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The Power of Sensitivity with Andre Sólo

George Grombacher February 23, 2023

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The Power of Sensitivity with Andre Sólo

LifeBlood: We talked about the power of sensitivity, what it means to be a sensitive person, how many of us are, the pros and cons of the trait, and how and why to remove the stigma surrounding it, with Andre Sólo, CoFounder of Sensitive Refuge, and author of Sensitive!

Listen to learn how to cultivate your sensitive side!

You can learn more about Andre at, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.

Get your copy of Sensitive HERE

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Our Guests

George Grombacher

Andre Solo

Andre Sólo

Episode Transcript

george grombacher 0:00
Come on lifeless George G and A time is right welcome today’s guests strong and powerful Andre solo. Andre, are you ready to do this?

Andre Solo 0:21
I am stoked and totally ready.

george grombacher 0:23
All right, let’s go. Andre is the co founder of sensitive refuge and the chief Make It Happen Officer of introvert dear. He’s on a mission to break negative stigma surrounding sensitivity in the workplace. His newest book is sensitive. Andre, I’m excited to have you on tell us a little about your personal laughs more about your work? Why you do what you do?

Unknown Speaker 0:45
Absolutely. Well, yeah. So as a kid, I was always the sensitive one. And I did not realize that at the time. I remember being in kindergarten and I was I was a good student overall, as you know, friendly, social, you know, tried to tried hard in class. And then when we would get out to recess, suddenly, it’s so loud. There’s all these kids screaming and laughing and running everywhere. So much going on at once. I would get overstimulated. I didn’t know that word overstimulated, I just knew that I wanted to get away from everybody. And I would actually go and hide and a big part of kindergarten, I would go off and hide in this like old sort of storm sewer pipe nearby, and just sort of disappear for the duration of recess, I would come back when the bell rang. But eventually people figured out where I was going. And it was cause for some concern with my parents is like, what are you doing? Why are you hiding in there. And I had no way of explaining why just get overwhelmed on the playground, because it’s so much going on. And so I kind of grew up with this feeling that there must be something wrong with me or that there’s something either that I needed to fix or overcome somehow. And it turns out, there’s not just a sensitive person. And roughly one in three people, it’s actually 30% of people are more sensitive than average. And that includes both physically and emotionally sensitive. And it’s a trait that’s often something we try to hide, because we’re told it’s something that you don’t want to show the world. But it turns out, it’s actually linked to giftedness and comes with a lot of strengths.

george grombacher 2:11
Fascinating, so. So 30% of us are more sensitive than then than the rest. And that’s, that’s it, you said it was emotionally, it’s like, physically,

Unknown Speaker 2:24
what is it? Yeah, so emotionally and physically. So that’s a really interesting fact is that the two types of being sensitive, being you know, emotionally sensitive, picking up on what people are feeling, noticing that little smile, or that little hidden frown. Having deeper emotions, that kind of sensitive, and the physical sensitive where you’re aware of your surroundings, you notice tiny details, maybe you can appreciate the subtle notes of oak and Chardonnay or the subtle texture of a fabric, those two things are actually two sides of the same trait. They’re so closely linked, that if you take Tylenol to numb physical pain, you’ll actually score lower on an empathy test until the Tylenol wears off. So physical and sensitive, physical and emotional sensitivity kind of hand in hand. And there’s a reason for that. It’s because what we call being sensitive, is really just a word for how deeply your brain processes information. And some people’s brains are wired to be very thorough and process information very deeply. Those are who we call sensitive people. And of course, to the brain, all information is just information, whether that’s emotional information, like that little hidden smile on someone’s face, or whether it’s physical information like that texture of that fabric. So if your brain is just sort of wired to kind of just crunch the data a little longer, to pay closer attention to spend a little more energy going through everything that you perceive, you’ll end up being a little bit more responsive to both the emotional and physical world around you. And that’s what we mean by sensitive people. It’s a continuum. I mean, obviously, every one is sensitive to some degree, we all have the sensitive side. But like most personality traits, you can be sort of low, average or high. And people who are average or low on sensitivity, that the world is kind of built for them, right? You don’t necessarily think as long about things you don’t necessarily feel as deeply and you often don’t notice the things that highly sensitive people do notice. But that nearly one in three people who are highly sensitive are sort of built that way and attuned to the world more deeply for a reason. It actually comes with a lot of survival benefits for our species. So it’s a strength even though we often hide it.

george grombacher 4:33
Got it? You know, I think that the that’s fascinating and and it makes a ton of sense. Our, our highly our more highly sensitive people are, are they drawn traditionally to two different fields or different types of work?

