How to Modern-Day Network: For Highly Sensitive People (HSP)

by | Jan 16, 2023 | Adulting, Counseling, Highly Sensitive People (HSP), Self-Esteem, Stress

How to Modern-Day Network: For High Sensitive People (HSP)

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The phrase “It’s not about what you know, it’s about who you know” is commonly used to describe the importance of networking. Building bonds help one climb a social and professional ladder while networking and building relationships where similar passions serve as the foundation. However, finding the “whos” in this situation is easier said than done. Having anxiety about operating in a networking atmosphere is bound to be experienced at an elevated intensity for Highly Sensitive People (HSP). During these interactions, HSPs may be overwhelmed with the anxieties of complying with the social environments, communicating effectively, and managing sensory overload.

As the mental health community strives to bring awareness to diverse personality types while celebrating them for their differences, Highly Sensitive People illustrate how much effort goes into navigating social domains as such. 

What is a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP)?

Highly Sensitive People (HSP) refers to a portion of the human population that experiences increased emotional sensitivity and strong reactivity to internal & external stimuli–pain, hunger, light, noise, and complex inner discourse, for example. 

This concept was coined by American Psychologist, Elaine Aron. As a result of her discoveries, it has become common for individuals to identify as highly-sensitive, as about 15 to 20 percent of the population is believed to be highly sensitive.  

For HSPs, living with sensory-processing sensitivity can feel like a double-edged sword, as its pros and cons have notable forces. With adequate care and awareness, HSPs can set up environments where they are able to thrive. HSPs struggle with adapting to new environments and can display excessive emotional responses under social cues, as well as discomfort with certain physical sensations such as light or sound. However, on a more positive note, HSPs also have the ability to form deep bonds with others, have vivid dreams and inner monologues, have a strong liking for performing & expressive arts, and have rich human connections. 

Various mental conditions and disorders list sensitivity as one of their symptoms. However, HSP’s traits have a distinction from theirs. One of the most prominent comparisons is that highly sensitive traits overlap with introverted personality types. However, high sensitivity is not the same as introversion.  Aron discovered that while 70 percent of individuals that identify as HSP also identify as introverts, there is a 30 percent overlap of extroverted individuals within the population. High Sensitivity has also been compared to other conditions such as Neuroticism, Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), Autism, and ADHD. This is because HSP’s traits refer to emotional, physical, and sensory sensitivity, but is not necessarily a disorder

Being that HSP is defined more as a personality trait, the emotional challenges that come with being HSP can also occur with anxiety and depression. While there is no specific treatment recommended, self-care is critical to combating stressful symptoms

How does Being an HSP Affect Networking?

HSPs have the tendency to be more disturbed by tension or feelings of being overwhelmed. As a result, they find ways to  avoid situations in which they feel this distress is likely to happen. In the presence of business networking events, HSPs can face high levels of sensitivity from the physical, mental, and social stimulation that has to occur in order to create professional relationships. Because of this, HSPs have difficulties adjusting to the environment in order to reach their goals. This resistance to socially interact with others derives from multiple forms of social anxiety. 

In networking environments, it is no surprise that everyone experiences jitters. Here are some common forms of uneasiness experienced in these settings:

1. Intrusion Anxiety: Not wanting to interrupt or bother other individuals or people who are already engaged in conversation.

2. Impression Anxiety: Worries about making a good first impression.

3. Performance Anxiety: Fears about delivering during a networking conversation.

4. Rejection Anxiety: Fears hearing “no” or receiving criticism, as it can affect one’s perception of networking skills and value. 

Following the impact of COVID-19 precautions, modern-day forms of networking have become a new ongoing journey for HSPs as virtual use is becoming more common. On one end, the lack of face-to-face pressure can be comforting, as it aids in slowly building confidence. On the other, HSPs can have difficulties with social media culture, as interactions can sometimes feel superficial. The virtual community has its ways of increasing insecurities which could cause a higher reactivity for HSPs. To accommodate these hassles, HSPs embrace the symptoms that can at times heighten their sensitivity. With the ability to empathize at a higher level than others, this special quirk aids in becoming an effective communicator. Ultimately, HSPs have the capacity to use virtual outlets to their advantage as it gives them a stepping stone to creating a good impression with more control over how they’re seen.

Tips for Managing Networking Anxiety:

As previously mentioned, it is normal to experience jitters when being in professional environments that are new and full of people you don’t know. HSPs’ imbalance of sensitivity can feel like a hindrance to meeting their networking goals. Here are some tips to help adjust your traits to your advantage:

Write a script. Practice does not always make perfect! While preparing is helpful, it is also okay to let conversations flow organically as this will help to ease your anxieties about making a good impression. Taking the time to write down and review prompts that you have gained interest in helps to further build confidence prior to interacting with others. This can be done by writing down some of your favorite subjects that you enjoy sharing along with composing questions to ask others. 

Create non-traditional communication hacks. Face-to-face communication is not the only way to make a lasting impression. Using social media apps helps to extend your exposure along with sharing your expertise prior to in-person interactions. 

Another alternative is using the ten-minute rule when it comes to exchanges. Setting a time boundary with yourself helps to monitor your sensitivity while still reaching your goals. 

Reflect on your negative thoughts/self-talk. Ruminating about the negative aspects of networking is prone to be anxiety-inducing. Taking the time the write down your thoughts and emotions will help to examine undiscovered parts of your feelings around networking.

Visualize your interaction. It’s common to imagine the worst-case scenario when dealing with anxiety around networking. Combatting this catastrophic thinking diminishes the “What Ifs” that come to mind. Bringing your thoughts back to reality increases the clarity of your visionary goals. Imagine yourself having a conversation with others, they are engaged, and the conversations are refreshing!

Most importantly, take pride in how you communicate. Understand that being an HSP is not a curse nor a burden. HSPs are thought to be linked with higher levels of creativity, intimate relationships, and valuing of beauty. Embracing these traits can be done by practicing positive affirmations, communicating sensitivity to others, and operating within your boundaries. 

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If networking makes you anxious, try this. Harvard Business Review. (2022, May 10). Retrieved December 31, 2022, from https://hbr.org/2022/05/if-networking-makes-you-anxious-try-this 

Psychology, P. O. (n.d.). Painted Owl Psychology, LLC. Retrieved December 31, 2022, from https://paintedowlpsychology.com/ 

Rollag, K. (2017, April 27). 4 triggers for networking anxiety (and approaches for overcoming them). Youper. Retrieved December 31, 2022, from https://blog.youper.ai/natural-networking-anxiety#:~:text=Intrusion%20anxiety%3A%20They%20 don’t,Rejection%20anxiety. 

Sussex Publishers. (n.d.). Highly sensitive person. Psychology Today. Retrieved December 31, 2022, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/highly-sensitive-person 

Tmcooper, |. (2015, April 28). Networking for the highly sensitive person (HSP). Dr. Tracy Cooper. Retrieved December 31, 2022, from https://drtracycooper.org/2015/04/28/networking-for-the-highly-sensitive-person-hsp/ 


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