18 special personality traits of people who are genuinely empathetic

Posted 21 Nov 2023, by

Isabel Cabrera

Empathy. It’s a trait we all admire, and many of us wish we had more of it.

But how do we know if we are genuinely empathetic or not?

It can be tricky to tell. Sometimes, it feels like we’re just going through the motions, trying to understand others’ feelings but falling short.

If you’re wondering whether you belong to this special group of people, you’re not alone.

We all question our empathetic abilities at times. And that’s okay. It’s part of the process.

Today, I’m going to share 18 distinct personality traits of genuinely empathetic people.

Some of these might surprise you.

1) Ability to listen

One of the first things you’ll notice about genuinely empathetic people is their ability to listen.

I mean, really listen.

They don’t just hear the words you’re speaking; they absorb the emotions behind them.

They are not formulating their next response or thinking about something else while you’re talking.

Their focus is on understanding your perspective, recognizing your emotions, and making you feel heard and validated.

This is a telltale sign of a truly empathetic person.

2) Sensitivity towards others’ feelings

The second trait that stands out in genuinely empathetic people is their sensitivity towards others’ feelings.

They have an innate ability to pick up on the subtlest emotional cues, often noticing when someone is upset or uncomfortable even before that person realizes it themselves.

This sensitivity allows them to respond appropriately to others’ emotions, providing comfort, support, or space as needed.

This deep level of emotional perception is a hallmark of a truly empathetic individual.

3) Comfortable with silence

Silence can often be uncomfortable for many, but not for people who are genuinely empathetic.

They understand that sometimes, silence can speak volumes.

It offers a space for introspection, processing emotions, and healing.

Empathetic individuals are comfortable with this quietude and are not quick to fill the void with unnecessary chatter.

They respect the silent moments and use them as an opportunity to further understand and connect with the emotions of those around them.

4) Non-judgemental mindset

This one is tricky. We all have our biases and preconceived notions.

But empathetic people have a knack for putting these aside and understanding others without judgment.

Take my grandmother for example. She always had a knack for making you feel understood, no matter the situation.

When I came home one day with a terrible report card, instead of scolding me like my parents did, she sat me down and asked me what was going on.

She understood that there was more to the story than just a low grade.

And that’s what being empathetic is all about – understanding others’ experiences without rushing to label or criticize them.

5) Capacity for selflessness

Empathetic individuals often display a high capacity for selflessness.

Their concern is not simply about their own wellbeing or comfort, but they extend it to those around them as well.

They are willing to put aside their own desires and needs in order to help others.

This doesn’t mean they neglect their own needs completely, but rather they have a balanced approach, understanding when to prioritize the needs of others.

This capacity for selflessness allows them to create deeper, more meaningful connections with the people in their lives.

6) Ability to communicate effectively

People who are genuinely empathetic are often excellent communicators.

They know that effective communication isn’t just about speaking clearly and persuasively; it’s also about actively listening, understanding, and responding appropriately.

They use their words to build bridges, not walls, fostering understanding and empathy in their conversations.

Whether it’s a casual chat or a heated debate, they make sure their words reflect respect and understanding for the other person’s perspective.

7) Deep sense of compassion

At the heart of every empathetic individual lies a deep-seated sense of compassion.

It’s more than just feeling sorry for someone who’s facing difficulties.

It’s about genuinely feeling for them, sharing in their pain, and wanting to help alleviate their suffering in whatever way they can.

It’s this profound compassion that drives them to act kindly, lend a helping hand, or simply offer a shoulder to cry on when someone is going through a tough time.

This heartfelt compassion truly sets empathetic people apart.

8) Recognition of their own flaws

Empathetic individuals are not blinded by an illusion of perfection.

They understand they have flaws and they embrace them.

They know that their mistakes and shortcomings are part of what makes them human.

This self-awareness allows them to relate to others in a more genuine way.

They don’t let their ego hinder their ability to empathize with others, instead, they use their own experiences and emotions to better understand and connect with those around them.

Accepting their own flaws helps them accept the flaws in others, too.

