Often, what we see in Highly Sensitive people is the result of too much unhelpful stimulation - that state of being overwhelmed. But this is a really poor indicator of what High Sensitivity is. And the reason they get there is because they're living in a world set up for everyone who's non-Sensitive. So what, really, is this temperament? What are its gifts - and how do we recognise them and allow them to flourish?
In this recording, I discuss the following:
- alternative terms for the Highly Sensitive temperament (*note: Willow MacIntosh - I couldn't think of his name at the time - is the champion of the term 'High Sensory Intelligence' mentioned here. He's the founder of a company called 'Inluminance', which works to help people with this temperament use their gifts in the world)
- misunderstandings about what sensitivity means
- what it actually means
- how the Sensitive temperament leads to unique gifts (an insight into the process)
- why it's in everyone's best interests to help Highly Sensitive people to thrive
- where the overstimulation that's often the most visible feature of the temperament comes from - and why this isn't what their 'sensitivity' is really about
- how to see past this: my goal
- benefits and reasons for reducing unhelpful stimulation for HS people at work
This recording was made using my computer's microphone, in the middle of summer, so there's fan noise in the background. I hope it's not too distracting - I think it is at first, and then you become used to it. As I don't have a dedicated podcast, I'm not focusing on recordings and don't have a separate microphone. For now, the message is the most important thing. I hope that message comes across, despite the imperfect nature of the recording.
There are two options for listening: the weblink below to the track on SoundCloud, and a downloadable audio file.
I also have a list of myths and facts about High Sensitivity, which you can view, and download, via the button below (no sign-up required - this is a direct link to the file).
You can save or print this, and use it for your own reference when working with Highly Sensitive people. You can also provide it to managers and other leaders when explaining the concept to them, as you work to get them on board for helping Highly Sensitive people thrive in your workplace.
(If you’ve heard any others not on this list, let me know – if they fit, I’ll add them)
Here are some general recommendations for creating a physical environment at work which reduces some of the negative stimulation that Highly Sensitive people might be experiencing - increasing their wellbeing, productivity, and beneficial connection with others.
ARTIFICIAL & FLUORESCENTS
Natural light is best for us all, but HS people need it more than most. We really struggle with high levels of artificial light – especially fluorescents. The negative effects of fluorescent lighting have been revealed in various studies - although claims are a little controversial. Two main reasons are that:
(1) They emit only a small spectrum of light, in comparison to the full colour spectrum that the Sun does - at the blue end.
(2) They tend to flicker, whether it's observable or not.
Thought.Co has an article which lists these negative effects and their cause. (Some of these aren't the sole cause of such results, but a contributing factor or found in the same situations as other more influential factors).
If these aren't of much concern, or you feel skeptical about them, consider the energy, lifespan and similar aspects, as explained here. As this article notes, anyone who has environmental sensitivities (the best known are those with light sensitivities and autism disorders) will be affected by the lighting in their workplace, and fluorescents are the worst offenders here.
Remember that Highly Sensitive people respond more to everything - good and bad. Any change which is helpful to them will result in increased performance and wellbeing beyond that of others.
HS people are also sensitive to bright light – so sitting near large windows, of the type in many high-rise office buildings, which lack blinds to reduce the glare and level of brightness, is unhelpful.
Introduce plants into the office space. If you have some, add more. Let HS team members take care of them – and even choose them. They’ll take all the variables into account, and will be consistent with their care. The plants don’t need to be expensive, and will give a good return for investment due to their positive effects.
Create outdoor break areas which are:
(a) away from busy roads,
(b) truly free of cigarette smoke (have a completely separate area for smokers, where the smoke doesn’t affect other break areas),
(c) quiet and peaceful (you might have one for those who want to chat and interact, and others for those who want downtime),
(d) with clean, relatively comfortable seating, and
(e) ideally in a natural space, or at least with some garden areas (this means actual garden – visually attractive and varied, not lawn and a few low plants near a carpark). If your workplace is close to a park or two, bonus!
Do these sound like luxuries? Exposure to the natural environment - plants, quiet, nature sounds - is vital for us all, but especially so for those with High Sensory Intelligence. We take in so much through the day that our senses need space for rest and replenishment. Break areas which are truly a break from the office environment - including, where needed, from colleagues - will increase your High Sensory team members' effectiveness.
These are a few inexpensive and not terribly difficult steps you can take to help make your workplace more HSP-friendly. You don't need to have a garden like the one above (it's part of the Roma Street Parklands, so I don't think any of us will measure up to it!) or the most modern outfitted office. Just do what you can - and remember, every step you take in this direction will lead to improved performance from your Highly Sensitive team members, with all they have to give.
For more individualised and comprehensive recommendations - and an assessment of your actual workplace - a bespoke consultation is the answer.
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.