Fill your circle with high vibe people. I came from a family of employees. No one that I knew had ever started a business. When I first started my company, you can imagine the response that I received. Because no one in my family had ever owned a successful business, they all though I was crazy. They were afraid for me. Anytime I was around them, their fear crept deep into my soul and would ravage my confidence.I knew that if I didn’t separate myself from them, I would fail. As hard as it was to do that, I backed away from the people who didn’t believe in me. As time I went on, I proved to myself and to them that I could operate a successful company. It was only after that I was able to bring them back into my life without having their fear overtake me. They were no longer scared that I was going to fail. During that time, I had to find people who were on the same journey that I was to be successful. Even now, I have a handful of people that I love who are high vibe happy people that I surround myself with. We all know our place is to lift each other up. When I’m down, I know I can pick up the phone and call any one of those people to get a dose of high energy. They do the same with me. While we live all over the country, we’re all still connected with the goal to support each other. As an HSP, you’ll need to find the same. Find people who can lift you up when you’re struggling and do the same for them. Having a group of people who support you is like having the antidote when you’re bitten by a snake. You actually have a chance of survival.
As a part of our series about How To Survive And Thrive As A Highly Sensitive Person, I had the pleasure of interviewing Bridget Irby. Raised in a small town in northern Louisiana, even as a child Bridget was never at a loss for words. Known as the one who could make friends anywhere, she knew only one thing about her future — she wanted to help people.
Pouring passion into service, she spent years as a nurse caring for both sick and dying patients. Seeing the fragility of life gave Bridget profound respect for the gift of life. In 2007, Bridget accepted a position marketing for a local skilled nursing facility. It was this opportunity that skyrocketed her career. Combining her love for people, her love of words, and her desire to help, she became an instant success. The next several years brought in millions in revenue as Bridget learned to lead sales teams.
Bridget now resides in Houston, Texas. She leverages her gifts and her sales experience to help business owners grow. She also writes books and speaks on stages around the world. Her mission is to help others to find the words to grow their business and build the life they want.
She enjoys sailing adventures with her family.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself and what you do professionally?
Hello! My name is Bridget Irby and I’m from Houston, TX. For work, I’m a sales & marketing consultant and a professional speaker. I help small to medium-size businesses increase sales and grow better marketers.
Thank you for your bravery and strength in being so open with us. I understand how hard this is. 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?
Have you ever been around one of those people who knew what you were thinking, feeling, or struggling with? That’s a highly sensitive person.
As an HSP myself, not only do I sense what other people are feeling but I begin to feel that myself as well. It’s kind of like being an ice cube in a glass of water. When sensitive people drop into a glass, they’ll absorb the temperature of what’s around them.
HSP pick up on small cues faster than a normal person. This allows them to read situations and people quickly. Unfortunately though, because we process so many more cues this can be draining.
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?
Highly sensitive people do have a higher degree of empathy towards others. This is because they are more aware of what others may be thinking or feeling. For example, let’s say an employee is near tears. If the boss doesn’t notice the red dots on their cheeks won’t ask the question, “Are you okay?”
Awareness is the deciding factor in empathy which is what makes us more empathetic.
When hurtful remarks come, you have to wonder first what is the motive of the person who made the hurtful remark. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in life, it’s that hurt people hurt people.
Someone wouldn’t make a hurtful remark about someone else unless they were hurting in some way. Emotionally healthy people don’t trash others.
As far as offense goes, hurtful remarks usually don’t offend me. They make me curious about what happened to the person making the remark that caused them to say that.
If they take a hurtful action against someone else, that’s another story though.
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?
Absolutely. As a HSP myself, I absolutely cannot watch the news.
Years ago, I was in the conference room waiting for the morning meeting to begin. There were about 20 of us in the room and since we had a few minutes to spare, someone turned on the morning news.
As soon as the TV came on, a story about a young child murdered by his mother was told by the reporter. Pictures of his young face and bedroom flashed across the screen. The vehicle that he was in when he died was the next to come across.
I couldn’t stop myself. Tears flooded my eyes as my heart bled for that young man who left this world not knowing real love. Not only did my heart hurt for that young man, I hurt for his mother who must have had her own internal struggles.
The older that I’ve gotten, the more intense my responses have become. My husband and I used to discuss news topics but over the years, the negativity has become too much for me.
One of the best and worst things about social media is that because they know what I want to see, that’s what they show me. While it certainly will control how you see the world, this has been a blessing for me. I’ve curated my social media feeds so much that I typically only see the positive news.
Can you please share a story about how your highly sensitive nature created problems at work or socially?
There are two times in my life that stand out when my sensitive nature created a problem.
The first was when I was only 19 years old when I graduated from nursing school. You can imagine, as a nurse, you deal a lot with life and death situations. I spent much of my nursing career on the step-down unit, which means that we dealt with very sick patients.
Not all those patients made it out of the hospital.
While I didn’t have many patients pass, there were a few that left their mark.
