The HSP World Podcast Ep. 11: Are People Aware There Are Highly Sensitive Extroverts?

 

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Thomas: Hi and welcome to the HSP World Podcast. With each episode, we invite a guest with the HSP Trait to have a conversation about a burning HSP-related question that they have. We’re not coaches or therapists. We are HSPs holding space with you. I’m one of your hosts, Thomas and your other hosts are;

Robyn: Robyn.

Rayne: and Rayne.

Robyn: All right, welcome back everybody. For today’s episode, we are joined by Laurie. Hi Laurie.

Laurie: Hi there.

Robyn: Thanks for joining us today.

Laurie: Yeah, thanks for having me.

Robyn: Would you be able to get us started by, uh, just saying a little bit about your HSP story, how you found out that you have the trait?

Laurie: Certainly I’d be happy to. So this is about three or four years ago. I was struggling in my business and I couldn’t figure out why. Normally I’m a person who can figure things out. And it’s like, what is going on?

And I decided well I’ll hire a one-on-one coach and, you know, figure this out. And she wasn’t really the person who told me about being highly sensitive, but during that conversation with her, just being really open, I started to discover more about me and where I was being blocked in my creativity in my business.

And then I would go and do Google searches on, I don’t even know, remember what, right? And then all of a sudden I’m looking at articles on Elaine Aron’s website about highly sensitive people.

I was like, ‘Oh my gosh!’ Yes! I was like… it…’ I was explaining to someone earlier, it felt like the sky opened up and everything made sense. I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, this explains my whole life right here.’ And from that moment I just felt like, ‘Okay, there’s nothing wrong with me.’ And I found someone to help me in my business to rearrange things so that I could accommodate my trait rather than… I had been trying to work against it.

I mean, unwittingly, I had no idea I was doing that right? 

Rayne: How cool. How cool Laurie?

Laurie: It was amazing. It just brings me to tears thinking about it.

Robyn: Thanks for sharing. Um, we don’t usually get that type of story. Well, I mean, people do, you know, find out about the trait and then they have that, ‘Aha! It just clicks and explains so much moment.’ So we hear that a lot, but it’s interesting that you came to it through a professional and creative block.

A lot of HSPs do talk about struggling with work. So it’s really cool that you’re able to share that with us. Thank you.

Laurie: Yeah, you’re welcome.

Robyn: And I understand you have a question for us today.

Laurie: Yeah, I am really curious if people know that highly sensitives can be extroverted? Because we hear so much about being introverted as a highly sensitive and you know, they are extroverts too. So that’s my question.

Thomas: Great question.

Robyn: Hahahaha!

Rayne: And our resident HSP extrovert is Robyn.

Robyn: And in extroversion style, I say, “Me, me, me, I want to answer!”

Thomas: Well, you go for it, Robyn.

Robyn: Thank you. I know there’s a couple of other ones listening too, I think we have a, I think we have an HSP extrovert fan out there who keeps liking us and saying like, ‘Yes, represent HSP extroverts!’

But thank you for sharing this, Laurie. And I think you’re right that we can conflate introversion and sensitivity quite frequently.

I came across a really wonderful article on Elaine Aron’s blog. Uh, I believe it was a guest contribution by Jacqueline Strickland, who writes on HSPs, but also is very familiar with the Myers-Briggs system. So she she’s been thinking about different facets of personality and how they kind of link up with sensitivity.

So she wrote this article on how, you know, what if someone identifies as highly extroverted and highly sensitive, what does that look like?

Introversion, Extroversion and the Highly Sensitive Person

And how is it different from someone who’s just highly introverted and not sensitive or someone who’s both, right? And I guess just to be, just to be clear on this there are different definitions of extroversion and introversion, right?

They are, again, it depends what system you’re looking at, they’re recognized in multiple systems, right? But typically it’s a preference or a style of where you’re getting your energy from, right? So to introvert, if we actually take it as a verb, to introvert is to direct your energy inward okay? So your your own personal world, your imagination, your inner thoughts, your personal history, as you remember it, right? 

And then to extrovert is to attend or orient yourself towards the outer world, other people, what’s going on in your surroundings in the moment or what other people are talking about, you know, in the news or social media or whatever, right?

Obviously everybody does both of this, both of these things right? Um, and even though the first person to come up with the term, Carl Jung said, you know, there’s no such thing as a perfect introvert or a perfect extrovert. If there were, that person would be insane. Because you can’t spend all your time in the outside world and you can’t spend all your time in the inside world, right?

