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Do you struggle to care about other people?
Truly, sincerely care for them and about them?
Don’t beat yourself up about that. You’re not alone. Far from it.
While caring about others comes naturally to many people, that’s not the case for everyone. And the fact that you’re reading this means you could probably use some pointers when it comes to both feeling and demonstrating care for other.
That’s exactly what this article will provide. But first, an obvious but not straightforward question.
What does it mean to care about others?
When it comes to caring about others, the greatest focus is on their happiness and wellbeing. You might want to help ensure that they’re safe and healthy and that they’re feeling fulfilled and happy on a regular basis.
Should you discover that they’re going through some kind of difficulty, you’re likely inclined to offer help.
In simplest terms, to care about another being—whether human or non-human—means that you don’t want them to experience suffering and you’ll want to take action to help alleviate it if you can.
There are many different ways that you can show others that you care about them, ranging from kind words to overt gestures, depending on the individual and the situations they’re contending with.
Below are some of the best and easiest ways to be more caring toward other people.
1. Try to figure out where your own emotional blocks have come from.
Many people find that they want to be more caring and loving toward others, but they just can’t seem to do so.
There can be a wide range of reasons for this, but it’s important not to be angry or frustrated with yourself if you’re having difficulty. When you’re trying to cultivate loving kindness toward human beings, the best person to start with is yourself.
Everything starts from within. If you’re struggling to feel or show care toward someone you genuinely like and want to display this toward then self-analysis is always your first recourse.
Have you been deeply hurt and betrayed in the past? Mocked for showing love and kindness openly? Taken advantage of for openly displaying such sentiments? Or even pushed to show affection to others when you felt uncomfortable doing so? (Such as being forced to hug or kiss older relatives and friends of the family as a child, even though they creeped you out.)
You may have shields up for a number of different reasons, so try to determine where those stem from. By doing so, you might be able to disarm and lower them.
2. Find out other people’s love languages.
When you’re trying to show others that you care about them, one of the best things to do is to ensure that you’re both speaking the same language.
When you’re communicating with others, ask if they know what their primary love languages are, and make mental notes of them. This will go far in helping you learn to show care in a way that they’ll appreciate and understand. If they don’t know, it can be a fun thing to get them to take the assessment and find out.
For example, my partner’s main love languages are acts of service and words. Mine are quality time and physical affection. Since we understand these about each other, we can see each other’s efforts and express care accordingly.
She puts in the effort to spend time with me and get cuddly, while I ensure that I leave her little notes or do things that she’ll appreciate. By doing this, we both feel seen, respected, and cared for in our own way.
3. Ask them questions.
Most people appreciate it when they are asked about themselves. For example, you could inquire about their interests, personal preferences, and even personal details like their birthday.
It’s okay if you don’t know anything about the topic that they’re passionate about. In fact, a lot of the time, people love it when they encounter someone who has next to no experience with their subject of choice. This is because they see an opportunity to share something wonderful with another and potentially spark a similar love in that other person.
This often goes beyond trying to cultivate a new friendship or romantic relationship. When someone feels an incredible amount of joy about something, the thought of helping another experience that joy can make them ridiculously happy. They have the opportunity to be teachers in areas they’re passionate about!
Even if you don’t end up feeling the same joy that they do, what matters to them most is that you took the time to delve into something that’s so important to them. You’ve made time for them, listened to them, and learned from them. So, if you find yourself in a position like this, make sure to show them proper courtesy and respect with active listening and lots of relevant questions.
Just know that their joy will be undone if you let on that you don’t care and are simply humoring them. Some neurodivergent people have difficulty with this kind of thing, because they want to be honest about their motivations and don’t want the other person to feel lied to. Know that sometimes, keeping your mouth shut, with a big smile plastered across it, is the best course of action.
4. Pay attention to the answers they give, and act on them.
This expands upon the previous tip regarding asking them questions. Pay sincere attention to the answers they give you, and consider making notes about them for the future. This tells them that you weren’t just asking questions about them for the sake of doing so, but that their answers truly mattered to you.
A perfect example of this would be a birthday. When they tell you what day it is, put it in your calendar. You might also want to make notes about what it is they’ve told you that they like when you were discussing interests, hobbies, fandoms, and so on.
Do you remember how good it has felt when people have put real effort into things like birthday and Christmas presents and given you items that you actually loved? This is the feeling you’re aiming to evoke in others.
If that person told you that they’re a huge fan of dragons, for example, you could give them a little bag of dragon-themed gifts for their birthday and watch them absolutely shine. Or if they mentioned in passing that they’re looking forward to a particular event (concert, museum opening, what have you), surprise them with tickets.