Unknown Speaker 4:52
That’s a really good question. So the answer is yes and no. On the one hand, I think a lot of sensitive people or are drawn to carrying fields. And you know, whether that be you know, nursing or childcare or being a teacher or whether that be being a doctor, a psychologist, therapist, something like that any kind of caretaking field is is really is something that a lot of highly sensitive people are drawn to similar with the creative fields, musicians, actors, writers all tend on average to be more likely to be highly sensitive people. And that’s for a reason, because high sensitivity does have a definite correlation with a high degree of creativity. And of course, it also has a correlation with a high degree of empathy. So most highly sensitive, people on average, would be able to score higher on an empathy test, or tend to feel more empathy in their daily interactions than less sensitive people. So those fields are sort of a natural poll. But a word of caution on that, that doesn’t always mean that’s the best field, that certainly doesn’t mean it’s the only kind of field that sensitive people can excel in. I think a lot of sensitive people are drawn to those caretaking fields. And then when they enter them, they realize that yes, their empathy is a great asset. But it’s also means that they take a lot of the stress and the worries of their patients or their clients are the students in their class, they take it very personally, they take it home with them, it’s easy to burn out in those fields. If you don’t, you know, really work on setting some boundaries between your work and your life and, and working on your strengths as a sensitive person. Conversely, being connected to creativity, and with this tremendous ability to the sensitive brain tends to notice connections that other people fail to notice. So that actually means sensitive people are great at innovation. It can make them great scientists, it can make them great in business. There’s a lot of fields that we don’t think of as being quote unquote, sensitive fields that sensitive people actually excel at. And that can even include things like the military, law enforcement, and very high pressure jobs. I think, on average, highly sensitive people do not like very fast paced, hectic, chaotic jobs, because it makes it hard for us to do that, that deep processing that we’re wired for. But one of our strengths as highly sensitive people is what my co author Jen Grantham and I call sensory intelligence. And that just means you’re very deeply attuned to your physical environment. And you notice things that others don’t in the physical environment. Another word for that might be situational awareness, which is crucial in the military crucial in any kind of life or death situation. It’s also crucial in if you’re a surgeon, or if you’re a doctor working in the ER, to be aware, situationally aware, so you know what’s going on around you, you can see things kind of coming before they happen, and you’re ready to deal with them. That’s something that highly sensitive people are actually very good at. So there’s a lot of jobs that they can be terrific at and excel at that we don’t think of as sensitive jobs, I tend to say that what’s the best job for a highly sensitive person, whatever job you want to do, that just means that the the, you know, the advantages and disadvantages will be slightly different depending on the field you choose.

george grombacher 8:06
I think that that that makes a lot of sense. And before you explained, or sort of described how a sensitive person can, can thrive or perform at a higher level in a high stress environment, like in the military, or an operating room, I had thought well, probably don’t want to be in one of those kinds of environments. So it’s kind of I was thinking the opposite.

Unknown Speaker 8:28
But yeah, it’s funny I I’ve spoken to, I mean, I think there’s plenty of highly sensitive people who would say, Oh, I would never want to be in the military, I couldn’t stand to hurt anybody. But you know, for every every sensitive person like that, we’ve we’ve also spoken to highly sensitive people who are in the military, very proud of their service. And in some ways, their sensitivity helps keep people alive in their unit or helps get the mission done. So it can go both ways.

