The Superpowers of Sensitive People


From Greater Good Magazine: “Sensitivity can come in different flavors, argue [Jenn Granneman and Andre Solo, authors of the new book Sensitive: The Hidden Power of the Highly Sensitive Person in a Loud, Fast, Too-Much World]. It can mean having strong emotions—‘crying for joy, bursting with warmth, wilting from critique’—or having physical sensitivities to temperature, odors, or sounds (or all of the above). Overall, sensitivity is a heightened ‘ability to perceive, process, and respond deeply to one’s environment,’ which means sensitive people absorb more sensory information (often unconsciously), think more deeply, and find more interconnections among disparate things than less sensitive people typically do.

‘If you are a sensitive person, your body and mind respond more to the world around you,’ the authors write. ‘You respond more to heartbreak, pain, and loss, but you also respond more to beauty, new ideas, and joy.’

. . . Being sensitive can sometimes mean that you shut down when facing stressors or difficult transitions. But it can also mean that, given the opportunity, you’re skilled at learning how to handle challenges in the future. For example, research found that sensitive kids benefitted from a depression-prevention program more than less sensitive kids. Similarly, in one study, married, sensitive adults got more out of a relationship-strengthening program than less sensitive spouses.

This is because sensitive people take in information—good and bad—and process it more deeply. As long as their sensitivity is valued and supported, it can be a bonus when it comes to personal growth and achievement.

‘Sensitive people get a bigger boost from the same things that help anyone: a mentor, a healthy home, a positive group of friends,’ write the authors. ‘This boost allows them to do more and go further if they are given a nudge in the right direction.’

The particular strengths of being sensitive

Sensitivity can come with other ‘superpowers,’ write Granneman and Solo, that help sensitive people experience the world deeply. For example, they tend to have high levels of the following:

Empathy. ‘Sensitive people have empathy in spades, so much so that the difference can be seen in brain scans,’ write the authors. This means sensitive people tend to ‘feel for others’ more than less sensitive people, which can encourage them to be more compassionate and take action in the face of suffering.

Creativity. ‘A mind that notices more detail, makes more connections, and feels emotion vividly is almost perfectly wired for creativity,’ write the authors. The brains of sensitive people can grow and change in ways that may allow for more creative associations.

Sensory intelligence. Sensory intelligence means taking in more information from your environment and making good decisions based on that information—a defining characteristic of highly sensitive people. Great athletes, for example, often have this same ability—to sense what’s going on around them and to rapidly process it—allowing them to make intelligent plays in the heat of competition.

Depth of processing. Not only do sensitive people take in more information, they also process it more deeply. This means that they often see patterns that others don’t see and are able to ‘connect the dots,’ which can make them good planners. They prefer to engage in deeper, more meaningful ideas and activities, as doing so calls upon their strengths.

Depth of emotion. While many would see this as a hindrance, a sensitive person’s depth of feeling makes for a richer life and is a boon for forming strong relationships—one of the keys to happiness . . .

This combination of abilities can make sensitive people good leaders, as they combine their hearts and heads in the service of others. As the authors note, slowing down to reflect and lead with compassion is ‘exactly what our divided, rushed, and too-much world desperately needs.'”

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  1. This personality trait was introduced by Elaine Aron, who worked in the Bay Area, including with a friend of mine who was living here at the time. She should get credit for the term and the original research.

    She did NOT emphasize the trait as a strength, but only as something that we should all be aware of. A mix of sensitivities seems to be useful in a population. Only about 15 to 20 percent of humans are thought to be highly sensitive; 30% per this article. So the key is knowing how to use it to your advantage and how to handle yourself so that it does not become a problem.

    If a person has this trait – which seems to be partly genetic – and doesn’t realize it, life can get complicated.

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    • So?, are we suposed to beleive that 15 to 20% of people, even 30% of people are distinct somehow from the rest?. Just on the percentages!.

      Are freckled/redheads different?. And “those” folks are around 5% WORLDWIDE!. Across the BOARD!.

      Even in “darker” skins, we emerge spontaneously!, where there was none of us anymore. Talk about resilience and bouncing back!.

      From Siberia to the Patagonia!.

      Now, is there a relationship between “gingerness” and anything “mental/psychological”, beyond what society expects?. Beyond the way “others” mistreat us?.

      And that, redheadedness has really determined genetic basis, even organic chemical bases. Melanin in readheads vs anyone else has been studied a lot!.

      So, just because it comes from a constructionist from hippy town is that creed worthy?.

      As a note: My brothers and sisters with freckles and red heads, even if it fades, we are special, we are THE five percenters. I’m just ruffling fathers. In spirit of correcting the record. I love you, we are special…

      And unlike anyone else, we are around the world, literally…

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  2. There are so many claims in the refered post that have no scientific, theoretical, epistemic or empirical support. Even moral, perhaps legal grounds, but I’m speculating…

    It’s full of claims without any of that. Claims as in stated as truth, AND without any argument or evidence too back them up. Just go read AND BUY the book…

    So I don’t go claim by claim, it would be a burden for me not worth the trouble, I can summarize in these points:

    1.- It uses the WORD sensitivity for the WORDS sympathy, not empathy, intolerance, intelligence, pattern matching, intuition, even, uuugggh!: emotional intelligence, etc. FADS!.

    2.- It does not define what sensitivity is. To begin with. I guess I have to read the book and buy it for that.

    3.- All claims in the post I am commenting fall pray to the horoscope fad: anything and everything at anypoint can be attributed to SENSITIVITY. Let the reader pick whatever on the collage identifies with him/her. Or was the other way around?.

    4.- It omits the downsides of sensitivity. Not the narrated, the false positives.

    5.- Despite all of that, it goes to recommend to DO something. Where is the basis for recommending something?. In the horoscope?.

    6.- It uses the typical deceptive language “some people say”, “some people might say”, and greviouslierly “Granneman and Solo”.

    7.- It uses the “I benefit from…”, typical ad language. You are not a valid, enough evidence to recommend what is being recomended.

    8.- It vaguely, without proving, recurs to genetics, processing information, and, God forbids, brains!.

    9.- It appeals to emotion: “if you grew up in an abusive household”. Trigger alert!. That’s called fishing for the suffering ones…

    10.- “This combination of abilities can make sensitive people good leaders.” as does having Virgo with a touch of Aries, in conjunction with Saturn. Particularly when there is the feeling of information overload. That when being a couple of a Gemini is just a bombshell. Such good partners and couples…

    11.- Uses as a pamper idol a public figure a lot of people idolize!, “Born in the USAAAAA”, just don’t quote the song, otherwise it’s too obvious. Did Springsteen gave consent for that? or is he TOO busy fighting the far right for using his MUSIC for nefarious effects without his consent?. To now fight other propaganda and pseudoscience?.

    CONCLUSION: This has a lot of redflags, telltales and demonstrably textual/logical analysis evidence of PROPAGANDA for the refered book. In my opinion, just like chaptGPT. I am not stating facts, just opinions, ironically…

    AS my personal opinion, MIA should not be linking to this kind of book references: they are pseudoscientific, they look a lot like ads, and above all, without being patriarchal paternalistic, it does seem to prey on suffering people.

    MIA readership deserves that?.

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    • Studies have shown that people positive for the allele A1 of the SNP C32806T in Dopamine D2 receptor gene are sensitive to everything from drugs to placebo. Also, studies done on people with Borderline Personality showed that they were born with a special gift or talent that makes them highly sensitive to the environment around them.

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