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Being a Highly Sensitive Man – Top Pros and Cons

Highly sensitive people feel things on a deep emotional level. But what are the pros and cons of being a highly sensitive man?

Being a highly sensitive man can make you incredibly caring, insightful, intuitive, and empathetic. However, tipped out of balance, it can also lead to insecurity, paranoia, low self-esteem, and relationship challenges.

I’ll admit it. I can sometimes be overly sensitive. Maybe even a little clingy and needy too.

My wife, on the other hand, can be somewhat distant, aloof, and not super touchy-feely. In the early years of our marriage, that led to a lot of insecurity for me and created a lot of friction too.

She would withdraw and I would cling on for dear life. 

Ultimately, it’s all about learning each other’s love languages, giving the benefit of the doubt, and figuring out what each other needs without compromising (too much) of who we are.

So in this post, we’re diving deep into the world of sensitive guys.

We’ll examine the pros and cons of being a highly sensitive man, how relationships can work, what kind of woman is best for a highly sensitive man, and all the top questions surrounding highly sensitive men.

Let’s dive in!

What are sensitive guys like?

A highly sensitive man (or woman) can be described as having someone who has an extreme emotional response to both external events (people, places, things), as well as their own internal challenges (self-doubt, insecurity, feelings of self-worth).

While being a highly sensitive man shouldn’t be mistaken for being weak, and the sensitivity also has a lot of benefits, there are challenges too.

Highly sensitive men and women can be both introverts and extroverts, so you can’t gauge sensitivity by that alone.

Some of the pros of being a highly sensitive man include:

  • Being a good listener
  • Good sense of intuition and understanding of others
  • Being empathetic

If you aren’t sure if you are a highly sensitive man or woman, check out this free online HSP test from Dr. Elaine N. Aron and check your results.

Is a highly sensitive person a real thing?

Yes, is the short answer.

Whether you call them empathic, empathetic, or just sensitive, there are a LOT of people who fall into this category.

It was actually psychologist Elaine Aron, mentioned above, who coined the clinical term Highly Sensitive Person (HSP). She created the term to describe what she feels is an actual condition for people who have an unusually high level of emotional sensitivity.

So what does that mean?

  • They need to occasionally recharge themselves by having more alone time than others
  • Sometimes they avoid violent or negative movies or music
  • They avoid people who bring drama and negativity
  • Overly sensitive to bright lights or loud sounds
  • Can become easily overwhelmed

But from a different perspective, some professionals, like Andrea Marsden Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychology and human services at Beacon College in Florida, believe HSP may indicate someone is on the autism spectrum.

Going back to Dr. Elaine Aron, she states that 15 to 20% of the population is highly sensitive.

Taking this even further, the Journal of Translational Psychiatry published a recent study which noted there are 3 levels of HSPs; Low, Medium, and High sensitive people.

Can a man be too sensitive?

Ultimately, the short answer is yes; a man can sometimes be too sensitive.

Being overly sensitive can sometimes lead to easily getting one’s feelings hurt, depression, low self-esteem, low feelings of self-worth, frequent crying, and ultimately make it hard to function and to be in a healthy relationship with others.

In the old days, men were taught to be the strong silent type.

That image still persists in movies and TV shows ranging from The Punisher to the Die Hard series. But even those characters, deep down inside, are overly sensitive men.

The key for sensitive guys (of which I am one) is balance.

We have to understand who and what we are, but not let that sensitivity drive and fuel our insecurities to such a degree that we get paralyzed with fear or paranoid.

How do I stop being a sensitive man?

If you are a sensitive guy and you’re feeling overwhelmed with emotions, are unable to function in relationships without pushing people away, it may be time to find some balance.

I get that being a highly sensitive man can be a confusing thing.

In the 1950s men were taught to be anything but that. By the 1970s men were encouraged to get in touch with their feminine side and share their emotions.

Some women like that but many are still attracted the “bad boy” who displays more macho tendencies.

So what is a well-meaning guy to do in the 21st century?

Balance, my friend, is the key as I mentioned above. Be caring, expressive, loving, and communicative. But avoid going down the dark paths of jealousy, insecurity, or allowing fear to paralyze you.

Here are the top steps you can take to help with emotional overwhelm:

  • Use breathing exercises to calm and recenter yourself
  • Set aside time for yourself 
  • Take up mindful meditation
  • Be comfortable setting clear boundaries with others (it’s OK to say no!)
  • Cater to your senses (turn the lights down, listen to calming music, etc.)

How fear and anxiety can affect being a sensitive man

Fear is the real enemy. 

It causes us to pause, to over-analyze, to 2nd guess ourselves, and ultimately to seem wishy-washy and non-committal.

Overcoming fear of failure and rejection requires:

  • Acknowledging it
  • Acting within 3 seconds so we don’t give ourselves time to chicken out
  • Understanding that we won’t always succeed
  • A growth mindset for learning from our mistakes
  • And actively working to improve our self-esteem so other’s opinions of us matter less

If you want to learn some additional steps of Overcoming a Fear of Failure and Rejection (click to read on my site), I highly recommend you take a moment and check out one of my most shared posts that walks you through all the steps.

How do you deal with a highly sensitive man?

If you are in a relationship with a highly sensitive man, that can be a great thing!

He may be more attentive, more thoughtful, and more caring than previous relationships you’ve had before.

But if he has yet to find that balance I’ve been mentioning, it can sometimes be challenging too.

Here are some great strategies for understanding, being in a relationship with, and ultimately for dealing with a highly sensitive man:

  • Understand he may sometimes be overwhelmed by emotion (and not be able to express it)
  • Give him space when he wants it (but let him know you’re there for him)
  • Be clear in your communication (vague, indirect, or sugar-coating can lead to confusion)
  • Understand what triggers him (and be cautious about those things)

In my marriage, I tend to be the highly sensitive one as I mentioned at the top. In the early days of our marriage, if my wife didn’t want to cuddle or hold hands or wouldn’t respond to my texts for hours, I use to take that personally.

I would take offense, rush to judgment, and make wild assumptions.

Ultimately I had to learn to give the benefit of the doubt, understand that she’s not going anywhere (unless I push her away) and she had to understand that sometimes (but not always) I do need those things to feel loved and wanted.

I chronicled our journey in a highly shared article about How to Be Less Clingy in a Relationship (click to read on my site), so if that sounds familiar, it’s well worth bookmarking!

What does it mean to be overly sensitive?

A highly sensitive person (HSP) feels everything on a deep emotional level.

That isn’t just the bad stuff, so being a highly sensitive man can also mean laughing frequently, smiling often, and loving life too.

It also means you tend to be hyper-aware of the energy people give off and can read people and their intentions really well.

I train in martial arts, and one of the things we do is called sensitivity training where we work at improving our ability to connect and understand others through their energy, intentions and other non-verbal cues.

Highly sensitive people can do this automatically.

Some of the cons of being a highly sensitive man include:

  • Crying frequently
  • Being overwhelmed with emotion
  • Unable to take action out of fear
  • Feeling like you don’t fit in

Can a highly sensitive person be a narcissist?

First, let’s define what a narcissist is.

Narcissism is often misunderstood. It’s also quite common for people to call someone that simply because they did something that appeared selfish or self-serving.

But in reality, we all have those moments, so that’s not necessarily true narcissism.

A true narcissist has some, if not all of the following traits:

  • An inflated sense of self
  • Arrogance
  • A need for praise
  • Lack of empathy
  • Feeling entitled

Ultimately, while there can definitely be some overlap between a narcissist and a highly sensitive man (or woman), they are ultimately NOT the same thing.

Where they overlap is that ultimately both face challenges with self-esteem and feelings of self-worth. The narcissist, however, is almost unemotional, compared to the overly-emotional sensitive person.

If you struggle with low self-esteem, there are some GREAT steps you can take to combat that and move your life forward.

So I highly encourage you to check out my article on Boosting Self-Esteem (click to read on my site) so you can truly better your life.

Is HSP a disorder?

No, is the short answer.

HSP, as we’ve mentioned elsewhere, stands for highly sensitive people.

It also is sometimes referred to as Sensory Processing Sensitivity (SPS) or even Hypersensitivity. The good news is that it is NOT recognized as a disorder.

Hypersensitivity technically refers to people who are overly-sensitive to ALL of the senses (sights, sounds, and smells) and thus far, for the purposes of this article, we’ve just focused on emotional sensitivity.

Interestingly, this is a high correlation between hypersensitivity and ADHD according to Dr. Edward Hallowell, M.D. Dr. Halloweel, a graduate of Harvard, and author of the highly acclaimed books Driven to Distraction and his more recent update Delivered from Distraction (click to see it on Amazon).

If ADHD is a challenge for you, and especially for your kids, there are some great Natural ADHD Solutions (click to read on my site) that I researched and collected in one of my earliest articles.

In my day job, I work with hundreds of kids and their parents and I have literally seen almost any behavioral issue you can think of, having been there since 2013, and I also get to talk with a lot of parents about solutions to challenges that they find effective.

Is being highly sensitive hereditary?

Ultimately being a highly sensitive man is NOT something a guy chooses.

A recent study on sensory processing sensitivity by Universities in Southern California, New York, and New Jersey found that traits of highly sensitive men and women are something they are born with.

They went on to note that a high percentage of the traits of HSP (highly sensitive people) was, in fact, rooted in 7 different genetic factors.

So yes, while being a highly sensitive man is often influenced by childhood and how we were raised, ultimately being highly sensitive is largely hereditary and something we were born with.

Studies also suggest that about 20% of the population is highly sensitive.

Thus, while highly sensitive people aren’t the majority, it does mean that 1 in 5 people you know fall into this category.

What type of woman is best for a highly sensitive man?

Highly sensitive people will be quick to pick up on your emotional state, the unspoken tension in a room, and even a down mood you might not even be consciously aware of.

In my marriage, I am definitely a sensitive man.

I am very quick to pick up on my wife’s energy, especially when I can tell that she’s unhappy. Being a guy, I love to fix things that are broken, so when she’s in a bad mood, my go-to response is to ask what’s wrong so I can help troubleshoot.

Unfortunately for a lot of people, wives, in particular, that approach doesn’t often work.

So for a woman to be in a successful relationship with a sensitive man, she has to realize she won’t be able to hide anything from him. No secrets, no lies. No answering “I’m fine” when he asks what’s wrong.

He’ll see right through that.

You see, being a sensitive man means I might pick up on a small facial tick, or how you arch your back when you’re feeling down, a change in eye contact, or even changes in your tone when you’re stressed.

I can see and hear and understand all of that. I may not know the issue behind it, but I know when my wife is “off”.

Thus, for a woman, such as my wife, to be in a relationship with a sensitive man, such as myself, she has to be OK with vulnerability. To be open, honest, and not try and hide things from me.

It’s perfectly OK to set boundaries or say I need some time to myself, but it won’t work if she’s trying to hide her feelings.

How do you love a sensitive man?

Often times, HSP (highly sensitive people) need time to adjust to change.

In my life, I’ve worked very hard to try and come to terms with the fact that the only thing I truly have control over in this life is my choices, actions, and statements.

The idea of controlling anything else is an illusion.

Once a HSP comes to terms with that, life gets a whole lot better. But your highly sensitive man may still be in a place where change is hard. So be patient. Be clear.

It’s also not uncommon for HSP to feel alone and isolated and misunderstood.

So love a highly sensitive man slowly, thoughtfully, without expectations of him being something other than who he is. You’ll take great joy in his ability to understand how you’re feeling and his overall thoughtfulness and intuitiveness.

The best ways to deal with a highly sensitive husband or boyfriend are:

  • Be vulnerable with him (he’ll pick up anyway if you’re not being straight up)
  • Clearly communicate your needs (and wants, expectations, and boundaries)
  • Know that in many cases you will be the extroverted one
  • Be reassuring (especially if you aren’t the touchy-feely kind)
  • Always be honest

Can a highly sensitive person really love someone?

The short answer is yes, of course.

HSH (highly sensitive people) do sometimes have high, or even unrealistic expectations. As a result, it can be harder for them to be truly happy in relationships.

For me, I’ve been around the block a few times and had a number of serious relationships (and therapy) and have gotten to a really good place in my life where I’m balanced in my views of the world and relationships.

I’ve also learned to, as Tony Robbins says, “trade my expectations for appreciation” when it comes to my wife (and relationships with anyone).

But most highly sensitive men (and women) love very deeply.

Our empathic abilities help us to really see, feel, hear, and “get” our partners. That makes us very supportive and caring.

Because HSP tends to have high expectations, low tolerance for change, and love perfectionism, they do tend to feel stress more than others. Thus, finding good and healthy outlets for stress is crucial!

For me, that outlet is martial arts, although I love yoga as well.

The cornerstone of both practices is breathwork, and while I don’t practice either art daily, I do practice breathwork daily.

Breath is life, and breath is the key to a long life and happiness. But don’t take my word for it. I have an article on my site from the founder of Siddhi Yoga International which goes into all the Benefits of Yoga Breathing (click to read on my site).

So definitely check that out and see if you can’t put some of those simple practices in place in your life too.

What happens in the workplace when you’re sensitive?

As I said above, only about 20% of people are highly sensitive.

Thus, many HSP know that the majority of people just won’t quite understand them, or may mistake sensitivity for weakness.

I know in my own life and prior career at Whole Foods Market, there was more than one occasion where I was told I needed to be more energetic, more dynamic; that I needed to go around high fiving people and energizing people.

I was a general manager for a number of their stores and there were some in the company who felt like the high-energy cheerleader-type was the only way to lead people.

In truth, that’s just not who I am, and for the vast majority of my 20+ year career there, I was highly successful (3 Top 10 store awards, Store Manager of the Year award and a Global All-Star award).

But at least with some of my leaders, I did feel misunderstood.

What I do know is that while a growth mindset is crucial and we never want to stop learning and growing, we also can’t fundamentally change who we are for someone who just doesn’t understand us.

So be open-minded. Be flexible. But also stick to your guns.

I’m never going to be the guy who goes around high-fiving employees and yelling “dan-totsu” (a Japanese word meaning first place or superior which was often chanted by some of my former bosses).

You don’t need to change who you are to be successful.

Raising children as an openly sensitive man

I have 3 daughters. 2 are tweens and 1 is a toddler, so my wife and I have our hands full.

As a parent, I can tell you that thick skin is essential as your kids get anywhere close to being teens.

When they’re little they just love you unconditionally. They may be fussy when they’re tired, but you never doubt their love for you.

That definitely changes as they get older. School gets harder, hormones start changing, school cliques start forming and they start to notice boys and girls differently. All of that affects how they relate to their parents.

So being a highly sensitive man to 3 daughters is a challenge!

The good news is I am well-attuned to their needs, moods, wants, and attitudes. But that’s also the bad news.

HSP do tend to be very effective communicators (if not sometimes over-communicators), so that too can lend itself well to parenting.

HSP also strives to do things perfectly, and that too can serve a parent very well as long as you clearly understand that neither you nor your kids will always get it right.

The biggest downsides to being a highly sensitive man and father are that it’s not hard for my daughters (and wife occasionally) to hurt my feelings.

If your child says mean things to you, stay calm, accept their feelings (we don’t have to agree), communicate how their actions made you feel, & avoid lashing out or guilt trips. It’s not always easy to take the high road in the heat of the moment.

Luckily, I have found some great solutions for when Your Child Hurts Your Feelings (click to read on my site) and have detailed them in that article, so if you face that challenge, it’s definitely worth having a look.

Final Thoughts

In this post, we took an in-depth look at the world of highly sensitive guys.

We addressed all the top challenges sensitive men face as well as some of the challenges those in relationships with highly sensitive men face.

We answered all the top questions and ultimately examined all the pros and cons of being a highly sensitive man. Are you a highly sensitive man or in a relationship with one?

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Jeff Campbell