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Communicating with the Highly Sensitive People in Your Organization (And Your Life)
You ever notice that there are some people who seem more sensitive to lights, sound, crowds, and chaos? They may be the first out of the meeting, or prefer hiding away in a quiet hidden cubicle. They may not engage much with others, but when they do speak they often have incredibly insightful things to contribute and say. They may be labeled as "emotionally sensitive" when really, they simply feel their feelings more intensely and deeply. These may be highly sensitive people, and it's important to understand them and make room for their processing style in your organization.
Highly Sensitive People, who make up about 15-20% of the population, experience the world more intensely due to their high level of sensory processing sensitivity. This trait, though often misunderstood, can be appreciated and accommodated in our daily interactions. Communicating with a highly sensitive person (HSP) requires understanding, empathy, and a few special considerations. Here are some key points to consider when communicating with a highly sensitive person:
- Understanding Sensitivity
First and foremost, it's important to recognize that high sensitivity is a normal, innate trait, not a flaw or weakness. HSPs are often very empathetic, conscientious, and perceptive, qualities that should be valued and respected.
- Creating a Safe Space for Expression
HSPs often feel things deeply and may need a safe, non-judgmental space to express their thoughts and feelings. When communicating, it's beneficial to create an environment that feels open and accepting.
- Mindful Language and Tone
The words we choose and the tone we use can have a significant impact on HSPs. They tend to be more affected by harsh language or a critical tone. Therefore, it's helpful to speak in a way that is kind, understanding, and supportive.
Active listening is key in any communication, but it's especially important with HSPs. They often pick up on non-verbal cues and underlying emotions, so being genuinely engaged and present in the conversation can build trust and understanding.
- Avoiding Overstimulation
HSPs can easily become overwhelmed by too much sensory input. In conversations, this means avoiding overly loud environments or chaotic situations which can be distracting or distressing for them.
- Respecting Boundaries
Understanding and respecting boundaries is crucial. HSPs may need more time alone to process their experiences and emotions. Respecting their need for space is an important aspect of communicating effectively with them.
- Embracing Empathy
Empathy goes a long way in connecting with an HSP. Trying to see the world from their perspective can help in understanding their reactions and needs better.
- Patience is Key
HSPs might take longer to make decisions or respond to situations, as they process information deeply. Patience in these situations can be a great support to them.
- Feedback with Care
When giving feedback, it's best to be gentle and constructive. Harsh criticism can be very hurtful to an HSP. Instead, framing feedback in a positive, supportive manner can be more effective.
- Celebrating Their Strengths
Finally, it's important to acknowledge and celebrate the strengths of HSPs. Their depth of feeling, intuition, and empathy can be great assets in any relationship or team.
In summary, communicating with a highly sensitive person is not about walking on eggshells but about embracing empathy, patience, and understanding. Recognizing and appreciating the depth of their emotional world can lead to more meaningful and enriching interactions.
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