Explaining the Trait of the Highly Sensitive Person to Someone Else

A common question and struggle that many HSPs have is how to explain being Highly Sensitive to someone else.

With a world that is unfamiliar with this trait, it’s tough to find a way to educate others on who we are and why we behave the way we do.   I have been there and wanted to create these scripts to support your efforts in educating others about what being HSP is all about.

When explaining the trait to others, I feel it’s really important to emphasize all the “gifts” about the trait and not explaining it in a way that something is “wrong” with you.

The truth is, you’re perfect!  You were born a highly sensitive person, now it’s time to embrace it!  Be passionate about the trait and all its tremendous qualities and then balance it out with the challenges that come along with the trait.

Scripts to Explain Your HSP Trait

QUESTION: “Have you ever heard of the trait called the highly sensitive person or sensory processing sensitivity?” If they say no, then I will say…

  • It’s a trait that individuals are born with that makes up to 15-20% of the population and is also found in several species of animals. It’s a type of survival strategy that involves a special way of processing extra, subtle details, and thinking deeper about what we perceive.
  • We have the ability to read micro-expressions, for example, that up to 85% of the population cannot. We process the five senses in a much deeper way. (This might seem like a lot to memorize, but it’s important info to know!)
  • We can be very intuitive and empathic and it is often like having a whole other 6th sense.
    • As you can imagine, taking in so much information can feel quite overwhelming and exhausting at times. To function our best, we usually need more quiet, down time to process all the information and then to recharge.
  • It’s a pretty special trait and there is a lot to learn about it if you would like to know more. Learning about it has really helped me understand myself better and I would love to teach you more about it too so you can also understand me better. Let me know and I can give you some resources if you’re interested.  This is a great time to refer them to your favorite websites, books, podcasts, etc.

Taking it a Step Further

You can explain to friends and family what it is like FOR YOU, as a HSP.  Not all HSPs are created equal, so be sure to put your personal details in the script.  Using me as an example I might say:

  • During time spent in loud environments, I might have to walk away from the noise and spend time in a quiet space or get outside to let my body relax.  At concerts, I might even take ear plugs to lessen the noise and stimulation.
  • I love to see family and friends, but it’s best for me to visit in short doses.  Too much time around other’s energy and being “on” is very draining for me.  So I like to keep those visits on the shorter side followed by a quiet time and place to rest and recharge.
  • If you’re cooking something particularly aromatic or using fragrances on your body or in your house, I might need to leave the house and be outside since my sense of smell can overwhelm me.  At times, I even get nauseous or headaches from the intense smells.
  • While I like predictability, there are times when I might need to change plans last minute based on how my body is feeling.  If I’ve been overstimulated in some way, I become exhausted and need to rest.  Taking care of my needs is very important to my overall wellbeing.
  • Certain events are harder for me to attend than others.  Funerals are a good example.  Being in a room with a lot of grieving people (on top of my own grief) can be very tough because I absorb everyone else’s energy making my emotional state much more heightened.
  • As a HSP, I feel everything and I pick up on micro-expressions that most people don’t notice.  That said, it is very important for me to avoid certain personalities or people that overwhelm me. I will not participate in conflict and I will not enjoy being around others who are loud, critical, negative, or high energy.
  • I prefer one-on-one social interactions far more than larger groups.  I often get bored quickly when conversation is surface-oriented.  Give me a deep conversation or a topic to analyze and I feel energized and engaged.  I will avoid small chit-chat at all costs.  We all have preferences and this is mine.

This is just an example of how I might start to explain my trait to others.  The key is to educate others and encourage them to continue learning about the Highly Sensitive Person trait.  Again, it’s not a negative trait, it’s just different in many ways from the majority.

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