by: E.B. Johnson
In this life we encounter all types of people. Some of them are lovely and bring all kinds of value and benefit to our lives. Others, however, can a bit more challenging to deal with. Negative and insensitive people can make our emotional lives extremely difficult. Their bites and barbs wound us, and can erode our self-esteem if we don’t take care to protect ourselves and our personal wellbeing.
Who are the insensitive people in your life? How does their behavior affect or derail the way in which you go about your day (and your happiness)? It’s time to be honest with yourself, and in that honesty discover better ways to protect yourself and set better boundaries. Insensitive people are everywhere. While we can never escape them fully, we can learn how to build the right walls and establish an undeniable self-confidence which can’t be denied or disrupted.
Insensitivity comes natural to some.
Most of us have a basic handle on our compassion and our empathy. We understand how it connects us to others, and we understand how it deepens the emotions we share with them. The same can not be said for everyone, however. Some people are too involved in their own narratives to have concern for the fears, emotions, or perspectives of others. There are people in this world who are so broken, hurting, and lost that they’ve disconnected from their ability to care for others.
An insensitive person is someone who shows little care, concern, or respect for the feelings and needs of others. Often, they live in a world of their own and are completely absorbed by their own thoughts, needs, and desires. They can lack in affection, come off as haughty, and will also engage in humiliating or bullying behavior.
All of this comes down to their inability to understand the feelings of other people. Much like a narcissist, someone with insensitive behavior will have a hard time conceptualizing the fact that other people go through the same emotional experiences as them. In order to protect yourself from the cruel outbursts and behaviors of the insensitive people in your life, you need to figure out how to set boundaries for yourself and figure out how to build the right walls around your emotional wellbeing.
Common signs of an insensitive person.
Are you dealing with an insensitive person? Or someone who goes out of their way to be rude or negative to you and others? While some of their techniques are subtle, others can be quiet overt. Either way, protecting yourself against insensitivity requires first recognizing it in every facet of your life.
Think about someone you consider to be insensitive. How did they react when they were confronted with someone sad, upset, or grieving? Generally, the insensitive people aren’t empathetic or compassionate when the people they love need it most. They perhaps don’t show a lot of affection, even if it’s part of their partner’s love language. And they certainly don’t put themselves out to make others feel more comfortable.
Demeaning comments are one of the most common ways in which insensitive people might try to undermine us. These snide remarks are meant to erode self-confidence and take away that personal sense of pride and power. It can be a quite subtle form of passive rudeness, with small comments that dismiss your feelings or otherwise devalue your points. On the other end, they can be outright mean and pointed; created to wound or harm you.
Taunting or bullying
Insensitive people don’t have a great grasp on their own emotions, and for that reason they can’t really understand those same emotions in other people. For this reason, they can engage in negative behaviors which provide them with a great deal of entertainment while hurting or harming others. They push jokes too far and poke fun at sensitive topics that are emotionally off-bounds for us or our loved ones. Taunting or bullying becoming the norm? You may be dealing with an insensitive person.
Because insensitive people only really have a handle on their own boundaries, they often show little respect for the boundaries of others. Maybe they cross the line again-and-again. Maybe they push past the point of comfort, or drive you to act out on behaviors that you consider to be outside of your character. Insensitive people don’t really care about others, so they commonly disrespect boundaries.
Humiliation is a tactic commonly employed by negative or insecure people. They feel horrible and low about themselves so, in an effort to level the playing field, they bring down others around them by embarrassing them. Perhaps they go out of their way to make other people look bad. They can bring up sensitive themes, or off-color topics you don’t want discussed in front of certain. All of these tactics add up to one aim: bring you down.
Emotions are complex and extremely nuanced. Just when we think we understand how we’re feeling, the mood changes or other emotions arrive. These emotions aren’t always comfortable, especially if you’re an insensitive person or low in emotional awareness. To the insensitive person, complex emotions are intolerable. Rather than make space for a friend in need, they cut out those they see to be slowing down their plans. It’s exclusionary behavior aimed at making their environment more comfortable.
A subtle tactic employed by the negative or insensitive person, criticism goes a long way in undermining your confidence and your happiness. When you open up to these people, they shoot you down by deriding your dreams or any unique ideas which you offer them. Over time, these criticisms add up to completely destroy any sense of self we’ve managed to establish for ourselves. It’s extremely toxic in any form.
The best ways to cope with insensitivity.
Insensitivity is everywhere around us. Rather than allowing it to unravel your emotional stability, start building an intolerance to it by cultivating a greater self-confidence. Shut down the cruelty with kindness and look at things from another angle. Once you commit to never lowering yourself, dealing with insensitivity becomes so much easier.
1. Build a wall of self-confidence
The insensitive person looks for weaknesses that they can exploit and attack in order to breach the walls and get inside our heads and our hearts. In order to protect ourselves from these attacks, we have to build up a solid wall of self-confidence that allows us to breeze over the pain they throw in our path. We are not defined by the opinions and barbs of others. We’re defined by our vision of ourselves and the futures we’re putting together.
Stop listening to the hate and the vitriol. Take a step away from the insensitivity and start focusing on increasing your self-esteem. First, look at all your strengths and the physical attributes which you love. Journaling is a great way to kick-start this process. Write down all the good things about you. Make it a daily practice.
