Highly Sensitive People
One of the great things about the internet is that we can build upon someone’s research by contributing our stories to their findings and increasing the richness of their discoveries. This enabled Research Psychologist, Elaine Aron, Ph.D., to develop her work on identifying a particular type of individual who stands out among the rest, namely: Highly Sensitive Person (HSP).
What is an HSP?
Aron defines an HSP as part of the “Royal Advisor Class.” They are much like spiritual and moral leaders of society, as they typically practice integrity and a desire to help others. HSP classic career choices tend to include academics, theologians, psychotherapists, consultants, and judges. Below is a list of behavioral traits to help you recognize these qualities in yourself and/or others:
- Reflective. There is a tendency to process the past more, and because of their deep thinking skills, they are often considered as offering an intense presence.
- Intuitive. They know without really knowing how they know. It is almost magical, since others do not see what an HSP sees. There is a deep talent of awareness to what others miss or deny.
- More Right-Brained. Less linear, more systemic (i.e. see the forest through the trees), more creative in a synthesizing way.
- Individuation. Father of Analytical Psychology Carl Jung describes “Individuation” as being able to hear your inner “voice(s)” through all the inner/outer noise. It is a lifelong curiosity and engagement with being true to one’s self, and using “self-as-instrument.”
- Non-Conformist. Do not like to play politics; and, their certainty may make them seem arrogant. As systemic thinkers, they may enthusiastically suggest an idea that no one else seems to get, rendering the HSP to feel potentially misunderstood and alienated, because of their high degree of social awareness.
- Risk-Takers. They may appear to be risk-takers, but not to them because they’ve already considered all of the viable outcomes; so the outcome is clear.
- Concentration. They can become lost in concentration, but they do better without distractions.
- Spot Errors. Erroneous details are somehow quickly identified. Any disruption to a pattern is obvious to them.
- Double-Think. They often think about their own thinking patterns.
- High Empathy. Impacted by and sensitive towards others’ feelings.
- Deep Processors. It might seem at first that they are not catching on when learning a new process, but because of their need to understand all of the details before execution, they ultimately are much better at comprehending, remembering, and instructing others to what they have learned.
- Strong Semantic Memory. They are able to process material, innocuous facts and details, at deeper levels – thus committing it to memory, often unintentionally.
- Stimulant Sensitive. More easily affected by stimulants, such as caffeine, or external ones such as sound, light, smells, etc.
- Complex. Most likely enjoy conversing about philosophy, feelings, and struggles.
HSP’s in the Workplace
Aron (page 236):
“Typically, HSP’s are highly conscientious, loyal, vigilant about quality, good with details, intuitive visionaries, often gifted, thoughtful of the needs of clients or costumers, and good influences on the social climate of the workplace. In short, they are ideal employees. HSPs tend to dislike aggressive self-promotion, hoping to be noticed for their honest hard work. Do not allow this to cause you to overlook a valuable employee. HSP’s may be the first to be bothered by an unhealthy situation in the workplace, which could make them seem like a source of trouble. But others will be affected in time, so their sensitivity can help you avoid problems later.”
HSP’s are the ones poised to call out that the Emperor has no clothes; yet, they are usually savvy enough to know when to push and when to hold back. This is a gift. Giftedness is a deviation from the norm. An HSP employee is definitely not a part of the norm.
Being “Abby” Normal is the new Black.
Rossina Gil, MSOD, MAIS, is a Leadership and Organization Development Practitioner, nicknamed “Nostradamus” and “Ms. Memorex” by her colleagues, and the founder of Corporate Looking Glass, LLC – a diverse consultancy of OD experts and strategic thinking partners. We increase retention. Visit CorporateLookingGlass.com.
© Rossina Gil, 2014
Elaine N. Aron, Ph.D. The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You