Are you highly sensitive in relationships? Do you know someone in your personal or professional relationship who may be highly sensitive? High sensitivity can be defined as acute physical, mental, and emotional responses to external (social, environmental) or internal (intra-personal) stimuli.
Although there are many positive attributes to being sensitive in relationships (such as greater ability to listen and affirm, greater empathy and intuitiveness, better understanding of others’ wants and needs, etc.), in this writing we will focus on aspects of high sensitivity in relationships which adversely affect one’s health, happiness and well-being. A reader wrote to me recently that being a highly sensitive person is both “a blessing and a curse.” This challenge is particularly true in interpersonal situations.
Below are fifteen signs of high sensitivity in relationships. While many people may experience some of these signs from time to time, a highly sensitive person will likely “feel too often” and “feel too deep”. Some individuals may be highly sensitive to just one or two stimuli, while others may be strongly affected by more on the list.
1. Often thinks/worries about what others are thinking.
2. Tends to take things personally.
3. Is afraid of rejection, even in relatively minor situations.
4. Often have negative expectations (i.e. “they won’t like me”) when interacting with others.
5. Often experiences negative emotions (i.e. stress, anxiety) when interacting with others.
6. Finds it difficult, when triggered by relatively small unpleasantness with people, to just “let it go”.
7. Feels hurt and disappointment easily.
8. Compares self with others often (in physical, relational, social, work, financial, or other scenarios), and experiences unhappy feelings from negative social comparison.
9. Often hides negative feelings, believing they are too strong, turbulent, embarrassing or vulnerable to share. Keeps a lot of negative emotions inside.
10. Alternatively, often discusses negative emotions with others because there’s a lot of “drama” in one’s life.
11. Has a hard time accepting critical feedback, even when given reasonably and constructively.
12. Often feels like people are judgmental, even when there’s no strong evidence.
13. Often overreacts to real or perceived slights and provocations.
14. Often feels awkward in group situations, and feels uneasy/not being able to be oneself.
15. Feels self-conscious in romantically intimate situations. Excessively worry about partner’s approval. Unreasonably afraid of being judged or rejected by a romantic partner.
For many highly sensitive people, the key to managing oversensitivity is to utilize emotional immunity and sensory immunity strategies (see references below), to smartly calm and alleviate over-stimulation. For those who live or work with highly sensitive individuals, effective communication skills are a must to foster positive and constructive relationships.