Highly Sensitive Persons: The HSP Research

If you have more trouble than most learning how not to take things personally, you may be one of many highly sensitive persons, reportedly about 15 to 20 percent of the population. You may benefit from the research of Dr. Elaine Aron, author of The Highly Sensitive Person (1997).

If you’re one of the highly sensitive persons, it’s probably been genetically transmitted, says Aron. “It means you are aware of subtleties in your surroundings, a great advantage in many situations. It also means you are more easily overwhelmed when you have been out in a highly stimulating environment for too long, bombarded by sights and sounds until you are exhausted in a nervous-system sort of way,” states Aron, an HSP herself.

Selected Quotes by Elaine Aron About Highly Sensitive Persons

Our trait of sensitivity means we will also be cautious, inward, needing extra time alone. Because people without the trait (the majority) do not understand that, they see us as timid, shy, weak, or that greatest sin of all, unsociable. Fearing these labels, we try to be like others. But that leads to our becoming overaroused and distressed. Then that gets us labeled neurotic or crazy, first by others and then by ourselves.

…(T)he writers, historians, philosophers, judges, artists, researchers, theologians, therapists, teachers, parents, and plain conscientious citizens. What we bring to any of these roles is a tendency to think about all the possible effects of an idea…We have to ignore all the messages from the warriors that we are not as good as they are. The warriors have their bold style, which has its value. But we, too, have our style and our own important contribution to make.

In my opinion, all HSPs are gifted because of their trait itself. But some are unusually so.[In]…study after study of gifted adults: impulsivity, curiosity, the strong need for independence, a high energy level, along with introversion, intuitiveness, emotional sensitivity, and nonconformity. Giftedness in the workplace, however, is tricky to handle. First, your originality can become a particular problem when you must offer your ideas in a group situation. Many organizations stress group problem solving just because it brings out the ideas in people like you, which are then tempered by others.

Are you an HSP? Take Dr. Aron’s self-test. Check out her website (at same link) for additional resources.

Another way to learn more about HSP traits? Amanda L. Chan lists a bunch in a Huffington Post article. Click on the link for more details.

1. They feel more deeply.

2. They’re more emotionally reactive.

3. They’re probably used to hearing, “Don’t take things so personally” and “Why are you so sensitive?”

4. They prefer to exercise solo.

5. It takes longer for them to make decisions.

6. And on that note, they are more upset if they make a “bad” or “wrong” decision.

7. They’re extremely detail-oriented.

8. Not all highly sensitive people are introverts. 

9. They work well in team environments.

10. They’re more prone to anxiety or depression (but only if they’ve had a lot of past negative experiences).

11. That annoying sound is probably significantly more annoying to a highly sensitive person.

12. Violent movies are the worst.

13. They cry more easily.

14. They have above-average manners.

15. The effects of criticism are especially amplified in highly sensitive people.

16. Cubicles = good. Open-office plans = bad.

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