So we all have to do it. And that is built into the Myers-Briggs system as well. Everyone has some capacity to do both of these things, right? But typically people who say I’m an extrovert, or I’m an introvert, they’re talking about a preference, a baseline preference, because those preferences can change in different contexts, right?

So it is pretty nuanced, but a baseline preference for one or the other. So if you identify, Laurie, as a highly extroverted person, then it means that you tend to have, tend to prefer spending your time in that outer world. Even if you do also spend some time in the inner world. Does that make sense?

Laurie: Yeah and I’m definitely an extrovert and I always have been. I think as I get older I’m probably less extroverted right? But I’m still, as, like you said, baseline, I’m extroverted. I recharge when I’m in contact with other people. And so…

Rayne: Yeah. And you know according to Elaine Aron’s research, um, and I guess it makes sense why HSP extroverts don’t see that much, and I hope a lot more is done for them, is because they make up about 30% of HSPs in total, because the majority of HSPs, about 70%, they more identify as introverts.

So I think that’s where it’s kind of, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s tricky, you know, it’s kinda tricky to, um, to, to capture that because yeah, I agree with you Robyn, you know, there is a continuum, um, and I mean, I’m also I’m HSS, which is high sensation seeking, which, which can look extroverted, you know?

Um, it’s uh, I guess it is, but it isn’t in a way. Um…

Robyn: Well, that’s more about sensation seeking, right? So you could presumably do that, um, alone, right? Or, uh, or even through, through an inner directed, through inner directed means, right?

Rayne: Yeah, well absolutely, there’s that. I know the one thing is, um, traveling. Like I love traveling. I love exploring new places and, you know, in order to do that you’re meeting new people, you’re seeing new places, you’re doing different things, so that can look extroverted, you know?

But I’m not, I’m an introvert. You know? I just happened to also have HSS. Um, so yeah, I mean I get where you’re coming from Laurie and that, you know, you’d like to see a lot more, um, a lot more information out there for HSP extroverts, because, um, you were saying before, um, that you thought or felt that perhaps that might’ve been one of the reasons that you didn’t, um, you know, you didn’t identify or come to understand or learn that you had the HSP Trait, um, because there was so little out there about HSP extroverts.

Laurie: I definitely think that’s true. Because I would hear, generally introverted and other things sounded not like me. And knowing that I’m an extrovert, I would just kind of pass it over. But now I’ve started to think, ‘Well, how, as an extroverted person, how does my sensitivity show up differently?’ So that’s been a really cool thing to quantify. Can I tell you about that a little bit?

Rayne: Oh, absolutely. Yeah, what does that look like? For sure.

Laurie: So one thing I noticed, like, um, when I’m with people, I love it. And when I’m with people too long, and I can tend to do that sometimes, right? Because it is recharging. It is satisfying. I’m having fun. But because I’m highly sensitive, I can like wear my nervous system out a little bit. So my extroverted trait is like, ‘Let’s stay, let’s keep talking. Let’s keep engaging.’ And my sensitivity is like, ‘No, let’s go home or let’s hang up the phone, right?’ And it needs to recharge.

And there’s this kind of tug of war happening inside of me where I’m like,’ Oh!’ And before I was really aware of my sensitivity that the sensitive nervous system thing? Felt like a smack in the face. Like I would be somewhere and it would just pop up and go, ‘I’m tired now!’

Whereas now that I’ve practiced a lot more of being aware of my sensitivity, I can feel it coming on and I can go, do you think I can plan to leave or I can plan to take a rest if I want that extended extrovert time, so that I am still taking care of myself and I don’t have to feel like my sensitivity is just popping up out of nowhere. But it’s been really interesting. So Robyn, it sounds like you know what I’m talking about.

Robyn: Um, you know, it’s so interesting. Cause a lot of people, um, not typically, not people who identify as HSPs, but in general, though, it can be a lot of, um, resistance to using labels, right? Like I don’t want to label myself this or that or whatever. And I think, you know, a label is a tool. And to the extent that it actually helps explain your experience in your reality, then it is very valuable.

If it’s actually obscuring something more important or more real, then you drop it right away, you know? Maybe one day, we’ll all be talking about HSPs using other words. I personally have no objection to that if one day it comes up. What we want are our labels that actually help us more accurately deal with our experience and, you know, for, for extroverted HSPs, and I think, especially when we’re younger, there are these pressures in the culture, at least, you know, we’re, we’re both in, we’re all in North America here, so there are these pressures in the culture towards extroversion and against high sensitivity. You know sensitivity is felt less in your teen years, right?