george grombacher 8:49
Yeah. So your work, it’s, it’s designed to do what,

Unknown Speaker 8:58
you know, there’s a stigma around being sensitive. And I think that’s the number one thing that Jen and I or my co author want to change, we really want to change the way people think and talk about what it means to be a sensitive person or what it means to be sensitive. There’s this idea that if you’re sensitive, it means you’re weak or fragile. And that therefore, it’s something you don’t want to be. And it’s true for both men and women. The numbers are the same for any gender, you know, whether you’re male or female, or however you identify, it’s about a 30% rate of being highly sensitive. Now the stigma is slightly different men have this sense that they just shouldn’t be sensitive at all. Whereas women are told, you know, you’re being too sensitive, stop being so sensitive, which are terms that should be retired. But either way, we have this idea that either you shouldn’t be sensitive or if you are, hide it, hide it anywhere you can, but especially at work, and that that stigma starts young and starts in school when you hear it, you know, you’re told things like, you know, toughen up, get over it, shake it off. Have grow a thicker skin, etc. I’ve spoken to a K 12 principal. And he we talked about my work with sensitive, highly sensitive people and sensitive children. And I remember him his sort of conclusion he walked away with was, oh, well, you know, yeah, I’m sure there are a lot of good things about being sensitive, but we just have to help them just kind of thicker skin, you know, like, no, no, make a U turn, do the opposite. Really, it’s something we should be encouraging. It’s just like any other trait, that you might have an a child, or an adult, you know, there’s strengths and drawbacks to being extra tall, or to being a very extroverted person, or to being a very introverted person, or any of these average, just normal traits that that you may or may not have. Are you a math person? Or are you more of a literary person, both have strengths, it’s just that they, they’re going to come out in different ways in different places. They both have drawbacks, too. So it’s just like anything else, that your kid is great at math, encourage it, you know, if your kid is tall and athletic, and they want to be a basketball player, encourage it, if your kid is sensitive, encourage it. So that’s really what we want to change. And if that can trickle, then up to the rest of not just children, but to all of us, as adults in the workplace, are really interesting findings, there is some evidence to suggest that highly sensitive people are both the most stressed out people on the team at work, but also the highest performers. But those two things tend to go hand in hand. Because the typical workplace is not set up in a way that works well, for highly sensitive people who do their best work in sort of a calm, you know, environment where you have a little bit of space to think and a little bit of extra time to breathe. That’s not how most workplaces are set up. But those people who need that those sensitive people tend to be your highest performers in a lot of fields. And that’s, that makes sense considering that for decades that we’ve seen a link between being highly sensitive, and being gifted, as well as the link with creativity and being very conscientious, etc. So these tend to be high performers, but we’re just allowing them to burn out. So a lot of companies end up with these really great sensitive employees who do really good work. And then they’re wondering why they quit after a year, two years, three years, or why they want to make a career pivot to something else or want to, you know, stay at home with the kids or something else that might not be such a stressful environment, if we can start to reshape our workplaces, where you pay attention to the strengths of individual people on your team. And you will allow team members to shape their work environment a little bit. There are people who really thrive in a fast paced, demanding thing with lots of multitasking and jumping from thing to thing. And they do great work that way. That’s good. Those are not sensitive people, sensitive people thrive when they can single task, they thrive when they have at least a couple hours a day to just kind of focus in deeply on one thing. And they thrive when they’re allowed to have at least some level of privacy if you’re not working from home. And if you’re working in a traditional office, that could just mean even having a an old old style cubicle, rather than sitting at a big shared table with a million people, but having some amount of quiet or privacy. Maybe it’s even just you know, being able to grab a space in a conference room for a couple hours to your focus to work. That’s just a game changer for sensitive people.

george grombacher 13:18
That makes a ton of sense. Why do Why do adults slash managers slash the person, you know, kind of overseeing the other human being that sensitive? Why is it our impulse to say us stop being so sensitive? Is it that I’m put upon I’m just thinking about myself as as a parent, or people that I’ve worked with on a team? And it’s like, I just want to move on and suck it up kind of thing?

Unknown Speaker 13:50
Yeah, that’s a really good question. So it’s, it’s what generally I call the toughness myth. And the toughness myth is this ethos that we sort of live with the idea being that, you know, carrying too much makes you weak, it’ll cause you to fall behind. You should be able to push through anything in the world, no matter how hard it is, if it matters to you, you’ll keep pushing, you’ll keep going. And you should be able to overcome your limits. Now, these things, some of these things are true to a degree, of course, you’re able to, you know, expand your limits over time and push past your limits at times. Of course, there’s a certain power to grit. Those are useful traits. But we have sort of taken to an extreme. And I think that’s especially true in the United States, where we have this long history of sort of valuing the tough guy, right? If you think about the Wild West and cowboys and this very rugged individualism type of spirit we have, and we also have a very imbalanced view toward work in our country where it’s you should be expected to put in tremendously long hours, stop complaining and to make work your identity. And so the toughest myths feeds right into those things that really fuels it. The toughest myth is not all it’s cracked up to be. The reality is that people Do have limits, and that you actually are able to do more over over time. If you respect your own limits, and if you take basic measures to care for yourself and give yourself rest. That’s true for everyone, not just highly sensitive people. But when you’re highly sensitive, you are keenly aware of that, because the highly sensitive brain is putting huge resources into that deep processing at all times. And that’s the one drawback of being sensitive is if there’s a cost to all the gifts that come with it. It’s the cost is overstimulation, you get overloaded. When you do too much for too long, you might you might start to get overstimulated in very hectic environments really loud, or busy environments, or when there’s a lot of information to deal with. And so this idea of just, you know, sucking it up, testing it out sticking through it, it doesn’t work really doesn’t work for anyone long term. But it especially does not work for sensitive people. Because they’ll get that over stimulation will hit and rather than, you know, pushing through and doing even more, they’ll sort of, you know, they need we absolutely need to shut down and take some time to sort of process before we keep pushing. And in a way, I think that’s a lesson that highly sensitive people can bring to the society as a whole, right? Because yes, of course, you know, we have this overstimulation that we deal with if we are doing too much and too hectic environment, but if we start making changes so that that’s not the status quo, that’s going to help everybody else to it’s just gonna improve work life balance and overall happiness for everyone. And actually, the novelist Kurt Vonnegut, the Sci Fi author, many years ago was giving a lecture and he he compared sensitive people or he was talking about sensitive artists, to humanity’s Canaries, right? The canary in the coal mine sounds the alarm so to speak, before miners start dying from toxic gases. And sensitive people are sensitive artists as want to get was talking about serve that purpose for humankind, that we are able to see problems before they show up. We can see when something’s going we feel when something’s going wrong. We’re the ones who burn out first in these these situations that are going to burn out everyone, and we can raise the alarm. Now the one difference is that of course canaries in Vonnegut’s metaphor, canaries die in order to get their message into coal mines. And I think I think since if people had enough of that role, I think it’s time for us to break free the cage and start to fly and lead lead people rather than being the Canaries.

