Our Bible study group is discussing, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
Mindy says she has a hard time not keeping score of wrongs. After more discussion, I learn that one thing her husband says that really grinds her is, “You’re too sensitive.”
“My mom said that to me, too,” I tell Mindy. “That was 20 years ago and it wasn’t until after she died that I thought of a response – ‘Then I’d appreciate if you’d remember that I’m sensitive.’”
Mindy writes that response in her notebook. I experience mixed emotions: pride and regret. Pride that she thought my response note worthy. Regret because it’s not the kind of rejoinder that will smooth a friction point in an important relationship.
I’m guessing her husband sees himself as a problem solver. Men are especially wired to fix things. When someone talks about a problem, guys assume the talker is looking for an answer, otherwise, why bring it up.
I know that when I was talking, Mom didn’t hesitate to correct my grammar, my opinion, my decisions.
There’s one thing that nobody can correct. Feelings.
I suspect that when fixers hurl the “you’re too sensitive” at someone, they’re frustrated because the one they love is experiencing a downer that just can’t be fixed like a leaky toilet or corrected like bad grammar.
“You’re too sensitive” might really mean, I hate seeing you suffer. I want to make you feel better but I don’t have the right tool. And now I’m uncomfortable.
I want Mindy to know that if her husband didn’t truly love her, he wouldn’t give a cat’s eyelash how sensitive she is.
We who are “too sensitive” share less and less with those who can’t deal. Emotional connections between feelers and fixers erode if feelers continue to get labeled. We feelers have a responsibility to not let that happen.
If you’re a fixer, a good way to respond to a “sensitive” loved one who is sitting in an icky feeling is with a simple acknowledgement. Any of these statements would be better than labeling a person as too sensitive:
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to come across like that.” (If the fixer is the source of the negative feeling.)
“I see what you mean.”
“Oh, that is rough.”
After a statement like those, the fixer has gained the trust to broach solutions. These would go down easy with me:
“What do you think you might do about that?”
“How can I help?”
“Are you OK with things as they are?”
Waiting for some time to pass, and then bringing up possible solutions works with me too.
Sensitivity is a gift. So is the ability to fix things.