Some people may feel that emotional sensitivity is getting in the way of building good relationships with other people. Sometimes, certain situations arise that challenge other’s emotions and even our own.
We’ve gathered seven experts and their advice on how to be less emotionally sensitive:
Licensed Psychotherapist | Marriage and Family Therapist |
Owner, Create Your Life Studio
Stop fighting against your sensitive nature and radically accept your deep feelings and sensitivity
You may even come to relish your sensitivity as a superpower! Trying to push your feelings away often has the opposite effect than helping you toughen up. Denying or disowning your emotions can create a lot of problems in your life. Many susceptible people try to shove their feelings down with alcohol, cigarettes, pills, food, etc.
Don’t invalidate yourself
Allow yourself to feel what you authentically feel. But, plan your day accordingly. Highly sensitive people can quickly become overstimulated. If the sound of leaf blowers dysregulates you, maybe invest in some noise-canceling headphones.
If crowds and standing in long lines are stressful for you, perhaps big theme parks are not your scene. That’s okay. Ask your outgoing and extroverted family member to take the kids to the big theme park; they’ll probably love it!
Respect your own individual differences and allow yourself to feel what you feel
By validating your feelings and experience, you may find your feelings don’t spill out in unintended, embarrassing ways, trying to be heard. Protect yourself and your specific vulnerabilities.
Maybe you feel overwhelmed by loud and smoky nightclubs. Be honest and let your date know it’s not your scene, and you’d be more comfortable someplace more quiet and intimate. Let yourself be you.
It is better than acting tough, pushing yourself too hard, tears leaking out of your eyes, then feeling even more misunderstood and invalidated. People are all different. It’s okay to be sensitive! Some of the best writers, therapists, and doctors, are highly sensitive. We need you!
Lastly, highly sensitive people do well with predictable and safe routines
Allow yourself to get 8 hours of good quality sleep every night. Eat regular meals, stay hydrated, and practice good, essential self-care. This will go a long way in keeping your body calm and regulated.
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
Notice what you think when you experience the emotional and physical signs of sensitivity. Our emotions are highly influenced by what we’re saying to ourselves. Becoming aware of your thoughts is a great way to start building resilience.
Apply cognitive defusion
I like to use this simple tool during my moments of high-sensitivity. This is a way of viewing you, the thinker, as separate from your thoughts.
To practice this, when you experience sensitivity, first notice the negative thought attached to it, such as, “They don’t like me.” Then, figuratively step back and state to yourself, “I am having the thought that they don’t like me.”
Related: How to Get Rid of Negative Thoughts
This simple technique allows you the space to pause and detach a bit from the thought rather than immediately spiraling into the negativity.
Sensitivity is a signal
The areas to which we are most sensitive can illuminate our own negative stories that we spin about ourselves and the world.
For example, if you feel overly sensitive to rejection, you’re probably hyper-aware of situations that you could even possibly be categorized as rejection. And when we do this, we usually find what we seek, whether or not it’s accurate.
These stories about ourselves didn’t just come out of nowhere. They usually are born from traumas and painful life experiences, and our overwhelmed brains will latch on to whatever meaning they can so that the situation makes more sense.
Let’s say that as a child, you were verbally abused by a caregiver. Your story may become something like, “I am stupid” or “I’m not good enough.” This is a safer option than “My caregiver is behaving inappropriately.”
The good story is too threatening for a child at that time as they need to be able to rely on their caregivers. So they take the blame. Now, as an adult, when you experience rejection, you are coping with the actual pain of rejection plus the pain of the old story.
Working with a therapist
They can help you identify, challenge, and re-write some of your negative stories. In turn, you learn how to recognize what emotional baggage is yours and what is someone else’s and respond in a healthy, empowering manner.
Positive Psychology-based Coach, Effortwise
Being emotionally sensitive has strengths equal to its weaknesses. The goal of “becoming less sensitive,” while maybe desirable because of the pain sensitivity brings, is not a positive goal for a sensitive human being.
Emotional sensitivity is a strength. It allows people to connect with others in uniquely profound ways, to have especially close 1-on-1 relationships that are supportive and inspiring for both people.
