1. Learn how to validate. When emotionally sensitive people are upset, their emotions are more intense and last longer than those of other people you know. No one thinks clearly when emotionally dysregulated.
During those moments, the brain is focused on survival and threat, not on seeing options or thinking through the best way to express ideas. Validating their point of view and their emotions can help them get back to their wise mind. Remember, validating that their thoughts and emotions are understandable does not necessarily mean you agree.
2. Whenever possible, wait until both you and your loved one are calm before discussing any important topics. Communication is rarely effective when either party is emotionally upset. Attempting to discuss important concerns when upset often creates a mess.
3. Look for the truth in what they are saying, even when the truth may be difficult to find. Some emotionally sensitive people do not expect others to listen to their concerns so they may exaggerate and/or leave out some critical factors in an effort to be heard or taken seriously. This usually leads to the opposite result in the long run, and people begin to question any emotional communication.
In addition, when emotionally upset, people do not see reality accurately. They may be telling you what they experienced, though their experience may not be the reality of the situation. Search for the meaning behind their words. What is it they want you to know?
4. See the whole person. Sometimes emotional sensitivity results in depression, anxiety or emotion regulation disorder. The individuals who suffer from these disorders are so much more than the disorder. Remember to focus on the characteristics you love about the person and see the person separate from the disorder. Talk about topics other than the illness. Focus on what you love about them.
5. Keep in mind that change is usually difficult for the emotionally sensitive. A change in plans may be interpreted as you being angry. Having a new friend may be seen as abandonment. The emotionally sensitive can be among the most loyal and understanding friends when you are patient with their needs and fears.
6. Don’t avoid topics in order to protect the emotionally sensitive person. Though it may be difficult at times, telling the truth is the best choice. Be calm and caring. Let them know if they are calling too frequently for you or if they are doing something that is annoying to you that could eventually make you not want to be friends.
Emotionally sensitive people are usually careful of the feelings of others. Letting them know in a matter-of-fact way, while also assuring them the relationship is solid, is often effective. If you don’t voice your needs, you are likely to want to end the relationship.
7. Assume you are on the same side and search for mutual understanding. Different ideas sometimes lead to people believing the relationship is threatened, but that does not have to be case. The strongest relationships can allow for differences. Be sure your words and actions show that the relationship is not in question whenever disagreements or differences of opinion are evident.
8. Don’t treat the emotionally sensitive as if they are fragile. For many reasons, people tend to interact with the emotionally sensitive as if they were children or less capable than individuals who are not emotionally sensitive. Adults who are emotionally sensitive are often attuned to the emotions and nonverbal communications of others. They will know if you are judging them as not capable. In addition, people sometimes behave the way others expect, and it will diminish the relationship.
Note to Readers: Healing Hearts of Families is a conference in Houston for those with borderline personality disorder and their families and friends. Please join us if you can!
My sincere thanks to everyone who has completed our second survey. If you haven’t participated, please consider answering the survey questions about being emotionally sensitive.