5 Traits That Separate Shallow People from Deep Ones

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We talk about deep people and shallow people all the time, but what does it really mean to be deep and how can we cultivate this depth?

One of the dictionary definitions of deep is profound. The definition of profound is entering deeply into subjects of thought or knowledge, or, having deep insight or understanding. Shallow, on the other hand, means superficial or lacking depth. So being a deep person means having profound insights and understanding, while being a shallow person indicates a superficial understanding and lack of insight. But what does this mean for our lives and the way we relate to the world and other people? And how can we try to be deep rather than shallow people?

Of course, not everyone can have a deep knowledge and understanding about everything. No one would say a person was shallow just because they didn’t understand quantum mechanics. So what do we really mean when we describe people as shallow or deep?

Here are five ways deep people behave differently from shallow people:

1. Deep people see beyond appearances

Often we use the example of shallow people making judgments based on appearances. So someone who wouldn’t be friends with a person who wasn’t rich or good-looking would be described as shallow. We usually think of deep people as being more interested in other people because of their values rather than their appearanceDeep thinkers can look beyond surface appearances and appreciate others for less tangible qualities such as kindness, compassion, and wisdom.

2. Deep people don’t believe everything they hear or read

Another example of what we regard as shallow behavior is those who believe everything they read or hear without applying critical thinking or deep understanding. Deep people don’t necessarily believe what they hear, especially if it goes against their values.

This is why deep people find gossip and misinformation so upsetting. They know how damaging these shallow views can be. Deep people look behind the news stories and gossip. They question why this information is being shared in this way and what purpose it serves.

3. Deep people listen more than they speak

The old English phrase ‘A shallow brook babbles the loudest’ is a great metaphor for the difference between shallow people and deep people. If we spend all of our time making noise, we can’t hear other people’s ideas and opinions.

When all we do is regurgitate our existing opinions we can never learn anything new. This is a barrier to deeper understanding. Another phrase, ‘two ears for listening, one mouth for speaking’ is a good motto to live by if we want to cultivate depth in ourselves.

4. Deep people think through the consequences of their behavior

Shallow people sometimes fail to understand how their words and actions affect others. Everything we do has an impact on others and, while we need to be true to ourselves, there is no excuse for hurting others.

Have you ever heard someone make a nasty comment, but they excuse themselves by saying they are just being ‘honest’, or ‘true to themselves’ or ‘authentic’? Whenever I am tempted to do this, I remember what my mother used to say to me – ‘If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all’.

Our words can wound others deeply so we should be very careful how we use them. Our actions also reflect the people we are, so if we aspire to be deep people, we should act with integrity and responsibility.

5. Deep people try to get past their egos

Deep people understand that often our behavior can be driven by an egoic need to be better than others. Sometimes, we put others down in order to make ourselves feel better. Usually, the urge to criticize comes from a feeling of not being good enough ourselves.

For example, when we see someone who is overweight, we might criticize him or her, but usually, we do this only if we have issues around weight ourselves. Another example is when we see someone being a ‘bad parent’. Internally, we feel relief: we might not be perfect parents but at least we are not as bad as that person!

Deep people can often look past these insecurities so they can show compassion to those who are struggling rather than judging them.

Closing thoughts

Let’s face it. None of us are perfect, deep, spiritual beings. We are human and we make mistakes. We judge others and criticize them from time to time. However, cultivating deeper ways of speaking and behaving in the world can benefit us and those around us.

In choosing compassion rather than judgment, it can help to remember the Native American phrase ‘never judge a man until you have walked two moons (months) in his moccasins (shoes)’. We can never know another human being’s experiences so we can never know how we might behave in similar circumstances.

Therefore, to be truly ‘deep people’ we should try to cultivate deep empathy and compassion for others.


Copyright © 2018 Learning Mind. All rights reserved. For permission to reprint, contact us.

About the Author:

Kirstie works as a writer, blogger and storyteller and lives in London with her family of people, dogs and cats. She is a lover of reading, writing, being in nature, fairy lights, candles, firesides and afternoon tea. Kirstie has trouble sitting still which is why she created www.notmeditating.com to share techniques and practices for tuning out the busy mind. She is also the author of Not Meditating: Finding Peace, Love and Happiness Without Sitting Still.


  1. Hennah February 1, 2018 at 4:15 pm - Reply

    Really insightful, thank you. This helps me understand a stituation better whereby my child’s best friend at school’s mother does not allow her son to have playdates at our house, since the time that, I think, I revealed to her that I have suffered from mental illness. She is also ostracising me from a group of mothers at the school gate. These are mainly good looking, middle class women, and she surrounds herself with them. It seems like an exclusive club that I am no longer part of since I disclosed this information. It made me feel inadequate at first, but now I understand how shallow she is.

    • rosie mcconville April 13, 2018 at 6:50 pm - Reply

      You are better off without people like this making judgements about you. Carry on, find people who are not so shallow and materialistic to talk to if you can because she is displaying quite a lot of insecurities herself in not having the confidence to have real people in her life, like you. Well played for realising this now and good luck! Rosie

  2. Alex July 12, 2018 at 4:20 pm - Reply

    I don’t agree entirely with this:

    4. Deep people think through the consequences of their behavior
    Shallow people sometimes fail to understand how their words and actions affect others. Everything we do has an impact on others and, while we need to be true to ourselves, there is no excuse for hurting others. Have you ever heard someone make a nasty comment, but they excuse themselves by saying they are just being ‘honest’, or ‘true to themselves’ or ‘authentic’? Whenever I am tempted to do this, I remember what my mother used to say to me – ‘If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all’. Our words can wound others deeply so we should be very careful how we use them. Our actions also reflect the people we are, so if we aspire to be deep people, we should act with integrity and responsibility.