These acts show them that they matter enough for you to not only pay attention to what they’ve said, but to do something really lovely for them on a day that’s important to their heart.
The same can go for special holidays, including those that you don’t celebrate yourself. Few things mean as much to people as when those of different cultures, religions, or personal leanings show support and care for celebrations that they don’t take part in themselves.
5. Help them celebrate wins and mourn losses.
When you care about someone, it’s important to show that care in times of elation as well as duress.
Is your friend feeling proud and accomplished because they’ve finally finished a degree program they’ve been working on for years? Even if you don’t think it’s that impressive, take them out for a drink and let them know how proud you are of them.
Similarly, has one of your friends lost a parent or partner? Express your condolences and offer to be there for them however you can be. Let them know they’re not alone and that they have a shoulder to lean on if needed. You might not have the same attitude toward death and loss as they do, but that doesn’t mean you can’t give them the support they need.
6. Watch heartwarming content that inspires you (and gives you ideas).
Just about all of us have something that tugs on our heartstrings when we watch it. Some people like to watch YouTube videos of people performing random acts of kindness. Others like to see animal rescues or little furred and feathered friends living their best lives at sanctuaries.
Think about the films and TV shows that either make you feel a bit teary-eyed or inspire you to want to do some extra good in the world. Consider rewatching some of them solely so you can analyze which scenes inspire the most emotional responses in you and what actions you want to take after seeing them.
7. Perform random acts of kindness.
Do you remember the film Amelie? After that came out in the early 2000s, countless people I knew were inspired to do random acts of kindness for others—both people and animals.
Other people are similarly inspired to do those kinds of things after finding social media accounts that are dedicated to pouring a bit of extra joy and generosity into the world.
We can’t fix or heal everyone, but we are all capable of doing a few small things that can either help others or at least make them smile. For instance, if there are elderly people who live on your street, you can surprise them with baked goods or help them out by shoveling their walk or chopping wood in wintertime.
On a daily basis, we’re all given many opportunities to do kind things for others. If you’re tall, you can help someone at the grocery store by getting something off a high shelf for them. Or open doors for people who use mobility aids like wheelchairs or scooters.
If a friend of yours is sick at home, consider dropping by with a care parcel to cheer them up. Toss in a thermos of homemade soup, some throat lozenges, maybe a ridiculous magazine that’ll make them laugh and keep them entertained for an hour or so.
A small gesture can bring a person a tiny bit of happiness; it shows them that you care.
Need some inspiration? Check out our article: 101 Random Acts Of Kindness Ideas To Do As Often As Possible
8. Do something to help those in need.
This is related to the random acts of kindness mentioned above, but is geared more toward helping those who are suffering rather than just doing nice things to brighten lives.
No matter who you are or where you’re at in life, you have the ability to help another who’s worse off than you. And this doesn’t have to be via monetary donations, such as to various charity organizations. You can lend a helping hand in countless different ways.
If you have a lot of physical energy and strength, consider volunteering with programs like Habitat for Humanity and help build shelters for the homeless. Or go to your local animal shelter and walk dogs a few times a week. If you really love animals, consider volunteering at one of the aforementioned animal sanctuaries: they always need extra help to muck out stalls and groom the animals in their care.
9. Listen without offering help (unless it’s asked for).
Most of the time, people just want to be listened to and heard when they’re going through difficulty. Unless they’re specifically asking for your opinion or advice, don’t offer it.
One of the best skills we can learn is how to hold space for people so they can work through and express their emotions, without instantly offering a fix for it. Sure, you might be the type of person who does best when you can quickly dive into a solution for a problem that arises, but not everyone works that way. Sometimes, when a person is expressing difficulty and another tells them what to do to “get over it,” they can feel hurt and invalidated.
Even though we’re trying to help them as best we can, that’s not how it’s taken. It can come across as though we’re ignoring their emotional discomfort and offering them a fix so they’ll shut up and move on.
That doesn’t really help anyone.
In a situation like this, when you want to show care and support but you’re not sure what you should be doing, there’s no harm whatsoever in asking them. This won’t make you look like a d*ck either, as long as you phrase things properly. For instance, instead of saying, “What do you want from me?” Try something like, “How can I best support you as you’re going through this?”
10. Show care without having an ulterior motive (or expecting reciprocity).
Compassion and care should never be given simply because you want something in return.
Take some time and look into your past behavioral care patterns. If you feel like doing something kind for another, is it because you’re seeking something from the person? Are you hoping they’ll treat you a certain way in turn? Or perhaps give you something?
As an example, some people fawn over elderly relatives in the hopes of receiving a bountiful inheritance when that person dies. In a situation such as this, the care being shown is ultimately selfish, rather than altruistic.
Care and love are like the sun: shining regardless of how everything behaves beneath its light. It gives everything and asks for nothing in return, and that is the truest essence of caring.
“Even after all this time the sun never says to the earth, ‘You owe me.’ Look what happens with a love like that. It lights the whole sky.” – Hafiz
11. Know that you can be kind and caring even if you don’t feel the accompanying emotions.
Many people struggle with feeling various emotions (more on that further down), but that doesn’t stop them from being kind and caring toward others. In fact, it’s a huge testament to one’s compassion and integrity if one can do kind things for others even if they don’t feel things for them emotionally.
You can be absolutely devoid of emotion, but still pay for a stranger’s coffee at the drive-thru or help a parent maneuver their baby’s stroller off a bus. These small gestures don’t require emotional involvement, but they can mean the world to another.
12. Examine nature and nurture in your own upbringing.
If you were raised by parents or caregivers who weren’t emotionally demonstrative, you may not have had examples of healthy, loving, caring behavior. As a result, you may find it difficult to know how to do things that you’ve never been taught to begin with.
Additionally, several types of neurodivergence can make people feel confused about what it is they’re feeling, and that includes emotions toward others. If you’re on the autism spectrum or have other sensory processing issues, you might not be able to recognize your own emotions well. Furthermore, you may not know how to express them in a way that other people will recognize, appreciate, and feel comfortable with.
Alternatively, past traumas might be affecting your ability to feel and express emotions. This might be due to awful romantic relationships, but it can also be caused by traumas experienced in childhood or adolescence.
Depression can also prevent people from being able to feel things the way they’d like to. They might have had to “numb out” in order to get through difficulty, and now they’re having trouble rekindling the emotions they used to have.
That’s the thing about creating a protective wall around one’s emotions: they’re effective at keeping others at a distance so they can’t cause pain, but one can also get trapped inside it.
If you’re having difficulty processing your emotions—or feeling anything at all, for that matter—consider working with a therapist. There may be issues that you aren’t even aware of that are impeding your ability to feel things the way you want to.
13. Practice thoughtfulness.
As mentioned earlier, when people tell you things about themselves, keep lists. These will help you keep track of the details they give you, from dates to preferences, allergies, and so on.
On a similar note, if this person is an artist or creator of any kind, take the time to familiarize yourself with their work. If they’re an artist, ask to look through their portfolio. If they’re a musician, seek out and listen to the music they’ve created. Be sure to actually pay attention when you’re exploring these things, so that when you engage with them about it later, you can let them know exactly what you liked about it.
Did you love the way that the colors played against one another in that painting? How about the use of a harpsichord in that particular tune? Be specific about the details you’ve noticed and you’ll show them that you’ve truly paid attention to what’s important to them.
This shows sincere interest in what they’re doing, so you can engage with them in their “happy place.” In fact, delving into topics that don’t truly interest you for the sake of understanding and supporting those around you can mean the world to the other person.
14. Recognize when and if you’re playing a role, rather than being sincere.
It’s great to be kind and caring toward others, but it’s a different story when you perform tasks or say words out of a sense of obligation, rather than sincerity.
There may be some people in your life whom you dislike and don’t actually care about at all. In these situations, any nicety that you offer in their direction will likely feel forced.
When you find yourself in a situation where you’re pretending to care and grimacing your face into a smile, check in with yourself as to why you’re doing this.
Do you actually care about or even like this person? If the answer is no, that’s okay. You don’t have to like anyone and everyone you interact with, even if you’re related to them by blood or marriage. It’s okay to wish someone the best but not want anything to do with them.
Don’t tie yourself in knots trying to drum up a feeling that simply isn’t there.
You’ve probably gone on dates and haven’t felt a connection with the person, right? You didn’t feel a bond, didn’t have any interest in them, weren’t attracted to them, and so on. If you had pretended to, you would have both experienced a lot of awkwardness and discomfort.
It’s a different story when the person you don’t feel anything for is a relative, as there’s often a feeling of obligation: that you have to love and care about this person because of DNA ties.
Here’s the thing: you don’t have to. There’s no obligation to try to dredge up emotions when they just aren’t there. Instead, focus on what and who you genuinely care about, and know that there’s nothing wrong with you for not being able to feel what others think you should feel.
