Ever wonder how to deal with a highly sensitive person? A great majority of suggestions out there work – if you’re not highly sensitive too.
If you’re highly sensitive, knowing how to deal with another highly sensitive person can be …. challenging.
It can be confusing when it comes to understanding what you’re bringing to the interaction and what they are.
Let’s unpack this.
As a Highly Sensitive Person, you are very aware of what is going on around you. You feel your own and others’ emotions deeply. Both of you have a knack for being able to identify subtleties and have been referred to as deep thinkers. You are used to being called “intense”. And maybe even ‘too sensitive’.
You know that your shared high sensitivity trait is based in biology, hard wired from birth.
Your experience of how to deal with a Highly Sensitive Person when you’re highly sensitive too will include ease and challenge. Be it in the workplace or a social gathering. Or with your child or parent. Or even in your relationship with your partner,
Taking time to reflect on how to deal with a highly sensitive person when you’re highly sensitive too makes sense.
The million dollar question is, does having this trait bode well for 2 HSPs in a relationship with each other?
In a dating or marital relationship, talking with your partner about how to deal with a highly sensitive person when you are one too is essential. Especially if your partner is not familiar with the trait despite having the trait.
Both of you appreciate intimate conversations, value intimacy, and detest small talk – so this is right up your alley.
Here are 5 ways dealing with a highly sensitive person when you’re highly sensitive too may be tricky.
- You are both prone to stress and overwhelm due to your high levels of awareness of nuance and deep processing of information. One overwhelmed person in a relationship can be taxing to both parties. Have a general plan for how to handle both of you feeling overwhelmed at the same time.
- You two are aware of subtleties that other people completely miss. Examples include tone of voice and facial expressions. Add to this the naturally high level of empathy you both have. The result? Emotional exhaustion. Feeling your own AND the other person’s emotions so intensely is very tiring! Just recognize and remind yourselves of this tendency.
- Deep processing of information is the hallmark of being an HSP. This means you both do a lot of reflecting on your experiences. It also means both of you are prone to overthinking. Negative overthinking in particular. You may both obsess over events and spiral into worry thoughts. Give each other space to process thoughts and feelings and permission to provide feedback if welcomed.
- Conflict avoidance is common among HSPs. Why? One reason is you feel your own and the other HSP’s emotions. As a result, you may end up doing or saying things to keep the other person happy – because conflict hurts and you both prefer to avoid it. However, swallowing your true feelings and thoughts will backfire. Your partner will likely sense it anyway, and a worse conflict could then ensue.
- In dating or marital relationships, knowing each other’s love language is a good idea. For HSPs, it is especially important so that each of you feels understood and validated by the other, especially if you two have different love languages.
Talking directly about potential areas of conflict with one another means your relationship is less likely to be derailed by any of them. Even if neither of you is a fan of confronting potential conflict.
Here are 5 ways dealing with a Highly Sensitive Person when you are highly sensitive too might just be natural.
- Intense emotions, including love, passion, and integrity go hand in hand with being highly sensitive. You will never have to worry about his loyalty because his love runs deep.
- You two share common experiences and approaches to life and to problem solving as Highly Sensitive People. At the end of the day, humans tend to seek a long term partner who thinks and even acts like them. Having a partner with similar underlying personality can translate to greater relationship satisfaction.
- HSPs are used to being thought of as quirky, and maybe even weird. Being in a relationship with someone who totally gets you is one of the most refreshing gifts. You may feel a levity and sense of connection to yourself that is unprecedented as a result of the validation your partner provides.
- Strong couples share many similarities and nuanced differences. Even as HSPs, there are differences. One of you may be extraverted (as are 30 percent of HSPs) and the other introverted. Or you may be a high sensation seeker HSP (30 percent of HSPs are), and he is not. While you two may have slight differences, your overall wiring is similar and you naturally ‘get’ each other.
- Both of you benefit from downtime and self care activities after socializing. You know this about each other and are thus less likely to take the other’s need for ‘me time’ personally. Both of you recognize the other’s need to regroup and recalibrate because you have the same need. And your partner taking time to unwind on their own makes it easy for you to do so too, sans guilt or justification.
How to deal with a highly sensitive person when you are highly sensitive too is often easier once you have an understanding of how you are similar and what the differences are.
You more often than not intuitively ‘get’ each other, and you know when you don’t. At the same time, when in doubt, ask your partner.
For HSPs, authenticity and consistency are two predictors of long term satisfaction in a relationship. You share this understanding, which protects again feelings of rejection or doubt.
You two have a history of experiencing the world differently than non-HSPs. Now you can share the exquisite gift of High Sensitivity.
