Not being able to tune into the emotions of others is a characteristic of insensitive people. It is a characteristic which would explain why there are people who use a harmful frankness to give their opinions, without realizing how their interlocutor will feel.
But there are all kinds of people who are unable to connect with the emotions of others, for very different reasons. We cannot generalize and say that all insensitive people are “bad”, because behind their way of being there can be a weighty explanation as a psychological problem.
We will discuss what are the insensitive people, what are their main characteristics and what made them so.
Insensitive people: what are they like and why?
When we talk about insensitive people, the first thing we think of is that we are talking about individuals unable to identify with themselves and to tune in to the emotions of others. They are seen as ill-intentioned people, who think little about how others will feel and that they take a very selfish stance in everything they do, say, and think.
While this definition may hold true for some insensitive people, the truth is, not all of them can fit in the same bag. People are not who they are because they are, but behind their behavior and their attitudes, there is an explanation, more or less legitimate, which justifies their way of being. Whether it’s right or wrong to be a callous person, you can’t think of them all being crazy just because they like to be callous.
Selflessness and emotional coldness they can be the result of not having properly learned to capture the emotions of others. It can also be the product of a difficult life history, marked by traumatic experiences that made the person afraid to tune in to the feelings of others for fear of showing a vulnerability that made them suffer so much in the world. pass. In other cases, emotional sensitivity may have been put to sleep, bombarded with all kinds of violent images and painful news.
Not wanting to see, shirk responsibilities and prioritize the well-being of one over the other it is a form of insensitivity, motivated by selfishness and the inability to see beyond our noses. This is precisely the most common idea of what a callous person is, but not the only one. Being callous doesn’t always mean being selfish, at least being aware of it. Everyone is as they are, and there are differences even in how callous a person is.
Characteristics of insensitive people
Giving universal characteristics to insensitive people is a real challenge because not all are really the same. While the first thing we think of when we talk about these types of people is that they are bad, unable to connect with others out of express desire, the truth is that the causes of this insensitivity can explain, not justify. , their way of being. .
In any case, as a very general characteristic and that not all should show, we have:
1. Offensive affirmation
Although not all, many callous people practice offensive assertiveness. They may not be aware of the harm they are doing, although their way of saying what they think, directly and without objection, hurts others. It should be mentioned that there are also people of this type who are aware that their frankness is harmful, but they apologize in the phrase “I’m not shutting up at all”.
An interesting study on this trait of insensitive people is that of David Watson and his collaborators at the University of Notre Dame (2019). In this research it was concluded that there is a type of pathological extraversion that shows a very clear pattern of insensitivity, characterized precisely by not keeping things silent and asserting oneself in a prejudicial way.
2. Instrumental empathy
Insensitive people they show a lack of affection in virtually any setting, even with the closest circle.
Whether with family, friends or as a couple, the most malicious callous people apply what we would call instrumental empathy: They only connect to the needs of others when they are interested. They only empathize when it serves them well to get something in return. This trait of some callous people is considered a sign of narcissistic personality disorder.
3. They tend to tease and intimidate
People most unable to connect with others tend to use teasing and bullying. They don’t identify with those in front of them and aren’t able to put themselves in the other person’s shoes, so they don’t understand how the other person feels when they receive teasing, irony and sarcasm.
Bullying is a common behavior among callous people who think only of themselves.
4. Lack of social responsibility
One of the ways in which emotional insensitivity is most pronounced is a lack of social responsibility. This means that it is is unable to react to unfair situations such as discrimination, manipulation or violence whatever form these chakras take.
5. Poor tolerance for different opinions
The most insensitive people cannot tolerate opinions other than their own. They interpret any opposition as theirs as a threat, which makes it very difficult to live with these people, and even to have a simple conversation as it is almost inevitable to end up having an argument.
6. Don’t think before you speak
A person with a minimum of empathy thinks about words before pronouncing them, in particular to avoid hurting the interlocutor. This is not the case with callous people who do not realize that this is a fundamental step in any social interaction.
They seldom meditate on what to say. They don’t choose words thinking not to hurt, to be respectful, or to have a calm conversation. As we mentioned, they often resort to harmful frankness, saying things without filtering them, no matter how they feel towards their interlocutor what they are going to say to them.
