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This is one of a series of brief articles on how
to respond effectively to annoying social
behavior. An effective response occurs
when you get your
primary needs met
well enough, and both people feel
heard and respected enough.
This brief YouTube video provides perspective on
people who lack empathy ("sensitivity"):
This article offers useful responses to
the behavior of someone you believe is
to something or someone.It assumes you're familiar with...
Try saying your definition of interpersonal
sensitivity out loud. Then define empathy.
Can you think of an adult or child whom you feel
is often insensitive? Someone who is usually
In this article,
"able to accurately empathize with another
person's thoughts, feelings, and needs."
Another article focuses on responding
effectively to excessive
Would people who know you say you are a
Nature gifts us with six (?) senses, and
the ability to be
of sensory information. Some people extend that
to "sense' what other people are thinking
+ feeling + needing. They can sense how their
behavior may affect people they're with, and
regulate their actions to minimize upsetting
their partner/s. People who don't have this
sensitivity are called rude, tactless,
unempathic, and insensitive. People
who are too needy and sensitive to
some other people are called
chronically insensitive people are probably
psychologically-wounded survivors of
early-childhood abandonment, neglect, and abuse
Grown Wounded Children
(GWCs). If this is true, they
cannot help or control their lack of empathy,
so reasoning, pleading, and demanding they be
more sensitive is like trying to persuade an
addict to "get sober." The most tragic GWC wound
is an inability to
feel and bond
with other people.
and admit their wounds, typical GWCs canreduce
them over time.
Recently, a condition called
Asperger's Syndrome has been used to
describe or explain some social insensitivity -
specially in young people. It's symptoms vary, and
its cause is not known.
I suspect it is a
symptom of psychological wounds, perhaps
combined with a neurological malfunction.
Think of the last time you were with a
significantly-insensitive person. What did they
do (or didn't do) that merited that judgment?
How did you feel? Irritated? Resentful?
Disrespected? Hurt? angry? Frustrated? Scornful?
Compassionate? Indifferent? Resigned? Numb?
did you respond to the person - pretend?
Confront? Complain? Endure? Leave? Hint? Try to
problem-solve? Offer feedback? Blame? Joke? Shut
How did that feel to you? Did it help or hurt
your self-respect? How can you get your needs
met well enough with an overly-insensitive
Review the definition of "effective response"
above. Then consider these choices...
Discuss what interpersonal
sensitivity and empathy;
Ask the person if s/he knows any insensitive,
people, and how they affect her/him.
To Vent, Learn,
(Name), when you
only focus on yourself, I feel _______."
"How do you
think I feel when you ________ (describe
a specific behavior)?"
"Seems like you
have a hard time empathizing with me /
"What are you feeling / aware of /
now?" This is one way of testing for
significant psychological wounds.
"Do you see
yourself as a sensitive person?"
"You seem to
have trouble judging how I feel."
"I feel ignored
and misunderstood by you now."
__________, I feel ________ (e.g. hurt and
"I feel you're
monologing / talking at / lecturing / me
"You have a
now, and I feel __________."
"Are you willing
to learn what I need from you?"
"I need you to
want to know how your behavior
To Cause Change
or Set a Limit
I'm going to
tell you each
time I feel ignored / you interrupt me / you
don't look at me / you criticize me / you do
other things when we talk / (etc)."
Psychologically-woundedpeopleare apt to "resist"
responses like those above - i.e. they'll deny,
explain, justify, whine, attack, excuse, say
nothing, blame you, and so on. Expect
this with compassion, and respond calmly with
respectful empathic listening - like
you feel you are aware of my feelings."
calmly restate your original response
with steady eye contact. Repeat this
sequence as often as needed until (a) you get
your original need met, (b) your needs change,
or (c) you run out of time or patience.
Responses to Avoid
The response-examples above are based on
and an attitude of mutual respect. Unaware,
wounded people are apt to respond to
insensitivity like this:
"Does it ever
occur to you that I have feelings and needs
"Where were you
when they passed out empathy?"
wonder you have no real friends."
about healthy relationships."
Impulsive responses like these will probably degrade your
mutual respect and your relationship. They are
the opposite of constructive feedback and
Bottom line -
many ways to proactively respond to an
insensitive / rude / disrespectful person,
depending on what outcome you wish. You
don't need to endure them or play victim!
This is one of a series of brief articles suggesting
effective ways to respond to common aggravating
social behaviors. This article offers ways to
respond effectively to an insensitive (unempathic,
rude, disrespectful) person. The ways are