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10 Life Lessons For Highly Sensitive People

10 Life Lessons For Highly Sensitive People

All my life, I’ve been highly sensitive, and this has certainly carried with it a number of challenges. As a teenager, I was unable to be around people who were eating, because I couldn’t stand the sounds they made, and have always been repulsed by the texture of certain fatty cuts of meat.

And instead of simply learning to understand why, I become extremely grumpy if I do not get time to myself everyday!

Throughout my journey, however, I have learned that being highly sensitive can also be a tremendous advantage. If we can learn to understand and manage our sensitivity, we can then cultivate our increased awareness and empathy.

These are just a few of the many lessons that can help sensitivity become a strength, rather than a hindrance.

1. We Should Learn To Understand Our Emotional Responses

According to the article 5 Great Lessons for Sensitive People from Power of Positivity, the strong emotional responses that highly sensitive people experience are due to empathy. We often feel what other people are feeling. Learning to manage this can require some awareness and practice.

In my own experience, I have learned to stop and examine my thoughts whenever I experience a strong emotion. If it is clear that the emotion is not coming from anything in my own mind, then I am able to see that it belongs to someone else.

Empathy without awareness can look very “selfish.”  When we don’t realize that the emotions we are experiencing are not our own, we only focus on bringing relief to ourselves. When we are aware of the source of the emotional response, we not only bring greater relief to our own mind, but we are also able to better understand the people around us.

2. We Should Realize That Understanding The Response Does Not Mean We Should Act On It

Power of Positivity cautions against immediately trying to “help” other people or act on the emotional responses we experience. Sometimes it is in the other person’s best interest for us not to become involved.

When we experience the emotional response and understand where it is coming from, we then need to look at the situation logically in order to decide what to do next.

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I have learned this lesson many times in my own life. When I am around people experiencing fear especially, I have a very difficult time not stepping in and trying to make that fear go away.

Through calming activities and understanding, I have had to learn to look at the situation in terms of what the other person needs, rather than my immediate need to stop the emotional response.

3. We Should Learn To Listen To Our Intuitions

This may seem like it is contradicting the last point, but it is not. According to Power of Positivity, logic and intuition are both necessary in evaluating a situation, and many people who are highly sensitive discount their intuition.

If we experience a “gut” feeling, especially as to whether we should trust someone else, it is important to listen to that.  Because highly sensitive people are taking in so much from our environment, we are able to evaluate a situation on a subconscious level, which results in a stronger intuition.

I have found that as I have overcome fears and misunderstandings, my intuition has grown stronger. Sensitive people are often very sensitive to judgement and criticism that we receive from others, which our minds often take to be the absolute truth.

The fears and limiting beliefs that stem from these misunderstandings – and they definitely are misunderstandings – can often lead us to feel doubtful about situations when it is not necessary. As we sift through and eliminate these limiting beliefs and doubts, our intuitions will grow stronger.

4. We Need To Seek Out Stimulating Conversation

In Huffington Post’s How Highly Sensitive People Interact With the World Differently, Lindsey Holmes states that people who are highly sensitive tend to get bored in relationships if there is a lack of stimulating conversation. This is because we crave deeper, more meaningful connections and interactions with those around us.

Some of my best memories in my marriage are of long, drawn-out conversations while on the road, or even while sitting on our back porch.  My husband and I will talk for hours about everything under the sun – politics, religion, the meaning of life.

These interactions have led to a deeper, more fulfilling connection between the two of us.

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5. We Need to Schedule Some Alone Time

According to Holmes, people who are highly sensitive may become overwhelmed by busy, open offices or busy social activities. We may feel scrutinized by those around us, or we may become distracted by all of the sensory input around us.

Having time by ourselves each day will help us to focus better and decrease anxiety.

I live on a sailboat in a busy marina in the city and have very little privacy, so I have had to be creative in seeking out alone time. Sometimes, I wake up before everyone else and spend some time sitting on the dock, looking out over the water.

