Education

Are you "too sensitive" for your career?

In business, being regarded as “too sensitive” may not be to your benefit. However, if you are truly a highly sensitive person, knowing you're too sensitive can help.
Dr. Elaine Aron first introduced the important inherited trait of high sensitivity in her landmark 1996 book, The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive when the World Overwhelms You.

Since then, others have written books that deal with how being "too sensitive" can impact your personal life, your career, and your health. There are good websites dedicated to the subject as well. After reviewing this blog, if it seems that some of the more common characteristics may be "yours," I'd encourage you to check them out.

To give you some insight, I've selected information from several sites -- see if some of these statements resonate with you or relate to someone important in your life:

  • You (your partner, or someone important to you) have a heightened awareness of subtleties in your environment, whether it's sight, sound, touch, taste, or smell.
  • You can become stressed out and upset when overwhelmed and may find it necessary to get away, maybe into a darkened room, to seek solitude, relief, and comfort.
  • You are very creative.
  • You are very conscientious, hard working, and meticulous, but may become uncomfortable and less efficient or productive when being watched or scrutinized.
  • You feel compelled to file and organize things and thoughts, also enjoy simplicity, and may become overwhelmed or even immobilized by chaos, clutter, or stress.
  • You are very uncomfortable when feeling things are getting out of your control.
  • You get a sense of comfort and well-being when around a lake, river, stream, the ocean, or even a fountain.
  • You may experience mood swings, sometimes occurring almost instantly, and can also be affected by other people's moods, emotions, and problems.
  • You have a deep, rich, inner life, are very spiritual, and may also have vivid dreams.
  • You are very intuitive, and you feel that you can usually sense if someone isn't telling the truth or if something else is wrong.
  • You get concerned and think or worry about many things and have also been told, "You take things too personally."
  • You have had the experience of "cutting people out" of your life.
  • You were considered quiet, introverted, timid, or shy as a child.
  • You can be startled easily.
  • You are cautious in new situations.
  • You may have trouble sleeping.
  • You are extra sensitive to pain.
  • You don't like crowds (unless they are kindred spirits).
  • You avoid violent movies and TV shows.
  • You have a deep respect and appreciation of nature, music, and art.

If these resonate with you, consider the following and keep them in mind with regard to your own management style:

* Being an HSP means your nervous system is more sensitive to subtleties. Your sight, hearing, and sense of smell are not necessarily keener (although they may be), but your brain processes information and reflects on it more deeply.

* Being an HSP also means, necessarily, that you are more easily over-stimulated, stressed out, and overwhelmed.

* It can been mislabeled as shyness (not an inherited trait), introversion (30% of HSPs are actually extraverts), inhibitedness, fearfulness, and the like. HSPs can be these, but none of these are the fundamental trait they have inherited.

I believe that the reason for these negative misnomers and general lack of research on the subject is that -- in most business cultures -- being tough and outgoing is the preferred or ideal personality--not high sensitivity.

And it can impact your personal life too. If you are an HSP with work issues, probably even those who love you have probably said things like, "Don't be so sensitive," making you feel abnormal when in fact you could do nothing about it and it is not abnormal at all.

For follow-up research, you can learn more at this site.

Additionally, here's a great book on this subject.

Here's to your future.

John

Leadership Coach

About

John M. McKee is the founder and CEO of BusinessSuccessCoach.net, an international consulting and coaching practice with subscribers in 43 countries. One of the founding senior executives of DIRECTV, his hands-on experience includes leading billion d...

45 comments
Dr_Zinj
Dr_Zinj

My experience is that the super sensitives either quit, or they make life a living hell for the rest of us.

jkameleon
jkameleon

Without a skin at least 1ft thick, nobody lasts in IT for long.

AV .
AV .

Aren't we all? Who out there doesn't have trouble sleeping sometimes? Are you extra sensitive to pain when you're sick? Being creative doesn't mean that you're a flaky artist. Its an asset to be creative in an IT environment because it gives you the ability to innovate. Sometimes, your best inspirations and innovations might come if you take a walk by the lake or listen to music you like. Being an HSP is an asset in an IT environment. Tough and outgoing might be the preferred demeanor, but sensitivity rocks. AV

dldorrance
dldorrance

From the point of view of a physician (yes that's me), the highly sensitive person may suffer from chronic pain, anxiety and depression, multiple symptoms referable to multiple organ systems with visits to multiple specialists but nobody can find the cause. Fibromyalgia is also felt to be a manifestation of this condition. The cause has actually been well studied; it is a brain issue, called somatosensory amplification in which sensory inputs are magnified or amplified, analogous to the brain's sensory input volume control being turned way up. Check out the Wickipedia article http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Somatosensory_amplification or Google Scholar http://scholar.google.com/scholar?q=somatosensory+amplification&hl=en&btnG=Search&as_sdt=2001&as_sdtp=on

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

You need to update that, metrosexuality took over from crass businessmen. Maybe that's it, all of these traits are that of being metrosexual! And to think we made up that term just in time!

