A highly sensitive person is someone whose nervous system is more developed than that of most people.
They are intuitive and empathetic, and can become overstimulated very easily. They often feel overwhelmed by the world around them and retreat into a rich and vibrant inner life.
Building and maintaining healthy relationships can be somewhat of a challenge for this group. Highly sensitive people are, by nature, difficult for others to figure out. Because they feel so deeply, their reactions are often not typical and may be confusing or frustrating to those around them. Often, loved ones will feel rejected by a highly sensitive person when their friend is simply exhausted from their own high level of emotional stimulation.
Highly sensitive people require a greater than average amount of self-care to remain healthy. They also benefit tremendously from a support network of people who are willing to help with this effort.
Here are fourteen things you can do to support your highly sensitive loved one:
1. Don’t be surprised if a highly sensitive person falls off the grid for a few days.
They reach emotional exhaustion very quickly, and need much more time than most people to recharge. Let them be while they do this.
2. If you live together, make an effort to keep a clean living environment.
Highly sensitive people are easily overwhelmed by clutter.
3. Avoid getting into political or religious arguments.
Highly sensitive people take a passionate interest in these issues and believe very deeply in their opinions. They will become angry and offended by opposing views, even if you voice your disagreement diplomatically. Highly sensitive people do not do well with conflict. Feel free to discuss commonalities in your political opinions – but where your views diverge, just agree to disagree.
4. Give your highly sensitive loved one space when they are working on a project.
They have a powerful sense of focus, and often lose themselves in their most treasured work. Distractions can be downright infuriating.
5. Don’t try to recruit a highly sensitive person as your exercise partner.
Although many enjoy physical activity, they prefer to engage in it as a solitary pursuit. A highly sensitive person’s connection to their body is spiritual, and not social.
6. If you ride to a party together, accept that your highly sensitive friend will most likely want to leave earlier than you.
7. Don’t expect your highly sensitive friend to get excited about last minute plans.
They prefer to know what their day will look like from the very beginning so they can prepare themselves. To shake up their itinerary is usually an unwelcome imposition.
8. Be honest about any negative emotions you are feeling.
A highly sensitive person will pick up on these and feel a strong need to understand them. To tell them you are “fine” will feel confusing and alienating – they will wonder what they did wrong.
9. Try not to take offense when you find your highly sensitive loved one to be critical of you.
They have an acute eye for detail and are simply trying to help. A highly sensitive person will only do this if they feel very comfortable with you.
10. When you are in a crowded place, your highly sensitive friend will most likely fall silent.
Don’t worry about them or pressure them to talk to you. They aren’t upset – they simply have a lot to process.
11. Don’t pressure a highly sensitive person to drink or do drugs.
They may experience the effects much differently than other people do.
12. Encourage their creative endeavors.
For highly sensitive people, these provide a much needed mental and emotional release. Do not try to commercialize them. To a highly sensitive person, their art is personal and therapeutic, and they are not interested in selling it.
13. Be conscious of your vocal volume.
Highly sensitive people can feel assaulted and overwhelmed when their environment is too loud, and especially when people are shouting over one another.
14. Encourage your highly sensitive friend to be honest with you.
Do not accuse them of complaining when they do so.
“The point is best made by Aristotle, who supposedly asked, “Would you rather be a happy pig or an unhappy human?” HSPs prefer the good feeling of being very conscious, very human, even if what we are conscious of is not always cause for rejoicing,” wrote Elaine N. Aron,