EQ meets HSP: Emotional Intelligence and the Highly Sensitive Person

Hello! Welcome to Part 1 of our emotions series, focusing on emotional intelligence and the highly sensitive person.

This series began a few weeks ago, when I discovered this website. My mind was blown. The website, created by Dr. Elaine N. Aron, describes a concept I had never heard of before: the highly sensitive person (HSP). I read it and felt that my life finally made sense, that she was describing me.

What is a Highly Sensitive Person?

Could you be one? Know someone who is?

Dr. Aron defines an HSP as someone who, due to biological differences, processes stimuli more thoroughly than the average person. In layman’s terms, HSPs feel things more intensely than others. Defining aspects of HSPs are: they are empathetic, observant, conscientious, easily overstimulated, overly sensitive to external stimuli, and they value alone time. They often require extra time making decisions, and they usually make the right ones, but they also aren’t very good “on the spot.” Dr. Aron estimates that about 20% of the population can be considered highly sensitive. Most (~85%) are introverts.

I am a highly sensitive extrovert. I am empathetic, conscientious, sensitive to bright lights (especially those headlights some cars have, and I’m not talking about brights, many cars have headlights that are too bright!), I am not great at quick decision-making or “on the spot” conversations, and I definitely value my alone time.

Being a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) is a lot more complicated than people think.Shannon Rosenberg / BuzzFeed


Now that I have discovered HSP, I know I am not weird or weak or unstable. I am not overly emotionalTwitter  (although I can be at times); I am simply on the higher side of the sensitivity scale, and that is completely normal. To reuse an analogy I found somewhere: I’m like a left-handed person in a right-handed world.

If you’re an HSP like me, I created a list and worksheet to help find the positive strengths and powers.

10 Steps To Embrace and Thrive as an HSP [with worksheet]

How being an HSP affects your Emotional Intelligence

While I was learning about HSPs, in addition to finally understanding myself, I was also reminded of a book I read a couple years back. The book, Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goldman, is about human intelligence outside of logic and reasoning (the IQ). He calls this emotional intelligence, or EQ (according to Dr. Howard Garner, there are actually nine types of intelligences. EQ encompasses numbers 6 and 7 on his list: interpersonal and intrapersonal intelligence).

Goldman defines EQ as the ability to recognize and understand emotions in yourself and in others, and to use this awareness to manage your behavior and relationships. EQ includes three factors:

  1. Emotional awareness – the ability to identify your own and others emotions
  2. The ability to harness and apply emotions to tasks such as thinking and problem solving
  3. The ability to manage emotions, including the ability to regulate your emotions and the ability to create desired effects in the emotions of others.

EQ can also be broken down into four skills: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management. These skills fit together as shown in the following chart (taken from Dr. Travis Bradberry and his article on EQ, its importance, and the science behind it):

emotional intelligence four core skills self-awareness self-management social awareness relationship management

HSPs are usually strong in self and social awareness, but, due to their to their overly sensitive and overstimulated nature, their self and relationship management skills are often lacking.

Non-HSPs, however, are often the opposite: having stronger self management skills but weaker self and social awareness skills. These latter weaknesses can also make relationship management difficult for non-HSPs.

As you’ve probably concluded, improving your emotional intelligence can have huge advantages for both yourself and your relationshipsTwitter . As Goleman explains:

People with well-developed emotional skills are [sic] more likely to be content and effective in their lives, mastering the habits of mind that foster their own productivity; people who cannot marshal some control over their emotional life fight inner battles that sabotage their ability for focused work and clear thought.

Improving your emotional intelligence, both for HSPs and non-HSPs, will be the subjects of my next two posts.

Bonus articles, quizzes, and checklists

Credit goes to my husband (also an HSP, but not as much as me), who normally edits my posts, for helping write this one in addition to editing it.

Download: 10 Steps To Embrace and Thrive as an HSP

Part II next week: Building empathy, improving self and social awareness from the “What I See” section of emotional intelligence.
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