Bullies and introverts do not mix.

How Bullies And Introverts Are Different

Bullies and bullying can be a troublesome challenge for highly sensitive people, who are most often introverts and there are many reasons why that is the case:

  1. HSPs are usually not very aggressive and usually do not have an aggressive agenda. Bullies often have an aggressive agenda.  So the goals of bullies and introverts are usually in conflict and they often lack common ground in their interactions.
  2. Bullies are very territorial; HSPs not so much – they are more holistic and complex.
  3. HSPs are not necessarily the greatest fighters. Bullies may sense that and that may be one reason that bullies go after them. HSPs have a more poetic nature which bullies may not be able to relate to.
  4. HSPs are not the fastest people at most activities. Because of the volume of information that highly sensitive people process, they cannot be fast.  It takes time for HSPs to arrive at opinions and conclusions. Conscientiousness is one of an HSPs best qualities, but it means that they can be taken advantage of  by an aggressive person.
  5. Bullies often use pressure to obtain a result; introverts do not respond well to pressure.
  6. HSPs tend to have a holistic and sometime fairly complex worldview which is the antithesis of a bully’s us vs. them thinking.
  7. HSPs often dislike competition because they are less adversarial in their viewpoint; a bully may see life on more competitive terms.
  8. HSP’s tend to be introverted by nature (although 30% are extroverted) and for self protection.  As a result, they may not be well known to their social peers, and may even seem standoffish. Therefore, their social support may be weak and it may make it harder to obtain assistance when dealing with a bully.

How HSPs Can Handle Bullies

Handling a bully is a difficult challenge for highly sensitive people. Assuming you need to put up with a bully in your life, here are some things you can do to make your life easier in dealing with the bully:
  • don’t expect to change a bully. They are not likely to appreciate your sensitive nature.
  • let your sensitivity help you by enabling it to increase your perceived value in others. High perceived value will translate into greater respect and make you less of a target for bullies.
  • bullies often look for easy targets. So make it hard for them to see you as a target. You may not be friends but you don’t necessarily have to be enemies.
  • if a bully is hard for you to handle directly, try interacting with associates and developing your relationships among people who interact with the bully. A bully will not attack someone if in doing so they lose face.
  • make your perceived value as public as possible. The less visible and known your value is the easier it is for a bully to take advantage of you.
It is extremely important for highly sensitive people to attempt to create a social presence and counteract the isolation that can make them vulnerable.  Cultivating a social role that creates the perception of value among peers can be great insurance.  A bully and an introvert may not make great natural friends, so social self-protection can be a good investment.

About Maria Hill

Maria Hill is the founder of Sensitive Evolution. She is the author of The Emerging Sensitive: A Guide For Finding Your Place In The World. In addition, she has created the immersive Emerging Sensitive Program of "sensory processing yoga" using frameworks to help sensitive people master their sensitivity and turn it into the asset it can be. She also offers the Emerging Sensitive Movie Club focused on movies and discussions about living in the world as a sensitive person and navigating the challenging cultural shifts of our times. She is a longtime meditator, reiki master, student of alternative health and Ayurveda. Maria is also an abstract painter whose portfolio can be found at Infinite Shape and also very interested in animal and human rights and the environment.


  1. James H on September 26, 2012 at 12:22 pm

    Incredibly interesting article, I can certainly relate.

  2. Vivek Purohit on March 31, 2016 at 1:04 pm

    Thank you for a thoughtful piece on bullies vs HSPs.
    The first half captures the essence of the dynamic.
    The second part however, is largely theoretical & idealistic.
    I recently had a long drawn run in with a mighty bully in my family. And, I must tell you none of the steps you have outlined can be even remotely helpful, leave aside counter a determined bully.
    The ONLY thing a bully understands is a message delivered in the same language & with same intensity.The harm caused by protracted bully machinations is immeasurable !
    A bully relents only by two things: first- clear & firm message that the tactics won’t yield the desired result; second- the harm caused by games played will be repaid in equal measure !
    HSPs have to muster the necessary wherewithal to act on both these things for a fitting reply to bullying.

    • Maria E. Hill on March 31, 2016 at 2:01 pm

      I think each situation is different. If a family supports the bully then you are right – you need a different approach.