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The Challenge of Friendships as a Highly Sensitive Person

Peter has written extensively about high sensitivity since 1997, when he first learned he was an HSP.

How to make friends as a highly sensitive person

How to make friends as a highly sensitive person

HSPs and the Struggle With Friendships

In the roughly twenty years since I first learned about the HSP trait, I have met hundreds (if not thousands) of fellow sensitives both in person and through the Internet. One of the most common laments I hear goes something like this: "Why is it so hard for me to make and keep friends when it seems so easy for everyone else?"

I can completely relate to these sentiments, as I have also struggled with relationship/friendship dynamics for most of my own life. Until at least my late 30s, my friendship patterns were largely shaped by the meta-messages from society that I should be able to make friends with almost anyone, that I should have lots of friends, and then be able to keep those friendships for a lifetime.

In retrospect, you could say that I was more concerned about the number of friends that I had rather than the quality of them. Bottom line was that most of my friendships failed because they really didn't feel good. Something had to change.

Characteristic Divides

During the course of years of serious self-inquiry, it became quite a puzzle for me to understand why so many friendships I formed would start out well enough but would fade away very quickly.

Now, I'm not for a moment suggesting that everyone doesn't struggle with friendships and relationships now and then. However, there definitely are certain distinct challenges for HSPs, and the whole issue of friends seems more difficult for the HSP than for most people.

In the most general sense, it would seem that HSPs and non-HSPs often interpret and experience the same situations differently...and communication issues arise, even when both people have only the best of intentions.

When you consider that only 15-20% of the population have HSP traits, it will generally hold true that most people the average HSP meets will not be HSPs. This can result in an almost immediate "I really don't get who you are" dynamic, which is a rocky foundation on which to start building a friendship.

Mismatched Expectations

One of the things I have learned about us HSPs (both from reading and personal interaction) is that we tend to be rather deep people. We also can come across as rather intense. Most HSPs I have met in person dislike—or even loathesmall talk and polite chit-chat and would much rather get directly into a profound conversation about the meaning of life, the origins of God, how to end world hunger, or how to create a better world.

So small talk and HSPs do not seem to mix well. However, except for the handful who are very self-absorbed, most HSPs also recognize the need for this idle chatter as a tool to create connection and are generally willing to indulge in it to a limited degree.

The word limited becomes key when trying to understand HSPs in relation to small talk and maintaining friendships because trouble arises when the HSP's desire for deep conversations runs into a non-HSP friend's contentment with keeping a connection purely at a surface level.

The Challenge of Maintaining Friendships

Except during a period where I was struggling with social anxiety, I have really never had too much trouble making friends—it's keeping them that's the issue. This is where the mismatched-expectations issue (almost always centered around depth) comes to the surface. And it's a two-way street.

After a few days or weeks, many HSPs grow disillusioned when they start to realize that a newfound friend is really not interested in discussing anything that extends much beyond little league baseball, celebrity gossip, cookie recipes, and truck repair. The HSP wants there to be more there. One friend said to me, "That stuff is just fluff of no deeper consequence." This desire to explore in depth also tends to come across with great intensity, which can be both off-putting and intimidating to someone who prefers lighter fare.

It works in reverse, too. I believe a lot of non-HS people are initially attracted to the depth and intensity of HSPs, but while we (well, at least I speak for myself) want that intensity to continue, for other people, it's like the novelty wears off, and they want to return to the less demanding way of interacting they consider their normal. Actually, it feels like they just get tired of the intensity and want me to lighten up. It sort of reminds me of a saying my former therapist liked to trot out: "Opposites may attract, but they don't necessarily make good bed-fellows."

Either way, a number of HSPs respond by simply leaving the friendship, and quite a few complain that they seem to have developed a reputation for suddenly dropping people out of their lives.

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It's Important to Set Healthy Boundaries

There are other factors that sometimes contribute to an HSP's difficulties in keeping friendships, especially in the longer run. Not least of these is the tendency for many HSPs to have what I think of as soft boundaries.

How does this manifest?

Most HSPs I meet seem to be very good listeners, combined with a natural capacity towards compassion and empathy. How often have you—as an HSP—been told that you are really easy to talk to? How often does it feel like people—even relative strangers—tend to offload all their problems on you?

The potential downside of ever-patient and attentive listening is that sometimes it is simply not good for us to keep ourselves eternally engaged in someone else's problems and dramas. Where our soft boundaries become a problem is when we realize that we really should leave a situation, yet we fail to detach ourselves for any number of reasons, from not wanting to be thought rude to having an almost compulsive desire to rescue people.

The Problem With Non-Reciprocal Relationships

The combination of soft boundaries with empathic listening often combines to create a dynamic in which the HSP gradually becomes someone's therapist rather than simply being their friend.

I'll be the first to admit that I am naturally predisposed to wanting to help those with broken wings, so I am sure that has influenced my friendship choices—and I know I am not alone among HSPs. And yes, I do realize that a natural part of friendship is about sharing troubles. However, when it ends up feeling like constant one-way traffic, and I find myself wondering if everyone really has this much chaos and drama in their life, I know something about the friendship is not working.