Other times, I find a quiet corner in Starbucks, where I can do my work uninterrupted. And alone.

6. We Should Not Avoid Conflict

Holmes states that people who are highly sensitive tend to avoid conflicts, because the emotions we experience during them are often overwhelming. However, the empathy that we experience can be a strong asset in problem-solving situations.

Experiencing the emotions of those around us can help us to better problem creatively, if we are able to stay calm.

Staying calm in conflicts has been key for me. It has also been important for me to realize that experiencing the other person’s emotions is not the same as experiencing their thoughts.

I still need to ask questions, rather than assuming that I know why the other person is feeling the way that they are.

7. We Need To Eat Well

In her article 8 Tips for Empaths and Highly Sensitive People on The Spirit Science, the author states that people who are highly sensitive need to eat foods that help to improve our mental states.

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She recommends plenty of raw foods and greens, but adds that the appropriate diet for one person may be different for another.

In my experience, I have found that eating whole foods, with a great deal of protein, has helped me to stay calm and to improve my own mental state. Drinking a great deal of water and limiting caffeine have also helped to decrease my anxiety.

8. We Should Seek Out Scents That Appeal To Our Senses

According to the article, essential oils and incense can help to create a calming environment for someone who is highly sensitive. Scents like lavender, bergamot, spearmint, and tea tree oil are most recommended.

I have found that I do not enjoy spending time in a home or room that does not smell good, and I often burn candles in order to create a pleasant aroma. And in vanilla, my favorite scent by far, I have found the most calming reaction.

In the winter, I will even boil a pot of water, vanilla, and cinnamon to achieve the scent to feel most calming and pleasant.

9. We Should Become Aware Of Our Stress Responses

In her article Highly Sensitive People: Desensitizing Your Fight or Flight Response: Creating a Sense of Safety in Your Life by Changing the Meaning of Your Experiences from Online Counseling, Ewa Schwarz states that when a highly sensitive person becomes overwhelmed, their fight-or-flight response is triggered.

This response is designed for short-term survival, and chronic fight-or-flight is harmful to the body and mind.  Becoming aware of this stress response and learning to minimize it is key to decreasing this feeling of being overwhelmed.

Learning to calm my body and mind has been very important in my journey. I have used breathing exercises, yoga, meditation, and even walking to calm my stress response, so that I am able to move forward and process the situation around me.

10. We Should Examine And Redefine The Things That Cause Us To Feel Overwhelmed

According to Schwarz, the fight-or-flight response is triggered when the mind goes into an emotional reaction after making connections between the current situation and past experiences. The mind is detecting a threat in the present moment, based on its understanding of the past.

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Yet this is merely a perceived connection. In order to change our mind’s perception, we can go back to the initial assumption whenever our minds go into reaction.

Why are we seeing a connection? The connection is based on meaning that our mind has given the current situation.  When we can redefine the situation and stop seeing this meaning, we can diffuse the triggering event.

This has been absolutely key in my journey. When I am emotionally triggered, I stop and examine the thoughts behind the emotion. I then ask myself a series of question to determine why I think what I do, so that I can find the underlying assumption and redefine it.

This has helped me to become overwhelmed much less frequently.

I’ve often thought of a highly sensitive mind as being like a wild horse. It’s amazingly powerful, but it will take some time to train that horse and gain its trust.

With a lot of patience and perseverance, it is possible to train that horse and take advantage of its amazing power and strength.

Featured photo credit: Crystal/carianoff via imcreator.com

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Last Updated on January 15, 2019

How to Talk to Strangers Without Feeling Awkward

How to Talk to Strangers Without Feeling Awkward

Many of us feel awkward talking to strangers. I’m a very outgoing person, even though I sometimes feel uncomfortable walking up to someone and asking a question or starting a conversation. I consider myself pretty high up on the extrovert meter. So what is it that makes us pause and become worried or anxious about talking to people we don’t know?

