Whatever your age or relationship status, living with another person has its ups and downs. For Highly Sensitive People, living with anyone can be especially challenging – for either or both parties. You may think that you would automatically know how to live with a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) when you’re sensitive too. That may be true — sometimes. But it is a big assumption. Let’s unpack it.

As a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP), you were born with a unique inherited trait.

The genetic trait causes you to feel emotions intensely and to think deeply. You absorb more information than other people do, and you process it in a more complex manner. You’re also highly attuned to your physical environment, including sounds, sights, air temperature, and tactile sensations. You naturally notice more quickly than others do when something changes or is askew. Details that are not even on anyone else’s radar are blaring to you. Another thing you automatically pick up on are people’s feelings. Even when they themselves may not recognize their own feelings.

As an HSP, you are more easily stimulated. At times this translates to feeling overwhelmed, either in a positive way (e.g. awed) or not so much (e.g. prone to tears). Your nervous system is calibrated in the same way as the other 15% of the population who are born with the High Sensitive trait.

And that calibration means your system is more finely tuned and responsive at lower levels of stimulation.

If you are a Highly Sensitive Person and live with someone else who is sensitive, you two likely ‘get’ each other. Especially if you are both familiar with the trait. But to assume rainbow-and-butterflies-roommate bliss when you are a Highly Sensitive Person and live with someone who is also Highly Sensitive is quite possibly a setup for storms – with no rainbow.

What are the challenges of living with a Highly Sensitive Person when you’re sensitive too?

1. Lack of knowledge about High Sensitivity creates misunderstandings.

Scenario: You are a Highly Sensitive Person living with someone who is sensitive too, but in a different way. Downtime when you get home from work is non-negotiable, and you require quiet time before you interact with your roommate. Unfortunately, your roommate does not realize that your need for quiet time has nothing to do with her. She perceive you are being aloof and standoffish. S Because she works in a job without much social contact, she wants to cook dinner together and enjoy it with you. The minute she walks through the door your home is no longer the quiet refuge for a battery recharge.

Suggestion: Educate yourselves! Learn more about Highly Sensitive People. Blog articles, websites, podcasts, and books are a great source of information. Maybe start a book club, where all the reading is relevant to the High Sensitivity trait.

Roommates and couples may find the resources especially helpful.

2. Incorrect Assumptions about High Sensitivity lead to unnecessary ill will.

Not all Highly Sensitive People are the same. You might for example be one of the 30% of HSPs who is extraverted, and your sensitive roommate may be introverted. Or because one of you is male, you (and he) assume he isn’t a Highly Sensitive Person. In fact, 50% of Highly Sensitive People are male.

3. HSP qualities of empathy are associated with conflict avoidance.

As a Highly Sensitive Person living with someone else who is sensitive too, you are both likely to avoid disagreements, hard topics, and any type of conflict. Unfortunately, this is not healthy for either of you or your relationship. Strengthening self-advocacy skills by practicing with each other can help your relationship and interactions with people in all areas of your life.

4. Families with a mixture of HSP and non HSP family members should keep all temperments in mind.

Among families there are different configurations of High Sensitivity. For example, a child who is a Highly Sensitive Person may live with family members who are also sensitive, and with some who aren’t. In such a situation, making sure everyone respects each other’s quirks, temperament, and preferences is an ongoing process.

How to live with a Highly Sensitive Person when you are highly sensitive too is no different from when any two people living together. The same codes of conduct apply: Respect each other; Be kind; Cooperate/Share; Don’t hold a grudge; and Keep communication open.

The good ol’ Golden Rule applies whether you are a Highly Sensitive Person or not.

I enjoy helping Highly Sensitive People create a life of balance and joy – Especially people who have been told over and over again that they are just too sensitive.