One patient had been what we called a “frequent flyer.” This means the patient was in the hospital often and we had developed a relationship.
When he passed away, I was so upset that I didn’t sleep for two days.
My love for my patients and their family led to more sensitivity when things didn’t end up the way we expected. While this was hard, I wouldn’t change it at all.
Now, my sensitive nature allows me to connect better with my clients. I understand how I can help them better so I’d definitely say it’s more a benefit than a hindrance.
The second time was after I spoke at a large event.
Most of the time, I speak about business growth tactics and strategies. In this particular instance, I was speaking about how to overcome trauma and how to forgive.
I got up on stage and poured out my heart to a room with hundreds of people. Over the next few minutes, they laughed and cried with me. I shared my story and the lessons I’d learned which helped me to get to where I am today.
It was a great engagement. In fact, it was one of the best talks that I’ve ever given.
But…there was a downside that I wasn’t expecting.
I left the stage and went back to my seat, not expecting anything out of the ordinary. Yet, over the next few hours, dozens of people came to me to share their stories. I was so honored that they felt comfortable sharing their secrets with me. At the same time, I felt drained listening to their stories.
It got to the point that I couldn’t even go to the bathroom without having many people approach me. On the way to the restroom, in the restroom, and on the way back from the restroom, they’d share their trauma with me. While I was grateful, I didn’t know how to process all the trauma and grief that they shared with me.
So, I did what any highly sensitive person would do. I hid in my hotel room for the next three days and didn’t come out until it was time to get on my plane and go back home.
When did you suspect that your level of sensitivity was above the societal norm? How did you come to see yourself as “too sensitive”?
I realized I was more sensitive when I was working in healthcare. I was usually the first person to notice a change in patient status. This is because I picked up on the small cues that weren’t very obvious. At the time, I didn’t even realize I was doing it.
While others could detach themselves, I couldn’t no matter how hard I tried.
Back then, I felt like I was “too sensitive.” Since then, I’ve learned to use my sensitivity to help others and help myself. I’ve found ways to hold boundaries and take care of myself so that situations don’t overwhelm me.
I’m sure that being Highly Sensitive also gives you certain advantages. Can you tell us a few advantages that Highly Sensitive people have?
Highly sensitive people make great coaches, therapist, sales professionals, and parents. We’re lucky to have the ability to connect with people quickly. We can use our intuition to understand how they might be feeling in that moment which gives us an advantage.
Can you share a story from your own life where your great sensitivity was actually an advantage?
On March 7, 2017, our son was in a tragic motorcycle accident. He was in a coma for almost a year. During that time, we dealt with doctors, nurses, therapists, social workers, and caregivers. My sensitivity was not only an asset in dealing with our son but also in coordinating his care. Because I was able to pick up on subtle cues, we connected on a deeper level with his team which led to better outcomes.
There seems to be no harm in being overly empathetic. What’s the line drawn between being empathetic and being Highly Sensitive?
A normal person’s empathy is very different from being highly sensitive. When you’re empathetic, you can feel for the person without it affecting you. Basically, you can turn off without having effects that are long-lasting.
A highly sensitive person can’t do that. They are right there, in the moment, feeling what the other person is feeling. It’s as if they’re experiencing it for themselves.
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?
The most important thing an HSP can do with social media is to curate your newsfeed. This means unfollowing anyone that posts things that you’re uncomfortable with.
I’m so quick to unfollow people or influencers who repost negative stories or engage in drama. Life is way too short and it’s far too difficult to rebound as an HSP. Don’t allow other people to leverage what you see in a day.
But unfollowing those who don’t lift you up, you can turn social media into something that’s enjoyable. It may take a while, but it’s worth it.
If you’re an HSP and you don’t know how or you don’t have time to curate your newsfeed, you need to stay off social media.
How would you respond if something you hear or see bothers or effects you, but others comment that you are being petty or that it is minor?
It depends on the situation. If I’m at a party or event that is not in my control and I see something that bothers me, I’ll leave. If I’m in a small meeting with a client or employee and something bothers me, I’ll share. It depends on what’s right and appropriate for the situation.
What strategies do you use to overcome the perception that others may have of you as overly sensitive without changing your caring and empathetic nature?
I try not to think about what other people think of me. What other people think about me is none of my business. If someone approaches me and asks me about my nature, I’m happy to engage in a conversation. But in general, I follow the rule that the people I need in my will love me as I am. The people who love me see my sensitivity as a gift.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a Highly Sensitive Person? Can you explain what you mean?
One of the myths I’ve heard about people who are highly sensitive is that they’re not ever logical or practical. It’s as if, they’re unable to think or make rational decisions that aren’t driven by emotion.
That’s false. Growing up as a sensitive person, you learn ways to cope. You learn how to make appropriate decisions that aren’t connected to emotion.
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?
First realizing what was done to make the question “Why can’t you just stop being so sensitive?” come up is important. Often times, we may feel something or sense something that has nothing to do with us. If you’re not familiar with how to handle this, you might feel like they’re directed at you when they aren’t.
