Recognising and Dealing with the Highly Sensitive Person
Who is a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP)?
A term coined by clinical psychologist Dr. Elaine Aron, a highly sensitive person is someone who feels all emotions strongly – not only their own, but those of others. A sensitive person or an empath often has more heightened awareness to stimuli. High sensitivity may be genetic, although, there are people who develop it as a character trait over the course of time.
Being Sensitive: Advantageous or Hindering?
There is nothing wrong with being a sensitive creature, despite the highs and lows associated with it. People categorise you as ‘overly-emotional’, but you simply feel things. HSPs may be introverts, extroverts or a combination of the two.
- You are a kind person who is considerate of others’ feelings
- You tend to be very friendly
- You react more in emotional situations
- You think deeply, and therefore, work well in team environments
- You are detail-oriented
- You are creative, intuitive and deeply appreciative of the arts
- You’re extremely polite, even when others are not
Despite all the good things, there are a few negatives associated with being highly sensitive.
- You are easily triggered
- You are a bit of a people pleaser
- You attract narcissists
- You cannot say ‘no’
- Making a decision takes a great deal of time
- Your pain threshold is lower than others
- You experience mood swings more frequently
How do you deal with someone sensitive?
Around 20% of the world’s population identifies as highly sensitive based Dr. Aron’s experiments and research. There are a few universal ways you can deal with sensitive people:
- Accept them: Understand that a sensitive person is made the way they are. They are not trying to manipulate you or make your life more difficult.
- Watch what you say: “You’re too emotional” or “Why are you so sensitive” are just a few things you should avoid saying to an HSP. Don’t make them feel that they’re not normal.
- Don’t ‘fix’ it: Sensitivity is a personality trait – it’s not a sign of being broken, so don’t discuss trying to ‘fix’ them.
- Indoor voices: If you want a sensitive person to achieve something, be calm, encouraging and supportive. Every word you say is being digested, along with your tone, expression and even the words you’re not saying.
- Take criticism as a compliment: HSPs are born with a keen sense of detail. If they point out an improvement, take them seriously.
- Deal with your annoyance: Your idea of ‘normal’ is not the same as theirs. The HSP is doing everything they can to ‘fit in’ amid the critical world that drains and hurts them. If they’re making the effort to cope up, despite the toll it takes on their well-being, you can find the courage to deal with petty annoyances.
What if YOU are the sensitive person?
If you are the HSP, then you need to realise that it’s completely OKAY to be one. Here are a few tips to help you power through:
- You are NOT broken: Accept that wholeheartedly. Being an HSP or an empath is a gift to be treasured despite what others may say.
- ‘Me’ time: Take a few moments out of your day to decompress and calm yourself
- Boundaries: Know your triggers – people, foods and stimuli, and avoid them as much as you can. Learn to say no to those that harm you.
- Stop apologising: Don’t say sorry for who you are and how you feel. Not everyone is like you – you’re unique, you’re wonderful and you’re amazing!
- Manage your emotions: Pay attention to how you feel. Be conscious of it, so that you can observe your thoughts before reacting
- Hello health: Work towards staying fit and levelling your mood with exercise
- Be happy: Do things that make you happy
- Know your ‘inner’ self: Practice ‘Earthing’ or ‘Grounding’ with nature every day to center yourself. Mindful meditation will also help you stay in touch with your emotions.
If you are an HSP or an empath, you have the ability to use your sensitivity for the greater good – not just for others, but also for yourself. Acknowledge that your profound emotions are not universally understood, and that makes you special! Should you have trouble dealing with overwhelming emotions, speak to a professional who can help you manage your emotions.