And I am sure the fact that I don't tend to say things like, "Take your issues and drama to someone else" (which I understand many non-HS people do quite readily) also plays into the picture. It took me many years to recognize this dynamic and then to learn how to gently extract myself from the role of being someone's informal therapist.

Of course, there's also the non-reciprocal relationship in which it feels like we are doing ALL the work. We make the connection, arrange all the lunches, and generally are always the ones to get things rolling for the next time we see our friend. In such situations, it may be of value to occasionally take stock to see if we want to continue the friendship. If it feels draining, the answer may be no.

The "Drop and Run": An HSP Friendship Quirk

A significant number of HSPs have shared that they seem to be in a pattern where they become friends with someone—become quite close—and then something happens, after which they more or less just vanish from the friendship.

Maybe there was a misunderstanding; maybe the friend wasn't interested in something near and dear to the HSP, so the friendship just ended, even though there was no deeper reason for that to happen.

As HSPs, we must try to remain mindful of our friendships and be especially careful that we don't end them for the wrong reasons. For example, did that friendship we suddenly dropped truly end because of irreconcilable differences? Or was the problem actually that we were in a state of overstimulation when something came up, and a very minor comment by our friend FELT like a huge problem? Good friendships are valuable assets to have, and they do require work to maintain.

Introverts, Friendships, and Faking It

Many (about 70%) HSPs are introverts. While introversion should not be interpreted as antisocial, many introverts tend to feel that their friendships are inadequate because they compare their circles of friends to extraverts they know and feel like they are coming up short. They also see themselves as part of a very outgoing society and start interpreting their natural inclinations to prefer time spent alone as wrong, which is a big mistake.

Faking who you are in order to make friends with someone will only add to your number of failed friendships in the long run. After all, if you pretend to like lots of people and do lots of stuff when it's really not what you want, how long will it be before your inner frustration at not being yourself reveal itself?

Although it may take some courage, it is often quite important for HSPs to be willing to throw out societal norms for friendships in order to form and maintain healthy connections with others. After all, our friendships are there to serve us, not to impress the greater world!

There is nothing wrong with being introverted and needing alone time.

There is nothing wrong with being introverted and needing alone time.

Friendships and the "HSP Alone Time" Issue

One of the central issues in healthy HSP living is honoring our need for alone time to recharge our batteries. This need for alone time applies equally to both introverted and extraverted HSPs and is essential for an HSP's general well-being.

Alone time means different things to different people. Some HSPs have had enough friend time after a few hours but only need a few hours of alone time before they are ready again. Others can seem extremely social for weeks but then also feel the need to withdraw in solitude for a week or more.

However, this can become an issue in HSP/non-HSP friendships because most people's expectations of friendship include being available to each other all the time. A non-HSP might experience their HSP friend's withdrawal as rejection and aren't willing to deal with a friend who suddenly vanishes for a week at a time.

The need for alone time is one of those issues that needs to be explained in a potential friendship because it is easily misunderstood. As an HSP, you may want to tell your friend that you sometimes need to go away but that it doesn't mean rejection and that you will be back.

Boundaries, Overstimulation, and High-Maintenance HSPs

There's an additional context in which HSPs must stay mindful of their own needs. Namely, when you're highly sensitive, you tend to become easily overstimulated. This basically amounts to the need for alone time—again, the length of alone time needed depends on the person.

In a friendship context—even a good one—this means that everything can be going along just fine when we realize we're becoming frazzled and need to leave. Unless our friends understand—and honor—that this is normal for us, it's easy for us to be perceived as oddballs, quirky (or even difficult), or unreliable flakes when we feel the need to be by ourselves.

Thus, we must choose carefully when it comes to friends. Though I may get some pushback from some members of the HSP community for saying this, the truth is that quite a few HSPs are high maintenance by often imposing lots of special needs and considerations on people around them.

Please understand that there's nothing wrong with setting healthy boundaries and asserting one's needs, but a lot of people simply don't have the patience and determination to maintain a friendship with someone who doesn't want to participate in a wide range of activities and insists they can't participate unless a laundry list of special accommodations and conditions are met. Friendship is always a two-way street.

Statistics and the Right to Choose

So is there any hope? Are HSPs doomed to always struggle with friendships and social interaction? Not necessarily. However, it is very important for HSPs to revisit and restate their assumptions about being friends with people and what friendship means to them—away from public expectations.

How do friendships happen? It seems they primarily form because of some kind of common ground. It is common sense that if your "ground" (because you're an HSP) is a little bit different, there will simply be fewer people who share that ground in common with you.

From what I have observed, many HSPs' distress over friendships can be traced back to unhealthy comparisons with the so-called standards of western society. We're shown messages—through Madison Avenue, Hollywood, our local communities, and even our (non-HSP?) families—that we should have lots of life-long friends. The medical community even says that people with many friends can live healthier and longer lives. The keyword in reading that last sentence is "can." The rules do not necessarily apply to everyone.