In this article, we will discuss why we feel this way as well as some tips on how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

Step right up, don’t be shy!

Why We Feel Awkward Talking to Strangers

The next time you feel uncomfortable talking to a stranger, tell yourself that’s completely normal. There are numerous reasons why it’s actually natural to feel awkward talking to strangers:

Our Stress Levels Rise Around Strangers

Numerous studies have show that our levels of cortisol go up when we are around strangers.[1] Cortisol is the hormone inside of us which produces stress responses.[2]
So there you go, right off the bat you can see part of your standard response to strangers is due to a chemical reaction!

A very interesting by product of increased cortisol is that it makes us less empathetic. More than likely this can be traced to our evolution. The increase in the cortisol and the corresponding decrease in empathy makes us want to stay away from strangers. We are biologically wired to feel concern around strangers.

Evolution Taught Us to Be Wary

Evolution has also taught us to be wary of strangers in general. Humans as a whole have spent a large chunk of their history banded together in small protective groups. We did this in order to help protect each other and maximize resources.

When you think about it in this context, outsiders to our small groups or strangers are considered potential threats. Fear of strangers is common across almost all human cultures.

Culturally Conditioned

We can also thank our society for helping us feel uncomfortable and sometimes afraid of strangers. The term “stranger danger” is something most of us can relate to either growing up or raising kids. Or both.

I remember hearing this from my parents, mostly about not getting in someone’s car I didn’t know. And as the father of 2 teenage girls, you can be sure I’ve talked to them about this very concept more times that they want to hear.

The thought that strangers can be dangerous is built into us as it is. Toss in the amplification of the media on strangers doing things such as kidnapping kids and it takes it to an even higher level.

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Now that we’ve reviewed some of the reasons why we are nervous, let’s look at why you should talk to strangers more.

Benefits of Getting over the Awkwardness

Let’s take a quick look at some of the advantages of how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward. These are some high level benefits of talking to strangers.

1. Broadens Your Network

After you talk to someone, you didn’t know previously they become someone you know at least a little bit. This alone helps broaden your network of people you know. This is helpful in many ways whether it is work related or socially related.

2. Improves Your Communication Skills

I am a huge proponent of the value of solid communication skills and have written about it often. The more you talk to people, especially people you don’t know, the better your communication skills become.

Interacting with a wider variety of people will bring the added benefit of improving your communication skills.

3. Continually Learning

So many of us don’t actively seek to learn new things. This is one of the primary keys to staying engaged in life and our own personal self fulfillment.

Almost every time I speak to someone I didn’t know previously, I’ve learned something new. When we speak to strangers, it pushes us out of our comfort zones and we tend to learn new things.

4. Increases Self Confidence

Every time we learn to do something we were previously anxious about, we feel better about ourselves.

Forcing ourselves to talk to strangers will lead to increased self confidence. As we get more and more comfortable doing something that previously made us feel awkward, our self confidence will go up and up.

So, how to talk to strangers to reap these benefits?

How to Talk to Strangers

Here are some tips to on how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

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1. Say Hello

Putting “say hello” first may seem a bit obvious but let’s take a deeper look. Much of the social awkwardness when speaking to strangers is simply breaking the ice. The first words that will engage someone.

Most people will respond when someone says hello or hi to them. And those that don’t, you probably don’t want to talk to anyway.

Practice being the person that opens the door to a conversation. Say hello.

2. Ask About Them

Something that I have noticed over the years is that people love to talk about themselves. Even fairly private people tend to open up when asked about events in their lives.

You can ask leading questions that get people to talk about themselves and recent events. Things like recent movies watched or the summer vacation are great to get someone talking.

As a father, I also know that people love to talk about their kids. Asking about kids is a fairly easy topic to bring up and in general, most people will expound upon all the great things their kids do or are involved with.

3. Just Do It

One of the biggest reasons we don’t do things we want to or know we should is because we overthink it. Quit thinking about it so much and just do it.