You both value understanding and appreciating your partner’s traits, the things that get in the way, and what you need to thrive.
An extraordinary, passionate, satisfying relationship. With humor, gratitude, and awe.
I am a clinical psychologist specializing in helping Highly Sensitive People flourish. If you would like to learn more about me, please visit me here.
Highly Sensitive People (aka HSPs) feel the world deeply. They are born with a nervous system wired to be super attuned and responsive.
If you are a highly sensitive person, self-care is critical because everyday life can be draining. You need self-care to refuel so you can make best use of the unique gifts of being an HSP.
The trait isn’t super common, but it’s not an anomaly either. About 15 to 20 percent of the population is born with High Sensitivity, with an equal male to female ratio.
High sensitivity comes with advantages and disadvantages, benefits and bummers.
Feeling, thinking, and living with intensity adds depth and meaning. Kind of like living in a world of bright colors and beautiful sounds, delicious flavors and appealing textures.The natural capacity for affinity and soulful connection is interwoven into the trait.
Intensity can also lead to a sense of ‘too much-ness.’ And generate angst that something’s wrong with you. That you are ‘too much’ . But you’re not.
If there were such a thing as a ‘muchness continuum’, you would be just right. Because you are just right.
You’re uniquely you, and your perception of the world is what makes you so extraordinary.
Productivity, swift decision making, and a fast pace are highly valued and praised in modern-day. These aren’t the innate traits of highly sensitive people like you.
And thriving in an environment that isn’t necessarily nurturing doesn’t just automatically happen. But it can be learned, which is great because highly sensitive person self-care is critical to overall health and wellbeing.
Thriving as an HSP takes effort and psychological strength. And you’re up for the challenge, once you educate yourself on the trait.
You can create the kind of environment for yourself that is conducive to growth, as long as you understand the highly sensitive trait. Discovering how to accept, embrace, and enjoy the kind of person you are translates to having a rich, meaningful life.
Let’s use a flower analogy. Consider orchids. They require a supportive environment to grow and blossom. Air temperature, amount of sunlight and water, location, and other features of the environment have to be within a particular range for the flowers to blossom.
Orchids are sensitive to the care they receive and have an exceptional capacity to grow and blossom under favorable conditions. They wither in an environment that does not support their needs. Orchids are not the everyday kind of flower or plant sold in flower shops.
In the world of flowers, highly sensitive people would be orchids.
In contrast, consider dandelions. They grow in nearly any kind of environment. They proliferate regardless of the amount of water, sun, shade, or care they receive. Their roots are deep in the ground, so deep that even yanking at them has little effect.
Dandelions are hardy and easily endure variations in weather, soil, and temperature. They even grow through rocks and concrete! Dandelions are common and symbolically represent the 80 percent of people who are not HSPs.
Btw, the high sensitivity trait has been documented in over 100 species of animals including chimpanzees, deer, horses, birds, cats and dogs.
For humans, expression of the high sensitivity gene shows up in four areas. Within the four domains are features that can be enriching or overwhelming.
Knowing about the four categories can help you embrace being a highly sensitive person and understand why self-care is so necessary.
For a highly sensitive person, self-care takes more effort than it does for everyone else. Here is why:
- Depth of Processing. HSPs process things deeply. You reflect more often and intensely on the ways of the world, including your own internal workings, relationships, and decision making. You make connections in your mind that other people respond to by saying they never thought
- Overstimulation. HSPs’ senses respond intensely and easily. Certain smells, sounds, or textures are overwhelming to you – sometimes in good ways and sometimes in yucky ones.
Crowds, bright lights, and loud noises can also be overwhelming – usually in the negative sense of the word. They can activate your ‘fight or flight’ response. As a result, you’re likely among the first in certain environments to feel overstimulated. Excessive stimulation can be one of the hardest aspects of high sensitivity to manage. As long as you can access a calm or just calmer environment to recalibrate, you will regain your equilibrium.
- Empathy/Emotional responsiveness. HSPs feel deeply. So, you probably tend to worry, be sentimental, and may even be known as ‘intense.’ HSPs can easily worry about the health and welfare of those they believe to be less fortunate. We can become sentimental when we see a flower that reminds us of a loved one. And our emotions can exude from us, causing others to think we are intense.
- Sensory sensitivity. HSPs notice details and nuance. The moment-to-moment changes of a setting sun, a subtle shift in facial expression, or the sound of the wind as it picks up speed are all things you naturally notice. Your senses are highly attuned, and your experience of life is much richer than it is for many others.
For the highly sensitive person, self-care is absolutely essential.
The kind of self-care I am talking about goes beyond bubble baths and pedicures. Immersing yourself or your feet in warm, sudsy water may be lovely, but not what the doctor ordered. (Maybe it depends on if the doctor has the high sensitivity trait lol.)
