December 18, 2020

Sensitivity is a more refined skill than empathy. You can figure it out from empathy, if you slow down and look closely, but that takes practice.

Here’s an example of me being empathetic, but not sensitive. It happened just a few minutes ago, and I still feel bad about it.

Someone described an interpersonal conflict. I immediately empathized with all sides of the conflict. They didn’t appreciate that, because what they needed at the moment was validation of their grievance – and the other person’s fault.

If I’d filtered my empathy through the lens of not just how they were feeling, but also what they needed, I think I would have reacted more sensitively.

As a kid, I often had moments where I realized I’d just said something insensitive. I always felt a sudden urge to say sorry, but usually bit my tongue, because apologizing so soon might sound trite.

Today, again, I’m afraid of seeming insincere – not due to timing, but the risk that my tone in an apology comment could be misinterpreted. I think I’ll let it go this time, and tread more carefully the next time around.

P.S. I write from my personal experience as an autistic. What I share is not a substitute for advice from an autistic medical professional. Also, some of my opinions have changed since I first wrote them.