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

* You (your partner, or someone important to you) have a heightened awareness of subtleties in your environment, whether it?s sight, sound, touch, taste, or smell. Has nothing to do specifically with only hypersensitive people. * You can become stressed out and upset when overwhelmed and may find it necessary to get away, maybe into a darkened room, to seek solitude, relief and comfort. Like someone who is naturally extroverted and outspoken but needs to escape the "noise" once in a while. We all seek such solitude at times. * You are very creative. Some of the most creative and yet very thick skinned, extroverted and confident people are actors and rock stars too. * You are very conscientious, hard working, and meticulous, but may become uncomfortable and less efficient or productive when being watched or scrutinized. Most people aren't comfortable with micromanagement or added scrutiny. that doesn't mean you re hyper sensitive. Hyper sensitive people WOULD fit that trait also though. * You feel compelled to file and organize things and thoughts, also enjoy simplicity and may become overwhelmed or even immobilized by chaos, clutter, or stress. And that indicates hyper sensitivity? Back to the psyche books, I must have missed something. * You are very uncomfortable when feeling things are getting out of your control. Right and MOST people feel very comfortable when they are losing control? Especially insensitive people, they don't mind losing control. (WTF?) * You get a sense of comfort and well being when around a lake, river, stream, the ocean, or even a fountain. Ahh calming, soothing relaxing vacations and breaks from the hustle and bustle, yup that indicates hyper sensitive personality! * You may experience mood swings, sometimes occurring almost instantly and can also be affected by other people?s moods, emotions and problems. Yup, mood swings, must be hyper sensitive, or pregnant or menstruating, or compassionate. * You have a deep, rich, inner life, are very spiritual, and may also have vivid dreams. Right, the dream thing, sleeping soundly. Enjoying a rewarding life, secure, happy, hyper sensitive. * You are very intuitive and you feel that you can usually sense if someone isn?t telling the truth or if something else is wrong. Astute! I mean, er hypersensitive. * You get concerned and think or worry about many things, and have also been told, ?You take things too personally.? Yup, only those with such issues as hyper sensitivity would actually be concerned or care about others or what others think of them. * You have had the experience of ?cutting people out? of your life. oh yeah, nobody with confidence and thick skin would move on to new friends and acquaintances. That MUST be hypersensitivity. * You were considered quiet, introverted, timid, or shy as a child. Yup, that CAN be in indicator of someone that may grow up and become hyper sensitive too, but aren't a great deal of young people intimidated, unsure, shy, insecure around their peers? Oh yeah, so they are! * Can be startled easily. Yeah, nobody with confidence and personal inner strength would be STARTLED. * Cautious in new situations. now we have it, cautious! Unlike a strong minded person who naturally runs around like a bull in a China ship. * May have trouble sleeping. Can't sleep, definitely a sign of the weak, strong willed, extroverts sleep like babies (waking up crying every tow hours). * Extra sensitive to pain. Yup, pain receptors, must be hyper sensitive, let me buy that damn book already! * Don?t like crowds (unless they are kindred spirits). I am a pretty extroverted, confident and secure guy, I HATE crowds and prefer small groups of close friends. (LOL, and I've worked with huge crowds in concert arenas!) * Avoid violent movies and TV shows. I don't like them either, violence simply doesn't amuse me. There's enough right outside I don't need to pay to watch it too. Sign me up! * Have a deep respect and appreciation of nature, music and art. Ah, back to creativity and artistry again. Unless you are hyper sensitive, you wouldn't possess such traits. Long and short, the biggest pile of codswallop I've read on TR in many moons. Go buy a horoscope on your way home, I bet it's bang on, or MOST of it is, kinda like this garbage. :D

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

Well I fit many of the questions, I never knew I was too sensitive, I bet nobody here did either. Must be my soft skin and warm heart, we are a fragile bunch, us sensitive folks. Now I need to find a new career, so much for being thick skinned. :( Thanks A LOT, John! If you were not such a successful leadership coach I'd have to continue thinking otherwise. Do you have a book I can buy too? Ah, there it is!

