You may have been told in the past that you are a sensitive person, and in a lot of occasions that is meant in a detrimental sense and you may think the same, that being sensitive is a negative trait to have.
Well, there can be negatives but being sensitive can help improve your relationships.
Maybe, sometimes you feel that you are too in tune with the emotions of others. That you need to walk on eggshells around someone because of their mood, or go out of your way to make someone feel better because you can tell something is wrong, taking responsibility for their emotional state, meeting your need to please.
You may even question yourself, is it something I have done that has put them into this mood? Are you allowed to be yourself, give an opinion or have a voice?
The answers to these questions will depend on what you have learnt about yourself and relationships during your upbringing and subsequent experiences.
Being sensitive to the emotions of others can be extremely beneficial in relationships. It allows you a deeper understanding of how someone may be feeling, an empathic link that can create a deeper connection.
When you can do this, you are able to make a ‘strategic’ decision on how you will be around this person. Will you choose to make the situation more difficult or try and make them feel better? Will you react to their current mood in a negative or positive way for the sake of the health of your relationship?
There are many complexities to be considered in these circumstances, as it isn’t what is best for the other person that is always the priority. You need to consider what is the best decision for you in these moments and do the work of learning what is best for you?
As mentioned already, you have chosen specific ways to be in relationships based on what your subconscious needs might be. You will aim to meet those needs in order to feel better, being in tune with someone else in order to manage how you feel may be one of those needs.
But, if you are choosing to connect with someone on an emotional level in order to create a healthy way of interacting and not creating something detrimental to yourself, then being sensitive to the emotions and needs of others can have a huge benefit to the success of your relationships.
If you have a healthy interpersonal sensitivity then you have empathy, compassion, tolerance and consideration. You have a delicate approach to others that allows openness, support and an ability to find resolution (if you are lacking in interpersonal sensitivity you will generally be impervious to the feelings of others, lack care and thought when communicating with others). You are able to see all sides of situations, accept opinions and ideas, but must be careful not put the feelings of others first and lose out on what you want (because as you know, not as many people have this ability as you would like).
Your sensitivity can help you in other situations too. An awareness of your environment, your surroundings so you can influence your actions. But, on the negative side it can also lead you to become easily overwhelmed, absorbing everything around you.
In certain studies, being highly sensitive has been linked to higher levels of depression and anxiety, as you are either too easily influenced by negative emotions or are busy worrying about how people may be with you.
A client of mine struggled with depression for many years, leading to several suicidal attempts when overwhelmed. They were very highly sensitive to the emotions of others based on the abusive behaviour of their parents growing up. They needed to develop this empathy in order to learn how to be around them. By doing this their own emotional needs became secondary and every time they were in an environment when someone was exhibiting negative emotions, they would automatically revert to this maladaptive space developed in childhood.
It is therefore very important to understand why you may be sensitive to others, is it a defence mechanism or a genuine openness to people’s emotions? Connecting to them in the moment and not allowing the situation to be about what you may or may not have done is very important.
With your partner, it can be helpful to know how he or she is feeling, but then if necessary, to put a more positive spin on the situation so you are not dragged into a negative emotional space of your own. If this is not what they need you to do, then it is important that no matter how they feel, you remain in a positive space.
Being sensitive can also make you more tolerant of the behaviour of others, which is a good thing as long as you are tolerating it for the right reasons. You understand that it isn’t personal or that they are in a specific mood that means they may not be in the best frame of mind. But this does not mean that you do not mention that it is inappropriate if you need to and do not let the behaviour continue unaddressed when required.
In summary, being ‘sensitive’, tuning into the inner signals of someone else’s emotional state can be of huge benefit in relationships and a skill worth cultivating, but does not mean absorbing negative emotions and not speaking up when you need to.
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Be good to yourself.