Learn to “zip up” energetically before entering a potentially challenging situation or the minute you feel you need to protect yourself from a negative energy transfer. I explain this very well in the situation I encountered years ago. I have learned to hone my skills to know when someone is wanting to pass their problems over to me to solve or pass their sadness, anger or hurt off, most of the time quite unknowingly. Be mindful that if someone just wants to vent, it’s fine. No need to take it on.
As a part of our series about How To Survive And Thrive As A Highly Sensitive Person, I had the pleasure of interviewing Betsy Johnson, Dating Expert, and Host of The Lunchtime Quickies Podcast. Betsy is an experienced dating and relationship expert, entrepreneur, business consultant, and entertainment executive who is on her own journey of Love. Originally from Pennsylvania but transplanted to the City of Angels for over 20 years, she helps both men and women navigate the world of online dating nationwide. With parents that have been married for over 50 years, she finds inspiration and shares the hope that every person can find the love they seek. She’s authentic, raw and soulful and brings those qualities to everything she does. Her passion and mission is to bring more love and romance to the world, one “quickie” at a time.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself and what you do professionally?
I’m the host of the Lunchtime Quickies podcast where we talk relationships, dating, love and romance. I founded LunchtimeQuickies.com originally to share short love stories that could be read in 30 minutes or less. But then I started the podcast shortly after and it just took off. Now I dispense dating and relationship advice and talk with guests who include coaches, matchmakers, romance authors and everyday people with great love stories to tell. I also practice what I preach and bring on real dates with men I’ve met online. In fact, I’ve had several first dates as guests, some more successful than others. Being a self-proclaimed hopeful romantic, I’ve got a pretty big mission these days… bringing more love and romance to the world one quickie at a time.
Can you help define for our readers what is meant by a Highly Sensitive Person? Does it simply mean that feelings are easily hurt or offended?
A Highly Sensitive Person is someone astutely aware of concentrated energy in their environment. This generally means sounds, noise, smells, and other sensory information but it also includes the overall energy of a room, for example. Perhaps unlike others, I am not easily hurt or offended but rather have a pretty thick skin. I’m not sure if this is just how I have learned to deal over the years or that I was raised on the east coast (I moved to NYC right out of college).
Does a Highly Sensitive Person have a higher degree of empathy towards others? Is a Highly Sensitive Person offended by hurtful remarks made about other people?
Yes, a HSP has a higher dose of empathy and for this reason, I am often told I am very approachable. Complete strangers or those I have not known for very long will often tell me their life stories or problems easily and without any prompt. On the other hand, I am not easily offended and it will take quite a bit for me to get upset. I will tend to negotiate the situation or find a way to balance two sides of an opinion. If I witness someone being wronged or talked to in a hurtful manner, I will most likely get involved.
Does a Highly Sensitive Person have greater difficulty with certain parts of popular culture, entertainment or news, that depict emotional or physical pain? Can you explain or give a story?
Yes, I cannot watch any form of torture or physical pain being inflicted on humans, animals or otherwise. I get very upset and it will take me a while to clear the image from my mind. I am keenly aware of how I feel when watching the news and therefore I barely watch it at all anymore. I have to be very careful what movies and TV shows I watch (Pulp Fiction and the Sopranos were definitely not good ideas!) Any ASPCA commercials of animals about to be euthanized will bring me to tears immediately.
Can you please share a story about how a highly sensitive nature created problems for someone at work or socially?
I have a friend who is a coach and highly sensitive. I have witnessed her several times get into uncomfortable social situations because she comes across as a “bleeding heart” for many causes and underprivileged people. Men tend to react to her negatively and find her unrealistic. Politically, she tends to repel people if they don’t see things her way fully. She is a really great person but her highly sensitive nature seems to be creating issues for her more often than not.
When does the average person’s level of sensitivity rise above the societal norm? When is one seen as “too sensitive”?
I think when someone cannot see another point of view different from their own or they become argumentative trying to defend their empathy then it becomes counter-intuitive. I also think that others will start censoring their conversation when these people are present so as not to upset them or “deal” with them. This can be unfortunate because many HSP have nothing but good intentions.
I’m sure that being Highly Sensitive also gives one certain advantages. Can you tell us a few advantages that Highly Sensitive people have?
Like being able to “read” a room, I am also able to sense danger and know when to walk on the other side of a street or take a different path if I think something feels off. I have successfully avoided potentially dangerous situations because I knew enough to duck into a storefront or make a turn even if it was in the wrong direction to where I was headed.
I am more easily able to navigate social settings by following the energy to meet people that are warm and friendly as opposed to cold and critical. I am also highly intuitive so this also helps and I set intentions often before entering a social or business setting or meeting. (I have been in Lynne McTaggart’s Intention Experiment program for over 3 years.)
Can you share a story that you have come across where great sensitivity was actually an advantage?
As I mentioned before, complete strangers are attracted to me and I was told once in a grocery store that I was “approachable”. Recently, however, I can speak to this in regards to a dating/romantic situation. I had been dating this man for not quite a month and I knew he had some issues growing up. But because of my sensitivity, he recently disclosed some very personal things that he had never shared with anyone before. He admitted that he felt safe with me and wanted to tell me his past. He trusted me with this information even if he wasn’t sure what it would mean to our relationship. I felt honored that he felt this trust and I was able to listen without judgment. He said he knew he had some things to work on and was willing to do the work. I honestly don’t think our relationship would be where it is now in such a short time if I did not have this gift as an empath. Let me rephrase that. We ALL have this gift. It’s only some of us that choose to go within, tap into our Higher Selves (souls) and listen.
There seems to be no harm in being overly empathetic. What’s the line drawn between being empathetic and being Highly Sensitive?
I think it’s important to recognize that we can simply be observers and listeners without having to dispense advice all the time. Listening is so incredibly powerful and sometimes that is all anyone wants. I will tell you a story however of a time when I got caught off guard by a friend’s energy and how sick I became. I was fairly new at navigating my abilities and a friend of mine asked me to happy hour. She seemed in good spirits and I was anxious to catch up and enjoy a cocktail by the ocean with her. However, what proceeded to happen next was, to this day, a big wakeup call. I came to meet her with an open heart and listened as she proceeded to unload on what had been going on in her life. I listened intently and offered my empathy through the conversation. However, by the time we were done I felt physically nauseous and nearly sick to my stomach. I cried on the way home yet I had no idea why. In hindsight what had happened was that she had transferred her negative energy to me and I unknowingly received it since I had arrived so “open”. Luckily I realized what had happened and was able to do some energy clearing (meditation, breathwork, etc.) to move the energy away. It took a few hours but it worked. I will never forget that night and now I am astutely aware when to “zip up” and protect myself so I can simply observe and not allow any transfer.
Social Media can often be casually callous. How does Social Media affect a Highly Sensitive Person? How can a Highly Sensitive Person utilize the benefits of social media without being pulled down by it?
I am super careful what I allow into my thoughts and mind and as a result, I don’t waste time in stupid discussions or try to change anyone’s mind and opinion, especially politically. I often remember that the majority of perspectives are fear-based and I will not play into those scenarios. Rather, I may offer a compassionate viewpoint and leave it at that. I participate mostly in groups where there is positive and encouraging support and feedback. Setting boundaries is huge in the impact and scope of social media.
How would you advise your patient to respond if something they hear or see bothers or affects them, but others comment that that are being petty or that it is minor?
I do not have patients but I do have fans and listeners. I think it’s important to acknowledge their feelings and comments without attachment to it being right or wrong. Every person’s opinion should be acknowledged without a need to defend it. It’s simply ok to leave it there without further engagement. I see so many people get into “pissing matches” on social media because they have a need to be right. That only causes more division and stress not only to those directly involved but those in the conversation. Leave the comment and walk away or don’t leave it at all.
