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Are You Being Insensitive?

May 26, 2008

I will be the first to admit I am not the world’s most empathetic person. I am usually the one who says “C’mon, suck it up, it’s not that bad.” Other times someone will be pouring their heart out and when they’re finished instead of offering words of encouragement or sympathy, I find myself saying something completely unrelated, like commenting on the weather or something I saw on TV.

Being insensitive like this can get you in a lot of trouble with your friends, family, and especially your spouse or partner.

Most of us don’t mean to be this way of course. For some of us being sympathetic or supportive just doesn’t come naturally. It could possibly stem from a long laundry list of past experiences and a short attention span, though I tend to believe we use it as a defense mechanism as a way for us to avoid dealing with the actual problem.

Whatever it’s cause, I’ve been noticing more and more how insensitive I’ve become lately to certain people and situations. Usually I don’t even realize how insensitive I’ve been until someone points it out to me or I find myself in the proverbial doghouse because of something I said or didn’t say. So to help myself, and to help others who have a tendency to be a little insensitive, I’ve gathered some tips:

1. Really listen: Listening is not as easy as it should be. Give the person your undivided attention and take away those distractions if possible. Sometimes we just don’t listen enough for our feelings to respond.

2. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes: How would you feel if everything that is happening to them happened to you? And if they said to you what you feel like saying to them, how would you react?

3. Choose your words carefully: Many words have negative connotations. Other things may be ambiguous and could be interpreted the wrong way. Think a little before you speak. :)

4. Offer a little help: Sure, you probably can’t solve their problem, especially if they need a million dollars or can’t beat their feelings. But you can do something simple to brighten their day like offer a compliment, run an errand, or send them something that will make them smile.

5. Let down your guard: Some of us tend to build giant forts around our hearts so no one can get in and trample it to pieces. Unfortunately at the same time, no love can get out that way. There are huge risks in opening your heart to others and letting your guard down. It’s equally as risky to NOT opening your heart to others, so next time try just a little bit to let a little compassion or feeling leak through. It really won’t be that bad.

6. Apologize: If you catch yourself being insensitive, apologize the first chance you can. It’s easier for some to say I’m sorry than others, but it can’t hurt to tell the person you realize how hard it must be and what an insensitive jerk you were.

Are you like me and insensitive at times? What do you do to act a little more caring and compassionate towards others?

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