Have you ever heard these words before?
“Don’t be such a cry baby!”
“I was just kidding — don’t take things so seriously.”
“You are way too sensitive. Get over it.”
If you’re a highly sensitive person (HSP) like me, you’ve probably felt “different” all of your life. While friends and family could let things roll off their backs, you suffered internally for hours or days. When others seemed to revel in loud environments with lots of activity and people, you wanted to run away and hide in a quiet place. You could walk in a room and immediately notice if the vibe was all wrong, but everyone else seemed oblivious.
In Western culture,toughness and emotional control are revered. while hypersensitivity is viewed as a character flaw or weakness. This is particularly true for men who are socialized from birth to hide their emotions and “buck up” in the face of emotional or physical pain. Many highly sensitive men stuff their feelings for years, too afraid to show the world they wear their heart on their sleeve. Sensitive men and women alike often feel alienated, embarrassed or shamed about their particular behaviors and needs.
High sensitivity is one of the most misunderstood and undervalued traits in the world. Yet it is a perfectly normal, scientifically documented personality trait held by 15-20% of all people (an equal number of men and women). It is also an essential trait for societies at large, as it reflects a type of survival strategy that benefits everyone — being observant and thoughtful before acting. Those with the highly sensitive trait might have an evolutionary advantage, as sensitives tend to process situations with their brains first, while others rush to act.
Fortunately for sensitive people, the word is spreading that we are not crazy or fragile. Dr. Elaine Aron, the pioneer in researching HSPs, has made an invaluable contribution to helping sensitives and non-sensitives alike understand and appreciate this unique trait. In fact, she views highly sensitive people as gifted and extremely valuable.
Here are 10 reasons highly sensitive people are highly valuable people:
1. They are deeply compassionate, empathetic, and thoughtful.
Because HSPs feel things so profoundly themselves, they are particularly aware of the suffering and needs of other people. A highly sensitive friend will be there for you during times of difficulty and will likely understand better than anyone what you need. They are excellent listeners and will make you feel truly heard in a non-judgmental way.
In a work environment, HSPs can manage people with their hearts and their heads, making employees feel valued, appreciated, and understood. They are kind and thoughtful co-workers who try to stay out of office politics and gossip, but are there to offer support and help when needed.
2. They can read the feelings of others.
HSPs have an uncanny ability to know what you’re feeling, sometimes before you do. They are masters at reading facial expressions and body language and have an intuitive feel for what is left unspoken. This allows them to be more compassionate and understanding than most others.
HSPs can walk in a room and discern if someone is putting out negative energy or if the environment is simply not desirable. You might enter a restaurant or party with an HSP, and they’ll say, “Let’s not stay here. Something’s off.” If you do stay, you eventually understand the reason they wanted to leave. Or you might walk on an elevator that someone is already on, and your HSP friend pulls you back saying, “Let’s wait for the next one. That person doesn’t feel right.”
Highly sensitive people tend to see things other people miss. They absorb the details of an environment, discussion, or situation, and these details might be quite useful later — especially in a work setting when the smallest details can tip the balance toward success with a client or project.
Not only do HSPs notice these subtleties, but their minds quickly process them to discern whether they are positive or negative, useful or neutral, interesting or ordinary. When you hang out with an HSP, you’ll expand your own view of the world around you and begin to notice things you’ve never noticed before.
4. They are purpose-oriented and have high ideals.
Highly sensitive people view the world not as it is, but as it could be. They want to make a difference and have high ideals about how to make the world a better place. They seek out careers that afford them the opportunity to do something meaningful that they value deeply.
HSPs often end up being the nurturers, healers, counselors, and creators in the world. They want to help other people, make life better, add to the beauty and joy of their surroundings, and leave a positive legacy.
Those who are connected to an HSP in a personal or professional setting will be uplifted and moved by this sense of purpose. It’s hard not to get caught up in an HSPs enthusiasm and commitment to an ideal or cause.
5. They are creative and innovative.
One of the greatest HSP gifts is their creativity. Because HSPs experience the world differently than other people and receive so much extra stimuli into their psyches, they are compelled to make sense of the internal chaos through creative expression. Creativity often becomes a coping mechanism for the sense of overwhelm they feel, but it is also a result of their active imagination and intelligence.
Since they experience the world differently, HSPs reflect what they experience in unique and innovative ways through art, music, dance, writing, or in any discipline which allows them to devise creative systems or find alternative ways to reach solutions.
6. They are highly conscientious and focused.
HSPs naturally ponder the consequences of their actions (or lack of action), making them reliably conscientious in their personal and professional lives. Also, because HSPs tend to reflect on past mistakes and failures, they quickly learn from them and seek to avoid repeating them.
HSPs will get the job done and do it thoroughly. If they promise you something, they’ll follow through. If they are working in the right environment (without distraction or noise), they are extremely focused and productive employees.
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7. They are peaceful, gentle, and calm.
HSPs don’t enjoy conflict. In fact, they avoid it at all costs, as loud voices and anger are deeply disturbing to them. They prefer calm, quiet environments (and people) that aren’t overly stimulating. An HSP will likely choose friends and romantic partners who are peaceful and positive and who don’t stimulate anxiety or anger. When you need a calm voice of reason or a peaceful environment, your HSP friend or work associate is the best place to find it.
Peaceful environments also allow the highly sensitive person to express their creativity and remain focused on their work. If a manager wants to get the most out of his HSP employee, he should never stick her in a loud cubicle with bright lights, nearby co-workers, and lots of distraction.
8. They are emotionally intelligent and self-aware.
Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others. Highly sensitive people have a greater understanding of how people around them function and why they do the things they do. They also have a keen awareness of their own sensitive natures and how their unique emotions impact themselves and others.
Many HSPs have learned to anticipate their own sensitive reactions and find constructive ways to express their feelings without causing themselves further pain. They are self-examined people who have learned to accept their intense emotions, but also how to regulate them.
9. They are excellent diplomats and mediators.
Because HSPs are tuned in to the feelings of others, they are good listeners, and they’re calm and emotionally intelligent, they are often excellent at handling situations that require diplomacy or mediation.
If two friends are in disagreement about something, an HSP can gently help them sort it out without taking sides or creating additional turmoil. If a sticky contract needs negotiating, an HSP is often just the right person to smooth things over and get the deal done.
An HSP is naturally inclined to try to understand the position of both sides, seek out the middle ground, and help all parties find a positive solution.
10. They are fiercely loyal.
HSPs love intensely and bond deeply with friends and romantic partners. Their relationships are intense, meaningful, and generally last a long time.
Highly sensitive people have a strong sense of duty and obligation that makes them committed to the people they care about. They don’t give up after an argument or disappear in search of a better friend. They are around for the long haul.
If you are a highly sensitive person and have felt embarrassed or different because of your reactions and feelings, please know that you are NOT strange, fragile, or weak. In fact, you are more gifted and powerful than most, and you can learn to use your gifts for the benefit of yourself and others.
If you aren’t an HSP, I hope you view your more sensitive friends and family members with a new perspective. A highly sensitive person can make an extremely loving, compassionate romantic partner, a devoted and caring friend, and a creative, principled, focused employee.
Please check out my new book, Finely Tuned: How to Thrive as a Highly Sensitive Person or Empath, to learn more about HSPs and how to become your best self as a highly sensitive person.