If you’re reading this blog, chances are you are either a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP), know an HSP, or are simply curious about what an HSP is.
Here’s a quick recap for newcomers: According to the research of Dr. Elaine Aron, between 15-20% of males and females equally are born with a finely tuned, highly sensitive central nervous system. This genetic trait is scientifically referred to as Sensory Processing Sensitivity, is not a medical diagnosis, and is more like being born with blue eyes or blonde hair. The trait is thought to be a survival instinct of observing before acting, and is present in 100 different species.
There is much strength in the HSP trait, which imparts richness and meaning to life and relationships. We tend to process information very deeply, feel emotions such as Empathy very deeply, process stimuli through the 5 senses much deeper than others, and therefore require much more down time than others. Many HSPs tend to be drawn to art and music, plus time spent in nature which serves as wonderful down time. Dr. Aron’s research indicates that 70% of HSPs identify as introverts, while 30% are actually high-sensation-seeking extroverts in search of novel experiences. This last group is also subject to over-stimulation, and must walk a fine line between activity and needed down time!
There has been much conversation in the HSP community regarding if and when to speak up about our trait. Though opinions vary on this, they tend to fall into three camps:
• Share information about your trait freely….the more the merrier!
• Share your trait with family and close friends, but not in the workplace.
• Don’t share your trait with others….they’ll see it as a weakness.
I fall into the first camp because, and to quote my non-HSP wife, “the world needs to know about the HSP trait!” Though we HSPs only make up a maximum 20% of the population, that still equates to some 1.3 billion globally. For non-HSPs, we are the yin to your yang, providing a balance the creator saw fit to impart on this planet. People benefit through understanding each other, and that includes the Highly Sensitive Person. By the way, the trait is not about shyness (which is environmental), ADD, or being a cry baby! And the last thing an HSP wants to hear is “don’t be so sensitive”, “you need to thicken you skin”, or something similar. Considering we’re born with the trait, those types of comments are beyond rude.
Dr. Barrie Jaeger, author of Making Work ‘Work’ for the Highly Sensitive Person refers to the trait as “the next human diversity in the workplace issue”.
What does that mean? For starters, we as HSPs tend to do best when not hurried or watched over, when given the opportunity to fully think through things before responding, and when not exposed to extremely bright light or loud sounds for long periods of time. Once again this is not a choice for us, but instead the way we were built. Some HSPs have coping mechanisms to better integrate with the 80% majority of the population. That said, earplugs, sunglasses and generous amounts of down time aren’t always feasible for us while on the job. Slight modifications to our work environment, however, may make quite a difference. I’ll leave it to my fellow HSPs to each determine what those modifications might look like for them.
So I’ll humbly ask once again…..Is it Time for HSPs to Speak Up?
All the Best!