Statistically speaking, there are simply fewer candidates who are good friend material for HSPs. Maybe that sounds defeatist or elitist, but the simple truth is that we all have the right to choose our friends. We also have the right to choose rewarding friendships that fit our individual needs for closeness, depth, and amount of face time.

It's important to pick friends who value you for you.

It's important to pick friends who value you for you.

Fairness and Unfairness in the Realm of Friendships

Is it unfair that HSPs—who typically aren't the most socially outgoing people to begin with—have to work harder to make friends? Maybe it is, but so what? We owe it to ourselves to choose our friends wisely, even if that means we don't get to choose as often as some other people.

Dr. Elaine Aron—who originally identified sensitivity as a trait rather than a pathology—is a big proponent of HSPs befriending their peers. Now, that may sound a bit exclusive, but the truth of the matter is that friends are ultimately a bit like our chosen family. While it may sound nicely egalitarian and politically correct to choose diversified friends, the basic truth remains that we choose people to be with because we enjoy their company.

Speaking from personal experience, I happen to like the company of HSPs, and I highly recommend finding and making some HSP friends. Maybe that sounds hard, but it needn't be. Most of my HSP friends started as friends in cyberspace that eventually turned into real-life friends. Remember, you always have the right to make friends at a pace that feels right to you, and the relative slowness permitted by the Internet often works well for HSPs.

When you do choose non-HSP people to befriend, be aware that maybe the relationship will have its limitations—and don't make the mistake of imposing your needs on someone who really doesn't understand where you're coming from. Take the friendship at face value and allow it to be what it is: Maybe you can only connect with Susan in the context of gardening, so allow that to be rather than dropping Susan because you can't talk deeper metaphysics with her.

It's Important to Define What Friendship Means to You

So, are friendships truly more difficult for HSPs? Yes and no.

Successful and rewarding HSP friendships ask us to be mindful and to choose wisely. We must be willing to make our own friendship rules and learn not to be upset because our friendships—and friendship patterns—look a little different from everyone else's

Bottom line: As an HSP, the first step towards better friendships is to let go of societal and family expectations about friendships. Stop worrying about how many friends you should have and take some time to figure out what being friends with someone means to you. And it's really OK to be particular. Make it clear to your friends that your desire to spend time alone does not mean that you no longer like them.

Try to have realistic expectations about friendships. Understand that many others will not be looking for the "depth and intensity" you might be. Accept that you may be able to make a good friends without them having to be perfect.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2007 Peter Messerschmidt

What do you think? How have your friendships worked out? Do you feel that being an HSP has made friendships more difficult for you?

Bri on March 14, 2019:

Wow. I never comment on things like this, but I really appreciate reading this article and other people's stories. I am an HSP and I've known that since the beginning of college. I came into awareness of this trait after going through a rough anxiety-filled transition from a very small high school to a large one during my senior year. Now, I am 25 and in my third year of graduate school. Something that I've had a lot of difficulty with recently is trying to understand why I haven't felt like I've had the genuine friendships that I had back when I went to that very small high school. In fact, I've been going through a lot of pain from friendships that ended poorly. It's bad enough that I feel like a large part of my college experience is defined by my failure as a friend. I more or less let my drive for academic success overcome my need for quiet unstructured time resulting in a short temper and feeling overwhelmed by doing the everyday sort of chores that roommates expect. I can relate to feeling like a monster, and I can relate to letting people approach you with the intent of friendship only to manipulate you and lead you to feel like you are worthless. I actually find myself fantasizing a lot about moving to the middle of nowhere small little town like the one I grew up to escape from the everyday pains I feel over the matter. ANYWHO, focus on the positives... lalalalala

Tuulikki on October 17, 2016:

@Dani Ericksson

Hi Dani! I'm a fellow hsp who is struggling with similar problems and would love to share insights with you. I hope you see this and we could get to know each other :)

Dani Erickson on October 09, 2016:

I have strongly identified as an HSP ever since my mom had me take Elaine's quiz at 10 (27 now). One of the reasons why I am so grateful Elaine's books have come into my life is because she explains so clearly why I am the way that I am. This article did the same thing for me. I have a very difficult time keeping friends. Making them has been a little hard but that is because I can be really shy...also pretty HSP to the core in that way.