The particular form of self-care is individual to you.
Here are some refreshing ideas for a highly sensitive person to consider:
Make time in your day to spend a few moments in solitude, in a quiet, calm space. This can be especially helpful on days you have experienced a loud event, conflict, or busy-ness that has left you feeling exhausted. Give yourself time and space to reset.
Getting enough restful sleep is critical for an HSP to recalibrate, replenish, and renew. If you have a difficult time getting the sleep you know you need, here is a helpful guide you may want to check out.
Let your natural creativity guide you toward other ways to practice self care. Make your own special go-to “coping container” or box. Decorate it in a way that makes you smile. Maybe incorporate decoupage, stickers, sparkles, or doodles.
To take it a step further, fill the container with sensory faves. Invite your favorite senses to the party! Hello cinnamon (smell), velvet (touch) swatch, Tibetan bells (sound), mint (taste), and favorite photo (sight). Awwww! If you are highly sensitive, reading the suggestions may automatically cause a smile and warm feeling inside.
Have fun creating your container and choosing the contents. Allow for whimsy and nostalgia. The collection provides relief when you are looking for a quick (or not) dose of comfort.
You can always change the contents of the collection at any time to keep it extra interesting. Or keep it the same if you prefer consistency and knowing what to expect.
Making sure you are well hydrated is another self-care must. The same goes for nourishment. Eating enough, including foods you enjoy, keeps your body satisfied and energized.
Stable blood sugar and hydration help HSPs put their best foot forward. Eat a snack in between meals to fend away irritability, brain fog, and feeling out of it. Have a snack with you so that fuel is there when you need it. Keep a water bottle handy for easy go-to sips of water.
Compassion toward living things comes naturally for HSPs. Self compassion is not as automatic. A tender relationship with yourself softens how you speak with and care for yourself.
Treat yourself as you would a friend or a beloved. Maybe even refer to yourself with a pet name, such as “Sweetheart” or an empowering image like “Rockstar”. Or even a silly or superhero name to add light heartedness.
In any given situation you may need ‘extra’. Extra time, space, or comfort, for example. Trust that what you need is valid. Because it is.
If you are a highly sensitive person, self-care is critical to thriving.
Familiarize yourself with the four areas that comprise the gift of being a highly sensitive person. Honor and appreciate what you know to be true about yourself. Be open to and curious about what helps you be you- with all your splendor, wonderful quirks, and ways of being in the world.
Doing so will help you to discover, affirm, and prioritize whatever your orchid needs to thrive.
I’m Dr. Elayne Daniels, a psychotherapist, and I specialize in working with highly sensitive people. To learn more about my work, visit HSP page. If you’re in the Canton, MA area and are interested in working with me, you can contact me here.
In a recent magazine interview, Ashley Judd spoke about her role in the movie Divergent. Based on the book series, the film is about a society that divides people into five factions, each based on a different virtue. A decision has to be made at age 16 to remain in the faction one was born into or switch into another, for life.
Judd’s character is torn between two powerful forces: The desire to belong, and the desire to be an individual.
Judd describes her true life struggle with the very same tension, especially during adolescence.
I think we can all relate to that struggle. And not just during adolescence.
In Judd’s case, her mother (Naomi) and sister (Wynonna) were on tour much of the time. Judd moved in with her father, who often left Judd alone.
She credits psychotherapy with helping her to recognize the longing created by her mother’s and sister’s absence. (Yay, therapy!)
I was thinking about the same kind of struggle today. How much do I want to fit in and be like everyone else, and how much do I want to assert individuality, even if it means setting myself apart?
Today’s yoga class was filled with fit women wearing perfectly matched clothing. The Lululemon symbols were on every mat. Except for on my mat.
I was not wearing Lululemon. I don’t own any Lululemon, not even a headband.
I don’t agree with their philosophy and don’t want to support their company. In my opinion, they practice weight discrimination and prejudice.
By not wearing what everyone else in the class was wearing, was I an outcast? Taken less seriously?
Maybe, by some. Maybe not.
As I get older I feel less concerned.
I am reminded of grade school days. Sometimes I preferred to spend recess in the library and not on the soccer field.
Even though I wanted to be thought of as athletic and cool, I also wanted to read and spend time being quiet.
So, today, after yoga class, when I stop by the library in my non brand name yoga wear, I smile at the Universe.
It is poetic how it all assembles, eventually. How we decide whichever faction we want to be a part of, whenever we want, and for whatever reason we want.
We really can choose.
I choose limitlessness, because honoring all the different aspects of who I am is incredibly freeing.