Friday, October 25, 2013

Group Dynamics for Introverts and Highly Sensitive People (HSPs) – 1

As an introvert, I like interacting with people one on one, am not very good at making small talk and tend to be on the quieter side when I am in a new group of people. Since I am also an HSP, I tend to get over-stimulated easily – so if I’m already stimulated beyond my comfort level, and then have to interact with new people, I tend to get even quieter than usual.

But this, as I realized while reading Elaine Aron’s The Highly Sensitive Person, is not a good idea at all. Have you ever thought of how people in a new group react when you are quiet? Aron says that HSPs often fail to grasp that the silent person gains more and more influence over time. This is because the group may be waiting for us to speak up, to come out and declare our own opinion and position. It may also be concerned about giving us a chance to speak. And most importantly, it could be unconsciously worried about our quietness. Aron says that the group wants to know, “Are you in the group or out? Are you sitting there judging them? Are you unhappy and about to leave?”

One of the ways in which this tension plays out is that as a defense tactic, the group might reject us before we can (possibly) reject them. So, when in a new group setting, it is important for introverts and HSPs to join in with an appropriate degree of enthusiasm. And if we can’t, it’s important to reassure the group members that we are not, in any way, rejecting them or thinking of leaving the group. We may want to communicate that we feel part of the group just by listening. Or we can emphasize any positive feelings that we have about the group or any group members. We could also tell them that we’ll speak up when we feel ready or request them to ask us again later. What’s important is that we communicate our interest in being a part of the group. 

Understanding these dynamics can also help introverts and HSPs prepare beforehand when we know we have to interact with a new group. We can make sure that we are well rested. We can think in advance about possible topics of conversation. In a nutshell, we can get ready to present our best selves to the group. In the end, the awareness of how groups operate and acting on this awareness can help us manage our lives and interactions as introverted and HSP people better.


  1. I generally just zonk out of the conversation if i am not interested!!! Its so hard to keep listening to people....but i like talking to you!!!

    1. Yes that's a valid strategy in many situations.. you don't need to give your A game listening to everyone.

      I like talking to you too!