Recently, I went through a SUPER rough patch. My 7 year relationship ended and I moved out of the apartment I was in and into a house with two other girls. I found the listing on craigslist and moved in the next day. I lived there for a year and a half and got to be very close with both girls. Megan was sweet and very accommodating (I totally think she's an HSP) but Mary...even though we were close, she stressed me out SO MUCH. She has an extremely domineering personality. Her way or the highway. Controlling. Demanding. Long story short, Mary ended up trying to get me to move out because she felt my "anxiety" caused too much stress in the house. One of the reasons that I feel blessed with being an HSP is our ability to reflect. And not just self reflect but SERIOUSLY SELF REFLECT. I feel I can genuinely own up to the inevitable mistakes that I have made. I can see my behavior, maybe not all of it but I know when I make a mistake but Mary was horribly wrong in this case and I let her manipulate me and make me question my worth. One of the main reasons why Mary wanted me to leave was because I felt unsafe with her bringing her online dates into our home. Cops were called once and there was an incident with my keys being ... what I think ... stolen. The whole point of telling this story is because I not only dropped Mary, which I felt was absolutely a positive thing I did, but I dropped Megan. I dropped two other people that I was friends with because I met them through Megan. I literally dropped these people. I had several conversations with Megan and both of my other friends that went well after I moved out but I still dropped them. This is a pattern in my life where something happens that needs to be worked through but somehow, even if the necessary conversations happen, I drop them anyways. It has made me feel like a monster. And I can't live like this anymore. I want to have healthy friendships. It's not important to me that they always be "intense" or "deep", only that the genuineness is there. That they are supportive, kind people who make mistakes just like me. I want this pattern to stop.

Anyways. The article made me feel less crazy, as all does Elaine. For some reason, I haven't reached into cyberspace for support. But right now, I need my fellow HSP's to have my back right now because I have never felt so lonely in my life.

Ruth on September 19, 2016:

@ JS Madison, that sounds incredible and I dream to have that : )

I completely relate to this article. I actually found it just when I was having a mini meltdown about how I'm struggling so much to connect with people at the moment. I only worked out this year through finding Elaine's book that I'm highly sensitive and finally I understood myself better after 33 years of living.

I make friends extremely easily, people are very drawn to me. But I've ended up very disappointed by the expectations of friendships and, in the past I'm going to say, haven't been able to state my needs.

I recently began a new friendship which looked caring and promising, however they bombarded me with texts, even after I had the courage this time to say that I'm someone who likes a lot of space and time to myself, especially in the evenings. I had to let the connection drift away because my need for space wasn't being met. I felt guilty but was pleased that I was able to be honest for the first time. I've definitely made other friendships who respect my boundaries a lot more, even without having to say anything.

I resonate with everything said in this article. I am finding that in the realm of friendships and relationships with men I am 'failing miserably' (I'm being judgemental I know, I'm just very emotional about it tonight). But I know that I am someone who loves deeply and really wants to connect. I think the first step for me is being honest about my needs from early on in a connection. I read all of the comments and I also agreed with another poster on here that it's nice to have connections that are reciprocal, where noone has to be the one always making an effort, whether it's us or another person. Perhaps some of us who are sensitive feel that more, I certainly do.

Thank you for this article and for opening up the forum. When I read other commenters, for the first time in a long time I feel a resonant energy. I've enjoyed reading everyone's comments on here and the commenter before me has given me hope : )

JS Madison on August 01, 2016:

I'm an HSP who is part of the 1% that doesn't have trouble making or keeping friends. Though, it hasn't always been that way. In adulthood I fell into a community of friends who are thoughtful, supportive, mindful people. The kind of folks who are interested in conversing about life, the universe and our search for meaning. I imagine that many of the others in this unique social circle are HSPs. These people understand if I cancel last minute, and don't take it personally, they also don't expect the frequent calls or texts that make up so much of the 'maintenance' that many friendships seem to falter without, and that I find so difficult to do consistently. These people understand that even if we don't talk or see each other for 6 months that I still think of them and care for them, and we're able to pick up where we left off when we do see each other. I count myself as being *incredibly* fortunate.

les-online on June 27, 2016:

Part of the problem for me I think is being both highly sensitive and high sensation seeking. I like fun friends, but I get too tired too easily and can't keep up and have to go home early, or bail out of things I know will be draining. I work full time and it's good but exhausting. I'm fortunately to finally have a partner who gets me and we mesh pretty well. But there's little time and energy left for friendships, and I miss having gal pals to hang out with. Just tough to balance.

Teeno M on October 13, 2015:

Hi Peter. Thanks so much for your prompt reply. I read the article you linked me to and I do see some commonalities with my friend and your definition and examples of the highly touchy person. Where you talk about extreme cases when you have provided your opinion about something and they felt personally offended that you didn't feel the same way, that was actually very similar to one of the things my friend listed off. It was very puzzling too because she seems to give mixed signals, like, she told me she knew her opinion about her favourite food was a bit biased, and I said something along the lines of I could agree with her opinion to some extent, but not so much because I knew it was her favourite thing, and then when she was listing off her feelings a few days later, she included that as being one of them.

What I'm assuming at this point is that she's taking time for herself and possibly isolating herself after this talk we had. I don't know for sure but she could be feeling guilty for listing off her issues with me? In one case awhile ago, she was very apologetic to me for over-analysing and misunderstanding...

Learning all of this information from your articles about HSPs and highly touchy people is a bit scary to wrap my head around. I really want to be her friend regardless of her sensitivity. I just have no idea how to approach her on that without scaring her away. I feel at this point if that were to happen, I would blame myself, when in retrospect, it's her personality that is causing this...if that's acceptable to say.

