for admiration from others.

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