Empaths & Respect

4 signs you’re disrespecting the people you’re trying to help (and how to stop).

Part 1: Empaths & self-respect.

Empaths have a tendency to do a lot for others while neglecting themselves. (See “How to tell if you’re suffering from empath burnout” to learn about the effects of self-neglect.)

I recently read a post on A Conscious Rethink titled “20 Signs You’re Disrespecting Yourself (And How To Stop”. I recommend you read the entire post, but the short version is this list of the 20 signs:

  1. You put on an act for the outside world.
  2. You speak badly of yourself.
  3. You put others ahead of yourself.
  4. You punish yourself for “failings.”
  5. You hide your emotions.
  6. You don’t speak up for yourself when hurt.
  7. You stay friends with people who do not respect you.
  8. You seek the approval of others.
  9. You feel guilty of [for] following your heart.
  10. You make no attempt to change the status quo.
  11. You take responsibility for things that are out of your control.
  12. You bite your tongue to avoid conflict.
  13. You betray your morals.
  14. You try to please everybody else.
  15. You look at others in [with] envy.
  16. You judge other people.
  17. You find yourself telling lies.
  18. You ignore your intuition.
  19. You dwell on the bad and ignore the good.
  20. You don’t believe in yourself.

Did any of those some familiar to you? I’m sorry to say that I’ve disrespected myself in all those ways at one time or another. Happily, the post includes tips for changing this pattern and treating ourselves with the respect we deserve.

Empaths give. A lot.

Part 2: Empaths & respect for others.

After reading that post and looking back on my personal history of “helping” other people, I saw that I hadn’t always done my helping with respect for the other’s personal boundaries, strengths, and abilities. I had, at various times, acted as if I had superior knowledge and insight, treated the person I was trying to help as weak, and behaved in a condescending manner – even when I didn’t mean to.



It’s difficult for us as empaths to consider that our helping others might be disrespectful, However, for your consideration, here is my list of:

4 signs you’re disrespecting other people (and how to stop).

1. You’re giving advice to someone who didn’t ask for it.

Once upon a time I was lamenting to my therapist that people didn’t listen to my advice and then complained to me when things turned out badly. He offered the following ideas for me to consider:

  1. You’re assuming that the other person doesn’t know what you know and can’t solve his own problems. Maybe he just wants to vent and doesn’t want advice. Perhaps he already knows what he needs to do but isn’t ready to do it. Assuming he doesn’t know what you do and can’t solve his own problems is condescending and disrespectful.
  2. Your advice is valuable. Treat it that way. Doesn’t give it to someone unless she specifically asks for it.
  3. Change is difficult. If you give advice before a person is ready to hear it, he isn’t likely to follow through. And if he feels pressured to agree in the moment, you’re more likely to cause resentment than affect change.

A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.

2. You’re “reading” the other person and telling him how he feels and why he’s doing what he’s doing without his permission.

Since empaths often intuitively understand the motives and reasons other people have for their behavior, we like it when other people articulate their understanding of us in the same way. However, people who aren’t empaths may not want other people to know these things about them.

If you tell something things about herself she wants to keep private, you’ve inadvertently invaded her privacy. Your insight may be correct, but it may also cause the other person to feel violated and defensive. Crossing other people’s boundaries without their permission is disrespectful. Always ask if the other people wants you insight (or wait until she asks) before you offer it.

3. Your assistance is prolonging a situation that is untenable in the long run.

Loaning (translation: giving) a friend money for a one-time expense may be helpful. But if she has an on-going problem you’re periodically assisting her in maintaining, you’re assuming that she won’t be able to handle the consequences of her action (or inaction) when the inevitable occurs.

Yes, it can be painful to watch someone have his house foreclosed on, get fired, experience a health crisis, or any other consequence that results from his decisions. But are you really doing him any favors by assuming he can’t handle it? How do you know that things might not turn out better for him in the long run if you don’t help maintain the status quo?

When you rescue someone on a regular basis, you’re preventing them from learning from their mistakes and making positive changes. You’re infantilizing that person. And as long as you keep doing that, they have no reason to make the changes they need to make. No one likes to be treated like a child.

4. You’re complaining to others about the burden that person is placing on you.

When you provide assistance to someone in a way that is helpful and respectful to both you and the person you’re helping, you don’t feel the need to complain. If you’re helping someone while, at the same time, feeling put-upon and unloading your self-imposed burden on someone else, you’re disrespecting both yourself and the person you’re helping.

Empathic reflection.

That’s not to say that occasional venting is a bad thing, but if you find yourself complaining to someone about the same thing frequently, you may need to look at your motives for helping.

Ask yourself:

  • Am I helping this person, or am I acting primarily to relieve my own discomfort and anxiety about his situation?
  • Am I doing things for this person out of guilt or obligation without taking care of the things in my life that need my attention?
  • Is my venting a way to to avoid having to stand up for myself and set some healthy boundaries?
  • Is this situation time-limited? Am I acting and needing to vent until some event relieves me of the need to help anymore?
  • Would it be beneficial to me to talk to a professional about my feelings to gain insight rather than unloading on my friends or family?

The world need empaths.

Please don’t let this discourage you from helping others. Just think for a minute before you do. If you consciously decide to help people respectfully, you and the people you help will be happier for it.