9) Value authenticity

Genuinely empathetic people place a high value on authenticity.

They appreciate when others are honest and genuine with their feelings and thoughts, and they strive to be the same.

They don’t believe in pretending or putting on a facade.

Instead, they show up as their true selves, encouraging others to do the same.

This authenticity forms the foundation of their ability to connect deeply with others, fostering relationships that are based on trust and mutual respect.

10) Practice patience

Another subtle sign is that empathetic individuals understand the importance of patience when dealing with people and their emotions.

They know that understanding and processing emotions can take time.

They don’t rush people into “feeling better” or “moving on”.

Instead, they offer their patience as a comforting presence, allowing people the time and space they need to navigate their feelings at their own pace.

11) Often mistaken for being aloof

Here’s an unexpected sign: individuals with genuine empathy are sometimes perceived as aloof or distant.

This might seem confusing, but there’s a compelling reason behind this.

Empathetic people feel emotions intensely, not just their own but those of others as well.

To protect themselves from emotional overload, they might need to retreat and spend some time alone. This isn’t about being antisocial; it’s about self-preservation.

However, to someone who doesn’t understand this need for solitude, it can come off as aloofness or disinterest. 

12) High emotional intelligence

Did you know that empathetic people often have high emotional intelligence?

Emotional intelligence, or EQ, is the ability to understand and manage both our own emotions and the emotions of those around us.

This means that empathetic people can read a room, sense tension, or pick up on subtle emotional cues that others might miss.

Their emotional radar is finely tuned, allowing them to connect deeply with others on an emotional level.

13) Respect for boundaries

Respecting boundaries is another crucial trait of empathetic people.

They understand that everyone has limits and personal space that need to be acknowledged and respected.

Whether it’s emotional or physical space, they are careful not to overstep, ensuring they respect the comfort levels of those around them.

14) Uncomfortable with small talk

Here’s another unexpected sign: individuals with genuine empathy may feel uncomfortable with small talk or shallow conversations.

While it might seem counterintuitive, it’s a trait that makes perfect sense when you delve deeper.

Empathetic people crave connections that are meaningful and sincere. They yearn for depth in their interactions to truly understand and connect with the person they’re communicating with.

Casual chit-chat about the weather or the latest TV show might leave them feeling unfulfilled.

This doesn’t mean they’re antisocial or overly serious, but rather they value conversations that allow them to connect on a deeper emotional level.

15) The peacekeeper

Ever found yourself playing the mediator in a heated argument?

I know I have.

Usually, it’s because I can understand where both parties are coming from.

I see their points of view and realize that they’re often just misunderstanding each other.

Empathetic people often find themselves in this role because they can understand and relate to various perspectives.

It’s not always an easy job, but someone’s got to do it, right?

And honestly, resolving conflicts can be quite satisfying when you help others see eye to eye.

16) Constantly learning

Empathetic individuals are lifelong learners, consistently striving to comprehend human emotions, relationships, and experiences.

They recognize that through continuous learning and gaining diverse experiences, they can enhance their ability to navigate others’ feelings.

Consequently, they are better equipped to assist people in times of pain or need.

This ongoing pursuit of knowledge allows them to deepen their understanding of empathy and its application in various situations.

17) Highly intuitive

Empathetic individuals often possess a high level of intuition.

They seem to have a sixth sense for understanding other people’s emotions, even when they’re not overtly expressed.

This trait goes beyond simply being observant.

It’s about sensing the emotional energy in a room, picking up on subtle cues in body language, tone of voice, and even unspoken feelings.

They often know when something is wrong even before it’s voiced out.

This heightened intuition can sometimes be overwhelming, as it makes them sensitive to negativity or conflict.

18) Ability to forgive

Lastly, individuals who are genuinely empathetic have an incredible ability to forgive.

They understand that everyone makes mistakes and that holding onto anger or resentment only hurts themselves.

Their ability to forgive is not a sign of weakness, but rather a testament to their strength and their deep capacity for understanding and empathy.

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