Sensitivity expert Dr. Elaine Aron believes that 15-20% of the population are Highly Sensitive People (HSP).
HSP are more attuned to subtle changes to the environment, become overwhelmed easily, like to take their time before making decisions, experience emotions on a more intense scale than the average person, and value deep thinking.
They are empathetic, helpful, and creative.
The majority of HSP are introverts, but around 30% are extraverted.
You might have noticed that one or two of your colleagues are highly sensitive.
If you don’t know much about sensitivity, their behavior might baffle you from time to time.
Fortunately, once you appreciate how they operate, you can form a great working relationship with them!
Here are 8 things you should bear in mind when working alongside a HSP:
1. They dislike working in busy, noisy environments.
HSP experience sensory overload. Don’t be surprised if your colleague looks frazzled when the office gets busy, or if they prefer to work alone in a quiet room.
Harsh lighting, loud sounds, and uncomfortable furniture might be an inconvenience to you, but they are positively unbearable to a HSP.
If you work next to a HSP, try not to make unnecessary noise.
2. They will always be willing to help you out.
HSP have a well-developed sense of empathy, and don’t like to see other people struggle.
Whether you need help finding your notepad, installing new software, or even organizing a meeting, your highly sensitive colleague will probably lend a hand if you ask for help.
Don’t bother trying to hide your emotions from a HSP, because they will see straight through your act!
When you feel overwhelmed or upset, just let them know – they will be only too happy to support you.
3. They really dislike conflict.
Some HSP have developed strategies that enable them to handle conflict, but the majority prefer to avoid it altogether.
This means they can go hours, days, or even weeks feeling unhappy but not speaking up for themselves.
Help them out by checking in with them regularly, and make it clear that you are always happy to resolve any differences through calm discussion than heated arguments.
4. Customer service roles cause them a lot of stress.
Any role that entails interacting with people for hours at a time will leave a HSP feeling overwhelmed.
They may develop a headache and feel unusually tired.
If possible, try to give them tasks that let them work alone or in a small, trusted team of people they know well.
5. They may be reluctant to trust new colleagues.
Many HSP have been hurt in the past.
They have often been criticized for their gentle, even delicate personalities.
Therefore, it is perhaps unsurprising that they are slow to trust new people.
Don’t assume that they are simply being rude; they are just protecting themselves from harm.
6. Their intuition is strong.
If your colleague tells you that something “just isn’t right” in the office, or that someone has ulterior motives, believe them!
A HSP’s gut instinct is rarely wrong.
They are blessed with the ability to read people and situations.
Because they like to think things through before sharing important information, you can be sure that they are passing on their opinion for a good reason.
7. They can be relied upon to look out for their colleagues.
HSPs function best when everyone else is happy.
They cannot stand selfish people, and firmly believe that all their colleagues deserve fair and equal treatment.
Although they dislike confrontation, they will often try to stand up for victims of bullying and abuse.
HSP are often drawn towards the caring professions because it is in their nature to listen and support others.
8. They find it hard to accept criticism.
Few of us enjoy receiving negative feedback, but HSPs find it particularly hard to take.
They can be quick to assume that even the mildest of criticisms mean that they aren’t capable of performing well at work.
You might find that a HSP “overcompensates” if they receive criticism.
For example, if they tell them that they have written a good report but that the summary needs work, they may assume that the entire report needs rewriting!
If you have to give a HSP negative feedback, begin by acknowledging their strengths first – this reminds them that they are competent and capable, even if they need a little guidance in some areas.
Be as clear as possible when explaining what you need them to do next.
In summary, HSP make awesome colleagues but they require careful handling.
Your sensitive colleague might need a few accommodations, but your efforts will pay off – a happy HSP is a great asset in any workplace.