opcom
opcom

Not to be intentionally rude, but for some reason I want to barf after reading that article. There have been too many times at my workplace when so-called "sensitive" people use that to whine and get what they want. It's selfish to use it to get what they want. It always ends up with other people having more work and a less free workplace. There ought to be an "un-sensitivity training" to send them to, and therefore help sensitive people get a handle on it and get a thick skin. Coddling is one thing and helping fix the trouble is another thing.

suthross
suthross

And the natural home for many people of "introverted emotional temperament" is IT and any manager who fails to recognize the attributes and characteristics cited in the linked wiki of HSP or geeky IT peps is probably fostering a stressful workplace and would improve productivity if they just backed off. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Highly_sensitive_person#Attributes_and_characteristics ?HSP?s pick up on the subtle things, learning better this way than when over aroused. If an HSP student is not contributing much to a discussion, it does not necessarily mean they do not understand or are too shy. HSPs often process things better in their heads, or they may be over-aroused. This can be the reason for their not contributing. HSPs are usually very conscientious but underperform when being watched. This also applies to work situations; HSPs can be great employees?good with details, thoughtful and loyal, but they do tend to work best when conditions are quiet and calm. Because HSPs perform less well when being watched, they may be overlooked for a promotion. HSPs tend to socialize less with others, often preferring to process experiences quietly by themselves.?

Chittoor
Chittoor

Should include distress on reading news accounts on rape, murder, kidnapping and gory accidents. Reading about a kidnapped child being found murdered or looking at news pictures of gory accidents can screw up an entire day.

sinthetic755
sinthetic755

Seriously? The website this links to is a bunch of New Age - Quantum Crystal Magic BS.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

"For follow-up research - you can learn more at this site." The link off the words 'this site' is broken. "Additionally, here's a great book on this subject." This link doesn't point to a book. It appears it's pointing to what the previous link is trying to reach. More importantly, the second link leads to a web site with the exact same content as John's post. The linked site attributes it's content to 'Jim Hallowes', and there's no visible date on the content. Perhaps John's is the original content, and Jim is borrowing from him without attribution. Perhaps both John and Jim are quoting the referenced book by Dr. Aron.

CareerCoach
CareerCoach

Just knowing more about this can help you change your behavior and action

Papa_Bill
Papa_Bill

They have to earn a living to. And it might be Hell for them, maybe?

Papa_Bill
Papa_Bill

Believe me, it's lot limited to IT.

AV .
AV .

If you don't have it and you stay in IT, eventually you will develop it. AV

Rowfus
Rowfus

I'm basically an HSP, have been all my life. The con's have been established. Life can be difficult when you experience more than other people - you experience things they don't, and where you share experiences, your experience may be deeper, bigger, stronger, and more complex. But there are also the pros. It's also meant that I get more - often MUCH more - out of food, sex, music, literature, movies, art - pretty much everything, and everything has included the US Army, the defense industry, woodworking, weightlifting, martial arts, and over fifteen years as a computer consultant, technician, IT, etc. All in all, it's a good deal, even though sometimes things can get complicated or intense. And yes, I've been told I'm too sensitive. And sometimes that's been the truth and I've needed to make allowances for it and adjust my perception and responses to things. But sometimes it's been fools or punks mistaking sensitivity for weakness, or "the knife blaming the wound for the blood," looking for excuses for their own behavior. All in all, I'd rather have to deal with being too sensitive to life, than not being sensitive enough. The consequences of the latter deficiency are all around us and getting worse every day. Take that road far enough and it leads to sociopathy.

Papa_Bill
Papa_Bill

Point for point, it's very similar to a depression index quiz. And Oz, it's more a matter of degree than anything else, which is something this list ignores. The depression quiz will ask how often you feel a certain way, not just "ever". It's too bad these problems don't show up in a blood test or urine sample or x-ray, but they are very real. There's no bone sticking out, no dilated eyes, or heart arrhythmia to show it. It can't be corrected surgically, and my experience says medications are only minimally helpful,and therapy less so. Your comparison with the hypersensitive to people with "confidence and personal inner strength" seems a bit out of whack. This trait comes with experience and maturity and has nothing to do with any degree of sensitivity. However, I agree, this is not by any means an authoritative report, it appears the research quoted by Elaine Aron is largely her own, and is lacking in corroboration. I agree, don't buy the book.

