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alt.romance "FAQ" (part 2 of 3) [posted monthly]
Section - #A# Sensitivity training

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See reader questions & answers on this topic! - Help others by sharing your knowledge
 From: (Jessica Danielson)  @}-,-`-- @}-,-`-- @}-,-`-- @}-,-

This article was built from responses from members of alt.romance
in response to my request for "sensitivity training."  I have tried
to organize the responses and have also attempted to summarize.


Respondents' outlook on what sensitivity is varied considerably.
Some believed that sensitivity is in fact a sort of native talent.

	I think it has a lot to do with personality traits that
	you are born with.  Some of my friends really do care
	for people, but have a hard time "reading"  them.

Others believed that sensitivity is something which is not so much
developed, as allowed to exist.

	It's called "empathy", and it's a trait that isn't so
 	much developed as allowed to exist.  Many things in our
 	modern world tend to cause us to believe that we
	shouldn't empathize.


What is responsible for sensitivity problems?  Respondents felt
that problems might be associated with self-absorbtion.

	Well, I have this problem; it comes from being so wound
	up with my own problems that I don't "have time" for
	others. Don't know if this is your sticking point, but,
	if it is, it shows in the tension you project.  Semi-
	silly idea: ask a friend to unobtrusively follow you
	around with a camcorder and take candid shots of you in
	public.  This would probably be very difficult to
	implement (too much "camera awareness"), but you could
	really see how you present yourself to others. I've
	already found that I've acted inconsistent in cases
	where I told myself I wanted to pay attention to someone
	I could care less about, and it showed. *sigh*

A lack of self-honesty was also blamed.

	Playing games with oneself will surely cause problems in
	dealing with others.


Keeping an open mind prepares you to be sensitive to others.

	... I find that keeping a VERY open mind helps. You
	have to always be on your toes, trying to relate to what
	the person is saying, even though you may not have
	experienced what they have.


Most respondents believed that sensitivity to others could be developed.

	Some people DO have this ability, but most just fake it.
	It comes with experience...

	People learn from their experiences, and make
	judgements based upon these.  If certain behaviour
	results in favourable responses, we tend to repeat it.
	Given unfavourable responses, we tend not to repeat it
	(at least, not very often).  So any sense of
	"prediction" is mainly the application of past


One frequently discussed "technique" was listening.

	The trick (for me, at least) was to listen more
	carefully to people.  I used to be caught up in a little
	world of my own, and when I'd hear a key word that
	related to something that was in my little world, then
	I'd jump in the conversation.

Suggestions for effective listening techniques were made.

	My best advise is that listening is an interactive
	activity.  As you learn how to communicate immediacy,
	the rest begins to come more and more easily.  For
	example, as you are listening to someone, try to
	understand not just what they are saying, but why they
	are saying it.  Then, as you start to guess, ask
	questions which indicate an interest not just in the
	what, but the why.  You will probably be wrong most of
	the time, but by asking, you don't have to guess.
	The other person can tell you if you understand or not.
	It takes some practice, but it is well worth it!


	Look directly at the other person.  Don't look away at
	other things, no matter how distracting.

	Nod in agreement occasionally -- if nothing else, this
	will keep the other person talking -- better still to do
	it at the right places.

	Completely refrain from trying to insert a comment of
	your own.  (I have trouble with this, and tend to
	trample conversations, because if I don't say it
	I'll forget what I want to say in trying to listen to
	the rest of the conversation).

	Lean towards the other person just a little (too much
	can look confrontational).

	These things will convince the other person that you're
	listening.  As long as you stay focused on him/her and
	don't try to butt in, you'll be able to listen and
	really hear what they're saying.  "'Tis better to be
	silent and thought a fool than to open one's mouth
	and remove all doubt."  Waiting till the other person
	finishes is polite and it gives you time to compose an
	answer, rather than blurt out something.

	Listen -- listen very carefully, look into their eyes,
	don't let outside things interrupt your concentration on
	what they are saying. If you don't understand exactly
	what they said ask questions and get them to go over
	things. Summarise what they have told you. Don't always
	offer advice -- it's not always wanted -- often a
	sympathetic ear is just enough. The important thing is
	to show the other person that you are willing to drop
	all outside distractions and to focus on their needs for
	a while -- to show you care for them and they will like
	wise return the favour when needed.

