A highly sensitive person (HSP) has a rich inner world, feels things deeply, and can easily get overstimulated.
As a result, they already have plenty on their plate.
If you know someone like this, ignorant remarks only do more damage, even when your intentions are good.
So instead of hurting them, why not learn how to avoid adding fuel to the fire?
Here are 12 things you should never say to a highly sensitive person.
Consider yourself warned.
1) You’re too sensitive!
Starting with the obvious, I can assure you that the HSP in your life already knows they’re sensitive.
They don’t need to be reminded of that whenever they have a strong reaction to an event.
HSPs experience emotions more intensely, and they may be more affected by both positive and negative experiences.
If they had a switch to turn it off, they would use it, at least once in a while.
Also, this makes it sound like being sensitive is a bad thing.
In fact, HSPs have a lot going for them:
- Strong intuition
- Heightened empathy
- Ability to connect deeply with other people
- High sensory awareness
- Greater creativity
Their sensitivity is like a superpower.
Don’t shame them for it.
2) You’re overreacting.
This is like telling an angry woman she should calm down. It doesn’t work.
If I had a dollar for every time a man told me to relax whenever I got slightly upset over something, I could afford Taylor Swift concert tickets at resale prices for the rest of my life.
It’s even worse for HSPs.
When you tell HSPs that they’re overreacting because “it’s not a big deal,” you’re invalidating their feelings.
Additionally, you sound patronizing and like you don’t care about what they’re going through.
All in all, it’s not helpful – and it makes the HSP feel self-conscious and dismissed.
3) Let it go.
Again, don’t you think that they would if they could?
HSPs find it harder to let go of emotional experiences quickly.
Encouraging them to move on without addressing their feelings makes them feel unheard and unsupported.
Just because you can process things in record time and move on doesn’t mean they’re in the same boat.
Quite the contrary.
And if you truly cared about them, you’d provide support rather than condescending suggestions.
4) Just push through it.
Similarly, advising HSPs to push through a particularly difficult situation is like encouraging people to go to the office during the zombie apocalypse.
Some of them might show up and pretend they can function, but they won’t give you 100%.
They’ll be worried about keeping their brains intact and convincing their loved ones not to go outside after curfew.
HSPs have their unique way of processing the world – and they may have a harder time dealing with a situation than the average person.
Acknowledging and respecting that is crucial if you want to keep them in your life.
5) Toughen up!
If you say this, you probably want to encourage HSPs to put on a harder shell because the world is unfair and unlikely to cut them any slack.
(I like to believe that you mean well.)
Still, while you may view this as a harmless comment, it will have the opposite effect.
Telling HSPs to toughen up implies that their sensitivity is a weakness and that they must change if they want to succeed in the world.
Albert Einstein, Greta Garbo, and Martin Luther King Jr. were all HSPs.
I rest my case.
6) Grow up!
Please refer to the previous entry.
7) Hurry up!
HSPs have sensitive nervous systems. It doesn’t take a lot for them to become overwhelmed or overstimulated.
When that happens, HSPs might take longer than usual to perform tasks or engage in day-to-day activities.
If they don’t take care of themselves, their bodies and minds go haywire.
On that note, if your HSP friend is sluggish, telling them to hurry up solves nothing.
Ask them what’s going on and whether you can help.
That’s considerably more productive.
8) Stop playing the victim.
If you don’t understand how HSPs function differently, it’s easy to think they’re exaggerating or playing the victim when, in fact, they’re simply existing in the world.
HSPs have coping mechanisms meant to help them manage their sensitivity, and these might involve seeking support or expressing their emotions.
When you accuse them of acting like a victim, it can discourage them from using these healthy coping strategies, which hurts them in the long run.
Not to mention that HSPs likely already struggle with self-doubt and question their emotions due to their sensitivity.
Your words will exacerbate these feelings and lead to a negative self-perception.
9) You’re being illogical.
HSPs often rely on their intuition to make decisions, which is based on subtle cues and feelings.
Plus, as emotions play an essential role in decision-making, they can sometimes lead to choices that appear illogical on the surface.
In other words, while HSPs’ actions might not seem logical to you, they make sense to them.
Using this phrase implies that you’re being judgmental and unsympathetic.
You’ll push HSPs further away.
10) I know how you feel.
Using this phrase seems inoffensive.
You’re trying to commiserate and show HSPs that you understand them.
But if you’re not a highly sensitive person yourself, you probably don’t.
You might have similar feelings if you’ve been in a comparable situation, but none of us truly know what goes on inside someone else’s soul.
Instead of relying on such a generalized statement, try opening up about your experience with the problem at hand.
This may prompt HSPs to recount what they’re going through.
11) Have you considered meditation?
Or yoga. Journaling. Gardening. Coloring. You name it.
Trust me: if the highly sensitive person you’re advising wasn’t born yesterday, they already gave all coping mechanisms a try.
They probably know what works best for them, and your suggestions come across as insulting, not helpful.
12) It could be worse.
I don’t know about you, but I hate it when I get emotional over a setback or rejection, and someone suggests that “it could be worse” and that I should “look on the bright side.”
Gee, thanks, why haven’t I thought of that?
Toxic positivity functions as an avoidance mechanism for people who prefer to dodge authentic human emotions.
HSPs, however, feel everything more intensely, so it’s unlikely that this strategy of “looking on the bright side of things” will function for them.
Just because something could be worse doesn’t mean their emotions aren’t valid – and you shouldn’t imply that.
Now that you know what not to do, you might wonder how to enhance your relationship with the HSP person in your life.
Start by acknowledging their feelings and lending them an ear or a shoulder to cry on whenever needed.
More importantly, ask them about their triggers and what soothes them when they feel overwhelmed.
This way, you will be better equipped to help them when everything feels like too much – in the way they prefer to be helped.
It’s not rocket science.