How To Tell If Someone Is Faking Empathy

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Empathetic people are generally very kind, caring, and highly sensitive people. They are able to sense the emotions of other people, and they usually want to help. Their high levels of empathy make them good people to have around during difficult times.

But is it possible for someone to fake empathy? How could you tell if they were? 

Certain people possess what is called cognitive empathy, also known as false empathy, which is recognizable by their fake smile and bad behavior. They understand the emotions of other people, but these fake empaths use their ability to engage in abusive behavior, making them very dangerous people. 

As an empath myself, few things make me angry more than running into someone using false empathy to manipulate other people. True empathy can also be considered compassionate empathy. A caring person’s compassionate feelings for people typically create amazing relationships.

When people fake empathy, it becomes readily apparent as interacting with them can be an awful experience. Knowing how to tell if someone is faking can help you avoid an abusive relationship. 

What are the Signs of False Empathy?

Real empaths are caring, kind, altruistic, and very loving in their behavior. They have what is called emotional empathy or intuitive empathy, and they use their empathy skills to try to help people overcome negative emotions and generate positive emotions. These are people narcissists are often attracted to, as explained in this video

Fake empaths, on the other hand, often have characteristics known as the dark triad. These are psychopathy, Machiavellianism, and narcissism (someone with narcissistic personality disorder). For this reason, they are often called dark empaths. 

“Being an Empath gives a person the potential to see from another person’s perspective…this does not mean that the Empath will offer them kindness and compassion. This gift has the ability to heal and to harm depending on who utilizes it and how it is used.”

Misuchi Sakuraim Empath and Author

These false empaths have cognitive empathy, which means they can intellectually understand people’s emotions, but they don’t experience them in the way truly empathic people do. Whereas true empathy is deep empathy, fake empathy is superficial, and it usually shows in the dark empath’s body language and intentions. 

Let’s take a look at the following signs that someone is faking empathy. 

Limited Eye Contact and a Fake Smile

Limited Eye Contact and a Fake Smile

The body language and facial expressions of a fake empath are very telling. They don’t look you in the eye because they fear you will see the truth. Likewise, their smile is fake; it lacks a sense of being genuine. 

A real empath has a genuine smile that is not strained as with a fake empath. Their open body language, direct eye contact, and kind nature expose their true feelings of empathy. 

Fake Empaths Brag About Their Ability

Fake empaths love to brag about their empathetic abilities. They are always finding a way to inject their skill into every conversation. It becomes clear when speaking with them that they want you to be impressed

Real empaths have no need to brag. Their kindness in difficult situations and with someone exhibiting an emotion of distress makes it obvious that they are a very caring, compassionate person. It also becomes clear they are not concerned with you being impressed by them. 

Shallow Emotions

Someone who has a very low empathy score is exposed because they have shallow emotions. This becomes obvious by how quickly they can switch moods. That indicates they have a weak emotional foundation and that they are out of touch with their own feelings. 

An empathetic person, on the other hand, is comfortable being vulnerable, and they are comfortable dealing with someone else’s vulnerability. They exhibit what could be called emotional stability in that they can sit with an emotion for a long period of time. The fake empath often resorts to their default emotion – intense happiness – when it doesn’t seem appropriate. 

They Use Empathy for Their Own Gain

People Use Empathy for Their Own Gain

People fake empathy because they want to get something. It may be that they’re trying to manipulate someone into saying something they want to hear, or it may be they’re looking for some kind of tangible gain. Such a person may even use what you tell them in a vulnerable moment as something they can gossip about later on to boost their status. 

On the other hand, someone who is genuinely empathetic would never think of reaching out to soothe someone in their time of need for personal gain. Their true feelings would never permit an agenda like that. This is how emotional empathy operates – the person experiences other people’s emotions, and that is not something they can use to get something they want. 

They Diagnose You

The false empath will always want to ‘diagnose’ what’s wrong with you. They will tell you about all of your problems without listening to your emotional distress. Their cognitive empathy means they can understand your emotions, but because they can’t feel them, they can’t truly empathize with what you’re going through. 

Real empathy is characterized by not only listening to your emotions but experiencing them with you. The emotional empath really does feel your pain, and they really do want to help. They’re not interested in telling you what’s wrong; they’re interested in helping you overcome your difficult emotions. 

Impulsive Behavior

When someone lacks emotional awareness, they will often be very impulsive. Someone who is faking empathy may be a dedicated professional one day and jetting off to some faraway place the next. They act in very impulsive ways. This impulsivity indicates they don’t understand themselves, and that means they can’t understand you. 

Real empaths are grounded in their own identity and very aware of their emotions. They consider their actions carefully before doing anything. They don’t need to be impulsive because they understand themselves. 

How Can You Tell If Your Empathy Is Authentic?

How Can You Tell If Your Empathy Is Authentic

It can be difficult to tell if your empathy is authentic if you have yet to really explore this side of yourself. To do that, you have to honestly assess your abilities and motives. Here are several characteristics that indicate you are a genuine empath. 

  • You use your empathetic nature to create deep connections characterized by mutual trust
  • You are attuned to both spoken and unspoken concerns of other people
  • You are willing to engage ideas different from your own
  • You can acknowledge your own strengths and weaknesses
  • You are open to critical feedback
  • You have a strong desire to help other people, even narcissists
  • You feel the emotions of others as if they are your own

Final Thoughts

Being an empath can sometimes be an overwhelming feeling. You sense the emotions of others so intensely that it can make it difficult for you to be in crowds.

You often feel as though you can’t handle the emotions you’re sensing, and it can be difficult to separate your own emotions from those of the people around you. 

But the benefits of being an empath are tremendous. They include being able to form strong, deep connections with other people. Your relationships are real and characterized by true depth.

This makes for some awesome experiences that can’t be matched, which is what attracts many people to empaths. These benefits are why many people will fake empathy, and that’s something that people who are not empaths have to be able to recognize to prevent them from being abused.

Are you tired of feeling controlled by emotional triggers? Want to free yourself from narcissistic manipulation and truly heal from past wounds? Look no further! Click here to get my 5-Step Roadmap to Heal Emotional Triggers – a powerful method that can help you identify and defuse your triggers, so you can finally break free and live a more empowered life.


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Narcissistic abuse takes a terrible toll on your life. I’m Patricia, and my mother is a narcissist, so I know what you’re going through. These blog posts will help you understand narcissism better and give you tips for dealing with the narcissists in your life. Healing starts here!

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