What are the characteristics of highly sensitive people?

High sensitivity - what is it?

Strengths of highly sensitive people

Highly sensitive people are often more reflective and more careful. Another characteristic is empathy - the ability to be intensely aware of the feelings of others. They are often considered to be good listeners, also because they are sensitive to the vulnerable points of their counterparts. Often without having spoken a single word to the person opposite. You can perceive the emotional state of others as soon as you enter a room, a single look at the other person can be enough.

These special skills are of course particularly useful for people who are artistically, philosophically or psychologically active. With this in mind, it becomes understandable why artists and other creative celebrities often behave differently from what is considered “normal”.

High sensitivity in psychology and medicine

In psychology and medicine, high sensitivity is referred to as a personality trait. Medicine shows that the areas in the brain that are used for sensory processing are more pronounced in highly sensitive people and work more actively than in those who are not affected. It has little to do with esotericism and special gifts.

It is now known that in almost all cases, high sensitivity can be detected after birth. Twin studies also suggest that it is inherited.

Research shows that highly sensitive people perceive more details in a wider spectrum. The perceptions differ in individual cases: While some of them absorb smells, optical and acoustic impressions more intensely or more multifaceted, others notice subtle nuances in interpersonal relationships, for example.

Highly sensitive with subtle differences

Highly sensitive people have something in common, but are very different in many ways, including in terms of their sensitivity. Highly sensitive people often do not recognize each other because their high sensitivity can be stored in different areas:

  • Sensory sensitive people
    have particularly fine sensory perceptions: noises, smells, light and colors have a particularly strong effect on them. Often they have a talent in these areas: musically, artistically, aesthetically.
    Possible disadvantages: often particularly sensitive to noise, easily irritated, quickly overloaded by many sensory impressions.
  • Emotionally sensitive people
    especially pick up the subtleties in interpersonal areas. They are compassionate, helpful, empathetic, often very close listeners with strong intuition.
    Challenges: often feel overwhelmed by the burden of everything they perceive. In conversations, they often react more strongly to the undertones than to the spoken message of the other person.
  • Cognitively sensitive people
    have a strong 'sense' for logic, for 'true or false', and think in very complex contexts. Often have special talents in a scientific or technical field.
    Problems can arise when complex thinking hinders communication in everyday life.

Dealing with highly sensitive people

Do you know someone who is hypersensitive? Then it is important to accept the diagnosis and take it into account in everyday life. This does not mean that those affected have to be tackled with silk gloves. You only have to allow them the space to retreat in order to grant necessary breaks from the daily overstimulation. Those affected, in turn, are helped by meditation and relaxation techniques that can easily be incorporated into everyday life.

Address highly sensitive people in the workplace

Highly sensitive people benefit in a special way from a corporate culture in which communication is open and supervisors and colleagues are interested in solutions. Many highly sensitive people look for a special purpose in their work and suffer greatly if they do not fulfill this feeling. You should have the feeling that superiors with stressful circumstances will understand you. It is even better when managers actively ask about problems and disruptions and show an effort to remedy or alleviate the problem.

Spatially, highly sensitive people usually get along less well with open-plan offices. Small office units and retreats have a positive effect.

Seeing highly sensitive people as an asset to companies

With their keen sense, thoroughness and conscientiousness, highly sensitive people make potentially important contributions to work processes. They are said to be creative, a tendency towards meta-perspective and factual orientation. They can also have an indicator function when disturbances and problems arise, as they perceive them earlier than others.


Additional information

More information is available from the Information and Research Association for High Sensitivity (IFHS)