Feeling centred at work – a manual for (highly) sensitive co-workers



‘Rare child’, that’s how my Moluccan grandmother would call me. Rare as in uncommon, as in one of a kind. I was processing more compared to other toddlers and pre-schoolers. When we would go out to visit a place, I was able to accurately analyse and place people. In elementary school I felt safe in my own protecting world and observed my surrounding from a distance. I am the oldest of seven but still most people assume I am an only child. Growing up in a big family, didn’t make me a team player au naturel. However, I can easily build a team. After school time you could find me in my room or at my friend’s place in her room. She could switch very fast as I could. She also had this strong need for having everything happened and put in a specific order where everything was allowed to manifest in a place where quietness gave our thoughts permission to speak out loud. Within the secrecy of our thoughts we lived our greatest deeds. At home and in school I was always considered a sensitive child. I remember coming home when I was a child and my dad noticing I was carrying energy with me that was not my own. ‘You are like Atlas, carrying the world’s burden.’ He also often told me to stay away from ‘energy suckers’. I had this energy leak: a heart full of compassion and strong sense for justice.

All of this continued into my adult life, into the working place. By now I was able to close myself off and be only focused on the job. I preferred to work alone or with only one other person in the room. Working at home was my number one preference. I had already known for my whole life what made me different, but seldom encountered understanding when I did mention it: I am highly sensitive.

I easily sense everything. I scan and download the information I observe. My ‘windows’ would be wide open most of the time. Thanks to my Asian parents and their holistic perspective I could be myself at home and I learned how to protect my high sensitivity, by observing the world around me from behind my window.

Pretty soon I forgot about that protective mechanism when I was at the office. Daily pressure and lots of brainwork made my sensory seem to observe about anything but the warning signals from my body. I’d passionately perform my tasks during the weeks to find myself recovering and recharging in the weekends. I just didn’t notice, until my body communicated very clear to me: THIS IS ENOUGH! For a long time I somehow didn’t bother to listen to my body, so my body gave me no other choice but to listen to her. Gradually I regained courage to get out of my head into my body to strike the balance.

My high sensitiveness has been one of the most important reasons to stop being an employee, so I could start and run my own business. My own pace in my own place, where my high sensitivity was not considered a burden but a valuable asset.

To anyone who is not yet familiar with high sensitiveness: it is a definition introduced by American psychologist Elaine Aron who introduced the term to the world with her book The Highly Sensitive Person. It is often considered to be an abstract concept, being frequently labelled as spiritual or psychic. The scientific term is sensory processing sensitivity. You’d be surprised to know that 20% of our population is (highly) sensitive. A (highly) sensitive person ((h)sp) has a different sensory processing sensitivity which makes him or her experience internal and external signals quicker and stronger. This way an (h)sp is easily over stimulated by his or her surroundings.

I myself for instance don’t like gatherings. To me it’s an overload of stimuli. When I really would like to attend anyway, I make sure I plan some down-time (hermit time) afterwards to recover and recharge. I can’t process loud sounds, but I can enjoy a nice concert. I prefer to work with a good structure. I begin and end my days with a clean desk. And no, it is not a behavioural disorder, it’s a personality trait. I don’t HAVE highly sensitiveness, I AM highly sensitive.

What a relief I experienced when I was able to read Eveline Baar’s Dutch manual for (highly)sensitive co-workers. It felt like I had met someone from the same planet I came from. Ofcourse we do come from the same planet, but you get what I mean right: this surfing on the same frequency. The design, the structure, the language and the content: everything is surfing on the frequency of (high)sensitivity.

Five handy chapters you can all read at once like I did or separately to your needs at that moment.

  1. Characteristics of high sensitivity on the work floor
  2. Resilient (high)sensitivity on the work floor
  3. Suitable work for (high)sensitive persons
  4. (High)sensitive persons and destination
  5. Destination or a new beginning

All the vagueness around (high) sensitivity is taken away by referring to scientific researches and literature. What makes this book about (high)sensitivity special is that it is written from an (high)sensitive HR perspective. Eveline Baar, where have you been all this time when I settled to work as a corporate employee in a previous life?

I’d strongly recommend each HR-department to read this book or gain more knowledge about (hs)sp, especially when 20% of the population is (highly) sensitive. Understanding and appreciation of (highly)sensitivity will only enrich a company.

You might be reading this and thinking: ‘Great, but what’s in it for me?’ Also for you as a business owner it can be of value for your (highly)sensitive self and your (highly)sensitive colleagues.

Baar’s ‘Sterk voelen op het werk – Handboek voor hoogsensitieve medewerkers’ (editorial translation Feeling centred at work – Manual for (highly) sensitive co-workers) is only available in Dutch. An English copy is not published (yet). This manual helps you or any (h)sp you know in removing the white noise, so you can learn to see and appreciate the beauty and prolific power of your (highly) sensitiveness.

To get or give your own Dutch copy just click here.


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