What strategies do you recommend to your patients to overcome the challenges that come with being overly sensitive without changing their caring and empathetic nature?
I think it’s important to know your audience and determine the openness of the group or situation. Identify if you feel safe in sharing your empathetic nature or whether you need to pivot a little and share less. I am referring more to a business setting here. I use my skills frequently in this regard (I have a long history in business and consulting) but have learned to use different language to get my point across. Socially, I have more new friends and circles where I am able to more authentically be myself and it feels great not to have to censor my true self.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a Highly Sensitive Person? Can you explain what you mean?
I think the biggest one is that this term is misunderstood as being too emotional when in fact to me it’s more about navigating the energy and using my spiritual tools to better communicate with others.
As you know, one of the challenges of being a Highly Sensitive Person is the harmful, and dismissive sentiment of “why can’t you just stop being so sensitive?” What do you think needs to be done to make it apparent that it just doesn’t work that way?
It needs to be a reframing of what it’s like to notice the energy that does not feel good for some and not bother others at all. It’s important to understand that most people do not want to be in touch with their feelings, which are the sensors to energy fields. It’s easier to remain closed off then to tap into something that might feel really scary or uncomfortable.
OK, here is the main question for our discussion. Can you share with us your “5 Things You Need To Know To Survive And Thrive As A Highly Sensitive Person? Please give a story or an example for each.
- Know when it’s safe to be your true self. As I mentioned earlier, know your audience. Know how much to share and with whom. Some people are going to be really attracted to your energy and others will be repelled. Still others will be curious. Allow the curiosity but don’t give any energy to those that aren’t your “peeps”. Learn how to pivot the conversation to more effectively communicate with those less sensitive.
- Learn to “zip up” energetically before entering a potentially challenging situation or the minute you feel you need to protect yourself from a negative energy transfer. I explain this very well in the situation I encountered years ago. I have learned to hone my skills to know when someone is wanting to pass their problems over to me to solve or pass their sadness, anger or hurt off, most of the time quite unknowingly. Be mindful that if someone just wants to vent, it’s fine. No need to take it on. Which brings me to #3.
- Observe and listen more. Listening is such an important and many times underrated skill. The need to be heard is an important human desire. As empaths, we can empower without saying a word. We can encourage and motivate without saying a word. But if we do respond and engage, deliver your message authentically and with love and kindness, without a need to be right, win anyone over or have an attachment to the outcome.
- Respect everyone and their opinion without a need to change them. What if everyone you met had a gift or a lesson for you? Would you recognize it or better yet, would you receive it? I often notice the contrast in any situation. It’s most rewarding when I can simply say, “that’s interesting” without any attachment to solving it or trying to change it. It simply is. I am immediately empowered every time I can practice this.
- Make every situation an opportunity for growth and learning. I suppose this seems fairly explanatory but it’s not easy to do especially in challenging scenarios. And many times the learning will come far later in reflection. Then I suppose I will add that being present is the key here too. I have found myself referring lately to Eckhart Tolle’s book, The Power of Now. Now is all we ever have. Now, now, now. Tomorrow is no guarantee and in many regards, the past doesn’t count. We can’t change it anyway, we can only learn from it. So be present. Be open to all opportunities to learn and grow from each other. Be here now.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I have a mission to bring more love and romance to the world one quickie at a time. This does not just mean romantic love. This means love as in compassion and empathy. And it doesn’t have to take a great amount of time. It can take just a few minutes to make someone’s day, give a compliment, leave someone with an impression of increase. What if we all went about delivering quickies, little bits of love and magic, to our fellow human beings each day?
What if we accepted everyone for who they are, without judgment and a need to change them? I am working harder on this every day and can already tell you, especially from a dating perspective, that it’s a game-changer. Game. Changer. I’m just not sure why it took me so long. The best part? You can start NOW. Join me?
How can our readers follow you online?
Facebook — @lunchtimequickies
IG — @lunchtimequickies
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.