What do you think I should do? Thanks so much again for your advice.

Peter Messerschmidt (author) from Port Townsend on October 13, 2015:

Teeno M, thanks for your comment. Honestly, whereas the person you're talking to may be an HSP, it also sounds like someone who just takes everything personally... which can be an issue that operates completely independently of being "highly sensitive," at least in the context this article covers. I have met plenty of people who "got their feelings hurt at the drop of a hat," but who were not "highly sensitive" in the slightest.

If you have the feeling that you have to "walk on eggshells" when you are interacting with this person-- and it sounds like you are a fairly considerate person, if you "read over anything I submit on line 3 and 4 times over to be 99% sure that I would not offend"-- odds are you are talking to someone with unresolved emotional issues that go WELL beyond being an HSP. I have personally met 100's of HSPs (being one, myself, and going to workshops/retreats for HSPs) over the past couple of decades, and the pattern you're describing does not sound healthy. The fact that she is "keeping score" and can list off each time she has been offended by you is a bit of a red flag, at least for me. She may be suffering the aftereffects of abusive relationships(?) which can often create a form of "hypervigilance" in which a person is always on the lookout for "evidence" that they are going to be hurt... it's not harmful, as such-- it's a form of (toxic) self-protection, but it falsely assumes that YOU are "the same person" as the person in her past. But I don't know the details, and I am not a psychoanalyst by trade.

You might also consider reading another article I have written here called "Highly Sensitive or Highly Touchy." It's a bit controversial among true HSPs, but it touches somewhat on what you're describing here.

Teeno M on October 13, 2015:

I need some advice please. I'm not an HSP but I have a strong feeling that my internet friend is. After reading the article, I can see that many of her traits are present here.

I have very recently become close to her via Skype after we met through tumblr due to many common interests. In the beginning, I assumed she was judgemental, because at one point, she unfollowed me on tumblr and I was quite offended. Later on, when I became indirectly involved in posts with her, I tried to reach out to her again and she followed me back saying the reason she had unfollowed me was because I appeared to be "rude" in my hashtags. I thought long and hard about it, and I was confused as to when I had ever posted anything rude ever. For as long as I can remember, I have read over anything I submit on line 3 and 4 times over to be 99% sure that I would not offend. So once we were mutuals again on tumblr, I felt I had little to worry about. I figured there was a mishap in her first impressions of me. She told me she misjudged me and she was happy we were talking again.

For each of our birthdays, only 2 weeks apart - ironically we both have the same sign - we mailed each other presents. I had never had such a bond with someone on line before. A few weeks later was when we got on Skype.

Our last conversation was 3 days ago. And it was that conversation that I realized she was an HSP, because she told me there were some things on her mind and listed off about 8 very specific situations where her feelings had been hurt by me. And every single one of those situations, I had good intentions. I was shocked that even when I had thought we were okay, she was still secretly hurting inside.

She immediately told me she was being ridiculous and that she should probably keep these things to herself from now on. I told her I wanted to talk more about it later and have a heart to heart. By now, it was super late where I was so I went to bed. The next day she wasn't on tumblr or Skype. Then the next. Now today. I am becoming super anxious and worried that I somehow said something when explaining my intentions that night that upset her... or maybe like this article states, she's having some time to herself. Whatever the case, I have been super stressed out worrying about her and I feel hurt that she wouldn't tell me where she was going. I'm an introvert myself, so it really doesn't matter to me if she needs to be alone. I just wish I KNEW.

Any advice people could give me at this point would be very much appreciated.

Tuulikki on July 17, 2015:

Thank you for writing on this topic! I have known of myself being a HSP about a year now and it only today occurred to me that maybe my difficulties of keeping friends is due to my high sensitivity. I'm both relieved and sad to find out this seems to be the case.

Just few days ago I was crying to my boyfriend and asking WHY are friendships so hard for me while he has no difficulties at all. He has often told me that you don't have to be soul mates with all your friends and they don't have to include too much deepness. Still, what I ultimately look for in a friend is somebody I can have a deeper connection with. By my bf's advice I have tried to be more light minded about the concept of friends. Despite of my efforts to be fine with just chit chat and lowering my general expectations, I never seem to be able to keep anybody my friend. I can do small talk and even keep it up quite long, but only true joy to me comes from deep and intellectual topics.

I recognize myself also as a person who drops people or vanishes from friendships after "something" happens. Sometimes that something is a disappointment or a situation which I interpreted that the other person/s rejected me. I also have low tolerance for drama, ignorance and shallowness so that has definitely also affected a lot of my female friendships.

