How to Be More Sensitive for an Emotionally Insensitive Person

Everything seemed fine at first. You were just having a chat, but then she walked off abruptly and you didn’t know why.
This
common problem is often ignored because it’s not very obvious. People’s
lips are moving and words are being said, but something is missing.
A
lot of the social cues involved in communication are non verbal, so if
these cues are not noticed, it can leave the other party feeling like
they’re not being heard. Yes, you heard the words, but you didn’t see
what they were saying.

Communication Always Goes Beyond Words

Unconscious
signals make up most of our communication. Our brains tend to pick up
on these signals without any conscious effort on our part.
We
can usually feel when something isn’t right, or the mood in a room
changes. We’ve probably all been in situations where everything felt
right with an intimate partner, then we hit a cold wall.
UCLA
research has shown that only 7 percent of communication is based on the
actual words we say. As for the rest, 38 percent comes from tone of
voice and the remaining 55 percent comes from body language.
The
challenge arises for some people who haven’t internalized all of the
signals which are being thrown their way. Just like anything in life,
some people are naturally better at seeing what is being said.
Others need to train themselves once they become aware of a gap in social sensitivity.

Emotional Intelligence Is the Foundation of Sensitivity

Sensitivity
can be learned like any skill. It’s mostly a matter of learning to read
other people’s physical cues. Paying attention to empathy is also
important. What would you feel in their shoes?
Emotional intelligence is a flexible set of skills that can be acquired and improved with practice. – Dr. Travis Bradberry, Talentsmart.com
This
takes a conscious effort to do because it’s easier to not do. In other
words, we have to try. Instead of running the same old mental record,
it’s important to be conscious of what’s going when observing people.
Our emotional intelligence directly affects how
sensitive we are to others. It allows us to read social situations,
individuals, and even ourselves.

Understanding Yourself Is the First Step to Understanding Others

The
first step in retraining your mind to be sensitive to others is to
understand yourself. It’s shocking to see how many people are unaware of
what they’re communicating through non verbal cues.
Many
people who suffer from depression, social anxiety or shyness could
improve their own moods by becoming conscious of their body language.
The same unconscious signals they’re projecting to others also affect
their own moods negatively.
The way we use body language isn’t just a projection of our feelings, it also affects our feelings.
To first start becoming self aware, pay attention to the link between your body language and you emotions.
What
happens when you feel insecure socially? For most people, their hands
go in their pockets. Many people will fidget. Shallow breathing usually
accompanies all of it.
Exercise:
When you feel a negative or positive emotion, what did your body do
reflexively? A smile, clenched fist, tight jaw or staring at the ground
will all correlate to your feelings. Pause when you feel a particular
emotion and see what your body is doing.
Becoming
self aware will not only help improve your emotional sensitivity, it
will also give you the power to change your emotions.

Observe, Observe, Observe

Now
that you understand something about yourself, start paying attention to
others. How do people react to you when you talk about certain
subjects?
I wouldn’t suggest it, but if you’ve ever been at a table when someone brings up politics, the change in mood is easy to see.
Based
on your own self-observations, you’ll be able to tell a lot about other
people’s feelings. Is his fist clenched? 
That probably indicates
stress. Hands in her pockets? She might be feeling insecure. If you’ve
experienced it, you’ll be able to see it in others. Match your own self
observations to the way other people behave.
If
someone is talking, drop your phone. Leave the social media, text, and
emails alone in order to give your full attention. Sometimes emotional
insensitivity doesn’t mean you can’t read the signals, it’s just that
you’re not tuned in.
Distractions
can have a negative affect on our relationships. I personally won’t
even bother talking if someone is looking at their phone. Usually the
abrupt silence will get their attention again. Sometimes a friendly
reminder is necessary.

Listen to Understand, Not to Reply

Just
as being distracted will kill communication, waiting to respond will
also block true connections. It’s hard to truly understand what someone
else is feeling when we’re just waiting to start talking again.
Try
this exercise to develop your listening skills. This is conversational
method I call the snowball technique. Not only will you experience
deeper levels of communication, you’ll also be able to keep the
conversation going. No more awkward silences.1
  1. Pay attention
    Obvious enough, but this is where many people fail. By paying
    attention, you’ll learn a number of different facts about people which
    could all become conversations on their own. This is one reason I call
    it the snowball technique, because your conversation will grow like a
    snowball as you continue.
  2. Reword their wording
    – Whatever they say, take the main point and summarize in your own
    words back to them. Not only will you show that you’re listening, you’ll
    also understand better using your chosen words.
  3. Add your opinion on their topic
    – Now that you’ve rephrased their point, add your opinion. This will
    keep things conversational so it’s not a question and answer session.
  4. Dig deeper
    – You have an understanding of his point, now dig deeper. Here’s a real
    opportunity to learn someone’s true feelings, motivations, and
    interest. It also creates some vulnerability. That vulnerability builds
    trust and a deeper sense of connection because we feel connections to
    those we open up to.
  5. Recall
    You might be running dry on one topic, but if you were paying attention
    you can now recall another point he made earlier, and bring it up. Even
    better if it relates to the last topic but it’s not necessary.
    Recalling something he said 5 minutes ago will surprise most people,
    demonstrating your excellent listening skills and interest in what they
    were saying.
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Bring Conscious Attention to the Small Signals

All in all, by bringing conscious attention to social sensitivity, you’ll learn the signals which paint the big picture.
Start
with understanding yourself better, and pay more attention to what
people are saying and doing. Then you’re unlikely to run into
sensitivity problems again.

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Updated: September 9, 2017 — 10:30 pm

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