4 Reasons Why Everyone Should Understand What ‘Highly Sensitive’ Means

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.

4 Reasons Why Everyone Should Understand What 'Highly Sensitive' Means

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.


A party can be overwhelming for a HSC

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.


Presents bring expectations – and pressure

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.

4 reasons why everyone should know what highly sensitive is


About Amanda van Mulligen

Mother, writer, author, blogger. Born British, Living Dutch. I have three Dutch sons and a Dutch husband and I blog about Turning Dutch and raising highly sensitive children.
This entry was posted in The What and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to 4 Reasons Why Everyone Should Understand What ‘Highly Sensitive’ Means

  1. Pingback: Being Highly Sensitive IS Normal | Happy Sensitive Kids

  2. Pingback: 7 Problems Highly Sensitive People Face | Happy Sensitive Kids

  3. Great work Amanda 🙂 The first stage for all our highly sensitive children is for them to learn about their high sensitivity and gain an understanding of how this affects them hence finding their boundaries and ways to self regulate themselves. The next challenge is to understand and accept this makes them a little different to others (and being different is good) which means they will be misunderstood and at times this will be upsetting, being aware of this is important but we must give our children the strength not to be governed by this. The key to strength and resilience is understanding themselves (emotional literacy) and how others might be so they can be prepared . If we all can strive to get every child to understand themselves and have an ther own little action plan for those tricky situations when others just don’t get it then they will thrive

    Liked by 1 person

    • That is definitely the goal. I see the main goal of parenting a HSC as filling their tool box with things they can use as they go through their childhood and teenage years so that by the time they are an adult they know themselves, are accepting of all their sensitive traits, and can manoeuvre through tricky situations. Unfortunately, whilst they are little we, as parents, need help. They spend so much time in a classroom, and need support there – and that is often where it already goes horribly wrong and children ‘learn’ early on that their reactions and emotions are not ‘normal’. That’s why I think all teachers should have knowledge of highly sensitive traits and what it means for a child. I get that teachers can not pander to every child’s individual need but a basic understanding that 15 – 20% of children is highly sensitive and what that means is a good place to start.


  4. Fantastic post! Awareness would help our kids (and us) so much. I will never forget the looks we got at birthday parties. Or actually it was one birthday party because we refused to put our son and ourselves through that again. And his 3rd birthday… Oh my. I thought I was doing something good by having the entire family there to compensate for his dad not being there. Boy was I wrong. Luckily that has passed and he is now a big fan of birthdays (the normal ones without ridiculously loud music and scary clowns and mascots!).

    Liked by 1 person

    • We had a similar reaction when my eldest was little. I can remember him on his second birthday taking himself off in to a corner, turning his back on everyone because it was too busy and there was too much ‘family issues’ tension when all my in-laws turned up uninvited for his birthday. We’ve been much more careful since – and even now we are learning what he can and cannot take for his birthday parties. Next year will be much different than this year…..

      And when it comes to awareness I am convinced that ALL teachers should have some kind of basic knowledge of the notion of highly sensitive children – they are very likely to have at least one such child in their class, every year. Probably more. They should understand all children are different – and I know that with big classes the job gets harder but to be told HS doesn’t exist and is not something a school needs to deal with in 2014 is staggering. (see http://lifewithadoublebuggy.blogspot.nl/2014/10/dear-teacher-sometimes-believe-not-see.html)

      Thanks for taking the time to pen your thoughts – always appreciated 😉

      Liked by 1 person

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