“Stop being so sensitive.”
“Why do you take everything so personally?”
“You just worry too much.”
Do you know someone who is more readily affected by strong emotions, reacts strongly to violent movies, loud sounds, bright lights, and enjoys fine tastes, works of art, and little moments?
They might be a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP).
Highly Sensitive People, according to Dr. Elaine Aron, makes up 20% of the world population. To be highly sensitive is to experience everything much more deeply, both physical and mental. HSPs:
- are more aware of subtleties and details
- experience emotions much more intensely
- are more easily overwhelmed by these
They are often misunderstood and marginalized at work, being seen as “shy” or even “weak”. Even the word “sensitive” itself carries negative connotations in many cultures.
Yet HSPs are rated as the best performers in the workplace.
Being highly sensitive is a blessing and a curse, both to the individual and the company. They require some special care, but in the right hands and the right place, they possess great strength and potential for your team.
As leaders, it’s important to understand HSPs and how to manage them properly.
4 strengths of Highly Sensitive People in your company
1. They notice things that others don’t
The brain of a HSP is wired to be extra perceptive and aware of their surroundings. This includes both physical and emotional signs.
They will be the first to notice if a team member is anxious from their body language. They can feel if there’s hesitation in your voice, and they notice if someone is slightly withdrawing from the others.
These are all little cues and subtleties that most people gloss over, but a HSP can feel if there’s something wrong with your team members. This empathy is also what makes them good leaders.
2. They are creative
HSPs absorb their surroundings much more deeply than most people. They are very attentive to little details (as mentioned above) and feel emotions intensely, hence having a much richer experience.
Given all this sensory input, HSPs feel the need for a creative outlet to express all the experience and feelings that they get. And since they’re aware of subtleties that others miss out on, this sensitivity gives them new perspectives on things they encounter, which helps coming up with novel solutions and approaches.
3. They have super sharp intuition
Dr. Aron, a Highly Sensitive Person herself, explained how HSPs can have an “almost supernatural” intuition. They tend to simply know something without it being explained. HSPs seem to know the right thing to say or do at just the right time.
This is called resonance, and it’s perfectly scientific. Strong intuition is simply the result of high sensitivity. HSPs observe a lot and take in experience much more deeply, and they spot patterns and can see connections between the subtleties to clearly read the situation. This is why HSPs seem to always know what to do — because they see the details that others don’t.
4. They make great leaders
Because they experience a lot of sensory input, HSPs take their time to process this information. They always think carefully before they act, and this helps them to become good leaders by making better judgement and decisions.
HSPs are also highly empathetic and they care a lot about fairness and the well-being of others in the team. As a leader, HSPs let their team members shine by giving them the opportunity to speak and seriously considering their input. They care about the growth of every team member, not only as a subordinate, but as an individual.
How to care for Highly Sensitive People in your team
Return the empathy
Because HSPs may be overwhelmed by things that don’t seem special to others, it’s important to understand and respect their needs.
HSPs thrive in low stimulation environments where they have the time and peace to process everything they’re feeling without straining the senses. Some alone time and a space with little noise are just some of the things that can help HSPs feel comfortable at work.
Not all HSPs are the same, though. Just like everyone, they are individuals with unique personalities. Talk to them, find out what they need, and understand what stress sources that they have in order to help them take the strain off.
Deliver feedback compassionately
HSPs take feedback very seriously. If you think criticism hurts, they take it even harder. However, feedback is necessary in order for us to grow and improve at work. So how should we give feedback to HSPs?
Do so with compassion. Focus on giving constructive criticism and do so in a positive manner. HSPs take every word seriously, so make sure every word counts. Avoid saying off-handed remarks that you don’t mean anything by, because they will still be taken seriously, so they can focus on improvement.
Create a healthy company culture
While a good company culture is always important to your people regardless of sensitivity, it's especially important for HSPs. They will be the first to notice if your culture has gone toxic, and since it becomes too overwhelming, they’ll be the first to leave, too.
HSPs act as an early indicator of the health of your company culture. When they tell you that something’s wrong, that people are becoming more apathetic, it’s a sign that your culture is in danger.
But HSPs absolutely thrive in a positive, supportive company culture. There, they can have the psychological safety to turn sensitivity into a powerful asset for your team.
As leaders, it’s important to understand your HSPs and your company culture. Dreamtalent’s psychometric assessments help you understand your people and culture down to the psychological level in order to foster a healthy environment and allow HSPs to use their strengths to the fullest.