My hope is to find some fellow hsp's to meet up with and see if we could be friends :)

MammaEm on June 30, 2015:

I have struggled with all of this for my entire life. I will spare you the details. I was delighted however with this article however; it opened a new door for me. I have always wondered why I had difficulty making friends when so many enjoyed unloading their troubles on me. I suspected over the years it was because I was too serious. After reading this I noticed that I take it a step further. I will engage in chit chat for about 60 seconds and will then immediately launch into world hunger issues with ANYONE who will stand still and not even realize I am doing it! That is my idea of small talk! I can't believe no one ever told me that I was doing it! We won't even address my growing intensity on these topics. I have absolutely no idea how to avoid relating this way but at least now I have an idea of where some of my friendship issues are. Does anyone out there give small talk classes?

Indigo on December 27, 2014:

Am I unusual in that I'm an HSP who finds it hard making friends but once they are established I have no problem keeping them. I have close friends I've known for years whom I really value. I have a newer friend who is an HSP too and has commented that she finds it hard to keep friends. This makes me a little nervous and feel vulnerable as I have put a lot of time and consideration into our friendship over the past couple of years and wonder if any difficulties that arise may be over a lack of communication.

L Izett from The Great Northwest on March 29, 2014:

YES! Wow, I've read several of your HSP hubs but this one resonates with me. I don't know if I qualify as a HSP but this hub about friendships is so true form what I've experienced. Unbelievably true. I've always carried this mantra with me- I don't expect anything more from others than I would expect from myself. Unfortunately this often disappoints me in friendships and even family relationships. Deep conversations are hard to come by. People often seem flaky to me. From a good friend, when they SAY they will do something or call etc, I kind of expect that....because I'm true to my word. Because words have a purpose. Or conversations always reach that superficial or surface breaking point and never extend beyond that. I HATE/loathe chit chat. It has no purpose. And of course new friendships reach that point where I believe we should be talking about something meaningful, deep, etc but they just don't. So where do you go from there? It's a dead end for me. I'm the crazy one who wants to forget all the constraints of society and actually talk to one another. All that said, I have no problems making friends and winning over the entire room.

The way I've dealt with it, after I've learned a bit about myself, is somewhat similar to your suggestions. I have various close friends that I can be with who fulfill what I need (what I'd like to have a few good friends, but instead it's with multiple people). We expect a mate to fulfill al our needs and even that is unrealistic so having various friends for various reasons has worked well for me. Also I'm in my 30's and find that older people are more up my alley- 50+. I didn't say OLD, but older than me. They tend to check their ego at the door and feel more relaxed to discuss the deeper things.

Celticbird on October 17, 2013:

Great article! Exactly what I am experiencing!


mdaniels4 on February 12, 2013:

Altough i've known for years that I also am HSP, or rather, moderately high, I was never able to reconcile the feelings of being less than, especially among other boys and men. Most of my better friends are women, I can't watch blood and gore movies, I express more stereotypical feminine traits, at least the ones society says they are like deeper conversation vs chit chat (bores the heck out of me) and other things. I am trained as a psychotherapist, and at least a good part of that was because I was always the one people said was so easy to talk to etc, listening, understanding, not judgmental etc.

It has taken me a long time to understand this as not being so much defective as just being different from the norm. What has been a challenge is getting the socially norm to accept different does not mean anything but that-different. Not gay, effeminate, weird, odd or name one, just the word different will suffice. As a guy and not exhibiting ubur-male characteristics, and I don't swish in any way so that can't be it, I can only conclude that having more accepted feminine qualities is the key to the misunderstanding. That a woman can express more male characteristics in this culture and be more accepted, and the HSP female is seen as more normal, but men are limited to an either or is what has been difficult for me to process.

I am basically an extrovert, who has been wounded by being different, so I am wary with others, and have become somewhat introverted. I think by nature, looking inward much of the time describes many HSP's as introverts, but perhaps they really are extroverts who are careful.

At any rate, I have gotten a much better perspective of this as I have read more on this topic, and thank all of you for bringing this out. This does need to be more fully explored and publicizeed in order to change a lot of whaat's wrong in our culture today.

JenniferC on October 16, 2012:

I can absolutely relate. The one thing I would add is I have occasionally made friends with people who are not necessarily HSP, but they are good "solid" trustworthy people

AnniesHealthTalk from United States on July 24, 2012:

This is a great article. It is very difficult for an HSP and introvert to make friends, or even get past that "small talk" phase.

Voted up!

confused on June 13, 2012:

I have always never understood the point of chit chat babble-especially at work. It is the same thing every week. I have learned to be a better actor as I get older. I can never tell if someone else is an HSP when I meet them. But then when they see how I think on a whole other plane than them they treat me like I an crazy or "weird". How do you know if you are an extroverted HSP? I think I am one but not sure.

Pipaluk Christina Karlsen on May 31, 2012:

I have never felt more understood by anyone about my friendship relations, it´s such a relief to read. I am left with so much to consider, in order to accept the way I am and no longer be haunted by others advises on how I should be in order to be "normal". I am so thankful for this insight! Also i hope to find friends with HSP, ´cause we are too interesting to miss! :)

Sphinxs Sanctum from Southern United States on May 29, 2012:

Wow! Such an interesting, true evaluation of the "HSP" personality! Great Hub!

