If you identify as a highly sensitive person (HSP), navigating the professional world may present some challenges. For instance, HSPs are more likely to take things personally and experience discomfort in crowds than non-HSPs. However, being an HSP can also carry with it some hidden advantages, as well.
While others may balk at tedious tasks like alphabetizing and filing, you use duties such as these as an opportunity to gain some much needed quiet time. Escaping from interpersonal interactions for a period of time can give you the space you need to dive back into work more fully later.
Some employees look forward for the chance to meet people in their organization they otherwise wouldn’t, but an HSP may find the expectation to constantly interact with a large group to be draining. Because networking with other departments is often a necessity for continuing to move your career forward, this can cause added pressure for HSPs.
While some may press the ‘send’ button on messages to colleagues without a second thought, HSPs take extreme caution when it comes to communicating with others whether the context is professional or personal. They understand that every word may be read in a number of ways, so they take great pains to make sure that their intent comes across as clearly as possible.
Knowing that they’ll have to present the their knowledge to others can cause HSPs to go into mental overdrive. Whether they’re interviewing for a new position or delivering a proposal, considering what each individual’s perspective is can lead to mapping out multiple possible scenarios for how things will play out.
Some employees may shrug off what their supervisors have to say about them, but HSPs tend to place a great deal of value on these proceedings. The date is likely circled on their calendars each year. While the days leading up to the event may feel unpleasant, there is some benefit: HSPs are often identified by managers as being top performers.
Spending lunch breaks catching up with colleagues may appeal to some employees, but HSPs view this period as an opportunity to enjoy some quiet time. Depending on their position, HSPs may spend a large chunk of their days interacting with others, so quietly enjoying a meal can prove to be even more precious.
When a coworker oversteps a boundary or makes a mistake, the prospect of letting them know about it can cause HSPs stress because of their empathetic nature. While their less-sympathetic counterparts may alert others about a misstep without a moment’s hesitation, those who are highly sensitive will instinctively work to find the least abrasive way to phrase their criticism.
While being an HSP can without a doubt feel overwhelming at times, having such a keen sense of the world can result in having incredible perceptive skills. At the end of the day, their skills of observation come in handy.
Kayla Heisler is an essayist and Pushcart Prize-nominated poet. She is an MFA candidate at Columbia University, and her work appears in New York's Best Emerging Poets 2017 anthology.