Have you ever been in a situation where someone has been upset over something that is no big deal, or that they ‘should really be over by now’?
I know I have. I have wanted to tell them ‘get over it’ and/or ‘you are too sensitive.’
Yet I never do. Why?
Much of the time, it was a person who was frequent blow-ups. He was a highly strung fellow, and I worried about his shallow breathing and the shape of his heart. And for many other cases, I have decided I have no right to.
If I decide I have right to tell people how to feel, what else do I have the right to do? Tell them what they should eat? Instruct them in their career choices? Where does it end? I do not want to start with being the emotions police. That is certain. I have no right to tell people what they should care about or how they should feel about things.
These sensitivities, as I will call them, are not really about me. Some people may have stuff in their head which is making them feel sad, or angry. There are people out there with mental illnesses, or attitudes which will stop them having good lives. There are people who want to get angry and make placards for everything.
This is not my style of living. It is too tiring. I will get sensitive about violence, female genital mutilation, abuse of children, the treatment of Syrian emigrants, the plight of people after the earthquake in Nepal, suicides, and sexism in the media. There are some things like a late bus, a lost rugby game, cheating by a cricketer, a flag, a shop lacking jeans that fit, or an order messed up that I cannot be bothered caring about. As Mark Manson put it, I don’t give enough fucks.
But if people give fucks, I am not going to criticise them. I will be sympathetic to friends who are sad about rugby results, but I don’t care myself. If someone cries about not getting marmite, I may think they are being a wee bit unreasonable, but I don’t tell them that they are being oversensitive, or tell them to dial down their sensitive. Their things are real to them. They may be going through all kinds of shit I don’t know about in their own lives, but they only feel comfortable enough to me to bitch about Marmite. That is ok.
There are people in the world who do not have the same opinion as me. They have told me that I have been wrong to care about what I care about, or not find a joke funny, or be offended by how I treat them. This is usually men. The thing is, this will not change my opinions, or make me stop caring, laugh at a joke or decide someone is inoffensive. It just makes me annoyed. They are essentially telling me that my way of thinking, and my choice of what I care about is not acceptable to them.
I get where they are coming from. I really do. It can be annoying when people fly off the handle all the time for what seems to be no reason. Here is an option. If you think someone is too sensitive for you to deal with, work out why. Maybe, the joke has a highly offensive nuance which you didn’t think about, and you should say sorry. Maybe, they should get counselling for their issues (it is not your place to tell them this unless you are very close friends with them). Also, maybe look at yourself. If someone is being sensitive and it is really annoying you, this may be partially or even fully about you.
If someone’s conduct is really annoying you, you don’t HAVE to spend time with them. One guy who bitched and moaned about his life constantly asked me out. He did not get a date. I dated a guy for a few weeks who flew off the handle without any reason. I am not dating him anymore. There have been people in my life who have talked about their family issues in their teens and little else. This is not cute after 30 and I don’t spend much time with them. Yet I have some highly sensitive friends who I would not swap for the world. Sensitivity is a superpower when used for the right reasons, and their sensitivity makes them great friends. They understand and empathise with me at a level that other friends just don’t have. I love them for it.
Sensitivity of others can be annoying, but everyone has the right to their own sensitivity. Telling someone that they do not have this right is just a little bit rude in my opinion.