I'll be looking forward to reading more from you.

I've just created a hub regarding the loss of my best friend, if you care to see, called: "My Best Friend Forever - No More" This hub reminds me of some of the feelings that went into that poem.

Hope you won't mind, but, I'm linking! :)

Peter Messerschmidt (author) from Port Townsend on May 23, 2012:

@Extroverted HSP: Thanks for commenting! I do have an article in the works about HSPs, introversion and extraversion, but it's not specifically centered on advice for extraverted HSPs. However, it's a good idea, and I may take that up in the future.



Extroverted HSP on May 23, 2012:

Great article! A lot of things make sense.

Is there any advice for HSP with extroverted nature??

Peter Messerschmidt (author) from Port Townsend on May 22, 2012:

@hsptweets: Thanks for posting that-- good idea!

@Justine: Thanks for commenting, and for your kind words. Yes, many HSPs find friends long distance, and online. Getting to know someone slowly, in writing, seems to work well for many.

Justine on May 22, 2012:

This is very much "me"! I have friends at long distances, not close to where I live. Those photos are wonderful!

I don't do well in social settings. Not interested in superficial people. Just like what you said on hsp comment. Hsp on line is best way to go for me.

hsptweets from San Francisco on May 22, 2012:

Several people have asked in comments above on how to connect with other HSPs. See this companion Hubpage for suggestions:

Gail on May 21, 2012:

It's such a rush for me to read the article about being an HSP! I thought I was a freak of nature for most of my life. Speaking of the "small chit-chat", I wonder if that's why I have always felt safer and more comfortable with men. Men say it like it is and women do the idle boring chit-chat. It too am tired of being everybody's therapist. I quit work 6 months ago and I have never been so happy! True friendships are very hard to find for us, that's for sure!

Wowed on May 18, 2012:

Thanks for writing about HSP. It's very comforting seeing evidence of the existence of other HSPs. I hope I meet one someday. I'm sure I know some already, but some seem to be in denial. I've often been met with blank stares when I tried to communicate 'insights' .

Elinor on March 03, 2012:

Your article is the best. You are so right about everything! I am a highly-sensitive person and I've always had trouble keeping friends because many people just aren't "deep" enough for me, or sensitive enough, and I consequently lose interest or start to feel betrayed.

I thought I was the only one who thought idle chit-chat was boring and annoying! I find this absolutely pointless and a waste of time: On a Monday morning, having to answer the question "How was your weekend?" to a coworker whom I know doesn't care one way or the other, and then feeling it necessary to ask them how their weekend was, when I know they won't go into detail about anything personal or interesting. I care about people and need people in my life, but I hate superficial relationships and surface conversations.

I also find it funny how many people think that they are sensitive, but they are nowhere near how sensitive HSP's are.

Thanks again for posting this article. I hope I can make friends with an HSP soon.

tom on December 16, 2011:

once i had met some fellow HSPs i actually realised what a frightful little prig i must be and resolved never to be a spineless, whining, reactive, emotional beta male again. yes we do condemn in others what we hate about ourselves.

Randi G. Fine on August 06, 2011:

Wow! I knew that I was a classic HSP, but this article is right on the money. Friendships have always been difficult for me for the many reasons you cited. I thought something was wrong with me because I couldn't form friendship the way most people could - now I understand why. It's wonderful to know that there is a fellowship of others just like me. Very enlightening! Thanks!

quietone on August 15, 2010:

I was recommended this site and have found it inspiring.It answers a lot of questions about myself.Being from Australia,is there a local website to contact likeminded people for friendships and forums?

Venesa on August 05, 2010:

I enjoyed this blog (I can relate to much of it); as a matter of fact, I am going to post/share it on my blog as well. Thanks in advance!

Linda on June 08, 2010:

This article was very helpful to me as the mother of a HSP college student. I've always worried that she spends too much time alone and doesn't have enough friends. As a HSP myself, I need to let go of society's expectations and just allow my daughter (and myself) to embrace this trait and live our lives with acceptance.

Takako Komori from Yokohama, Japan on February 26, 2010:

Very insightful article! I just realized I was an HSP (for the most part) myself and exhibit several of the traits you mentioned.

I myself also had trouble maintaining friendships, ever since I was in elementary school and I saw this as a form of rejection. So, for a time I became afraid of reaching out and making friends for fear of this rejection.

I was constantly asking myself "what's wrong with me?"!

This article has provided me with a glimmer of hope!

Thank you!

lou b on August 26, 2009:

When I first read about HSPs it sounded too much of a fine term for what I had considered more of a disability especially when it came to social situations. In fact this term makes such people sound quite special, lol. Well whatever we call it I would really appreciate connecting with other HSPs on a forum perhaps or even a direct friends site and discussing issues which tend to become important in an HSPs life... Can anyone point me in the right direction?

angw on February 05, 2009:

Dear Isolated

I relate very much to what you are saying as I have also just discovered that I am a HSP.  I am sure, like you, whilst this has been a revelation to me and I suddenly understand so much about myself and my past, it is hard to start to cope with.

