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Dec 2006 Character Quality -- Sensitivity
the following editorial article was written by Gloria Cooper for publication in The Paris News --
A young woman walked into her friend’s house, found a chair, and sat down, sighing heavily.  
When her friend mentioned the fact that she appeared depressed, she answered, “I just found
out I have a serious medical problem.”  Here, her friend had two choices.  One would be to
answer, “Oh, honey, don’t worry about that.  You know how that goes, it’s not always as bad as it
sounds.  Now tonight you get a good night’s sleep and you’ll feel better in the morning.”  The
second way to answer would be:  “I’m sorry to hear that!  How serious is this?  Is there anything I
can do to help?”  The first answer would not show sensitivity to her needs.  The second answer
would reveal care, consideration, and love.  One word explains all three:  Sensitivity.  Sensitivity
perceives the true attitudes and emotions of those around us.  It understands how others feel so
that you can respond appropriately to them.  

Here are five points to help us learn sensitivity:  Observe closely by paying attention to body
language, tone of voice, and other visible signs.  Listen carefully to what others divulge and
hear the spirit of what they say.  Taking time to have a conversation with someone means more
than we realize.  Try to understand what we have heard by putting ourselves in their position.  
Non-threatening questions are excellent for understanding the true nature of the problem.  
Empathize with them by letting them know you can identify with their feelings.  Finally, we need to
do what we can to help them through their difficulties.  This could mean helping them find wise
counsel, being a sounding board, or even gently pointing out their role in the problem.  Being
observant, caring, and available can make all the difference in the world to someone.  

Sensitivity is not taking up offenses for others.  Many times the problems that arise as we
converse with those who are hurting will stir up our emotions – but not always the right ones.  
We need to discern the issues instead of reacting to the present emotions.  Finally, we need to
gain and keep a joyful attitude.  Joyfulness is looking at the final picture and responding to the
present situation accordingly.  

We should use sensitivity, not only in the case of hardships, but also during times of
celebration.  A friend’s promotion, a new birth, or any other achievement is worthy of our
congratulations or encouragement regardless of how large it may seem in our eyes.  A Swedish
proverb says, “Shared joy is double joy; shared sorrow is half a sorrow.”  The Apostle Paul
instructs, “Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.”  Let us be those who
amplify the joy and assist the when there is sorrow.
Portions of this article have been adapted from Character First! material.  For more information about the
Character First! program and resources contact:  Character Training Institute, 520 W. Main Street, Oklahoma
City, OK  73102,  (405) 815-0001. Visit the Character Council of Red River Valley at
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