Spotting Selfishness: 18 Telltale Signs That Someone Lacks Empathy

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By Darryl Henderson

Selfish people exist all over the globe. They take and never give, try to dominate conversations, and never show signs of weakness, leaving you with a bad taste in your mouth whenever you’re around them. Here are 18 clear signs that someone has a selfish personality.

Taking But Not Giving

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One of the standout signs of someone lacking in self-awareness and bursting at the seams with selfishness is when they constantly take but never give. The sort of person who has plenty to give but always arrives empty-handed and leaves with their hands full.

Never Showing Weakness

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The last thing a selfish person would want to do is put themselves in a position where they will appear vulnerable. As the Cleveland Clinic suggests, selfish people and narcissists will avoid any situations that could display their weakness in order to protect their image and hide their crippling insecurity.

Always Believing Their Ideas are Important

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Some people have a knack for believing that their ideas will always enhance the subject in question, no matter where their talents in the field lie. This is not only a sign of someone who lacks empathy but also of someone with narcissistic tendencies. 

Jealous Over Other People’s Success

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People with no empathy will often be bitter at the thought of other people becoming successful, as they believe it is negatively impacting their own success. They’ll do their best to downplay the achievements of others, even if they are thoroughly deserved.

Lack of Care for the Consequences of Their Actions

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If a person doesn’t seem at all ashamed of their actions, even if they have led to negative outcomes for someone else, the chances are they have selfish tendencies. Having such an extreme lack of empathy is often a trait associated with sociopathy.


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You’ll instantly know when you’ve met a narcissist, as everything will be all about them all of the time. They’ll seem impossible to avoid because they’ll always be searching for any scrap of attention available, getting mad when they don’t receive it.


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People with limited empathy tend to be skilled manipulators, using a variety of techniques, from gaslighting to emotional blackmail. They feel as though these techniques give them back control of a situation, which is exactly where they want it to be.

Not Registering Feedback

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Highly selfish people will rarely take any form of criticism or feedback lightly, usually rejecting it in an instant. As CNBC points out, selfish, self-centered folk will refuse to believe the undeniable truth that there is always room for self-growth and improvement.

Shooting Others Down

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Never satisfied with just being the center of attention, selfish people will want to boost their sense of importance even further above those around them by shooting others down. They choose not to care what others have to say, firing humiliating remarks at them when they try to speak up.

Abandoning Shopping Carts

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Taking the shopping cart back to the bay in which you found it is hardly a chore… at least not to the non-selfish types. It’s a similar sentiment to holding the door open for someone or thanking a driver for letting you cross the street… a small but significant action.

Constantly Complaining

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Some people have very little to contribute to a conversation other than constant complaints. They can sour the mood of any event by filling the air with negativity the moment they realize that things haven’t specifically been tailored around their personal desires.

Unpredictable Reactions

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If you often find yourself treading on eggshells when talking to someone to avoid a potential outburst, there’s every chance they could have a selfish personality. These fits of sudden rage can occur as a result of minor happenings, as Verywell Health backs up.

Criticizing Others Behind Their Backs

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The act of criticizing someone behind their back, away from their face, stems from a fear of being incorrect. Unempathetic people won’t want to risk not having public backing if they were to air their grievances in a more open setting and are, therefore, more likely to do it from a distance.

Exaggerating Achievements

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Selfish people who lack empathy often also lack humility and modesty, leading them to over-exaggerate their achievements to bump themselves up the social ladder. Once again, this trait originates from insecurity and a feeling of inferiority when comparing themselves to others.

Letting You Pay

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Everybody knows someone who conveniently slides off to the toilet when it’s time to pay at a restaurant. Sometimes, they’ll just sit there straight-faced while you get your card out, not even offering a hint of resistance as the waiter hands you the card machine.

One-Sided Conversationalist 

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When engaging in conversation with someone you’d deem selfish, you’ll likely find there’ll be large chunks of it where you have no input whatsoever. Selfish people like to take over conversations completely, and as Business Insider comments, they have little capacity to imagine another person’s perspective.

They Believe They’re Above the Rules

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Selfish people are prolific rule breakers, seeing them as something put in place to control others, not themselves. They don’t care for the consequences that might happen as a result of their rule-breaking, as it is their way or no way.

Playing Music/Videos Out Loud in Public

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Last but not least, there aren’t many things more infuriating on public transport than being stuck in a carriage with someone who is playing music, making a call, or watching a video with the sound on loudly. It shows a distinct lack of awareness or care for the people around them, and we wish it would disappear from society!