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.


Leadership Coach

By John McKee

John M. McKee is the founder and CEO of, 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...