Handling conflict as a Highly Sensitive Person, or an HSP, is no joke.
For starters, conflict isn’t fun for anyone. I don’t think anyone out there just LOVES getting into it with somebody else. Most of us would prefer to get along and live in a harmonious state filled with patience, gratitude, and lots of laughter. And conflict delivers us just the opposite.
For HSPs, however, conflict can ruin their entire day. Or week. Or month.
Not to be dramatic or anything.
But seriously, being a sensitive person does not mix well with arguing, which unfortunately is one of life’s many unavoidable gems. Criticism, tension, yelling, and name-calling can stunt our positive attitude and cast a shadow over our light. It’s no surprise that when conflict does arise, a lot of HSPs are left feeling overwhelmed, reactionary, and out of control.
Instead of letting arguments get the best of you, here are a few strategies on how to handle conflict as a highly sensitive person:
1. Check your motives before addressing a concern. If the purpose is to restore peace, build a bridge, reconcile, or create understanding, it’s usually a go. If the motive is more selfish in nature or to do harm, it’s typically a good idea to stand still and wait it out.
2. Decipher if you are listening through sensitivity or defensiveness. If you are listening with the intention of defensiveness, your response is going to be based almost entirely off of your feelings with very little rationale. Unfortunately that benefits no one. More importantly, it creates less room to address and fix the issue actually at hand. If you are listening with genuine sensitivity, continue.
3. Focus on the issue and less on the offense. First, try to recognize WHY you are taking offense. Then, try to spend more of your time listening to how the issue has impacted the people and/or circumstances. Don’t jump to defend yourself or justify your actions. That will only lead to the attention surrounding you and not around the problem. Remember, opportunities for understanding and clarification can come later, so initially, just listen. Work on being present. Place yourself in their shoes and do your best to empathize.
4. Remember that when a concern is brought up in a loving and honest way, particularly from someone who you know cares about you, they’re not fighting you; they’re fighting FOR you. If a person is addressing a problem and they approach it in this way, it shows they care about you and your relationship as well. Moreover, they’re desiring to work WITH you by including you in the discussion and process. They chose to face the problem instead of utilizing passive aggression, which is a true sign of respect.
5. Listen to understand, not necessarily to agree and definitely not to respond. In that moment, avoid becoming the victim or playing the blame game. Take time to reflect on what’s been said, acknowledge the other person’s feelings, and take responsibility where needed (ownership is tough!). Peace really is more important than being right.
6. Timing is important, but if you find yourself having to deal with conflict during a sucky time, slow down. If you are religious, pray before, during, and after. Do your best not to shut down because while our timing may suck, God’s doesn’t. If you are not religious, try deep breathing or meditating. And more often than not, things will end up working out better than you could have hoped for, planned for, or expected.
7. Yes, it will be uncomfortable, but most opportunities for growth are. Try not to withdraw by leaving, moving away, or checking out mentally. Your willingness to participate is important to the other person(s) involved.
8. Know that sometimes it’s not about you, it’s about what’s being perceived. You can’t control how others see things, but you can control what you say and do. Try to work on how you perceive things and how you respond. Therein lies your power.
9. If you apply everything previously mentioned, conflicts can become quicker and easier to handle (with some things even becoming preventable!). And since conflict is inevitable in life, it’s best to work on getting better than to hope these situations never arise in the first place! Practice will lead you to less anxiety, less tension, and a happier existence.
Still need helping handling conflict?
That’s what I am here for. As a fellow HSP, I understand the challenges we face and the power conflict has over us. But that does not mean things can’t get easier. I’ve worked hard on bettering myself, accepting who I am as a sensitive person, and handling obstacles in a productive manner. I know you can, too. Work with me one-on-one and together we will help build your confidence and handle adversity with grace. Online video sessions start at just $79/mo. Sign up today!