When you wake up in the morning and go to the mirror, greet yourself with love and name out loud 3 things you love about your body. The more you engage in these types of practices, the more you will start to see yourself in a positive light. Look to your thoughts too. Whenever the negativity and the doubts set in, stop those thoughts in their tracks and replace them with the positive traits you’ve uncovered in yourself. Start to see yourself as worth so much more than the rudeness they throw your way.
2. Look at it from another angle
Since you can’t limit every encounter you have with insensitivity, it’s important that you cultivate better approaches to handling it. One of the best techniques we can utilize is shifting the angles. To shift the angles means to intentionally move yourself in order to see things from a different point-of-view. You shift your perspective and your understanding by shifting your consciousness and the way in which you decide to see their reality.
Rather than insisting only on your way of seeing things, try to see things from the insensitive person’s point-of-view. This is the point at which you should deploy and engage all your empathy and all your compassion. Try to imagine where they’re coming from. What inside them is leading them to behave so poorly?
We all act out what we’re feeling on the inside, whether we realize it or not. In order to evolve and free ourselves as humans, we have to learn how to recognize our behaviors and how they relate to our emotions. This is commonly referred to as emotional intelligence, or emotional awareness. The more aware we become of our own emotions, the more able we are to understand the emotions of others. This is the basis of empathy and moving past the insensitivity.
3. Shut it down with kindness
Kindness is yet another powerful weapon in our arsenal when it comes to dealing with insensitive people. When a person is being vicious or nasty, it’s hard to maintain the ruse when you’re so obviously cool and compassionate. Eventually, their nastiness exhausts itself against a wall of kindness that is so strong it damages their ego and their presence with others. Tired of fighting fire with fire? Ice them out and shut them down with kindness instead.
The insensitive person often lashes out and acts out in order to get a reaction from the people around them. It’s a form of punishment which makes them feel powerful while giving them control over others. We avoid this by taking away their fuel. Being kind instead of angry gives them nothing to feed off of, and stops justifying their behavior.
Sometimes, insensitivity occurs as a temporary state. Perhaps the person is lashing out because they’re dealing with a lot of drama (or trauma) at home. Maybe they just lost their job or are dealing with undiagnosed mental illness. There’s so much you may not see lurking beneath the surface. When you approach someone with kindness, you don’t have to live in fear of regretting the approach you took. You can sleep in peace knowing you treated someone as the human that they are.
4. Refuse to lower yourself
One of the worst things you can do when dealing with a negative or insensitive person is lowering yourself to their level. They want to get a bad reaction out of you. These are people who are so lost in their negativity that they want to bring you down to wallow with them. They think little of you, and when you lash back out at them it confirms all their worst thoughts and gives them permission to keep behaving poorly.
Don’t fuel the insensitive person’s fire. Don’t spit back their insults, or waste your time trying to change them or correct their behavior. We are who we are. And while we’re certainly capable of change, we don’t change unless we work for it and want it for ourselves. Don’t lower yourself. Leave them to their antics and walk away (physically and emotionally).
The only person who gets injured when you give in to the games is you. They are the person that they are. You, however, are someone who is trying to be better than the day you were before. When you give in to their taunting or their bullying, you don’t raise them up. You lower yourself and you set yourself back on the path to betterment. Refuse to allow this backslide. Stand up for yourself and the changes you’re making.
5. Set boundaries and limit access
When all else fails, one of the most powerful things you can do with an insensitive person is to set boundaries and limit access? No one has a right to tear us down. There is no one on this planet who has the right to access us when they make us feel angry, sad, or low about ourselves. Figure out what behaviors you are and aren’t willing to tolerate, then tell the insensitive person. Let them know there’re consequences for disrespecting you.
Lay clear and specific boundary lines for yourself, then communicate them explicitly with the insensitive person. Make it clear that you aren’t willing to deal with their sharp words or passive aggressive behavior anymore. Let them know what happens when they cross the line moving forward.
If the other person still can’t respect you — even after being so clear — then limit their access to you. You don’t have to allow someone to tear you down. You don’t have to give them the space and you don’t have to give them the time. Avoid situations where this person will be present. If they enter a room and it’s possible for you to leave…do so. Think about this negative person as a block in your body. In order for the joy to move again, it needs to be removed.
Putting it all together…
While some people in our lives bring joy and understanding, we also have to learn how to manage those who bring insensitivity or negativity with them. The insensitive person is one who demeans, humiliates, or otherwise dismisses people. In order to limit their power over us, we have to focus on becoming emotionally strong and emotionally aware. This only happens, though, with commitment and action.
Build up an impenetrable wall of self-confidence. Make it your armor and allow it to protect you against the attacks of the insensitive people in your life. Engage your empathy and try to look at their behavior from another point of view. What suffering must they be undergoing to make them feel so hate-filled and small? Use this compassion to shift the way you see the entire situation. Shut them down with kindness and know that — through this act — you’ll live to look back on your own behavior with pride. When someone lashes out at us or dismisses us, it’s a reflection of them…not us. Refuse to lower yourself to their level, and set boundaries that limit their access to you and your emotions. Insensitive people are everywhere. Don’t suffer them. Protect yourself against them.