Tone deaf literally means that a person can’t distinguish the difference in musical notes – but metaphorically, it means that a person is insensitive or un-empathetic to others emotions and feelings.
There is a mistaken assumption that happy, upbeat people are more sensitive and empathetic than others. They might have more confidence, but that doesn’t mean they can read people well and empathize with them.
The fact is that upbeat people can recognize emotions similar to their own, but sometimes lack the ability to empathize with those who are sad or downtrodden. When you’re being insensitive, you’re disregarding the appropriate behavior and going along with your own emotions.
For example, making fun of or saying something insensitive to a disabled person shows that you lack empathy for what the other person is going through. The more empathetic you are, the better able you will be to take into consideration other peoples’ emotions.
Insensitivity can ruin your reputation and relationship with others. You can learn to be more sensitive by learning how to be self-aware. Self-awareness is the first step to becoming a genuinely empathetic person.
When you’re self-aware you’re better able to grasp how the other person is feeling and how they might react to certain situations. You can teach yourself to become more self-aware by interacting with others about their emotions.
Realizing you’ve been insensitive to another person should make you want to practice being more empathetic. Try to place yourself in the position of the other person and think about how you would feel and react in the same predicament.
The old adage of walking a mile in another person’s shoes can help you tune in to the emotions of others. You can also practice empathy by being around others with opposite views than yours.
For example, consider attending a church service of another faith or befriending people who come from a different culture than you. Rather than ridicule them in your mind and think that you’re superior, find the goodness in the church or culture and imagine what it might be like for you to be in the same place.
As you begin to tune in to others’ emotions, you’ll begin to treat others as important and you will likely see the change in how others react to you. Rather than lumping people into a certain stereotypical group, take each person and get to know them individually.
You may be surprised that what you thought was a label that fits everyone in a group isn’t true at all. Every person has particular strengths and problems – many similar to yours.
Practice empathy to help yourself become less insensitive to others and to find out the world has much to offer rather than a narrow perspective of things.