When I was in kindergarten, a boy in my class tossed my favorite book over our elementary school fence. I remember crying profusely, not because I was sad to see it go, but because I was so furious that he was such a bully. It was probably one of the first times I expressed my sensitivity to my peers -- a rollercoaster I still continue to ride each day.
Many of my friends lovingly tease me about my emotional reactivity, but it's certainly not like I can control it. Some people are just more sensitive than others, and that's not always a bad thing. I'm also not alone: Approximately one in five people -- women and men -- can be classified HSP, or as a highly sensitive person, according to HSP researcher and psychologist Elaine Aron, Ph.D. That makes it highly likely you know and love someone with the personality trait.
Below are a few things to keep in mind about your highly sensitive loved ones.
1. We're going to cry.
When we're happy, when we're sad and when we're angry. That's because highly sensitive people just naturally feel more deeply and react accordingly.
2. Not all of us are introverts.
Introversion does not equal sensitivity. In fact, according to Aron's research, approximately 30 percent of highly sensitive people are extroverts.
3. Decisions make us nervous.
Highly sensitive individuals are notoriously bad at making choices -- even if it's just picking out where to go to dinner. This is mostly because we agonize over the possibility of making the wrong one. (What if the food is bad?!)
4. We notice that subtle change in your tone.
If you normally end each text message with an exclamation point and lately you've been using a period, you better believe we'll pick up on it. Highly sensitive people are generally more intuitive when it comes to the tiny nuances of our environment and we're more affected by shifts in other people's moods.
5. We're always willing to hear you vent.
Don't be afraid to reach out to use us when you need a shoulder to lean on. Our overly-empathetic nature allows us to be excellent listeners when you need it, because when you feel pain so do we -- and we want to do whatever we can to make you feel comfortable. Highly sensitive people make excellent teachers, therapists and managers for this reason.
6. Repetitive and loud noises are the worst.
Loud chewing, a barreling train, boisterous co-workers: You name it, we're sensitive to it. That's because chaotic or overstimulating environments have more of an influence on HSPs, according to Aron.
7. Our workplace habits are a bit atypical.
Working from home or in a quiet space is a dream for highly sensitive people -- especially because it allows us to focus if we become too overwhelmed. However, don't let our solo work ethic fool you. "Sensitive people can use their observations to their advantage ... They're going to rise to the top," Aron previously told HuffPost. "They know how to bring ideas up without being ridiculed or scorned." HSPs also make excellent team players due to our analytical nature and thoughtfulness for others' ideas (just don't force us to make the final decision on a project).
8. Don't ask us to see that new slasher movie.
That same high empathy we experience for others combined with overstimulation makes gory, violent films truly terrible for highly sensitive people.
9. Criticism is incredibly distressing.
As a result, we tend to avoid anything that may cause those feelings of shame. This may mean we engage in people-pleasing or self-deprecating behavior more than most of our peers. In other words, we're far from perfect.
10. We're constantly being told we take things too personally.
A joke at our expense sometimes just isn't a joke to us. We know it's a little silly to be upset, but what else are we supposed to do with all of our feelings?
11. We have a low pain tolerance.
Pass the ice, please. It doesn't matter if it's a broken arm or just a stubbed toe, any injury really hurts. This is because highly sensitive people are more affected by pain than others, according to Aron's research.
12. We crave deep relationships.
According to Aron, highly sensitive people tend to get more bored in marriages than non-HSP couples, mostly due to the lack of meaningful interaction that naturally occurs as time goes on. However, this doesn't necessarily mean we're dissatisfied with the relationship -- we just need to find a way to have more stimulating conversations.
13. We can't just stop being highly sensitive.
A 2014 study published in the journal Brain and Behavior found that highly sensitive people experienced more activity in regions of the brain associated with empathy and awareness when exposed to pictures of emotional individuals than the average person. In other words, we're neurologically wired to behave the way that we do.
With that in mind, know that the best way to love us is to support us. Try not to shame us for our sensitivity. Tell us it's okay to feel the way we do. And in return, we'll try not to tear up over your kind words (no promises, though).