Another suggestion was to literally take notes, whenever practicable.
This was also recommended as it tends to build up the mental
note-taking habit.


Acquiring an understanding of non-verbal communication was recommended.

	People say so much, their gestures, looks, and body
	language in general.  Even the way they build sentences
	is different when they are happy or sad.  Sometimes it
	is obvious, sometimes you have to know them for a while.
	That's one part of it.  The other is using this

Touch was suggested as a way of "testing the waters."

	There's a good way to know if someone is ready for your
	friendship.  Find an excuse and touch their hand.  You
 	can lie and you can keep  your face calm, but few people
	can stand a touch from someone they don't like.

Looking at the way people are acting gives an indication of
 their feelings, too.

	I've also found that watching people helps.  If I have
	known someone for a long period of time and watch how
	they behave, then eventually if they start doing things
	that are "out of character", I'm better at picking that up.


Getting the other person to feel comfortable with you is a
critical need.  This is your responsibility!

	Most people are more open than one may think, if they
	feel comfortable with it, so you have to give them that feeling.

Trust is the key to openness.

	The major word is trust.  Once you've won someone's
	trust and respect they open to you.  But a trust is easy
	to loose too.  And if you loose someone's trust you can
	never get it back.

Asking questions was heavily recommended for getting people
to open up, even when on uncertain ground.

	When you know SOMETHING is wrong, but have no idea what,
	bluff.  Ask leading questions, like you know something
	already, but {be subtle}.

	Ask people about themselves.  If someone finds out that
	you are actually interested in THEM, it is amazing how
	they will respond.  You can ask questions about their
	family, about their work/school, or about everyday
	things, i.e., "Did anything exciting happen today/this
	week?' (and follow up -- the standard response is "no"-
	I usually say "C'mon, surely SOMETHING interesting happened.")

It was pointed out that it is critical to listen BEFORE asking questions,
and to consider the impact of the question on the person asked.

	At first, don't ask and just listen.  Never ask if you
	at their place wouldn't like the question.

Be open yourself.  Let people know how YOU feel.

	Basically if you want to show people that you're
	sensitive to have to open yourself up to them as well.

	Remember, NEVER assume anything.  Sure, you can guess,
 	but remember that you are only guessing.  The main
	point, though, is to tell the other person how YOU

	'You seem to be nervous...  Are you?'
	'You still seem to be upset, and that bothers me....'
	'You know, I love it when you smile at me that way....'
	'I really appreciate it when you do things like this....'
	'That was really fun!  I'd like to do that again!'

	The 'mind-readers' just voice their concerns and
	thoughts, that's all.  Try it.  With some practice,
	you'll become quite adept at it....

Advise on encouraging trust included sharing your own "secrets".

	As for getting people to opening up - share activities
	with them, get to know them better, most importantly,
	share your feelings too.

Real concern helps too, as does a willingness to help out.

	Best advice I know of is to honestly care about other
	people. Then you can pick up their "vibes" almost
	naturally (since you care, you pay attention to what
	they like and dislike, and become aware of these things).

	Be friendly, honest, and open, and you will develop the
	friendships you want.  Be consistent, so that people can
	see you can be trusted, and they will begin to open up.
 	Above all, be there when your friends need you.


Understanding the causes of unconfortable feelings in yourself
is helpful in understanding others, even if it means confronting
unpleasant realities about yourself.

	That's exactly the way how it works.  If you get that
	[uncomfortable] feeling, try to find out what initiates
	it.  Of course, it means thinking more about people.  It
	helps a lot to talk with a really close friend about it.
	When you get that feeling while talking to him/her.
	Most people I have met who have this capability (if you
	like to describe it that way), think it is based on
	rational understanding your own feelings.  The results
	are not always nice, because nobody is perfect.  I mean,
	nobody likes to think about his bad properties, but
	doing so is the consequence.  Once you started it, you
        can't run away.


	Be open, yourself, and remember that

	1) Everybody is entitled to their feelings, no matter
	how illogical they are;

	2) There is no such thing as 'blame'...  Everybody
	involved is equally at fault;

	3) Don't attack, but express --  Not 'You did
	this/that,' but 'I feel this/that';

	4) Don't leave a problem unresolved -- it will just get
	worse with time;

	5) Nobody's perfect -- not even you....

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