Highly Sensitive people (also called Responsive and Highly Sensory Intelligent) bring a variety of gifts to their workplaces. Here is a list of just 10 sorely-needed things they do:
1. Focus and deep-thinking. Highly Sensitive people are able to focus and think deeply about an issue at hand.
2. Independent and intrinsically-motivated. They require little supervision - a boon for any employer or manager. This comes from a high degree of conscientiousness - a trait rated as 'the best personality predictor of performance' across jobs (Adam Grant).
3. Attention to subtleties. Responsiveness = awareness of nuances. People with this temperament see the details others miss, and place them in the larger picture, due to deeper processing. They're invaluable in making important decisions, seeing potential, and warning of pitfalls, among many other benefits.
4. Avoid office politics. You won't find them gossiping or taking sides - unless driven to it by poor leadership, with no other course of action available. Generally, though, they'll be the ones getting on with their work.
5. Able to 'read' emotions. With greater activation of the mirror neurons (involved in empathetic responses), as well as the insula and cingulate brain regions (consciousness and moment-to-moment awareness), those who are Highly Sensitive are more aware, alert and conscious in many situations, including those involving other people. This, added to their perception of subtleties, means they can read expressions, body language, and the emotional state of others quite accurately, and then respond accordingly.
As you can imagine, this is extremely valuable in any sort of personal interaction, especially with clients/customers (or students, with Highly Sensitive teachers) and in situations such as business negotiations.
6. See more than one side to an issue/situation. This is one reason why they don't get involved in office politics - a Responsive person sees more than one reason for an action, tries not to jump to conclusions, and can consider multiple viewpoints at the same time. From here, they can help others see these options. This makes them good peacemakers, counsellors/advisors, and considerate and reflective leaders.
7. Think creatively. Dutch psychologist Matthijs Baas and colleagues analysed mindfulness skills that predict creativity. Of these, only observation 'was consistently linked with heightened creativity' (Kaufmann and Gregoire, Wired to Create, p. 120). They concluded, "To be creative, you need to have, or be trained in, the ability to carefully observe, notice, or attend to phenomena that pass your mind's eye" (quoted in Kaufmann & Gregoire, ibid.). As we've seen, this is what Highly Sensitive people do all the time. They're made for creativity!
As Kaufmann and Gregoire also wrote,
'Sensitive people often pick up on the little things in the environment that others miss, see patterns where others see randomness, and find meaning and metaphor in the minutiae of everyday life.... If we think of creativity as "joining the dots" in some way, then sensitive people experience a world in which there are both more dots and more opportunities for connection' between them. (p. 126)
8. Insightful and intuitive. Those with High Sensory Intelligence see the potential in situations and people. They use their insight and intuition when looking at problems and opportunities, and bring up aspects which need to be considered in ventures, projects, and processes.
9. Act with integrity. Now ideally, everyone acts with integrity. Practically, not all do - and it can be hard to know who will and who won't. You can rely on a Highly Sensitive colleague to, though. Things matter to them - details, meaning, purpose. Where they can agree with them, they will be committed to an organisation's mission and values - if not, they wouldn't be there (or they'll be seeking to leave).
10. Unlikely to take shortcuts. I've already mentioned their high degree of conscientiousness. It's very important to a Responsive person to do things well - to take care of the variables. If they do something, they'll want to do it thoroughly. But if there's insufficient time, or resources, allocated to a task to do it properly (perhaps through a false sense of efficiency), they'll become frustrated. Lesson: If you want something done thoroughly, give it to a Responsive person - with enough time, and access to the resources needed, to do it. If this doesn't matter so much, give the task to someone else.
Bonus benefit: This is one that is potentially very helpful right now. A thriving Highly Sensitive person can see further - beyond the immediate conditions - in a crisis. When others might be panicking or floundering, a HS person is able to be calm and sensible. The key here, though, is that they need to be heard and believed in these moments/periods. To make that possible, this already needs to be a fixture in an organisation - where the gifts of those with High Sensory Intelligence are recognised and used. If this isn't in place, then they won't be able to do their part in this way, with actual results for the organisation, when it matters.
And this goes for any of the benefits we've discussed here. If you want the golden egg, you need to nurture the goose. (To put it in a transactional way...). That's where I come in. I'll show you how to do this in your workplace - and help you discover who these people are. Your workplace will never be the same - in all the best ways.
Tamara - Sensitive Thrive is my consulting business. I believe that the world needs Highly Sensitive people who are flourishing. We need their hope, insight, wisdom, and awareness of beauty and possibility. My vision is to help create a culture where this temperament is known, understood and valued; where organisations seek Highly Sensitive people to work for them, because they know what they can do. Where HS people feel like they fit in their workplaces, because those workplaces also fit them. A world where HS people belong, thrive, and flourish, and the world is better for it.