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Are You Aware of Your Impact on Others? Part One

In today’s blog I thought I would share with you the concept I developed many years ago that I found extremely helpful when interacting with others and wanting to be sure they felt safe with me.

Let’s start with a question: How often do you pause in your day-to-day life to consider how you may be impacting others? If so, why do you think this is important to ensure that your relationships are kind, caring and nurturing?

What Is Impact Sensitivity?

Impact Sensitivity is a way to describe the degree to which someone is not only aware of what they are hoping to communicate and why, but also how what is being communicated can impact the other person.

The Connection Between Impact Sensitivity and Empathy

Impact Sensitivity is a form of empathy, which is a key characteristic of someone who Daniel Goleman would consider to be Emotionally Intelligent. Empathy involves being aware and appreciative of how someone might be feeling that is based on that person’s own similar experiences or feelings.

Impact Sensitivity goes one step further into the situation and invites the person to consider how they are contributing to another person’s experience or feelings. Example of an inner dialogue: “Not only am I raising my awareness to how you are thinking and feeling based on my own experiences and feelings, I am simultaneously raising my awareness with regard to how I have contributed to how you are thinking and feeling.”

An analysis of an interaction between two people does not include only what the sender is attempting to transmit to the other person. It also needs to include how that other person actually translates and interprets the messages the sender transmitted (i.e. how they were impacted by the messages). Being highly sensitive and intentional about the impact you might be having on the other greatly increases the likelihood that your relationship will grow to be strong and healthy.

Two Important Considerations to Have When Considering Your Impact:

  1.  How vulnerable is the person? The more vulnerable a person is the greater the potential to be impacted by others. When someone has low self-esteem, low self-confidence, is chronically insecure, overwhelmed or in despair, they may be very susceptible to the input and feedback of others.
  2. How old is the person? The younger the person, the more vulnerable they are likely to be. Young children are not mature enough to cognitively process events and interactions around them and do not have the internal defenses older children and adults have that are self-protective. They are more vulnerable to significant impact from others.

What Can Make It Difficult to Be Impact Sensitive?

There are circumstances and individuals who are less likely to be Impact Sensitive.

These include the degree to which a person is:

  • Immature morally, relationally, socially, intellectually, emotionally and/or spiritually, which often means they are less responsible, less self- and other aware, more self-centered, more interested in superficial and instant, personal gratification.
  • In crisis, which makes it difficult to focus on the needs of others.
  • Highly emotional, which makes it difficult to think or be highly aware.
  • Arrogant, self-righteous, which means it is very difficult to openly consider the needs, feelings and perspectives of others.

What Can Promote Increased Impact Sensitivity?

There are reasons that can explain why some people are more Impact Sensitive than others.

These include the degree to which a person is:

  • Mature morally, relationally, socially, intellectually, emotionally and spiritually, has a strong sense of responsibility for their behavior and how they impact others.
  • Process and people oriented, someone who values relational health.
  • Highly self-aware, because they can use that self-awareness to better understand and appreciate how others are feeling and what their needs and perspectives might be.
  • More humble, willing to accept flaws, inadequacies, which can allow someone to be open to their impact, even if that impact is not what they want it to be.
  • Willing to put an effort into being Impact Sensitive.

The Benefits of Becoming More Impact Sensitive

Becoming more aware of your impact enhances your abilities to be a more effective, healthy and intentional communicator. This awareness allows you to be someone who can contribute in positive ways to the strength, depth and health of your relationships.

It takes time, focus and intentionality to raise your levels of impact sensitivity. It is as if you must hit the pause button when you are interacting with someone to mentally ask yourself how you might be impacting them.

You can also consider what your impact might have been in a recent conversation and, if you suspect the person may have been at all uncomfortable, confused or hurt. Maybe you can find a way to interact with them again and acknowledge that you may have inadvertently said something that could have been very challenging for them to hear.

I have found that the more impact sensitive I have become, the better I am at Active Listening and in general engaging with someone to help meet some of their needs. I hope you find this concept as valuable as I have found it to be.

We will consider this exploration in more depth in my next blog.

Invitation for Reflection

  1. How familiar are you with this concept? Is it brand new to you? If so, how does it make you feel?
  2. Who can you interact with to work on your impact sensitivity?
  3. How do you think it might impact you if you become more Impact sensitive?
  4. How might it impact your relationships?






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