george grombacher 17:30
Yeah. There’s so much good stuff there. Andre. Thank you. Yeah, Smith, I mean, I think that we can all look at ourselves and the times that that we end up pushing too hard. And if you put too much pressure on anything, it’s going to it’s going to crack, it’s going to break and look across society. It’s not like we’re super healthy. And it’s not like we’re living our best lives right now. So how do I know? How do I how do I nurture? My, my, my sensitive side? Mice? How do I nurture myself?

Unknown Speaker 18:06
Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. The number one thing you can do as a sensitive person, or anybody who has a sensitive side, is to accept and embrace that sensitivity as a strength. This is an absolute life changing decision for anyone who is sensitive, stop hiding it, start showing it to the world. And that can take place in so many ways. I like to just use language that centers, you know, I think is I dream of a world where you can say to your boss, I think this is a reasonable thing anybody can say to their boss, you know, I’m I’m very sensitive to my environment. So I do my best work when I have some quiet time to focus on one thing for an hour or two, what are good times during the week that I can schedule those blocks to focus. That’s a reasonable request. You know, there’s nothing weird about that. But you’re saying outright, I’m sensitive. Or the same thing, if you’re a parent talking to your, your child’s teacher, just to say, you know, my son or my daughter, they’re very sensitive kid. And that’s something we’re trying to encourage, and use that to start talking about, you know, what your goals are with your kid or what you want them to be doing at school or how their performance is, that changes the conversation, because that tells the person right away. This is not something we’re trying to overcome. It’s not a diagnosis. It’s not a flaw. This is a healthy part of this kid and it has gifts. So start talking about your sensitivity openly, and start leading with it and everything you do, right. That means let’s think through your emotions, listening to your intuition. Intuition is often the fuzzy byproduct or as the end result of all that deep processing. You’re not consciously going to know every little piece of data that your brain sifted through to get to that conclusion that, oh, don’t trust this person, you know, but if you feel oh, don’t trust this person, I just wouldn’t trust them. I would just move on, you know, those types of things and bear in mind that sensitive people are especially affected by our environment, which means that the more you can take some control over your environment, at work or at home, and home, it’s good to have kind of your little sanctuary. You know, one place in the house, whether it’s a whole room or just your favorite chair and the little table next to it, or whatever it is, that you make feel like your calming, sort of supportive place where you just feel happy, and take time there every day after work or everyday before work, whatever works best for you every day before bed, and communicate to the other people in your family, your your spouse, your kids, your roommate, whoever it might be, you know, hey, when I when I take my evening time over here, I just want to be left alone for 30 minutes. And anything else I’ll deal with it after I’m done with that, but I need that time. That’s a great thing at home. At work. It can be everything from small ways of customizing your workspace to the extent you’re allowed to those bigger things like talking to your supervisor about Can I schedule times to do deep focused work? That’s gonna make a big difference. So control your environment. Be open about being sensitive, and accept it, treat it as as the strength that it is,

george grombacher 21:05
and love it. Andre, thank you so much for coming on. Where can people learn more about you? How can they engage with your work and where can they get a copy of sensitive?

Unknown Speaker 21:15
Absolutely. So sensitive refuge is our website, the world’s largest site for sensitive people. So a wonderful resource with hundreds probably 1000s of articles about being sensitive. And then the book is sensitive by Jen Grantham and an entree solo. It is available for preorder right now and comes out officially in February. You can get it anywhere books are sold.

george grombacher 21:39
Excellent. Have you enjoyed as much as I did your honor your appreciation and share today’s show with a friend who also appreciates good ideas goes go to sensitive refuge. It’s Sen si t i v e r e f And check out all the great resources and pick up pick up your copy of sensitive wherever you buy your books. And lean into it. Explore your sensitivity and nurture and foster it because from my perspective, Andre we we need more of it. So

Unknown Speaker 22:15
yes. Thank you Judge.

george grombacher 22:19
And until next time, remember, do your part by doing your best

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