7. They run away from emotional situations
This point may be the feature that catches the attention of insensitive people the most. Many have low emotional awareness, not only with others but also with themselves.
Not only do they not connect with other people’s emotions, but they also don’t understand their own feelings.. It makes them feel uncomfortable in emotional situations. When they see a friend or family member having a bad time, they don’t know how to react or what to do, so they end up choosing to run away.
Why is he insensitive to the suffering of others?
Most species of gregarious animals, which live in groups and whose life is strongly marked by social interactions, are endowed with the ability to be aware of the pain of one’s peers. Empathy and solidarity are fundamental aspects for the survival of these species, a product of evolution. Since human beings are also a social species, how is it possible that there are callous people?
There are several explanations for why some people are able to close themselves off emotionally from others. Maybe it’s just that you have a personality that’s far from normal. Just as in nature there are lone wolves, separated from social life and little involved with their peers, in the human species there are people whose personality traits make them not having an interest or the ability to listen to the emotions of others.
But it’s not just a question of personality. There can be very serious causes that explain how an individual is extremely insensitive to the emotions of others. Mental disorders, neurological pathologies, a history of trauma, abuse, fear of being perceived as socially vulnerable, and even simple inexperience with emotional situations can explain a person’s insensitivity.
Add to that, this emotional insensitivity can be very circumstantial. While it is true that there are people who roam cold frozen swamps, who do not connect with any emotion, others are dependent on the situation. Stress, anxiety, uncertainty in an unfamiliar situation … these factors and many more can make a person suddenly feel like a piece of sandpaper.
We also cannot overlook the fact that, in a society where the media bombards us with all kinds of toxic and violent events, we have become callous and tolerant of the misfortunes of others, without having the slightest harm within us. The more horror you see, the more you get used to it and our ability to sense unfair situations is blunted.
Possible causes of emotional insensitivity
It is easy to judge callous people as bad. We often refer to them as hostile, cold and emotionless individuals, bad people unable to put themselves in other people’s shoes. It can be, but it is very difficult for a person to be callous without a compelling reason. You have to dig a little deeper into the story of the person you consider insensitive, because they may be suffering from something or have experienced an event that predisposed them to behave in this way.
A part of the world population suffers from a rare phenomenon which would explain their coldness in the treatment. Her emotional distancing may be caused by a condition of significant genetic weight called alexithymia, a problem that makes those who exhibit it, despite their emotions, unable to prove or demonstrate them. It’s not that they’re callous, it’s that they have trouble expressing their emotions and seeing others.
2. History of trauma
People who have been through a lot of emotional distress tend to be more empathetic and sensitive to the pain of others, although this can also be the opposite effect. Emotional insensitivity can be a defense mechanism for having a history of trauma.
In this case, the person is not able to tune into the emotions of others for fear that this will make them vulnerable and that they will relive the pain that they once felt.
3. Affective inexperience
One of the causes of emotional insensitivity is simply never having experienced pain. Because the person has never really suffered, he is not able to understand the suffering of others or underestimate it. It would be the product of an obvious lack of emotional experience.
These people are callous not because they are bad people, but because their capacity for empathy has not yet been developed by not having had enough emotional experiences. To show great emotional ignorance, unable to sympathize with the suffering and happiness of others because, yes, this does not only apply to negative emotions. This will change as they acquire a little more skill in sensing the emotions of others.
- Baskin-Sommers, A., Krusemark, E. and Ronningstam, E. (2014). Empathy in Narcissistic Personality Disorder: From a Clinical and Empirical Perspective. Personality Disorders, 5 (3), 323-333. https://doi.org/10.1037/per0000061
- Watson, D., Ellickson-Larew, S., Stanton, K., Levin-Aspenson, HF, Khoo, S., Stasik-O’Brien, SM and Clark, LA (2019). Aspects of extraversion and its associations with psychopathology. Journal of Abnormal Psychology. doi: 10.1037 / abn0000459.
- Otero, J. (1999). Alexithymia, a review. Journal of the Spanish Association of Neuropsychiatry, XIX (72), 587-596.
- Navarro, Marisa (2015) Emotional medicine. Debate