Highly Sensitive Refuge
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How to Attract Like-Minded, Positive Friends as an HSP

Highly sensitive people crave authenticity in every area of their lives, especially when it comes to their friendships.

Science backs up the importance of a friendship group for general health and longevity. 

For highly sensitive people (HSPs), friendships are experienced much more deeply than non-HSPs. 

In part, this is because HSPs experience emotion more strongly than others because their brains are wired differently. As a result of this, finding like-minded, positive friendships can be elusive for highly sensitive people as they wade through a sea of small talk — which is why they may struggle to make friends

For years, I felt frustrated by the surface-level interactions I had with friends, never fully feeling I’d connected at a deeper level. I realized I was craving deeper, more meaningful bonds in my friendships — and that I wanted my friendships to last.

Why HSPs Crave Long-Lasting Connections

In the past, my group of friends were often a source of stress, and they’d wax and wane like the moon, leaving me feeling lonely and questioning my value as a friend

In contrast, when I began writing this article, I’d just returned from a morning walk with a new friend. We met in a Facebook group for women who love the outdoors. For months, I watched in admiration as women posted photos of their high-energy adventures in far-flung places across the globe. 

But I also felt isolated. For various reasons, late afternoon and evening hikes aren’t suitable for me. So I posted about the types of hikes I was looking for and that’s when I met someone we’ll call “Jen.”

The two of us met up for local walks a couple of times and realized we had loads in common. Plus, we were both on the sensitive side. On our recent walk, we both agreed that our energies needed a low-key gentle amble instead of a heart-pounding hike. By honoring what I needed, I came away from our meeting feeling lighter, freer, and happier. Here was a friendship I could see lasting for years!

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What Unhealthy Friendships Look Like for HSPs

Before we explore ways to attract like-minded friendships, it’s helpful to understand what unhealthy friendship looks like, particularly if you’re an HSP. After all, highly sensitive people tend to fall for toxic relationships, and this can include friendships, too. 

Let me ask you something: How often have you convinced yourself that you are the problem, instead of realizing that your friendship isn’t thriving because you’re simply incompatible? I’ll admit to feeling like this and spending years agonizing over putting boundaries in place around the wrong people. Sound familiar?

There are a variety of reasons why HSPs are often drawn to unhealthy friendships, including the following:

  • They’re naturally empathetic and have a caregiving nature. This means that HSPs can be drawn to those who take advantage of our caring personalities. 
  • They process things more deeply. As a result, they react more intensely to emotions caused by the ups and downs of friendships, especially when conflict is at play.
  • Their empathic nature often contributes to codependent tendencies. So this means their mood is often dependent on the behavior (and mood) of their close relationships.

So if you’d like to turn things around and attract more like-minded, positive friends, here’s how you can do so.

5 Ways to Attract Like-Minded, Positive Friendships

1. Review your mindset and what you’d like in a friend.

There might be a more fulfilling way to have friendships as an HSP, one that means you aim to attract like-minded people in the first place. 

A few months ago, I was feeling lost as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns — and how they’d impacted my social life. I knew my old way of making friends was too draining, so I wanted to try something new. 

So, rather than feel bad about your past friendship woes, use your experience to identify what you don’t want in your future friendships. See it as a road map leading you to your new friends.

Some questions to ask yourself:

  • When have I felt a connection? 
  • What contributed to this connection?
  • How have I maintained my friendship bonds in the past? 
  • When did I feel secure in my friendships?

And, chances are, these questions will inspire you to think of other ones, too. 

2. Be willing to be vulnerable by opening yourself up to others.

Vulnerability is the key to connection. I’m sure I’m not alone when I say I used to believe that vulnerability meant weakness… but only until I discovered the work of shame and empathy researcher Dr. Brené Brown.

In her book, Daring Greatly, Brown gives us a much-needed exploration of vulnerability and its essential part in connecting, loving, and leading. Crucially, Brown states that there must be mutual vulnerability for there to be true connection between people. Brown explains that vulnerability equals feelings, and if we’re afraid of vulnerability, we’re scared of our feelings. (And if you’re an HSP, you know that we have plenty of emotions and feelings!) 

Her words changed how I approached all my social interactions. It was a relief to find out I didn’t need to be perfect, that humans bond over shared feelings and goals — and that’s what makes us human. 

Being vulnerable doesn’t mean showing all of our fears, but rather, feeling comfortable enough to share an insight into our feelings when attracting friends. For example, you might feel nervous when you attend a running event for the first time. By sharing a simple “I was so nervous about coming here today because I don’t know anybody,” it immediately puts you front-and-center for connection with another person. Likely, you’re not the only newbie, and you’re able to give that other person a chance to make you feel better. And, boom! We have connection.  

Want to reduce stress and thrive as a highly sensitive person? We recommend these online courses from psychotherapist and sensitivity expert Julie Bjelland. Click here to learn more.

3. Pay attention to how the person makes you feel.

Friendships are vital to our wellbeing. When we spend time with people who “get” us, and who share our understanding of the world, research shows that the hormone oxytocin is released in our bodies. Oxytocin is the love and connection hormone, and this plays a central role in our happiness. 

As our body is the house for all our emotions, it’s important to be aware of the messages it can send to us through somatic cues, too. “Somatic” means “about the body,” and if we tune in to it, we can learn so much about ourselves. This, in turn, can pave the way to bringing positive and like-minded people into your life.

When HSPs feel great, we feel everything deeply and intensely due to our increased emotional reactivity. Ever come away from spending time with a friend whose interests align with yours? How did it feel in your body? 

When I came home after a walk with Jen, I noticed the lack of tension in my body. Our conversation had had an ease to it, and this was reflected in feelings of calm and contentment. 

So use somatic cues like these as feedback following your interactions with friends and go from there.

4. Identify your values and see if they align with those of the new people you meet.

Finding others who share your values gives you a greater chance of attracting like-minded souls into your social circle for the long-term. How can you do this? Take time for self-reflection, which can really benefit your quest for attracting similar friends. 

Identifying, and understanding, your values is one way of doing this. To identify your values, ask yourself how you’d spend your time if you were financially stable enough to not need to work every day. 

  • What would your days and weekends look like? 
  • Would you offer your time to volunteer and help a charity in order to make others’ lives better? 
  • Would you immerse yourself in creating art or study for a certain degree? 

If you’d offer your time to help others, your values might be generosity, caring, and altruism, while dedicating yourself to artistic pursuits shows values of intuition, curiosity, and creativity. If you want to study, this shows you value curiosity, advancement, growth, and knowledge. So let these values guide you when meeting new people and when choosing activities to pursue for your social life.

5. Be authentic and honest, and the “right” friends will come along as a result.

Highly sensitive people crave authenticity in every area of their lives, and especially with others. But this means little if you’re not willing to get honest with yourself and what you want in a friendship. 

You might decide that you’re done with following the crowd and seeking surface-level friendships, putting quantity over quality. For example, when you show up to a virtual reality game event and enjoy yourself, you’ll attract others like you. Or when you finally admit that you prefer low-energy activities, like walks (although walkers know there’s nothing low-energy about hiking!), art classes, or spending time with animals, you will naturally be among people who share your interests. So your opportunities and chances for connection with positive, like-minded people will only increase.

When you truly connect with others who share your interests and values, you’ll recognize how good it feels to be in tune with those who share your world view. Sharing common ground with people similar to ourselves means there’s a good chance of such friendships lasting and lasting. 

So be your awesome, sensitive self and see how others flock to you and want to spend time around you. You’ll be surprised at how effective these small changes above can be!

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