    Yes you think through the consequences of your actions and calculate whether a risk is worth taking and if whatever you say or do have the intended impact at the end of the situation. However, nasty comments is subjective, it’s not a thing, in reality. If you feel hit by a nasty comment, congratulations, you just discovered an insecurity within yourself, if the nasty comment just didn’t have any impact, it also had no root in reality. We are only ever affected by the things we believe ourselves to be true, people telling us those things are simply a reflection of ourselves telling us something we don’t want to hear. Whether that thing is absolutely not real or if it is real, doesn’t matter, the impact it has on you is what matters.

    Example: Say someone calls your sister a whore and you feel you’re getting really angry, knowing full well your sister doesn’t work a street corner, what logical reason do you actually have for getting angry? Because you’re simply programmed to respond to “insults” which is another human made concept that don’t really exist in an objective reality, so you feel the need to “defend” your family’s honor or lack thereof? You would literally be defending fantasy since it’s not real, you would work yourself up and get pissed because of words, empty, words that only has whatever impact your response gives it.. in this case a very ignorant response at that, which is anger over a fictional thing.

    Now lets say that the same person said the same thing and it was true, this is more interesting because you react the same way, but now the person is legitimately only telling the truth, sure it might be to upset or cause a reaction, it still won’t change the fact, it’s absolutely factual. What you’re proving here is that you would look down on your sister because she did something you deemed to be a bad thing based on your values, you’re also in the same moment telling the person you get mad at that you don’t respect your sister for who she is either and that you wish she was someone else. You’re pretty much saying you’re above her and that you’re embarrassed at her actions, again showing your ignorance from a different point of view.

    Logical, rational and deep people would respond to a situation like that, IF they even felt the need to respond to it at all with either:

    Example A: You’re making up things to try to cause harm, yet all you’re doing is showing everyone around that understands how things work, that you don’t and I sincerely hope you manage to help yourself to fix whatever it is that you’re clearly struggling with. Again you wouldn’t need to say anything since the situation doesn’t need a comment the ignorance of the “insult” speaks for itself.

    Example B: That is true, she does, but I am not sure I see your point, do you mean by using that to try to insult me, her or our family that you’re above her because of what she wants or prefers to do?

    Want deep? Try accepting people for who they are as people, and what their actions cause, if it’s pain or happiness, judge on that and not on a profession. This society is shallow and doesn’t collectively know the meaning of objectivity or true value, shaped and formed to be nothing but emotional puppets that will respond to whatever string is pulled, with no thought. That’s the norm, deep thinkers and people that act on their deep thinking are few and far between, unfortunately.

  3. sally August 10, 2018 at 7:17 am - Reply

    Super good read. I would lean on the deep side of this consideration, and have many times in the past had to rid myself of people in my life who just carried themselves too far off the shallow end and fell right off.
    Honestly, when i get to a point where i must cut someone off, its been a long time coming, and i have so much patience, years of waiting for a deep development to occur and the person on the chopping block to develop themselves a bit more, and when it just becomes ever so clear they wont be having any more personal growth i must move on.

    I consider a person who is too shallow to have even the tiniest it of consideration for others a form of liability for those who are much more developed in their thought process. Much like how an insurance company values its applicants and issues a premium, and then when a person becomes too much a risk they are cut loose….

    Just this month i cut a girl loose i met in 2006, and over the years she has actually become such a terrible person. She is so bad. she either wasnt as bad as she is now or she has developed into an even shallower person than she was when we met. So I either didnt see it, or she didnt have it back then, i have been considering it for a few years now actually. Not that she has done anythign to me personally, its more what she has been doing to people she lives with, people she employs, people she is friends with, ect…

    Then this month i asked her for a favor, and I have never asked for ANYTHING before. ever. It has been a one way friendship for a long time now.

    We do not do any social media. she knows this. we practice privacy protection to the fullest extent, ebcause this situation with social media is an evolving situation. and we (my family members and i ) feel that since there are no laws that require respectful behavior from the big companies that are collecting data the same as protects us in the analog world , we practice abstenance when it comes to what we post online. She knows this. Well, with the current issue going on with facebook, we asked her to delete her facebook for the month and then get back on but we would no longer betexting her as her facebook activities are collecting all of our data, pictures, ect.. my son does not want his info all over the web (he is 15) and we dont either. She replied to our request(my husband was childhood frendss with her) and said her mother would miss her too much on facebook(her mother LIVES WITH HER) and her sister would miss her too much on facebook (her sister lives 5 miles away and they see each other daily). All crap. So, we have never asked her for anything. and if our information was harvested off her phone, to which we do not consent, and she knows this, and was harvested due to an app she elected to put on her phone , then it is her responsability to rectify the situation and make it right.

    The same as it would be if she hit soemone in her car and damaged the persons vehicle or body. hence LIABILITY insurance. Its just the lsw has not caught up to the digital ageyet. and thus is why we do not partake.

    However, in this case, after years of us doing all kinds of things for her, giving her things, and just being good people to her, paying for her kids jackets, boots, iphones, ect… the ONE THING we ever asked of her, she just cant, be bothered,

    I then told her she is a waste of my time, please dont ever contact us again. I revoked her electronic means of communication, which leaves her snail mail if she wants to contact us. which she wont. but she will never compromise our family ever again and going forward she will have no data from us to sell to mark zukerburg. either way, shallow is as shallow does.

    Thank you for an insightful read.

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