Some argue we’re a culture that’s too sensitive these days, which can be true at times. But it’s arguable that we’re also a culture that’s not sensitive enough.
People not knowing or not caring about how to be sensitive to people's feelings is often why our society is riddled with problems.
The violence we see around us, the insecurities within us, and many other issues that exist today. Our current society may be one of the least empathetic in recent history.
There’s less examples of people speaking and acting in ways that consider how another person might take that.
Instead, many of us often dismiss the feelings of others, and look at our own perceptions as the only authority in how to act.
Ironically, it comes in response to other people speaking and acting in ways to us that were unkind and uncaring.
It’s a sad cycle of all of us being guilty of not acknowledging that how we live can be hurtful and disrespectful.
The anger we see in society is often a result of people not being respected.
Less educated people resenting being looked at as inferior. Minorities resenting being treated differently from others. Women not feeling taken seriously, and men not feeling respected as men.
There needs to be a shift in our awareness. There needs to be an elevated consciousness of how what we do may come across to others.
We should strive for our existence to be one that leaves others feeling respected, understood, and cared for.
Here are five tips on how to do that.
1. Use your words carefully
People tend to be more reactive than responsive. Rather than thinking about the best words, we often go with the first words that come to mind.
But it’s those first words that can sometimes be the most dangerous. A flippant comment that can damage someone’s self-esteem or hurt someone’s feelings.
The things we say have power, and that power should be constructive. The world can be a better place if we try our best to use words in a way that builds all of us up.
That kind of empathy should extend not only to those we like and agree with, but also to those we don’t like and don’t agree with.
In politics, people believe in fighting for their way of life, when in actuality, empathy is more persuasive to bringing change.
Rarely does anyone ever open their mind or consider other possibilities by being forcefully admonished or told they’re wrong.
Instead, by exercising gentleness with one’s words, you can soften the hearts of those who’ve been hardened by the cruelty of the world.
If words were used more carefully, there would be less wars, less mass shootings, and less violence overall.
2. Watch your tone
Our tone should never be dismissive. The quickest way to get someone to stop listening and start arguing is to dismiss their point of view.
We all should acknowledge that everyone has valid concerns that deserve to be respected. The solution to those concerns is not to diminish them, but to find a way to alleviate them.
Accomplishing that can best be done with a compassionate and understanding tone.
Our tone should also rarely ever be raised. The constant usage of a raised tone is what leads people to either shrink within themselves, or eventually blow up at everyone.
A raised tone can do wonders for protecting people from things they need to be warned of. But it can do devastating harm in arguments and disagreements.
Use your tone as a tool that can unlock mutual understanding and harness cooperation.
3. Be aware of body language
People won’t always tell you how your communication is coming across, but their body language will.
It’s of course important to bear in mind context, as not all body language is an indication of a specific emotion.
As an example, someone may have their arms crossed, which could seem as if they’re defensive or angry. But it could also mean they’re cold.
Nonetheless, barring other logical possibilities, body language can communicate what a person is feeling, and be very helpful in showing you the sensitive way to proceed.
Business Insider has a great article on reading other people’s body language. Some of the most interesting ones to keep in mind include:
- Raised eyebrows = a person feeling worry, surprise, or fear
- Clinched jaw or furrowed brow = a person feeling stressed
- A person mirroring your body language = enjoyment of the conversation
Spotting these social cues can help you know if you need to increase the sensitivity of your communication and actions.
4. Listen with less judgment
When someone is explaining to you their point of view, the last thing you should do is to offer a negative judgment of it.
We have this idea that when we hear something we don’t agree with or understand, we have to immediately affirm to others what we see as right.
Instead of doing that, dive deeper into understanding why a person thinks and feels the way they do. We have to do better about not making a conversation all about how we feel.
We should ask questions and speak our understanding of what someone thinks to know we’re getting what someone is saying.
5. Cultivate sensitivity through meditation
A study conducted by Emory University found that compassion meditation can help make us better able to recognize people’s emotional states and improve our empathetic abilities.
Greater Good in Action provides a good guide for practicing compassion meditation.
Being sensitive to how people feel won’t fix every problem in our society, but I do believe it can fix a lot of them.
Take time to look outside of yourself, look inside of others, and put more thought into saying and doing things in a way that can positively affect people.