“Just as the performance of the vilest and most wicked deeds requires spirit and talent, so even the greatest demand a certain insensitivity which under other circumstances we would call stupidity.” – Georg C. Lichtenberg, German scientist, philosopher and satirist
When we look at the world as a whole, the majority of us will concede that kindness and acceptance is more commonly practiced than cruelty and meanness. This outlook is often strongly challenged by our inevitable run-ins with the latter group. Some people are unapologetically insensitive to their fellow human beings. Such individuals lack the empathy and tactfulness that so many of us come to expect. In short, we – at the very least – anticipate common courtesy and basic decency from those we come in contact with.
Although a minority, those that do not heed to these standard social practices pose a threat – a risk of spreading their pessimistic ways to otherwise good people.
The purpose of this article is not to delve into complex sociological topics. Instead, we wish to provide a bit of insight to what makes insensitive people think and act in such a manner.
You’ll surely notice that these 5 behaviors are quite commonsensical. Despite this, we’ll often forget what goes on “in the background” of another person’s mind; particularly those who go against the generally accepted social contract of decency and common courtesy.
Here are 5 “in the background” behaviors, attitudes, and circumstances that create insensitive people:
1. Brain Chemistry
Brain chemistry is the first topic of discussion – and for good reason. This is almost assuredly the primary driver of callous behavior.
As we are all well-aware, our brains are different. In some cases, such as those people that possess narcissistic tendencies, very different. This fact cannot be overlooked.
Insensitive people have a very different brain chemistry than most. Certain mechanisms within their brain just do not permit the conveying of altruism or sensitivity. Most of the time, insensitive people aren’t aware that their behaviors are perceived as such. Even if someone pulls them aside and attempts to explain their behavior as unacceptable or off-putting, the insensitive person will display a sense of bewilderment. Hence, they’ll probably carry on as usual.
2. Different Thought Patterns
Related to the previous topic in some ways, thought processes are another main reason why insensitive people act the way they do. The main difference is that thought patterns are often a byproduct of environmental factors; while brain chemistry is something that is (oftentimes) autonomic.
Take, for example, the corporate world – a fiercely-competitive arena that may manifest into aggressive thought patterns. After a period of time, these patterns – you guess it – alters one’s brain chemistry.
Likewise, strongly-held personal beliefs and convictions (e.g. religious views, political stances) may cause someone act or say things perceived as aggressive and insensitive.
Angry emotions feed irrational thoughts, words and behaviors. When we’re angry, our higher-level executive functions are heavily suppressed. This impact on the brain makes it much more difficult to retain a sense of self-control. Of course, when self-control is absent, the likelihood of doing or saying something insensitive multiplies.
Anger lowers our inhibitions, and makes us forget the consequences of our actions. Unfortunately, this includes the pain inflicted on the receiving end of our insensitivities. We can hurt someone deeply – and, many times, they do not deserve such treatment.
4. Lack of Self Esteem
Lack of self-esteem as it relates to insensitivity is relatively simple to understand.
Many (most?) people with self-esteem issues can still constructively interact with others by keeping their concerns in-check. However, a small number of individuals will degrade others to “make themselves feel better.” The problem with this is two-fold: (1) it’s a very, very short-term “solution” to a much deeper issue, and (2) pain is inflicted onto someone who, in many instances, did nothing wrong.
How effectively someone deals with stressful situations, whatever they may be, is easily seen by how they interact with others afterwards. Do they bark something nasty to someone else? Do they carry on and get things done anyways? Insensitive people fall into the former group.
Saying that we all deal with stress differently is a huge understatement. Some people simply cannot handle certain stressful triggers in a constructive fashion. Furthermore, those inept at dealing with stress will spread their negative state of mind to others around them.
Simply put, stress is a distraction, and insensitive people are almost incapable of handling the effects of stress without hurting someone in the process.