How to Relate to Highly Sensitive People

Highly sensitive people make up approximately 20% of the population, and they perceive and process emotional information differently. Discover some keys to avoid conflicts and misunderstandings when communicating with highly sensitive people.
How to Relate to Highly Sensitive People

Last update: 23 May, 2021

It’s not easy to communicate with highly sensitive people. These people have a special sensitivity that can make their day-to-day life difficult if they don’t learn to manage it. This is especially true if the people around them don’t understand them. That’s why today we want to talk about how to relate to highly sensitive people.

It’s estimated that about 20% of the population has this high sensitivity, so it’s likely that you know someone with these characteristics or even that you yourself have them.

These are highly emotional, intuitive, and empathetic people. They perceive a greater amount of sensory training, more quickly and at a deeper level. Therefore, their reactions to the world and stimulation are also different.

How to identify highly sensitive people

The high sensitivity of these people has a biological basis. It has been found that their central nervous system has higher reactivity than in the rest of the population. In addition, certain genetic markers have been identified.

Add to this innate temperament life experiences and environmental influences, and you get what we know as highly sensitive people. The following are some of their main characteristics.

Deep reflection

A highly sensitive person perceives a greater amount of information, but also tends to process it much more deeply than others. Thus, there’s often a tendency to reflect and analyze to fully understand every aspect of reality.

A woman reflecting
Solitude is a way of life sought by highly sensitive people because it allows them to separate themselves from what affects them to recharge.

Highly sensitive people prefer to be alone

Because of their nervous system’s innate sensitivity to sensory and emotional stimulation, these individuals may feel overloaded or overstimulated easily. They tend to find loud noises, bright lights, and crowds exhausting, uncomfortable and stressful.

As a result, they show a tendency toward introversion, enjoy solitude, and need these quiet moments to recharge.

Strong emotionality

Because of their special sensitivity, they easily grasp emotional nuances and subtleties that for others go unnoticed. They perceive the emotions of others with greater strength and also experience and express their own emotional states with intensity.

They’re very empathetic and are often involved in their emotional relationships with others. They may have difficulty setting boundaries and speaking up for their desires and needs. This may sometimes be exasperated by their perception of being “different” or feeling like something is wrong with them.

Tips for relationships with highly sensitive people

Since 80% of the population doesn’t have this trait, difficulties may arise when it comes to understanding the reality of highly sensitive people and relating to them. That’s why we want to show you some guidelines that you can follow to avoid conflicts and misunderstandings.

1. Be understanding

First of all, keep in mind that highly sensitive people feel with greater intensity. Therefore, avoid judging them or accusing them of being dramatic.

Don’t invalidate their feelings. This will only make them repress their emotions, make them feel misunderstood, and even lead to psychosomatic discomfort.

Likewise, remember that there isn’t anything wrong with them. Therefore, don’t try to change them. Their perception of the world is different from yours but equally valid.

2. Be sensitive to their needs

We’ve already determined that these people can become overwhelmed when external stimulation is excessive. Therefore, try not to put them in situations that make them uncomfortable or raise your voice excessively. Select quiet environments to be in their company – they’ll appreciate this.

Know that they’re also very attentive, generous, and empathetic to the emotions of others. However, they also need that listening and support that they so easily provide from those around them.  Allow them to express themselves and offer them a safe space to share their concerns and feelings. Avoid being rigid or cold in your interactions or advice.

3. Honesty is the best policy

Sometimes, human beings tend to hide what we think, what we feel, and what concerns us. We put on a mask and pretend to be okay.

Highly sensitive people are very capable of sensing the inner states of others and will notice any slight variation in your mood. Therefore, if they ask you, it’s best that you speak to them honestly.

Otherwise, they’ll try to analyze and reflect in order to understand and this may cause them to become upset or anxious.

A woman and a boy
Sympathetic support and sincere listening are aspects that cannot be neglected in highly sensitive people.

Remember that sensitivity is part of who they are

If you have a highly sensitive person in your life, you may find it difficult to understand their way of perceiving the world, expressing themselves, and feeling. You may be surprised by their need to be alone, their slowness in processing information, their indecisiveness or their sensitivity to criticism.

However, all these traits are part of their personality, and you have to accept the person as they are. In addition, you’ll discover that their virtues are also varied and wonderful: kindness, warmth, generosity, loyalty, creativity, intuition, empathy, intelligence, and depth.

Meanwhile, if you’re a highly sensitive person, you may need to learn to manage some of your reactions and emotions to avoid suffering. Setting boundaries, expressing your needs, and taking care of yourself are necessary.

Don’t try to repress or hide your sensitivity: appreciate it and value it, because it’s also part of who you are as a person and what makes you so valuable to the world.

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  • Aron, E. N., & Aron, A. (1997). Sensory-processing sensitivity and its relation to introversion and emotionality. Journal of personality and social psychology73(2), 345.
  • Acevedo, B. P., Aron, E. N., Aron, A., Sangster, M. D., Collins, N., & Brown, L. L. (2014). The highly sensitive brain: an fMRI study of sensory processing sensitivity and response to others’ emotions. Brain and behavior4(4), 580-594.
  • Acevedo, B. (2021, 31 enero). Consejos prácticos para el cerebro altamente sensible. Recuperado marzo de 2021, de https://pasespana.com/consejos-practicos-para-el-cerebro-altamente-sensible