Do you feel like you ponder things more than those around you? Are you constantly wondering how other people feel? Do you prefer quiet, less chaotic atmospheres?
If you said “yes” to most of the previous questions, the chances are that you are a highly sensitive person. Elaine N. Aron, Ph.D., researched this relatively common personality trait. Her research indicates that there are as many as one in five people who have it. Aron has multiple studies and publications on the topic, one of which is The Highly Sensitive Person. She also developed a self-test (which you can take here) to help you determine if you are a highly sensitive personality type.
Susan Cain’s book, Quiet, stirred more awareness and interest in introversion, which of course led to heightened interest in personality traits that require less stimulation and higher sensitivity. It is well noted, however, that highly sensitive people still tend to not be noticed and are considered the “minority.” And of course, this is not a bad thing – it’s just something we are all becoming more aware of. So whether you said “yes” to the earlier questions or know someone who would, you will be very interested to read some of the commonalities shared by highly sensitive people.
1. They tend to feel more deeply.
Highly sensitive folks “like to process things on a deep level,” Ted Zeff, Ph.D., author of The Highly Sensitive Person’s Survival Guide. He says, “They’re very intuitive, and go very deep inside to try to figure things out.”
2. They react more in a situation.
People who are highly sensitive tend to emotionally react more than the average person in a situation. For example, they may have more empathy and be concerned for a friend in their struggles. They might also be concerned about how another person may respond to a negative event.
3. They are likely used to hearing, “Don’t take things so personally” or “Why are you so sensitive?”
Depending on the culture, sensitivity can be perceived as a positive or a negative trait. For example, highly sensitive men from other countries such as Thailand and India were rarely or never teased. However, that was not the case for men from North America. So a lot depends on the culture – not only where you are from, but where you reside now.
4. They prefer to exercise by themselves.
Highly sensitive people likely avoid team sports as they may feel like everyone is scrutinizing their every move. They are likely to prefer individual sports, such as cycling, running and hiking rather than group sports. But this is not a blanket rule as the parents of some highly sensitive people may have provided an understanding and supportive environment that might have made it easier for them to participate in group sports.
5. They tend to be indecisive.
Highly sensitive people tend to be overwhelmed by too many options or details. Simple decisions to them are, well, not that simple. Even when there is not a “right” or “wrong” answer — for example, there is not a “wrong” flavor of ice cream to choose for oneself – a highly sensitive person will take longer as they weigh every possible outcome. And what is one to do when they are with someone like this? Take as long as time allows.” What really helps is to allow them to really come to a decision they think is “right” – this will help them make the same decision the next time around. In other words, they are likely to be creatures of habit.
6. Along the same lines, they tend to be very upset if they make a “bad” or “wrong” decision.
You know that terrible feeling you get when you realize you made a bad decision? Well, for the highly sensitive person, the emotion is amplified. So your empathy is appreciated.
7. They tend to be extremely detail-oriented.
Whether it’s a new pair of shoes that you are wearing or a change in the weather, highly sensitive people are the first ones to notice.
8. They are not all introverts.
Research indicates that approximately 30% of highly sensitive people are extroverts. (And of course, extroverts meaning they “charge their batteries” by being around people – being outgoing is a whole other thing. Introverts need to be alone to feel recharged.)
9. They tend to thrive in team environments.
Because highly sensitive people are deep thinkers, they tend to make valuable co-workers on teams. However, they are likely best suited for positions in teams where they don’t have to make the final call. For example, if a highly sensitive person was part of a medical team, she or he would be most valuable assessing the costs versus benefits of conducting a surgery. However, someone else should ultimately make the decision about whether that patient would undergo surgery.
10. They may be more prone to anxiety or depression.
The best way to combat this is to have a supportive environment to protect against this. The parents of highly sensitive children need to understand that their kids need to be handled in the right way. The goal is to make them feel safe so they are confident – then they will thrive.An irritating noise is likely significantly moreirritating to a highly sensitive person.
Not to say that anyone likes annoying noises, but highly sensitive people are much more sensitive to chaos and noise. They tend to be more easily overwhelmed and over stimulated if surrounded by too much activity.
11. Violent movies are a no-go.
Because highly sensitive people rate so high on the empathy scale on top of being easily over stimulated, flicks featuring violence or horror might not be the best.
12. They tend to cry easily.
It is important for highly sensitive people to put themselves in situations where they won’t be embarrassed to cry. It is helpful that friends and family know that’s just how they are and support them rather than shame them.
13. They have above-average etiquette.
Being highly conscientious, highly sensitive people are likely to be considerate and exhibit good manners. For example, highly sensitive people may be more aware of where their cart is located in the grocery store. It is not out of a fear that someone will remove something out of it, but because they do not want to be rude to others by having their cart block someone else.
14. Criticism feels 10 times worse.
Highly sensitive people have terrible reactions to criticism. As a result, they may choose to employ certain tactics to avoid criticism, such as people-pleasing (whereby they remove anything to criticize), criticizing themselves first, and avoiding the source of the criticism altogether.
15. Cubicles typically resonate well — open-office plans don’t.
Just like highly sensitive people like to work out by themselves – they also like to work by themselves when getting their portion of the team’s work done. They do enjoy working from home or being self-employed as they can control the stimuli in their work environments. They also enjoy working in cubicles (granted a flexible work schedule) where there is more privacy and less noise than an open office plan.