• Sarah Learney

‘Strength & Sensitivity;’ the Emotional Intelligence of Highly Sensitive People

‘You’re so sensitive!’ Words frequently said, though never with the warmth you might expect!

Sensitivity has always been, so I am told, my greatest weakness. In a professional setting, it is often deemed inappropriate, a limitation to success.

Diversely, could that inherent ability to attune to the emotions of others, be considered a sign of emotional intelligence? Rather than hindering our professional growth, could empathy enhance our competence as business and as sales leaders?

How Sensitivity Manifests in Behaviour?

Those amongst us who are considered ‘Highly Sensitive’ will appreciate the conflicting emotions which are often overwhelming. There is a constant need for openness, trust and honesty. Similarly, there is a natural reluctance to receive or deliver negative feedback, make difficult decisions or detach from emotional situations.

Having fallen victim to my own sensitivities on multiple occasions, I can testify to the relentless internal battle. As an employee, there is a need to be receptive to negative feedback and detach from emotions. As a Manager, there is a requirement to be candid and forthright, attuned to people’s reactions and yet not governed by them. We want to be strong, successful business professionals and yet this is threatened by our very sense of self.

Embracing Emotional Intelligence

Despite the prolonged suggestion that sensitivity is weakness, acknowledging these characteristics is the first step to embracing their advantages. Empathy and self-awareness are not characteristics to be deplored. Instead, they are soft skills to be self-managed and developed, enhancing our ability to interact with colleagues and customers alike.

It shouldn’t have to take a defining moment to allow for this transition, though this is often sadly the case. Rather, the support of an inclusive workplace can make a significant difference to those more sensitive amongst us.

Turning ‘Weakness’ into Strength

Emotional Intelligence, the ability to be self-aware, self-regulated, motivated, empathetic and socially proficient, is a key attribute to any workplace. Embracing our entirely human nuances and redirecting our energy, will ultimately empower us to achieve the success to which we aspire.

So, how is this achieved?

With self-reflection and exploration, taking the time to understand the key attributes of Emotional Intelligence and hone our sensitivities.

  • Self-awareness; recognising our strengths and values is key to developing our sense of self.

  • Self-management; rather than submitting to our emotions, is about controlling our thoughts and realigning our focus.

  • Motivation; a passion to achieve and succeed, is fundamental to our personal and professional growth.

  • Empathy; being attuned to the feelings of others and reacting in a manner which is sensitive, will enhance our development as business and sales leaders.

  • Social Interaction; being compassionate and constructive in all that we do, will foster stronger working relationships.

Diversity and Inclusion

In a society where diversity and inclusion are of paramount importance, how can it be acceptable to categorise high sensitivity as ‘weakness’? Rather, employers should embrace the human nuances of each and every employee, respecting their differences and providing the tools and support for personal and professional growth.

As a Highly Sensitive person who has made significant personal endeavours towards Emotional Intelligence, I would implore any business to better their understanding of these characteristics. There is strength in sensitivity and mental health matters.

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