Papa_Bill
Papa_Bill

...I can pretend, can't I? Here's my prescription: Find the middle some where. There are clearly people who are too sensitive. There are clearly people who are extremely insensitive. both sides need to try to understand the other. Everybody work on meeting toward the middle. Warm up and cool off. Hypersensitive? Examine how you present yourself toward others. Insensitive? Take a chill pill. The world wasn't built for you, either. Can't we all just get along?

bsit
bsit

Some of these replies are hard nosed and come from people who are most likely very comfortable with whom they are and few or none of those points apply. For the hard nosed cynics this article has some solid background research behind it. I worked in HR and did Psych, I've seen it all and it is valid. But there are those who abuse it not because they are sensitive but their personalities have problems and they should be dealt with in another way, not given into. This list would not apply well to them, they have other problems. So Mr Opcom, your cynical remarks are typical unthoughtful responses. You would only contribute to the end result you despise by making such a fuss. There are many people like this but these types of lists on their own are misleading and dangerous and can lead to cynical replies by those who have little insight into people. Cynics just love tearing into these because it is out of context on its own. They think they are being clever but in fact are showing their lack of understanding of people. The list is not THE guide but only a starting point. If several of these apply then have a proper assessment, otherwise don?t use it. It will then allow you to make work and life choices that will make you happy, anyone else?s ?opinion? is unimportant. The point of the article is valid, people do come in a variety of flavours and colours and each has its own merits and place. Sensitive people can not last in a hard nosed or greedy environment and vice versa. Cynics would be well advised not to comment if all they have to offer is opinion based only on their own personality.

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

Have some compassion and sensitivity for your coworkers, they are suffering and you should be more sympathetic to their emotional needs.

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

And if you like that, I have the great book of Scientology for ya! :D

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

Look at the questions too Palmie. Like I said to Jules, they apply to almost everyone, or at lest a bunch do, just like a horoscope. "Gee, that's ME!" no it isn't. or like a mind reader, they just throw out generalizations and watch faces to see who is being lead along. This stuff is great for sideshows, but a completely misleading burn for people who actually do want support. In short, it's spam.

jardinier
jardinier

I can relate to many/most of the indicators listed. My oversensitive nature has made life very difficult for me. I have never worked in IT but resigned from my first vocation of journalism because I am unable to hold my ground in our very competitive, materialistic society. And so I became a gardener. A most interesting article and thank you for posting it. It makes me feel a lot less of an oddity in this world. I used to think I should have been born in the baroque era.

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

I understand that there are people who's symptoms do need to be professionally addressed. But after studying psyche for long enough, and having been in market development for 2+ decades, I have seen how these lists of symptoms are used to con people into seeking expensive medical help, drugs, books, seminars etc. Just like the cancer ads they used to put in buses. -Do you have a mole that has changed? In adolescent, young adults, moles do change as the body's system does. -Are you constantly fatigued? Yeah, most people feel tired when they are dragging off to work each day on a boring bus ride full of strangers. etc. Just like a horoscope, "Gee that's me to tee!" I have done a few controlled tests with focus groups etc. where we have tested such broadly purposed marketing. If you take an Aries horoscope and give it to a Capricorn as their horoscope, they will usually say, "yup, that's me to a tee! I'm a typical Capricorn" and vice versa of course. the key is, if you feel SOME of these symptoms, if you can relate to more than one of these situations etc. broad, everyone fits it marketing. In this case they are preying on hypersensitive people. A common trait with hypersensitive people is being introverted, it's a personal protection mechanism to avoid triggering unrealistic emotions. This leads to them becoming easy to coerce, less likely to rebut, more accepting of ideas and anything else to protect themselves from hypertension, undue stress etc. Prey, and so poorly aimed at those on TR where we are supposed to support one another and not prey on another's weaknesses.

plainbroke
plainbroke

When my father passed my boss started pressureing me to do more and just did not understand all the work involved in cleaning up a household after a parent passes.. In the end he found a way to get me fired for being to sensitive to customers needs.. In my field the customers are the job..

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

[i]sniff, sniff[/i] Now go away you BRUTE! :D And then he woke up.

opcom
opcom

People that claim crystals store energy (in other ways than like unto a quartz timing crystal or piezo) have never been able to explain it in a logical manner. Strange terms are used to explain things in a compliocated manner but when drilled down to the framework, there is no fact behind them. I don't believe in that stuff. "fitting" has no meaning if the framework is not theoretically solid and demostrable scientifically proven repeatable through fact. Saying someone does not fit - It's like a magician calling someone a non believer because they don't like the trick. The statement has no meaning regarding the belief's validity or lack thereof.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Like you, I regard it as too general. But I find it ... questionable ... that the content would include a link to another page with the identical content. It can't be spam; it smells too fishy.

