Sensitivity in Communication

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In this Livestream, we discuss sensitivity in communication. Learn about different types of sensitivities in social interaction and how you can improve your communication through greater awareness of your communication style and the style of those you engage with.

In this Livestream, we discuss sensitivity in communication, inspired by Jane Austen's famous novel Sense and Sensibility. We touch upon it briefly in our lesson on Pride and Prejudice in Communication, also based on Jane Austen's mastery of social interaction in her novels, but expand upon it in this live conversation.  

When engaging in social interaction, what enables effective communication is being attuned to sensitivity. This could be anything from person sensitivities, to cultural sensitivity, to gender sensitivity. 

Everyone has their own unique way of communicating and we communicate slightly differently with everyone. There is no one-size-fits-all communication strategy or manner of communicating and part of that is because of different degrees of sensitivity that present themselves in social interaction. 

Within the vein of sensitivity, we can't overlook sense and sensibility.

Sense is the emotional reactivity we might have in response to an utterance. With heightened emotions, it's when we react instead of respond. You can also think of sense as emotions and feelings that are present in our communication. Meaning, when you speak, how much feeling are you putting into your words, tonality, and body language. What emotions are you projecting to the interlocutor? Are you happy? Energized? Sad? Upset? Etc. 

Sensibility is the logic and reason that we imbue our communication with. If sense is one end of the spectrum, then sensibility is the other end of the spectrum.

Sensitivity in communication allows us to strike the balance between the right amount of sense and the right amount of feeling. Since every social interaction is different, not every communication calls for 50% sense and 50% sensibility. Depending on the context, the content of the message, the participants, and a slew of other factors (see Dell Hymes speaking model), we have to be attuned and sensitive to many things when we communicate. Thus, some interactions might require 70% sense and 30% sensibility whereas other exchanges might require 20% sense and 80% sensibility. It all depends.

Being sensitive in communication and receptive to how the other person is engaging with you in the conversation will help you refine your message and delivery. 

Sensitivity in communication allows us to find the correct balance for each and every one of our communication exchanges during social interaction. 

If we are 100% sense or 100% sensibility in our utterances, then we find ourselves on either end of the spectrum. And that can be problematic because:

Too much sense without feeling can be reactive and emotionally unstable.

Too much sensibility without feeling could result in monotone, insensitive, and robotic communication exchanges. 

Instead, aim to have a little bit of both - even though it won't necessarily be an even split - some of each is better than none at all.

To quickly recap:

Sense in communication is about using common sense, reading the room, understanding the situation, having an open mind and heart. It's what allows us to be amenable to changing our minds about something/someone and enables us to give someone the benefit of the doubt.

Sensibility in communication is using logic and reason to guide our interactions. It's about using facts, seeking a rational approach to understanding the situation, and not letting emotions cloud judgment or permeate our communication.  

Think of sense and sensibility as two ends of a spectrum with sensitivity as being attuned enough to seek the balance of these two elements. 

Humans are complex social creatures. Approaching social interaction with more sense and sensibility enables us to be attuned to the sensitivity of the person we are communicating with. By attuning ourselves to their sensitivities, our message is transmitted more successfully, thereby allowing us to communicate more effectively.

In the Livestream we delve into the following:

  • How much of sense and/or sensibility is too much, how to strike the right balance
  • Sensitivity to culture, gender, stereotypes, religious beliefs, traditions, subculture.
  • Is there such thing as being overly sensitive as the speaker?
  • Is there such thing as being overly sensitive as the listener?
  • What are some challenges you’ve faced with sensitivity?

See you in the next one!

Happy Explearning ⚡