So instead of voicing how you feel, I’d start with asking questions. The greatest issue we have in society is our inability to communicate. When I do get asked about my sensitivity, I’ll respond with the question, “What did I say or do that made you feel that way?”
This opens a dialogue so that we can discuss the situation.
Many people immediately jump to defensiveness, which will get you nowhere. If you’re in a situation like that, remember their perception is their reality. If you want to have an open discussion with them, you’ll need to be open-minded and not defensive.
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.
- Keep your mouth shut…sometimes. When you’re an HSP, it’s easy to pick up on other people’s emotions. That doesn’t mean though that you should connect with everyone you’re around. For example, if you’re in the grocery store and you see someone who appears to be struggling. It’s your choice, not your responsibility to ask them what’s wrong. You have to check in with yourself first. Before you reach out, to make sure you’re in a position to handle whatever response may come. If you find that your emotional tank is near empty, it’s okay to keep your mouth shut. It doesn’t make you a bad person. It makes you a healthy person.
If you connect with a stranger and absorb their energy. Then later find your child with a similar problem, you might not have the energy to help.That’s why you should keep your mouth shut somethings so you save your energy for the people who need you most.
- Find the words to walk away. Have you ever been in a situation where you wanted to leave but couldn’t find the words to walk away? For example, let’s say someone is pouring their heart out to you. You’re already on emotional overload and all you want to do is hide. We’ve all been there. That’s why finding the right words to walk away is so important. Again, you need to know number one that it’s okay to walk away. You don’t have to connect with everyone. In fact, you shouldn’t even try to connect with everyone. If you’re a leader, this can be more difficult since these situations have to be handled with a certain finesse. Here’s an example of what I like to say when I’m in a situation like that: “Jill, thank you so much for sharing with me and I wish I could go deeper right now. Unfortunately, I have to run. Since this is such an important conversation, I want to make sure you have my undivided attention. Let’s schedule a time to connect later in the week.” It’s okay for you to say something like this. Protecting your energy is vital. If you find the right words to walk away, you can do it without offending anyone.
- Build recoup time into your schedule. Every great athlete builds in recovery time into their schedule. When you’re training, you have to give your muscles time to repair. Your life and emotional state are no different. For example, if you’re going to be in a draining situation on Monday, you’ll want to build-in recovery time on Tuesday. Be respectful of yourself and your needs. Block out time on your calendar to take care of yourself. That could mean reading a book or taking a walk. Whatever that looks like for you put it in your schedule and treat it with respect. If you don’t, you’ll have major swings in your state where you’re operating on empty. Both you and the people who depend on you deserve more than that. Block your self care time.
- Leverage your gift. (Finding a career where your gift is an asset not a hindrance).There are some careers where being a highly sensitive person is a huge asset. Therapists, lawyers, doctors, and sales professionals all benefit from being highly sensitive. Instead of struggling in a field where it’s a bad thing, find a career where sensitivity is celebrated; even better, find one where it gives you a competitive edge. When you do this, you’ll go from feeling drained and stressed all the time to operating in your zone of genius; he difference is astounding.
- Fill your circle with high vibe people. I came from a family of employees. No one that I knew had ever started a business. When I first started my company, you can imagine the response that I received. Because no one in my family had ever owned a successful business, they all though I was crazy. They were afraid for me. Anytime I was around them, their fear crept deep into my soul and would ravage my confidence.I knew that if I didn’t separate myself from them, I would fail. As hard as it was to do that, I backed away from the people who didn’t believe in me. As time I went on, I proved to myself and to them that I could operate a successful company. It was only after that I was able to bring them back into my life without having their fear overtake me. They were no longer scared that I was going to fail. During that time, I had to find people who were on the same journey that I was to be successful. Even now, I have a handful of people that I love who are high vibe happy people that I surround myself with. We all know our place is to lift each other up. When I’m down, I know I can pick up the phone and call any one of those people to get a dose of high energy. They do the same with me. While we live all over the country, we’re all still connected with the goal to support each other. As an HSP, you’ll need to find the same. Find people who can lift you up when you’re struggling and do the same for them. Having a group of people who support you is like having the antidote when you’re bitten by a snake. You actually have a chance of survival.
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.
If I could inspire a movement that would bring about the amount of good, I’d teach communication and listening skills in schools. Teaching our children to communicate while managing their emotions would make them open-minded. This would lead to them accepting other points of view which would completely change the world.
If we could all have open discussions about everything from disagreements to new ideas, imagine what we could do together. Instead, we live by our own bias with our eyes only open to our own ways of thinking.
When we’re met with a different idea or a new approach, often times our first reaction is one of resistance. If we could learn to be open-minded and receiving of new opinions, we’d be able to work as a team. Imagine what the world would be like if we were all able to work as a team together. Of course, we’d have to understand things like communication styles, personality styles, and humility.
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Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.