When you give yourself the time to analyze every little angle about a situation, you also give plenty of time to talk yourself out of it. You’ll wind up thinking what if this happens or what if that happens.

Try to force yourself to jump right in without thinking about it too much. Whenever I have done this, I always feel great about it afterwards, no matter how it turned out.

4. Don’t Take It Personal

One of the greatest lessons in life I ever learned was don’t take anything personally. We all go through life with our own sets of experiences and see things through our own lens. The way people react to different situations has almost nothing to do with us. It has to do with previous experiences and the way people feel about things other than us.

When someone’s reaction isn’t what you’d hoped or expected, chances are it has nothing to do with you. Remember that and keep it in context.

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5. Get a Chuckle If Possible

I used the word chuckle purposely because it makes me laugh. In my opinion, it’s one of those funny words. We all like to laugh because it makes us feel good. And when someone makes us laugh, we typically remember those people in a positive light.

One of the best ways to make a conversation easy and free flowing is to get some laughter going. It doesn’t mean you have to be the master joke teller or anything. See if you can work in a way to make the person you are talking to get a smile or some laughter in. In fact, laughing at yourself maybe a nice try.

6. Detach

A great feeling is when you don’t mind which way something turns out, that you will be fine no matter what happens. Kind of like when I watch my two favorite football teams play against each other. I don’t really care who wins, I just want a fun game.

Treat talking to strangers the same way. You don’t really care how the conversation goes because you are detaching from the outcome. Make it a fun time with yourself and if the conversation goes well, awesome! If not then no big deal, move on.

7. Share Your Stories

Well, all like to feel connected to other people. And many times we wind up hanging out with people that we have things in common with. No surprise here.

To help with how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward, tell stories that have commonalities with the person you are talking to. Kids are an easy one. I have a daughter who was a competitive cheerleader and now plays club volleyball. I have instant connection and stories with strangers I speak with who have kids that play sports. It’s easy to relate to.

So when you are speaking to a stranger and you have a story or mutual connection point, bring it up.

8. Give a Compliment

Almost everyone likes hearing a compliment, whether they admit to it or not. As a general rule, we don’t give out enough compliments. It’s amazing how one small remark someone tosses your way about how good you look can literally make your entire day.

When you are speaking with someone you don’t know, see if you can work a compliment in. Nothing creepy here. Not a good idea to tell someone you just met that they are the prettiest or handsomest person you ever met. However, if you can share how you like their tattoo or shoes or something like that, it will help put the conversation into an easy going, smiling place.

9. Relax Your Body Language

If you go into a situation all worried and nervous, it shows on your body. Your shoulders are tensed up, there’s a look of consternation on your face, things like that.

When you engage a stranger in conversation, make it a point to relax your body language. Take a deep breath before you engage the person, let your body relax, and put a smile on your face. This will help relax you and it has the added benefit of putting the other person more at ease.

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If they see that you are relaxed, it helps them relax. Plus having open, engaging body language is very conducive to inviting someone to open up into a conversation with you.

10. Practice, Practice, Practice

Like everything else in life, talking to strangers gets easier with practice. The more you do it, the easier it becomes.

Make it a point to talk to several strangers each week and it will definitely help you relax as you do it more and more.

After a while, it will become something you don’t even think about, you just do it. And that takes all of the awkwardness out of being in these type situations.

The Bottom Line

As we have seen, it is perfectly natural to feel awkward talking to strangers. We are biologically built that way and we have our own society constantly warning us how dangerous it is. It’s no wonder we feel awkward talking to strangers!

There are numerous benefits to learning to be more comfortable talking to strangers. See if you can employ some of the techniques mentioned to learn how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

Once you start practicing speaking with strangers more often and utilizing some of the tips, you will become more comfortable doing so. This in turn will lead to a learned new skill and increased self confidence.

Remember, everyone you know was a stranger at one time. Now get out there and make some new friends.

More Resources About Strengthening Communication Skills

Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

Reference

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