Sensitive people should cultivate their sensitivity in safe 1-on-1 relationships because it will make them stronger
They will be bolstered by stronger emotional anchors, which will allow them to invest less emotional energy in more superficial relationships. It will make them seem less sensitive to the outside world because they will not be as hurt by small insults and emotional injuries from people they are not as close to.
They will also be able to deal with emotional pain that does occur more quickly because they can share it with someone who will hold space for them.
Space to express emotional distress to another human being without them judging us is often all that’s necessary to make it go away. It’s not easy to find someone to do this with. It requires courage to seek out friends or partners who are willing and able to put in the effort to build that kind of safe relationship.
Sensitive people should practice courage in seeking out other vulnerable people who are also trying to practice courage
They can also seek out a coach or therapist to build the kind of vulnerable human connection that will give them more strength, which might help them in seeking those other supportive, inspiring relationships. Positive relationships create more positive relationships.
Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor | Registered Play Therapist-Supervisor |
Owner, Megghan Thompson Coaching
When parents ask me how to help their child become less emotionally sensitive, and we take a deeper look at why they want this, what we typically find out is that they want their child to become less emotionally reactive.
While a child may feel big feelings, and most parents are coming around to the fact that they can’t change how their child feels, what they really want is for their child to be resilient. They want their children to have the skills to handle a negative emotion and move on from it. The best thing parents can do for this is to validate their child’s feelings.
Emotional sensitivity turns into reactivity (yelling, overthinking, reacting harshly, shutting down) when a parent doesn’t tell a child that their feelings are ok and make sense. When parents focus only on the behavior, saying things like “don’t worry,” “it’s ok,” “it’s not that big of a deal,” “don’t be shy,” etc., the child hears “I don’t understand you.”
This process backfires for the parent who wants their child to be less emotionally sensitive. When this happens, children learn that they have to react BIGGER to get their parent’s attention to their negative emotions…but because the parent doesn’t realize this, they continue their pattern of correcting the behavior.
Saying “you’re sad” and “I know you’re upset” and then teaching more effective behavior corrects this pattern in children. These children grow up to become less emotionally reactive, or what society considers as emotionally sensitive, adults.
Licensed Mental Health Counseling Associate
An important thing to remember is that feelings aren’t always true.
Emotional experiences are authentic, in that the impact they have on you is valid, but just because you’re feeling one way doesn’t mean that it points to anything based in reality. Our emotions come as responses to our perceptions, which are often skewed.
To be less reactive to your changing emotional states, it’s essential to slow down and try to understand why you’re feeling the way you are.
See if there’s a reason in reality that has caused you to feel this way, or if your perception of the moment might be a bit skewed. Feelings offer a lot of advice to our minds, but it’s not all good advice. Make sure you’re checking your facts before you act.
Certified Mental Health Consultant | Founder, Enlightened Reality
Naturally, we’re inherently on the selfish side. It means that we tend to make everything about ourselves. In an attempt to be less emotionally sensitive, take a minute to realize that not everything is about you.
It takes self-awareness but understanding that when someone gives you feedback or snaps at you, it’s not necessarily due to your fault. Some people are just having a bad day, and instead of letting their emotions reflect on yourself, remove yourself from the equation and try to be objective about the situation.
Feel your feelings
Emotional sensitivity often stems from the fact that you’re not processing your emotions properly. Everything becomes a big deal when you haven’t dealt with the root of your stress, sadness, anxiety, or any other issue. By allowing yourself time to feel your emotions, acknowledging them, and then moving forward, you become less emotionally sensitive to more trivial situations.
Dismissing feelings doesn’t reduce emotional sensitivity; it merely spreads it over every situation rather than the moment that you’re feeling it in. Own your emotions and then move on in an attempt to be less emotionally sensitive.
On some level, we have all been wronged before. It leaves you emotionally sensitive – what if I get undermined again? If I get ridiculed when I gather enough strength to open up? Not only do these painful memories that make you feel vulnerable and exposed, but they also undermine your self-esteem and what you set out to achieve.
You can turn it around by preparing yourself for the best.
What if you went into every critical situation with a mindset that expects only good things to come to you? Ask yourself- what if things turn out better than I could ever imagine? What if they love me at the job interview? What if my date turns out to be the one? What if this time, my partner will genuinely listen to what I have to say?
Sure, not everything is going to turn out perfectly, but when you expect the best, you set yourself up to win. The best is yet to come, my friend!