We may react by overanalyzing, ruminating, and even getting depressed and anxious over interactions with other people. For some of us, a simple conversation gone wrong can make us feel sick, disrupt our sleep, and send us into an all out binge with the snack cupboard.
So how can we stop doing this to ourselves? How can we reduce the feelings of heightened sensitivity so that we don’t suffer and sabotage our own health?
For starters, take back your POWER!
When I was learning CBT, (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) one of the wisest things my mentor asked me was, “Why are you giving your power away?” This was usually in response to allowing myself to get upset by what others might say. The more you allow someone to upset you, the more power you give to them.
As children we have very little power. We are dependent upon our carers. If you were in a situation as a child where an adult in your life abused their power, you may still believe that you are helpless even as an adult. As difficult as it may be to believe, time does alter this equation. You do have control and power as an adult. You don’t have to put up with a bad situation, and you don’t have to give away your power to anyone.
Limit interactions with toxic people.
Toxic people are skilled at making things personal. You may take what they say to heart because essentially, that was what they intended to do. These are the people in your life who drain you of emotional energy.
After an encounter with a toxic person you may feel nervous, angry, devalued, or depressed. One solution may be to cut off contact completely. If that is not possible, then try limiting your interaction with the person. You should never have to forfeit your mental health for anyone… yes ANYONE!
Ask for clarification.
Instead of ruminating and picking apart conversations to try to understand what someone meant, ask the person directly for clarification. (Go to the source!). It is important that you ask this question in a non-defensive way in order to reduce unnecessary confrontation. It is not guaranteed that you will get a straight answer back, but you will have opened the door for honest communication. This is almost always better than allowing things to fester and stew in your own head.
(Somethings that I ask myself before asking for clarification:
- Is this person going to realistically be in my life in the next 5 years?
- Do I even want them to be? If not – you may have got all the clarification you needed – without needing to waste time ruminating or conversing.)
Understand Your Hot Points.
Everyone is sensitive to certain topics or issues. Some sensitive areas may be weight, making mistakes, or any perceived faults. You may also be sensitive to anything you were ever bullied for in the past. Be aware of these “hot spots” and how you may tend to overreact when they come up in conversation. The key is to not allow yourself to get sucked into feeling your old wounds.
Understand that you don’t have any control over what people say.
You may have had the desire at some point of wishing to control what others say. You can’t. People will think things. They will say things you don’t like. Other people may be mean. You can’t stop that. But you can control how you react and respond.
- You can choose to be assertive.
- You can choose to limit your interactions with this person.
- You can choose to not give this person your power by allowing them to upset you.
- Focus on what you can do instead of what the other person is doing or saying.
Realize that some people say stupid things.
When most people talk, they aren’t thinking about you or anyone else. There are many people who say hurtful things because they don’t know how to express themselves and they are oblivious to their audience. This is no excuse for rude behavior, but at least you know in some instances it is not about you. What people say is always more about themselves than anyone else.
Focus on the positive people in your life.
You only have so much time and energy in a single day. Why give your precious energy to people who make your life miserable? Stop trying to “work” at bad relationships or fix negative interactions. Just let them go. It is not your job to make everyone nice/happy. Move on to focusing on the people who do matter most in your life. These are people who are mostly likely being neglected because you are too busy fussing over jerks.
When some interaction distracts you from functioning, ask yourself these questions.
- Is this interaction important in the larger scheme of things?
- Do I need to seek clarification?
- What do I have to gain by responding or letting it go? Is this the best use of my time and energy?
Being sensitive in a seemingly insensitive world can feel like you are always getting hurt. But you don’t have to suffer. There are things you can do to be less vulnerable. Although I have listed a few strategies on how to cope with being highly sensitive, I am sure you all have other ideas.