The first thing we need to do is raise our self esteem which has been battered (if you are like me) for most of our lives.  It is time to see how special we are, to stop thinking that we need to toughen up and be like others and to realise that our gifts are needed, but we need to put 'self care' first.  I have been through a lot of recent stress because of people misunderstanding me and so my priority at the moment is about healing myself and being kind to myself - something I have not done in a long time - everyone else came first.  It is about learning to say 'no' (something that does not come easy) and putting up some boundaries.  That might mean within the family environment too.  I am the mother of two teenagers and I realise that they need to start helping me more so that I can cope better.

I do understand you isolated because I am in the same place that you stand now.  Do not think you are alone in this, at least you have this knowledge now and you can start to work with it to put the pieces back together and live the life you were meant to.  Start with being kind to yourself and I am sure the rest will  follow.


Isolated on January 24, 2009:

Earlier today, my husband and I fought about friends and he said that I isolate myself because I didn't want to go to Ottawa to see his sister and much rather spend the money and time on my house. This bothers me as I wish he could understand me more. Don't get me wrong, I love people, certain ones. As an HSP, and being a very "deep" person, I weed through individuals very quickly. I don't want that "engergy drain" from those "negative emotions from others" and I am always trying to rise above it with my own struggles. I'm tired of explaining myself to those who don't understand me or believe my HSP traits.

I've just recently discovered what was "right" (versus wrong) with me and that I am an HSP. I've had a lifetime of being told, you're too sensitive and what's wrong with you. The problem being I can actually "feel" people's emotions and that includes their pain. "Gift", I think not as I have to move from our matrimonial bed when I'm woken up in the night "feeling" my husband's pain, literally, or I need to get away from a "friend" or "family member" because they are affecting me, negatively. I guess I can feel their energies. Why can't others understand that they physically hurt me and I can't help it?

I need to find others like me, and I have never believed in chat rooms before, but now, it's important for me to find other "HSP" friends. Those people I can trust and relate to. So many others have failed me. I trust too deeply and can't stand all that bull and babble and lies that comes out of some people's mouths. I love people and I'm tired of being their psychiatrist, especially when I give everything away for free.

Can you understand me? All my life, I go through people, like the wind blowing away the dried up dandelion petals. I'm also in the midst of changing my dead-end low paying job, working very closely with a negative, corrupted employer, whom I despise and try daily to not let her "down moods" affect me. I think I'm in the wrong profession. There's so much more to me and I need to get my creativity out. I'm stuck and torn between being financially stable to raise my 12 year old daughter with all the nice trimmings.

Any suggestions?

ros on January 21, 2009:

This is so interesting and sooooooooooo me,i am happy to have read this it just nails it for me.

Can anyone recommend a good HSP site where i can make friends or connect as i like to say.

Thank you so much

Julie Plenty on December 22, 2008:

This is something that I am coming to terms with. For a long time, I've found it very easy to make and sustain friendships. I realise now it was because I had my own space and time to process and that I was happy in the living environment I was in. I was tending to my own self care (without really knowing that I was doing so) and so sustained friendships for a number of years.

But after a while friends got married and had kids (I'm not married and don't have children) and a kind of natural wastage took place. People moved to different parts of the country. I went travelling and moved back into the family home from where I ran a business for a while. Illness both mine and family members and bereavement knocked me down for six and I developed CFS. During this time I got into energy therapy, esp EFT

What happened during this time was that I no longer had the energy to contact friends. It also dawned on me that I put a lot of time and effort into friendships and now realise that this wasn't really returned. So now I feel ambivalent about making friends in a way I wasn't before. Maybe those friendships no longer serve me and because I'm in a family and geographical environment which is depleting no longer feel inclined to.

It could also be that now I know that I want friendships and relationships to be on a more equitable basis, in terms of energy exchange and that I want more of a dynamic relationship where I feel that I;m being emotionally supported and not just being the counsellor to a drama queen, who when I have my emotional crisis can't deal with it.

I'm beginning to think that my natural state is of a nun. Seriously, although I'm not religious, the thought of being in such a community really appeals. I really like and value time on my own and don't need people in the same way that others do, but I do like others being around me where there isn't too much of an emotional investment (too overwhelming and I get sucked too easily into other's dramas)

zayla on October 12, 2008:

Hello, I am a dutch psychologist. I have written about hsp in dutch.

jforrest on July 19, 2008:

Take the quiz at to see how you test on the scale of high sensitivity.

Rik Rodriguez from Hawaii on December 23, 2007:

I think we are all over sensitive To much time on the computer not enough time learning people skliis. If you have 1 real friend in your life that loves and cares about you no matter what you do. You are doing better than most people. Stop watching.

Isabella Snow on December 13, 2007:

I see you sorted the pic issue! Good hub! Personally, I prefer my friends to be online and not in person. So much easier to ignore them when they're being prattish. ;)

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