Anyone who knows me is aware that I wear my heart on my sleeve. In conversation, my responses are emotionally driven – I am quick to laugh, cry and openly express my feelings. I used to apologise for being overly sensitive, but with greater understanding, I now realise that my innate personality is an asset. Highly sensitive people are ideally suited to roles that demand empathy.
Highly Sensitive People
Last year I discovered and read a book; The Highly Sensitive Person, written by Elaine N Aron PhD. On each page, I identified strongly with the traits that she was describing.
For years I have been embarrassed by the fact that I well-up in response to comments, shared stories and even the mood of other people. Some tears are shed in sadness, others in joy. I sense that tears can make other people uncomfortable; they aren’t sure how to respond. They may view me as weak for crying, so it is difficult not to see this as a negative trait.
The book transformed my self-awareness and helped me to see the benefits of having high levels of sensitivity. This aspect of my personality is critical when representing vulnerable people and helping others to understand how to best serve their vulnerable customers.
I will share the advantages of being highly sensitive; you may relate to some of them too.
EMPATHY – impacted by the emotions of others and able to connect with them
REFLECTIVE – able to see meaning and connections between events
INTUITIVE – being led by feelings when making decisions or responding to a situation
CONCENTRATION – enjoying opportunities to be fully absorbed in an activity
JOY BRINGER – reacting with curiosity, anticipation and joy helps to lift the spirits of others
CONSCIENTIOUS – acutely aware of what’s happening around you and wanting to help
SPIRITUAL – being guided by a deeper sense of purpose and meaning
Far from weakness, these characteristics hold incredible value for anyone working with others.
Recruiting Empathic Employees
According to research by Elaine N Aron PhD, 15-20% of the population can be classified as highly sensitive people. I’d suggest that they are the ideal recruits for roles that demand empathy, compassion, and a connection with people.
Being attuned to the emotional world, they will be quick to pick up on subtle changes in another’s body language, tone, or facial expression. They will spot when someone is uncomfortable or confused and will instinctively know what to do. They will be checking understanding, finding connections, and building trust.
You may already have someone on your team who is approachable and quickly puts people at ease. They will be good at building personal and professional relationships, which are fundamental to strong team dynamics and great customer service.
If this does remind you of a colleague, then it is also important to understand that the heightened levels of sensory stimulation that they experience have to be balanced. They absorb the mood and emotions of others and need to balance this with times of quiet concentration.
I know that a day of vulnerability training is emotionally exhausting. Whilst I love engaging with teams, sharing knowledge and experiences, I need to follow this with quiet time in my own company. As my own boss, I can schedule my work so that I can deliver each training event with enthusiasm and energy.
What is your Special Power?
So, the traits or mannerisms that we might view in a negative light may actually be what makes us excel in certain circumstances. For me, I realise that empathy with others is at the heart of everything I do. What is your special power?