Highly sensitive people process sensory information in a different way to the rest of the population. It means our nervous system is more sensitive to all the noise, busyness, conflict and visual stimuli of the world around us.
Overstimulation happens more quickly than in the other 80% of the population, resulting in physical and mental exhaustion.That means we highly sensitive people reach breaking point quicker than many others.
So why is is important that non highly sensitive people also know what it means to be highly sensitive? Here are four good reasons why.
1. The Maths Makes Sense: 15 – 20%
Between 15 and 20% of the population is highly sensitive. That’s no small number when you start doing the maths. That translates to around 10 million people in Britain alone. It means that around one fifth of the population is highly sensitive.
What that translates to is that highly sensitive people are everywhere, in all walks of life; attending schools, in the workplace, serving you your double latte and eating in your Michelin star restaurant, serving on the PTA and in the board room, attending language courses and sports schools, running the local garage and delivering keynote speeches.
You undoubtedly know someone who is highly sensitive, but you may not know they are highly sensitive. They may not even know they are highly sensitive. It just makes sense to be aware.
2. We Want You to Get the Best Out of Us
If you are a teacher or a manager, if you deal with customers or run your own business, you’ll come into daily contact with highly sensitive adults or children.
When it comes to getting the best out of highly sensitive people in the team you manage, or the students you teach, you need to apply a different perspective, a different way of working.
If you need to understand your customer to solve issues or sell your products, then you need a different approach when you deal with highly sensitive people.
That open plan office with artificial lights and the constant buzzing of chatter and telephone won’t get the best out of your highly sensitive workers. A busy classroom with constant noise won’t help highly sensitive children reach their learning goals. A brash, hard sell sales pitch won’t get you sales.
If you take the time to learn more about highly sensitive people, you’ll get the best out of an incredibly skilled, insightful pool of people.
3. Understanding Means Less Judgement
If you understand what it means to be highly sensitive, you’ll be less likely to judge behaviour and reactions that you just don’t understand. You’ll be less likely to jump to ill-founded conclusions.
That three year old at your son’s birthday party is not a spoilt, fussy child but one who is completely overwhelmed by the noise, decorations and food choices. The overload turns into an uncontrollable tantrum which only being in the safety of his mother’s arms can tame.
Your ten year old nephew is not ungrateful as you hand him his birthday present, he just doesn’t like being the focus of attention whilst he unwraps it. He knows you’re looking closely for exactly the right face when he opens your gift and he hates that feeling of pressure. Give him time and space and he’ll come to you with warm gratitude.
That quiet, new team member is not clueless, but she feels uncomfortable thinking on her feet, especially sitting in a discussion group with the louder, dominant members of the workgroup. Give her time after the meeting to think about the issue and she’ll come back with fantastic ideas.
4. Understanding Means You Won’t Take Things Personally
If you understand what it means to be highly sensitive you’ll be less likely to take reactions and responses personally.
We’d love, in theory, to go out to lunch, but without some kind of downtime at some point of the day we feel like we’re heading for a meltdown. That’s why it invariably ends up in lunch alone at our desks.
That exhibition at the weekend sounds greats; the crowds that will be there don’t. I’d rather stay home.
My son would love to come and play at yours after school but he needs time to recover from his school day. He needs time, solitude and quiet to give the day’s events a place.
Your son’s friend would love to come to his birthday party, but she’s never been to your house before, she doesn’t know you, and the stress of the unknown negates any fun she’d have at the party.
None of it is personal but highly sensitive people learn quickly to know their own boundaries. Withdrawal is not a question of bad manners, it’s a method of survival – and you shouldn’t take it personally. Work with us to find a solution – there’s always one there somewhere.