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How to Be More Sensitive for an Emotionally Insensitive Person

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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

    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.

    Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash via unsplash.com

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    Eddy Baller

    Dating & Confidence Coach

    emotional intelligence How to Be More Sensitive for an Emotionally Insensitive Person Why Empathy Is Both the Hero and the Villain in a Relationship marriage longevity Why a Lot of Relationship Experience Doesn’t Equate to a Great Marriage

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    Last Updated on May 21, 2019

    How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

    How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

    For all our social media bravado, we live in a society where communication is seen less as an art, and more as a perfunctory exercise. We spend so much time with people, yet we struggle with how to meaningfully communicate.

    If you believe you have mastered effective communication, scan the list below and see whether you can see yourself in any of the examples:

    Example 1

    You are uncomfortable with a person’s actions or comments, and rather than telling the individual immediately, you sidestep the issue and attempt to move on as though the offending behavior or comment never happened.

    You move on with the relationship and develop a pattern of not addressing challenging situations. Before long, the person with whom you are in relationship will say or do something that pushes you over the top and predictably, you explode or withdraw completely from the relationship.

    In this example, hard-to-speak truths become never- expressed truths that turn into resentment and anger.

    Example 2

    You communicate from the head and without emotion. While what you communicate makes perfect sense to you, it comes across as cold because it lacks emotion.

    People do not understand what motivates you to say what you say, and without sharing your feelings and emotions, others experience you as rude, cold or aggressive.

    You will know this is a problem if people shy away from you, ignore your contributions in meetings or tell you your words hurt. You can also know you struggle in this area if you find yourself constantly apologizing for things you have said.

    Example 3

    You have an issue with one person, but you communicate your problem to an entirely different person.

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    The person in whom you confide lacks the authority to resolve the matter troubling you, and while you have vented and expressed frustration, the underlying challenge is unresolved.

    Example 4

    You grew up in a family with destructive communication habits and those habits play out in your current relationships.

    Because you have never stopped to ask why you communicate the way you do and whether your communication style still works, you may lack understanding of how your words impact others and how to implement positive change.

    If you find yourself in any of the situations described above, this article is for you.

    Communication can build or decimate worlds and it is important we get it right. Regardless of your professional aspirations or personal goals, you can improve your communication skills if you:

    • Understand your own communication style
    • Tailor your style depending on the needs of the audience
    • Communicate with precision and care
    • Be mindful of your delivery, timing and messenger

    1. Understand Your Communication Style

    To communicate effectively, you must understand the communication legacy passed down from our parents, grandparents or caregivers. Each of us grew up with spoken and unspoken rules about communication.

    In some families, direct communication is practiced and honored. In other families, family members are encouraged to shy away from difficult conversations. Some families appreciate open and frank dialogue and others do not. Other families practice silence about substantive matters, that is, they seldom or rarely broach difficult conversations at all.

    Before you can appreciate the nuance required in communication, it helps to know the familial patterns you grew up with.

    2. Learn Others Communication Styles

    Communicating effectively requires you to take a step back, assess the intended recipient of your communication and think through how the individual prefers to be communicated with. Once you know this, you can tailor your message in a way that increases the likelihood of being heard. This also prevents you from assuming the way you communicate with one group is appropriate or right for all groups or people.

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    If you are unsure how to determine the styles of the groups or persons with whom you are interacting, you can always ask them:

    “How do you prefer to receive information?”

    This approach requires listening, both to what the individuals say as well as what is unspoken. Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson noted that the best communicators are also great listeners.

    To communicate effectively from relationship to relationship and situation to situation, you must understand the communication needs of others.

    3. Exercise Precision and Care

    A recent engagement underscored for me the importance of exercising care when communicating.

    On a recent trip to Ohio, I decided to meet up with an old friend to go for a walk. As we strolled through the soccer park, my friend gently announced that he had something to talk about, he was upset with me. His introduction to the problem allowed me to mentally shift gears and prepare for the conversation.

    Shortly after introducing the shift in conversation, my friend asked me why I didn’t invite him to the launch party for my business. He lives in Ohio and I live in the D.C. area.

    I explained that the event snuck up on me, and I only started planning the invite list three weeks before the event. Due to the last-minute nature of the gathering, I opted to invite people in the DMV area versus my friends from outside the area – I didn’t want to be disrespectful by asking them to travel on such short notice.

    I also noted that I didn’t want to be disappointed if he and others declined to come to the event. So I played it safe in terms of inviting people who were local.

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    In the moment, I felt the conversation went very well. I also checked in with my friend a few days after our walk, affirmed my appreciation for his willingness to communicate his upset and our ability to work through it.

    The way this conversation unfolded exemplified effective communication. My friend approached me with grace and vulnerability. He approached me with a level of curiosity that didn’t put me on my heels — I was able to really listen to what he was saying, apologize for how my decision impacted him and vow that going forward, I would always ask rather than making decisions for him and others.

    Our relationship is intact, and I now have information that will help me become a better friend to him and others.

    4. Be Mindful of Delivery, Timing and Messenger

    Communicating effectively also requires thinking through the delivery of the message one intends to communicate as well as the appropriate time for the discussion.

    In an Entrepreneur.com column, VIP Contributor Deep Patel, noted that persons interested in communicating well need to master the art of timing. Patel noted,[1]

    “Great comedians, like all great communicators, are able to feel out their audience to determine when to move on to a new topic or when to reiterate an idea.”

    Communicating effectively also requires thoughtfulness about the messenger. A person prone to dramatic, angry outbursts should never be called upon to deliver constructive feedback, especially to people whom they do not know. The immediate aftermath of a mass shooting is not the ideal time to talk about the importance of the Second Amendment rights.

    Like everyone else, I must work to ensure my communication is layered with precision and care.

    It requires precision because words must be carefully tailored to the person with whom you are speaking.

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    It requires intentionality because before one communicates, one should think about the audience and what the audience needs in order to hear your message the way you intended it to be communicated.

    It requires active listening which is about hearing verbal and nonverbal messages.

    Even though we may be right in what we say, how we say it could derail the impact of the message and the other parties’ ability to hear the message.

    Communicating with care is also about saying things that the people in our life need to hear and doing so with love.

    The Bottom Line

    When I left the meeting with my dear friend, I wondered if I was replicating or modeling this level of openness and transparency in the rest of my relationships.

    I was intrigued and appreciative. He’d clearly thought about what he wanted to say to me, picked the appropriate time to share his feedback and then delivered it with care. He hit the ball out of the park and I’m hopeful we all do the same.

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    Featured photo credit: Kenan Buhic via unsplash.com

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