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This special sixth sense has helped my career

Ever psychoanalyzed a Slack message? Retyped an email 7 times so it came off just right? Felt caffeine-level excitement when people complimented your work? If so, you might be a highly sensitive person (HSP) just like me.

When a psychologist named Dr. Elaine Aron wrote a book called The Highly Sensitive Person back in the ’90s, she changed the game for those of us who feel things deeply. This genetic personality trait yields a heightened nervous system that processes stimuli extra thoroughly. We’re all sensitive to some extent—even those who won’t admit it—but Dr. Aron’s research found that 20% of the population is highly sensitive.

In the workplace, we’re known for having strong feelings and making decisions carefully. We pick up on all the little things: subtleties in body language; the rhythmic tap of a pen across the room; minuscule hesitations in a prospective client’s voice. And, okay, we do overthink here and there.

Sensitivity gets a bad rap sometimes, but I can’t imagine what my career would be without it. When nurtured, it’s a special spice that sets us apart—even if we occasionally puzzle our less-sensitive colleagues.

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