Most of us have people in our lives who make us feel as if we are walking on eggshells – watching our every word, action, or even facial expressions and gesture. This can be exhausting, to say the least.
The question is whether to walk out of such relationships?
You, of course, can do that but with that, you may be throwing away an otherwise beautiful and fulfilling relationship. So, how do we know whether such a relationship is worth working on and fighting for?
People who make us feel on the edge are highly sensitive individuals. It is a fact that they cannot help being one. That is their inherent behavior. They cannot change it even if they want to. So, it is up to you to understand and accept this and try to accommodate their behavior.
Before you decide to cut ties with a highly sensitive person, it would help if you invest some time in understanding them.
One of the crucial points in their favor is that they are neither evil or malicious nor have any ill-will towards you. This is who they are, plain and simple. If you have a heart big enough to accommodate such a person in your life, there is nothing wrong with continuing the relationship.
However, if you want to maintain a healthy relationship with highly sensitive individuals, you should learn how to effectively communicate with them. Communication is the cornerstone of any relationship, more so if it is with a highly sensitive person.
Read on to learn how to communicate with a highly sensitive person effectively.
Understanding a highly sensitive person (HSP)
Before you think about devising an effective communication strategy, you need to have a better understanding of how the mind of an HSP works.
A higher level of sensitivity is a genetic personality trait. This means people with high sensitivity cannot help their behavior or change it even if they want to.
Highly sensitive people tend to have sharper and more pronounced sensory experiences. Sounds appear to them louder, lights brighter, smells more intense, flavors stronger, and touch is felt deeply. The same levels of intensity apply to the workings of their minds as well.
HSPs tend to perceive and feel emotions with heightened intensity. Their emotional responses to everyday happenings are extreme and at times baffling for a normal person.
If you have decided to make a sincere attempt in getting to know the highly sensitive person in your life, you should be ready for a roller-coaster ride of emotional display and learn to cope with their volatile behavior.
Here are some common facts about highly sensitive individuals. You need to keep in mind that you may not find all the features listed here in the same individual.
They are highly sensitive to touch.
Most probably HSPs value their personal space more than a regular person. This means you need to take it easy and slow. A kiss may seem natural to you but for them, it may be taking it too far. It would be safer to ask for consent in the initial days.
Nothing escapes them.
Be it something physical or emotional, they tend to be aware of everything happening in the relationship. A slight shift in your mood, a minute change in your body language, or the presence or absence of an inconsequential something – HSPs tend to absorb all the details.
If you are not used to this kind of behavior, you may feel as if you are being spied upon and feel insecure or irritated by this. You just need to understand that this is normal for a sensitive person.
Simple gestures are more meaningful.
Just as they go overboard with their sensory capabilities, their actions or displays of emotions carry more weight. A small gift, an impromptu kiss, a caring word, or any other spontaneous gesture are more meaningful when it comes from highly sensitive individuals. What a regular person considers as “little things” are special and significant for a person with high sensitivity.
High sensitivity doesn’t translate to being difficult and demanding.
There is no denying that they are hypersensitive to what is happening to them and around them. You need to be alert to their sensitive nature and behave accordingly. However, none of this means they are being deliberately troublesome. Neither are they challenging to deal with.
All you need is some insight into their behavior and respond appropriately. Nothing more, nothing less. All relationships demand time and work on your part. A relationship with a highly sensitive person necessitates a different kind of work. That is all.
Once you figure this out, the relationship with an HSP would be easier to manage and more rewarding than that with a normal person.
It is all about finding the balance.
Highly sensitive people are more defensive about their personal space. This means displays of love and affection may not be welcomed in the same way as a regular person. However, once you know them better and understand their boundaries and yeses and nos, it is not that hard to figure them out.
There may be times when your loving gesture of affection is rejected. Try not to make a big deal about it. There may be times when they prefer solitude and want to be left alone. Don’t feel offended by this either.
Learn to accept them as they are and rest assured you will get back more love and affection than you can handle.
Learn how to communicate with them.
Communication is the key to success in any relationship. It is no different with an emotionally sensitive person. However, the method of communication needs to be modified to suit the special requirements of an HSP.
While some like to talk more, others prefer non-verbal communication. If you consider the relationship is worth the extra effort, it is easy to get used to the kind of communication that works well with your highly sensitive partner.
However, not paying attention to communication just because they are not talkative is the wrong way of dealing with the situation. If you remain silent and incommunicado, it will make them feel more anxious and they will continue to indulge in the guessing game, arriving at all wrong conclusions. This can end up ruining the relationship.
6 Ways to communicate effectively with an HSP
The way the mind of a highly sensitive person works is different from that of a normal person. They delve too deep into everything they come across and analyze everything in detail. This needs time and effort.
So, you need to modify the way you communicate with an emotionally sensitive person. Here are a few tips to make it easier.
1. Give them time for processing the information.
HSPs want to understand matters in minute detail and this is time-consuming. If you rush them for a response, they may feel stressed and overwhelmed and may have trouble giving a coherent reply. They can also have trouble expressing their thoughts.
Once you have your say, offer them enough time to respond. Take care not to interrupt or feed them words. Just remain attentive to what they have to say. Once they are finished, you can paraphrase to make sure you understood them right. This way you can also let them know that you are interested in what they have to say.
2. Help them overcome their limitations with love.
This may not be advisable in the initial days of the relationship. Once you have established a good rapport, you can try to introduce the topic as gently as you can. Do remember that this can make or break the relationship.
Avoid talking down or taking a condescending approach. Take care to avoid shaming or blaming. You may present it in the format “Maybe you can try …”.
3. Choose the right time.
Timing can make a huge difference in how they respond. Even your well-intentioned words may have the opposite effect if said at a time when they are in a rush, upset, or tired. And, you should avoid listing all of them, if there are too many, in one sitting. Take it slowly, as they need time to process.
4. Give honest compliments.
Everyone loves praise and encouragement and HSPs are no different. However, they do experience some levels of difficulty in accepting the praise, especially if you go overboard with it. Keep it real and don’t use praise to add to the pressure.
5. Encourage them to ask questions.
Highly sensitive people are, in general, reluctant to engage with others. Make it known to them that you are always there for them to talk or answer their questions. Invite them to use you as their sounding board to clear their mind. Remember not to judge or criticize them when they approach you.
6. Give them space to figure their way.
Understandably, you want to help. When you find them floundering, your instinct tells you to help them out. Often this would be counter-productive, as HSPs prefer to be independent and do not appreciate unrequited help.
Even if they are alright with your help, it may cause them more harm than good. Allow them space to figure their way.
All relationships come with their own set of ups and downs. If your partner is highly sensitive, things may get complicated a bit now and then. Give each other the space and time to find the middle path that is acceptable to both.