Navigating the Non-HSP Communication Style

I recently came across an article in Inc. magazine offering advice to their readership on how to communicate so as not to offend their colleagues. It starts by telling the story of “Tom” who lost his job. Apparently, he knew that yelling at his co-workers was inappropriate, but had difficulty refraining from sour looks, sarcastic responses, and keeping his calm when someone made him angry. As a result, his colleagues thought he did not respect them, which made it difficult for them to respect him.

We HSPs are blessed with an ability to read signals like that with profound accuracy. Nonverbal cues, along with our intuitive empathy, lead us to an accurate read on most people’s true intention. This often makes it hard to communicate with people on an authentic level.

Image courtesy of Geralt (Gerd Altmann) on Pixabay.

It’s taken me years of being a highly sensitive person to finally understand that not everyone knows or understands how their communication comes across. These people come in two varieties:

Completely Unaware Folks

These are the people who have little to no awareness of their emotions or how the expression of those emotions cause pain in others.

There are two subsections to these people. The first is the kind that are unaware but not completely unempathic. You can usually educate them. Tell them how you are feeling. It may take several teaching sessions to get your point across, but most times you can get an empathic response, and communicate enough to get both parties’ points across.

The second subset are those who are so lost in their own world of pain that it is impossible to communicate with them in any authentic way. I heard these people described once in a most apropos way: They “live their lives in front of an audience of one . . . themselves.” These are toxic people – generally the kind it is best to stay away from.

If it is not the kind of relationship where you can avoid them, use the grey rock method of communication. Simply put, make your communication with them superficial and as unengaging as possible.

Image courtesy of ThomasWolter on Pixabay.


These are people who are capable of being aware of their emotions enough to understand how they really feel, but refuse to acknowledge it. People who deny their feelings present a challenge. It is difficult to break through another person’s denial unless they are willing participants.

I’ve found that an attitude of nonjudgment helps set the scene for your best results. People are different. They have different issues. Sometimes those issues are deep hurts that they are unable or unwilling to deal with. Use your intense empathy skills, patience and tolerance to rise above the situation. Communication with them should be kind, gentle, and loving, but firm. Set your boundaries and hold fast to them. Use your depth of processing skills to gather as much intel as possible from them. Active listening is a great tool for that. Then, explore different ways of looking at the situation. Practice compassion.

There may be toxic people in this group too. If you can’t break through, and you’ve done everything you possibly can, switch to grey rock mode (as described above).

An HSP’s communication style is open, honest, and tactful. In the world of non-HSPs, it is hard to find people who use this style. Some styles are even hurtful, abusive, and manipulative. Be prepared for those with the strategies above.

Copyright 2023, Monica Nelson

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