For highly sensitive people, social anxieties are an especially serious problem because HSPs are different and because their values, perceptions, and experiences often do not mirror the Western competitive model.
You know how it feels when you have a social event to attend and your social anxieties start to rise. HSPs are likely to feel particularly anxious and often want to mentally prepare for anything they do including socializing. It is hard, however, to prepare for something that is spontaneous. If a highly sensitive person expects hostility or a lack of acceptance, their social anxieties will likely be even greater and it will be harder for them to enjoy the event and the people there.
Highly sensitive people are the holistic thinkers of the world which means that HSPs do not have a combative mindset. As a result, they can be slow to respond to an aggressive individual which can create social discomfort and embarrassment. Verbal aggression can be very hard to handle for HSPs because of their gentle, empathetic natures.
HSP values are the opposite of the capitalistic model. That so many people embrace competitive individualism in the United States is not an accident since the cultural system deemphasizes community. Because the values and goals of our society are different from HSP communitarian values, highly sensitive people have a challenge because they do not share common cultural ground with many other people.
Highly sensitive people can be wonderful friends, a characteristic which can be the basis for effective socializing. Here are 5 approaches that help HSP’s develop perspective and effective choices about social situations:
- Think of your common ground with others as a human common ground, not necessarily a cultural one. Your capacity for friendship is a way to elevate people around you and enables you to lighten up. By adopting the role of friend, you are less at the mercy of how others identify you since you have decided your role in advance. No matter what the outcome of a social interaction, you can be at peace with your positive role.
- Accept that you cannot win them all. You are not a failure if you are not friends will all people. You may be inclusive and friendly but that does not guarantee that someone else is. Many people think modesty, humility, generosity and kindness are weaknesses and you probably will not change them. If your values are very different from the people close to you that can be a hurtful situation – one that has to be dealt with through strong stress relief practices and cultivating supportive friends. Long term painful family situations often require therapy.
- Be selective about your involvements. If your job requires huge amounts of energy due to negative politics and a lot of negative competition, make sure you balance your life in off hours with restorative activities and when you can consider alternative employment.
- Look for roles that you are comfortable with that you can play in social situations. Many highly sensitive people are incredible knowledge resources. Others are healers. Use your strengths to establish your value with a group; it will help minimize or neutralize perceptions about your being different and help you to be accepted.
- Beware of compassion fatigue and changemaker fatigue. There is a change in human consciousness that is happening at this time, but it will take time. Many highly sensitive people are part of the process of change, but it is very hard work. It is important for HSPs to respect themselves for their hard work. Taking care of your health and practicing serious stress reduction techniques, will help you be more effective in the long term.