How we feel about something, persons or the environment is brought about by our emotions. In light of this, sensitivity plays an important role in how we treat, think about or feel towards each other. While we cannot exude equal amounts of sensitivity to all aspects of our lives, we have to create a balance nonetheless. Burnout is real, even where being too sensitive is concerned, and one can feel mentally and physically drained if they ‘care too much’.
We can therefore create a balance, where one can be sensitive in some respects and insensitive in other respects. It is more common for persons to display sensitivity to those who have a close relationship to them, as opposed to strangers, etc. Indiscriminate and discriminate sensitivity was coined as a result that persons needed to know when and how to use their sensitivity ‘powers’. Whereas indiscriminate sensitivity allows the person to be sensitive to everyone and treating everyone the same with the same attitude, discriminate sensitivity is the complete opposite, pointing to people who they prioritize with their sensitivity.
Truth be told, there is always going to be persons in one’s life who annoy and irritate you once in a blue moon or every day of your life and you would love to just tell them a few words or so. Take a minute to think about it before you go off on the poor chap that ruined your day. Ask yourself, why do they do what they do? How do they feel? Are you helping the situation?
Wallow too much in sensitivity and you will not be able to deal with life or the truth” -Neal Boortz
Sensitivity spans from the controversial nature vs. nurture; for some individuals it is in their genetic makeup to be insensitive while for others being overly sensitive to everyone they encounter is in their blood. The other aspect is nurture, where good social skills and sensitivity to others is learnt through the teaching of parents and caregivers. While this positive quality is taught, persons, especially children, are also taught insensitivity in social interactions. Caregivers usually teach their children to be insensitive as it is a way to ‘protect one’s feelings’ or that others are undeserving of compassion and are therefore inferior.
Empathy towards others is another attribute that may not always be wired into the minds of individuals despite being raised in a caring and loving household; and it gives rise to mental disorders such as narcissism and anti-social personality disorder (Danziger, Prkachin & Willer, 2006).
As a result of sensitivity to others, persons often find themselves in happier, healthier relationships as opposed to their insensitive counterparts (Davidson & Dalby, 1993). While insecure persons suffer from hypersensitivity, self-centered individuals are unaware of the impact of their insensitivity to others around them. By being insensitive one seldom pays attention to their actions, situations, become emotionless when responding and do so with unbalanced judgment. These types of people not only build a barrier around themselves, but a barrier to block out others and also deny the opportunity for development of self and social pursuits.
If someone has adopted an insensitive attitude due to being hurt in the past or other past experiences has led them to lack empathy, it not only hurts others because they choose to ‘speak whatever is on their mind’ without remorse, but hinders the chance of a friendship or also runs risk for them to get hurt. In a report entitled ‘Insensitive comments and their impact on preemie mothers’, about 20% (130 of over 630 respondents) said insensitive comments resulted in lost relationships with one or several people who were “very important” to them.
Other behaviors of insensitive persons include not recognizing or understanding other’s feelings, is self-centered and in that cares about no one but themselves, shows no concern about the loss of a friend or relative, reacts inappropriately at any given situation, or makes jeering comments.
With anything to see improvement and change, it requires patience, time and duration. Although one cannot alter their traits and how they are wired or genetic makeup, they can start by making gradual and progressive steps in the right direction, which includes monitoring what they say to those they come in contact. Everything takes time and with insensitivity to others, some cases take an experience or just a little tug to soften one’s heart.
Here are some ways to be more sensitive to others:
- Wear the person’s shoes, figuratively, before you decide to judge them.
- Ask yourself, “How would I feel if I was treated like that?”
- Don’t base your perception of the person on one encounter with them.
- Don’t let your insecurities or beliefs ruin your conversation with someone.
By Alexandra Daley