The opposite of the “highly sensitive person” is the person who feels nothing–the 180º opposite side of the spectrum. They are the ones who can stand up to speak in front of a crowd without wanting to cry, watch a sad commercial without wanting to cry, open up about the most intimate of issues without… wanting to cry.
But it’s not just that. For every HSP who experiences crippling sadness, happiness, love or lust, there is a non-sensitive counterpart left with little but, well, indifference.
So what happens when two people living in opposition develop a relationship with one another?
Things can become rocky, to say the least. Most of us fall somewhere along the spectrum, straying from one extreme or the other. But at the same time, we tend to have one overpowering perspective that can get in the way of a meaningful connection with those who tend to feel differently (or little at all).
I’ve experienced this in various manifestations and have known others who have dealt with the same. While I can be sensitive at times (and consider myself a bit of an “ex-HSP”), I mostly err on the side of passivity now when it comes to my emotions.
Maintaining relations with friends and family and partners who are more sensitive than me can be tough. It’s a struggle convincing them that I am not detached and, more importantly, that their feelings are valid.
But it is possible to maintain peak intimacy in your relationships even if you don’t (generally) feel as strongly as those you form relations with. Keeping the following in mind can help you become the compassionate, understanding person your loved ones need, even if you come from two very different places.
– As previously mentioned, validation is integral to any relationship. You want your friends, family, and partner to feel that their emotions are worthy and reasonable. Regardless of whether an emotional reaction seems rational to an outsider, it’s important to let others feel what they need to and be supportive of such.
– Allow them space, but also make sure to be around when they need you. Remind those in your life that you are there for them when they want support (but also try to stay mindful enough of when they might want that support without explicitly stating it).
– Don’t be afraid to admit your limitations–whether that’s referring to limited understanding of your loved one’s emotional state or limited experience dealing with emotional overload (of your own or others’). It’s completely fair to say something along the lines of I don’t know what this is like and I won’t pretend like I do, but I’m going to try to understand (with the knowledge that I may never fully do so).
– Don’t judge or criticize. When you feel strongly, the last thing you want is other people drawing attention to that. HSPs already tend to feel embarrassed when a spotlight is shed on them or their sentimentality. Just as it wouldn’t feel great for them to alienate you because of your emotional barriers, you don’t want to do the same regarding their emotional liberation.
– Be sensitive of their sensitivity. Strong lights, loud music, abrasive people or harsh words likely won’t be on your radar as much as on those of an HSP’s. But you can at least try to stay conscious of how they might perceive a situation that you wouldn’t bat an eye at. It’s essentially “allyism” in the simplest of forms.
– Practice patience. You might be accustomed to sensitive people who are well versed in the concept as well as their own internal state. However, there are many people out there who haven’t had the time, opportunity or drive to explore their own sensitivities. It can sometimes be frustrating trying to remain tolerant towards very passionate people (especially if you are not one), but making the effort will serve you both in the long run.
– Lastly, prioritize open communication. Ask questions, remain open, share your perspective, be willing to learn and listen. This is something you should be doing in every relationship, but especially when engaging with HSPs. This can help them come to terms with their own emotions, get to the root of an issue and/or feel that they’re facilitating your understanding. And it will help you understand what it’s like in their head.
There are definite benefits to each side of things, whether you are extra sensitive or not a very “feely” person at all. So don’t be dismissive of your own or others’ emotional states–instead, heed this advice and work towards understanding on both ends.
It will strengthen your relationships with the sensitive people in your life, and maybe even facilitate your compassion on an even larger scale.
Are you the highly or the barely sensitive, or maybe a combination? Do those you form relationships with tend to be opposite or similar?
If you have experience in this area, don’t hesitate to reach out and let us know what’s worked for you.
Also by Quincy: Polyamory Liberated My Love Life–Why It Might Help You Too
Related: Why You Can Be Introverted *And* Be A Badass (In An Extroverted World)
5 Psychologist-Approved Tips for Connecting with Anyone
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