A lot of people weaponize compassion and empathy, placing a great deal of importance on demonstrative behavior. They imply that someone is a terrible person if they don’t adore their family member or those in their extended social circle.
This simply isn’t true. In fact, it’s much worse to bear false witness and pretend to have feelings that just aren’t there.
15. Don’t let other people try to force you to feel a certain way (or give you crap for not doing so).
To build upon the previous point, many people experience an immense amount of guilt when they believe they should feel a particular way, but don’t. There’s often a lot of pressure from family members and social circles to not just feel but also show emotions in various circumstances (as mentioned above with regard to playing roles).
In the same way that you won’t necessarily develop feelings for certain people, there will be causes and situations that you just won’t give a damn about either.
Most people have causes that they’re passionate about, and they often seem to feel that others need to be just as passionate as they are, otherwise they’re terrible, awful oxygen thieves who don’t deserve to exist.
They’ll often try to guilt trip or otherwise manipulate or force people to get involved in these causes, or they will treat them horribly if they don’t. This might include shaming them publicly, cutting them out of their lives, or even harassing them on a regular basis.
Oddly, many people who are super involved in causes such as social justice, veganism, and such claim to put tolerance and respect as their highest priorities, but then don’t show either to those who don’t jump on the same train as they do.
Perspectives such as, “You must care about this for I have decided so for you” isn’t very compassionate or understanding is it? Furthermore, it goes against the greatest law of life: that of free will, choice, and informed consent.
Your love for sovereignty and autonomy will rebel at sentiments such as these, and you may very well shut yourself down mentally and emotionally in order to tolerate the tsunami of guilt that’ll be thrown at you for doing so. They’ll try to make you feel like you’re a horrible, uncaring excuse for a human being for not doing The Thing while virtue signaling about it on the regular, but that’s far from the truth.
You undoubtedly have countless causes that are important to you, but they aren’t that important to others. That’s perfectly normal and even healthy. Things just get unbalanced when others can’t respect differences and alternative choices without taking them as personal attacks.
16. Fill your own cup.
“You can’t pour from an empty cup” is a well-known and oft-quoted saying that is relevant here.
One of the main reasons that people have difficulty caring for others is that they just don’t have anything to give. Life responsibilities and various stressful circumstances can make a person shut down just to keep on keeping on. This can be exacerbated when one is accosted from all sides by all manner of awful things that they’re supposed to be enraged or horrified by on a daily basis.
This is often referred to as compassion or empathy fatigue. It happens to many people in medical professions who get so overwhelmed by suffering that their ability to feel these emotions gets overloaded and shorts out.
They might still want to be caring and loving to others—whether it’s patients in their care, or their own partners and children—but their cup has run dry. They literally can’t scrape up any emotions because there’s nothing there at all.
In cases like this, it’s absolutely imperative to come back to center and find things to refill your cup.
If work has flattened you emotionally, then see if you can take a medical leave of absence to regroup. Use this opportunity to do things that you know will recharge you, whether that’s spending a whole lot of time alone or doing things that bring you joy and comfort. Eat good, nutrient-dense food, care for your body, and make sure to get plenty of rest.
While you’re at it, stay away from any stimuli that drains you mentally or emotionally. The goal here is to refill that cup until you have enough emotion available to actually be able to put sincere energy toward both yourself AND others. You can’t do that if you keep emptying your reserves as soon as you have a thimble-full to work with.
Still not sure how to care about others if it doesn’t come naturally to you? Talking to someone can really help you to handle whatever life throws at you. It’s a great way to get your thoughts and your worries out of your head so you can work through them.
Speak to a therapist about it. Why? Because they are trained to help people in situations like yours. They can help you to explore why you struggle to care for people and offer tailored advice so that you may work on this part of yourself.
BetterHelp.com is a website where you can connect with a therapist via phone, video, or instant message.
While you may try to work through this yourself, it may be a bigger issue than self-help can address. And if it is affecting your mental well-being, relationships, or life in general, it is a significant thing that needs to be resolved.
Too many people try to muddle through and do their best to overcome issues that they never really get to grips with. If it’s at all possible in your circumstances, therapy is 100% the best way forward.
Click here if you’d like to learn more about the service BetterHelp.com provide and the process of getting started.
You’ve already taken the first step just by searching for and reading this article. The worst thing you can do right now is nothing. The best thing is to speak to a therapist. The next best thing is to implement everything you’ve learned in this article by yourself. The choice is yours.
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- How To Be More Compassionate: 8 Ways To Show Compassion In Your Life
- How To Show Respect For Others (+ Why It’s Important In Life)