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

How can you say that without giggling so much you stutter on the keyboard. Poor old thin skinned, weary Jules, yeah they got you pegged right on. :D It's about as personal as a horoscope. EVERYONE fits it. Marketing 101, with a little compassion for the faint of heart.

Papa_Bill
Papa_Bill

I was told I'm not "profit oriented". I did too much for customers at too low a fee.

jardinier
jardinier

just because they make nice ornaments.

Papa_Bill
Papa_Bill

That's where I keep my feet! But my crystals won't stick to the fridge...

Papa_Bill
Papa_Bill

...and the mantel has not *yet* fallen from the wall! Can you imagine? They're truly magical. Four of them could maybe get NASA to Mars!

jardinier
jardinier

a cynic or skeptic. Thus I am skeptical about the validity of your opinions. I would suggest that: "There are more things in heaven and earth, opcom, than are dreamt of in your philosophy."

Dr_Zinj
Dr_Zinj

Things crystalize when you suck energy out of them. Solids are the least energetic materials, liquids more energetic, gases more than liquids, and plasmas even more so. Crystals can act as transducers. They are used to convert mechanical (vibratory) to electromagnetic energy and back.

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

The new Goldray will heal you! oooops, actually they were sued (several times) for saying it had medical benefits. It was closely analyzed and scrutinized and found to be steel wire with two end caps soldered on it. This ionization stuff is absolute rubbish, no such thing. But I FEEL so much BETTER! (moron!) People make themselves believe what they want to, that's why magic works, Kreskin was famous and our ancestors talk to us through strange gypsies at county fairs but have no possible means of contact through others. Anyone wanna buy a crystal ball, it REALLY works!

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

I have a thick skin, soft heart. Something I learned and developed over YEARS of sales. I started out with a soft skin and hard heart as most sales reps do. I took everything personal at first, now I just laugh when people have at me because it's so textbook and unoriginal. "We are a minority that is not recognized by society. " Of course you aren't, you are far from a minority, most people just don't realize it and apply an acronym to it. Also HSP is comparative, hypersensitivity is relative to what being less sensitive would be. What some see as hypersensitive to others is just normal sensitivity, not overly so. I think people just like a tag to explain themselves instead of just accepting that we are all different in mind, body and soul. Defense mechanisms is something everyone develops over time, I did and I am not HSP at all. Maybe on some days I overreact to a situation, but for the most part, the older I get the more lax I get and able to roll with the punches. When I was a kid, I would have been today's psychologists dream! I was hyper, couldn't concentrate on something for more than 5 minutes if it didn't interest me, small and yet powerful, extroverted yet sensitive to others etc. Today (if I were still that way) they'd have me on downers, I'd be labeled with OCD, ADD, a no sugar diet, etc. It's a great way for them to make money, pretend everyone SHOULD be the same and when they are not, they need special attention. We are taught to believe this rot over the years as it offers answers when we question why we feel different to how we BELIEVE others feel. Ever thought that an extroverted, loudmouth who always leads and runs the show is actually hypersensitive too? It's often a defense mechanism to protect oneself. I think we spend far too much time trying to figure ourselves out instead of enjoying our lives and differences for what they are. These 'disorders' we all apparently have, rarely have a measure that they are held to. They are relative to nothing. The only benefit such crap serves is to give people a BS degree to shoot for. They then become subject matter "experts" and start writing blogs and submitting papers to the medical industry about it and everyone all of a sudden has a disorder that they can label themselves with to explain why they are so "abnormal". It's bullsh1t psyche that's all. Just be happy being yourself, don't question who you are or try to explain why you feel a certain way, there's no need to. That's all you can ever be expected to be.

jardinier
jardinier

that there is any resemblance between me and yourself? You have the hide of an elephant. It is a fact that in my whole life I have never encountered a male person whose overall traits match my own. But it is genetic. I have recently unearthed my father's partial autobiography covering ages zero - 25. He was at least equally as sensitive as I am. Being a HSP is a real cross to bear. We are a minority that is not recognized by society. My nephew Alex who has made a successful career for himself in IT is also HSP, but apparently he learned good defense mechanisms from growing up in a chaotic environment.

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

Nah, even I admit that was too tasteless, - deleted

jardinier
jardinier

but they were tied down with family and mortgages.

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