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The truly creative mind in any field is no more than this: A human creature born abnormally, inhumanly sensitive.” Pearl Buck

HSP, or highly sensitive person, is a temperament in which the nervous system is more reactive than approximately 85 percent of the population. Often characterized as shy, inhibited, acutely worried and intense, these individuals are mislabeled as too mild mannered and self-effacing to say anything. Dr. Aron, author of The Highly Sensitive Person, suggests HSPs are stalwarts in disguise: “…a gifted, deep powerful presence in the room.”

Their perception can be likened to a satellite dish that doesn’t miss a trick. In terms of recruitment and selection, this ability is a gift. It’s not that they have access to nonexistent information. They simply possess intuitive ability which borders on the prophetic – combined with remarkable creativity, and an intensity that can perturb their peers. HSPs possess a quiet anxiousness counterbalanced with piercing insight.

The downside is that savagery has more serious consequences for the delicate, who are more susceptible to overload, over-arousal, and subsequent burnout. Their emotional lives are a series of solar flares seemingly blowing things out of proportion. Because they are reticent to speak, at work they’re sometimes caught in a slow roast in front of their peers.

When meeting another person, a non-HSP might remain neutral. HSPs (on the other hand) are regaled by myriad stimuli that stick in their craw. Their silence is misinterpreted as passivity. This is far from the case: many times they’re simply cataloging information for later use.

Highly sensitive people are able to see through another’s ruse, repaid for their efforts by emotional angst. Bombarded with information of which the majority is unaware, they can detect subtle shifts, peoples’ moods, and potential danger. They can spot a phony faster than anyone, and they are experts at seeing future trends and yet hidden prospects.


In Tips for Employers of HSPs, Aron suggests the following:

Typically, HSPs are highly conscientious, loyal, vigilant, [and] intuitive visionaries.” She further notes they:

    • Strive to promote quiet and calm in their environments to counteract the effects of over-stimulation;
    • Perform less well when under the microscope (during observation);
    • Make internal processing a priority, and as a consequence tend not to socialize as much as their more extroverted, non-HSP peers;
    • Eschew self-promotion; and
    • May be the first person to sense a situation needing repair.

Overall, she argues HSPs are “ideal employees” that every organization needs to balance the no-holds-barred non-intuitives who sometimes brutalize their peers. They may not however be the ones best suited to front line battle, more comfortable scheming behind the scenes where they do their best work.

Honoring diversity suggests paying homage to both styles.


Related links:

Top ten survival tips for the highly sensitive person

Highly sensitive people.com

Ten tips for highly sensitive people


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All viewpoints expressed by Jackie Gilbert are her own, and not of her employer.

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