Please Stop Doing These 9 Things to Highly Sensitive People

A highly sensitive person cringes and covers her face

It’s a gift to experience things on such a deep level — but it also comes with a few sore spots we HSPs would rather you stop poking.

If you’ve come to the realization that you’re a highly sensitive person (HSP), this may have made you heave a sigh of relief. Finally, you understand why you’ve felt unique or misunderstood all these years.

In cultures that don’t value high sensitivity, people with the sensitivity trait may experience lower self-esteem. So, if you’ve ever felt wrong about the way you process the world, know that you’re not alone. Perhaps you were told not to be “so sensitive” or chastised for taking too long to make a decision. Now that you know it’s your nature, you can silence those voices and embrace all the amazing qualities that come with being sensitive.

It’s a gift to experience things on such a deep level: to feel more empathetic toward others, to be moved by art and beauty, to have a deep desire for human connection. These are the things that make life rich and meaningful. 

As a Sensitive Person, Think About What You Need, Not What Others Want

Rather than going along with what other people want, it’s important to think about what you need. So, if someone asks you to do something that doesn’t feel right to your HSP soul, you can explain you’re better suited to a different approach.

So, what are some things you can do to nurture this awesome trait of yours? How can you care for yourself rather than hiding who you are and draining yourself in the process? One way is by setting healthy boundaries — which can be tough for HSPs — and letting loved ones know what you need and how to treat you. That said, here are nine things you should never do to a highly sensitive person.

9 Things You Should Avoid Doing to a Highly Sensitive Person

1. Tell us to push through (when all we want to do is rest and recharge)

While others have no problem pushing through when they’re tired and thrive on getting a “second wind,” you need to withdraw after a flurry of activity. Due to overstimulation and high perceptiveness, you need to get away sometimes to recharge and refresh.

HSPs require peace and solitude after a busy day to soothe frazzled nerves and reset. To take good care of yourself, accept that you’ll need time alone and make sure you take it. Let those in  your inner circle know that you get overwhelmed more easily so they can support you.

2. Take us to the latest slasher film

As an HSP, violent or scary films impact you more negatively than the average person. You probably avoid watching violent movies and TV shows as a form of self-protection. Even looking at the nightly news can be difficult for a highly sensitive person.

Violence and horror affect you deeply and may even make you feel physically ill. If you can, avoid or minimize those things that rattle you, like violent media or high-intensity action films. Your nervous system will thank you.

3. Invite us to a BIG party with LOTS of small talk

The type of socializing that happens at most parties actually feels isolating to an HSP. That’s because sensitive types tend to be seekers who want answers to the big questions in life. Small talk turns you off and you crave deeper interactions with others. The surface banter that dominates most parties can feel intolerable to highly sensitive people.

If you must attend a large gathering, be it a graduation ceremony or wedding reception, consider limiting your time there. It’s also liberating to have your own way home so you can leave when you’re ready without imposing on anyone else.

Remember, it’s okay to decline party invitations, and to be honest about the reason why. Pretending to be busy won’t help people understand and support you. Be honest about having a  personality type that fares better with lower key celebrations.

4. Take advantage of our listening skills

You might find people take advantage of your natural empathy and superior listening skills. Drawn to your agreeable nature, they put you in the listening seat while they monologue at you. 

Listening to someone else’s problems can be enormously exhausting to an HSP. That’s because you absorb the emotions of others, and feel them as deeply as your own. You have trouble detaching from the feelings of others.

Make sure you’re not letting loved ones use you as an unpaid therapist simply because you’re so easy to talk to. Even though it’s hard for you to say no or feel as though you’re disappointing someone, it’s important to set boundaries. Otherwise, you’ll end up overwhelmed and hollowed out because someone else has used you as a dumping ground for all their negative feelings.

5. Keep relationships surface-level

As a sensitive soul, you have a rich and complex inner life. Your brain processes information and reflects on it deeply. You absorb the feelings and emotions of those around you, and connect based on your thoughts and feelings, including your darker side.

You feel closer to people when you can reveal vulnerable aspects of your character, and share hopes, fears, and failures. Superficial interactions are of no interest to an HSP and leave you feeling empty and unfulfilled.

That’s why It’s so important for you to nurture that need for human connection and find others who want to go beyond the surface to form a deeper bond. Bonus points if they share your enduring love of art and beauty and notice all the little nuances of life.

6. Sneak up on us (PLEASE NO!)

Most HSPs have a strong startle reflex. If someone sneaks up on you, you respond by jumping a mile in the air. The assault on your senses causes intense discomfort and takes a while to recover from. What your friend considers an inconsequential show of affection can be extremely unsettling and anxiety-provoking for you.

The tendency to startle easily is actually a sign of a highly efficient nervous system. Due to a reaction time faster than the average person, HSPs respond more intensely to being caught off guard this way. So, tell your friends to give you fair warning when they’re about to approach.

Like what you’re reading? Get our newsletter just for HSPs. One email, every Friday. Click here to subscribe!

7. Surprise us, like with a party 

As a sensitive person, you find new situations so overstimulating, you might arrange your life to avoid change or conflict. Even positive changes bring you as much stress as they do joy. Most HSPs find novelty unnerving. That’s why they crave the comfort of a routine and knowing what to expect next.

Surprise parties encompass so many things that HSPs find overwhelming and uncomfortable. From the loud yelling of “Surprise!” to superficial party banter to being unable to retreat or leave if it’s in your home to the overwhelming nature of the unexpected event… surprise parties are a big no for most HSPs.

8. Take us to a hectic hotspot, even if it’s trendy

The auditory overwhelm and lack of sincere connection are a toxic combination for HSPs. You’re easily overstimulated, and the loud noises and strong smells of a busy restaurant affect you deeply.

The bang of clattering plates and music that drowns out conversation makes you want to cover your ears, run, and hide. Try finding a quiet booth in the corner or go at less peak periods to enjoy that restaurant meal. Staff are often willing to comply if you ask them to turn down loud music.

Better yet, avoid those venues altogether that are notorious for their rambunctious atmosphere and high volume. Try a more restful and relaxed restaurant or setting where you can enjoy deep conversation without having to raise your voice above the din.

9. Take us on a trip with a packed itinerary and tight timelines

Time constraints bother you — and when you have a lot to do in a short amount of time, you feel pressured. Feeling like you’re running behind is intolerable to an HSP. Too many things on your to-do list stresses you out and takes the fun out of a vacation faster than air from a popped balloon.

HSPs need down time between activities to avoid sensory overload. Consider having just three or four items on the daily itinerary, or a number that feels right to you. Also add time into your schedule to recover from the previous event before rushing off to the next.

Over to you, fellow HSP. What else would you tell someone they should never do to a highly sensitive person?

Want to get one-on-one help from a trained therapist? We’ve personally used and recommend BetterHelp for therapy with real benefits for HSPs. It’s private, affordable, and takes place online. BONUS: As a Sensitive Refuge reader, you get 10% off your first month. Click here to learn more.

We receive compensation from BetterHelp when you use our referral link. We only recommend products we believe in.

You might like: