There is a stigma and shame put on sensitive people for being hard to deal with or difficult to communicate with. The thing is we all have our personalities and while sensitivity might be seen an issue, when understood it can actually be helpful and even necessary for both parties to develop and grow the relationship on a whole other level. Empathy is something we can all practice with people in our lives, even those we don't know. Today we're going to be talking about how to deal with highly sensitive people. Not through avoidance, tip toeing around them or blaming them, but by understanding them, communicating with them and having empathy and respect for their emotions.
How to communicate with highly sensitive people:
1. Don't assume they're 'Just too sensitive' or 'overly emotional'
There is no such thing as someone that's 'just too emotional'. We all have emotions, we just process them, show them and deal with them differently. Sensitive people are more easily affected by events that trigger feelings and they process emotions more deeply that other people. It's how they are and as much as it is difficult for you, it is even more difficult and could be painful for them. However, their sensitivity can also allow them to be more creative, loving, caring and sensitive to other people's emotions. Understanding that will help you see things from their eyes and therefore communicate better.
2. They're not just sensitive to emotions
It is important to also understand that highly sensitive people could also be sensitive to any intensities, even if they come in the forms of career problems, busy days, loud noises and even bright lights. Imagine how comforting it would be for them to find that you actually understand that about them, instead of commenting on how these things shouldn't bother them as much and that they should 'toughen up'.
3. Understand their triggers
We all have emotional triggers. Some are more sensitive to triggers than others and then are those who actually internalize their feelings after these triggers, instead of having their emotions shown. If we're focusing on a sensitive person that wouldn't internalize their feelings, then it can help you if you start noticing and understanding their triggers from the small to the big things. Avoid saying things to them you know would bother them or bringing up something often, that is overwhelming or painful for them. If it's important for you to mention something try taking the approach below...
4. Be honest with them
Tell them you understand why they're feeling this way and that their feelings are valid and even though yours could be different, it doesn't mean they're wrong to feel that way. This will always comfort them and allow them to feel closer to you. After that you can start voicing your opinion. Tell them what you think, but emphasize that what you think doesn't negate what they feel.
5. "I feel"
If you're upset with them and you want to confront them about something. Avoid using the words "You did.." "You said.." "It was your fault..." "Because of your..." Instead say "I feel..." Like "I felt upset by how these words were said to me." Blaming and pointing a finger never works, even with those that are not highly sensitive. Better communication can be found when both parties are open and honest about how a certain situation made them feel and how they think it could be handled better in the future.
6. Give them time to process their emotions...
But also tell them you're here if they need to talk. Their emotions can sometimes get overwhelming and so it can be difficult for them to express themselves and communicate in the heat of the problem, even if they want to. It is better to give them time to cool down and process their feelings before trying to solve the problem. And if they want to talk now, remind them that everything will be okay and that they can share with you their feelings openly so you can understand them.
7. How to stop it from affecting you negatively
Unfortunately, as much as you want to help, it can sometimes it get too much for you. It's a 2 way thing. They can start to affect you negatively, if you start comprising a lot so you don't bother them or if you're always tip toeing around them so you won't hurt their feelings. If it ever gets too much, don't put yourself second, prioritize your feelings and health too. Remember to give yourself time and space from time to time. You can still be completely kind and understanding, while still putting yourself and your needs as a priority. You can still tell them you love them, care about them and understand their feelings, but that some of the things between you aren't comfortable for you right now.
8. This person's position or status in your life
This is also something you should keep in mind. Is this person, for example, your partner or a work colleague. Your relationship with this person and its importance has a say in how much you invest your emotional effort and how you understand them, communicate with them and implement these points. That doesn't mean you shouldn't be empathetic, kind and understanding with everyone. It just means that these tactics differ and can be adjusted depending on the status and your analysis of it.
At the end of the day it all boils down to understanding the people around us. Once we start focusing on empathy and understanding who we're communicating with, everything else falls into place a lot easier. Understanding people, their feelings, where they're coming from and why they're feeling what they're feeling, will save us miles of effort and will make communication with almost everyone, even people we only meet once, A LOT easier. It's just about widening your lens, looking closer and putting yourself in their shoes, but not as yourself, as them!