Has anyone ever told you that you are being over-sensitive?
Or that you are over-reacting?
Or that the person is only teasing and that it is just banter?
Have you ever been made to feel like it is you that has the problem?
I’m here to tell you today that it is OK to be sensitive. That (within the norms of acceptable behaviour) it is OK to not like a comment, judgement, or “banter”. It is OK to not like being teased. And, whereas no-one actively likes criticism, it is OK to not respond well to constant or harsh criticism.
If you are a sensitive person you will know that being told you are being over-sensitive feels like a complete dismissal of your feelings. That’s because it is a complete dismissal of your feelings. The person saying it doesn’t want to recognise that what you feel is justified. And if you have hurt someone, however unintentionally, who can argue that the best thing to do is anything other than acknowledge that? If you hear these words it is worth remembering that they are often not a deliberate attack on you, but are said in defence. Basically, it’s not you, it’s them. If you find yourself saying these words, on behalf of all sensitive people, can I ask you to bite your tongue and give it some thought?
Telling someone that they are being over-sensitive is a silencing technique. You may not mean it to be; in fact, you may genuinely be trying to reassure them that they misunderstood the intention behind your words. But the impact of “you’re being over-sensitive” is to dismiss the other person’s feelings. Maybe you really don’t get why the person is being, in your eyes, too sensitive. It’s OK not to get that. We all have different reactions to pretty much everything. Which is fortunate – the world would be very dull if we were all the same.
Now, just because you are talking to a sensitive person this doesn’t mean you need to feel like you are treading on eggshells. Sensitive people love deep and meaningfuls or light hearted conversation as much as anyone else. The key is to find out, like anyone else, what makes them tick. But telling them they are being over-sensitive is never a good thing.
It is always worth considering the impact of our words. What may be nothing to you maybe be everything to another. When building relationships with people we tend to take other people’s concerns into consideration. This will include their sensitivity.
Final comment: some people deliberately use it as a silencing technique. In abusive relationships it is a common way of deflecting blame onto the abuse victim, and even gas-lighting. Conversely a relationship when one party feels they are constantly walking on eggshells around the other is also likely to be very unhealthy. My post above is not aimed at tackling abusive relationships, but is more geared towards genuine misunderstandings.
If you are interested in reading more about (highly) sensitive people have a look at these links:
Sensitive People Aren’t Weak, they are Actually Natural-Born Leaders from Elite Daily is a great article celebrating some of the many strengths of sensitive people.
I can absolutely recommend looking at Elaine Aron’s website. Along with her book, The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You, it is a brilliant guide to understanding your own sensitivity or understanding highly sensitive people around you.
16 Habits of Highly Sensitive People from the HuffingtonPost is a good, quick read.
I will be blogging more about being sensitive and being highly-sensitive soon.