So if you’re an extroverted and extroversion is extra important, so you’re an extroverted HSP, chances are when you’re young, you’re a teen or an early twenties, that’s the time that you’re probably going to be acting the least as an HSP? So you may not notice it at that, that time.

And in fact, uh, I know I noticed this in myself and I, I imagine it happens for others as well, um, that we put a pressure on ourselves to “pass” as not highly sensitive, right? To overlook those parts of ourselves and to say, yeah, okay, sometimes, uh, you know, I, I overthink things or I get overly emotional about things, but, uh, whatever I’ll, I’ll… I just have to stop doing that right?

Instead of thinking, wait a minute, where’s this actually coming from? And what does it really mean, right? So I know I spent a lot of time resisting that and fighting it and trying to, to lean as heavily as possible on my extroverted side, now where this is difficult is because first of all, as you get older, your body is less able to do that, your sensitive sensitivity um, increases for everybody.

And then the other problems that you, you know, you mislabel things, right? So I know that when I’m tired or drained or like really truly overstimulated, um, all sorts of problems crop up. I lose sight of priorities. I can’t properly engage in things.

It’s like I’m just all tapped out and I can’t even things that I really do care about. I just can’t care about them anymore. And if you don’t understand that that’s coming from your own over-stimulation and exhaustion, you run the risk of saying, ‘Well, maybe I just don’t care about this thing anymore.’ Or ‘Maybe I just don’t like these people anymore,’ or ‘Maybe I don’t want to do this thing anymore.’

And you may end up making choices or behaving in ways that don’t actually fit who you really are, right?

So it makes it makes it hard to properly take care of yourself and to secure things that you really need for yourself. But it, but it can be easy to overlook this. So for example, I know a lot of introverts will have conversations about, ‘Oh, I hate small talk, I just want to have a weekend alone by myself.’

Laurie: I hate small talk too. So I don’t know that that’s an introverted thing. I want to say that’s a highly sensitive thing.

Robyn: Well, so for me, it’s interesting how it plays out. Like I hate small, I hate small talk that never progresses anywhere. I’m, I’m happy to do a certain amount of small talk. I’m happy to use small talk. That’s where I can indulge my extroverted side, because I can just get curious about other people and say like, okay, you know, what, what does it say about them?

Or it’s interesting that they always talk about the same things, right? After a while I’ll eventually get bored and say, ‘Okay, I’m craving something a little bit more meaningful here.’ But I can, it does carry me a little bit, a little bit further. What I don’t like is a superficiality or inauthenticity.

Laurie: Right.

Robyn: If that’s there, if people are, you know, if it’s small talk, but then there’s something genuine and warm and a real connection or intention to connect, you know? Yeah. It won’t be my favorite kind of conversation, but I’ll still kind of appreciate it. Whereas if I feel that there’s something inauthentic or if I feel that this is a person who’s never going to want to have a deeper conversation with me ever. Okay. Then yeah. Then, then my interest wanes after awhile.

Rayne: Now, this is something I love to hear Thomas, what you have to say about this. Because Thomas, I know you, you identify, I know at times you’ve identified as an introvert. And then, but then I know you, so, so I know how much you enjoy doing extroverted type things. So I would love to hear your, you know, what’s your take on this.

Thomas: You know we mentioned Myers-Briggs and what’s interesting is, um, so, you know, my Myers-Briggs comes out typically as INT… what’s the other one? P! INTP. Right?

Um, but when I was working in Silicon Valley and I was a manager, I took, took the Myers-Briggs, and it was focused particularly on managing and I keyed out as an extrovert, as an ENTP. So sometimes, you know, it’s, it’s situational, it’s like, in what context are you taking these tests? So that’s why it’s kind of hard, you know,  they’re not like set in stone, I think. 

Um, the thing that, Laurie, that, um, that I picked up on that that was very interesting as the, you said it, it’s changed over time for you. And I’d really liked to hear about more about that. And also you, you mentioned how, um, how you’re finding more balance now, which sounds fantastic. So I’d like to hear more about like you know, the change that you’re experiencing in terms of introversion extroversion, and also, um, how you, how you’re finding that balance.

You mentioned that you are, um, that you sense that more quickly.

Laurie: Yes. So I’m 52, just to put that into context. And for the listeners as well. So when I was a child, I felt very extroverted, but as I look back, I see how my world was actually balanced for me. So yes. And I didn’t even think about it.

During the week I lived with my mother and my grandmother and my great aunt who were all introverts, and the house was very quiet and I would go to school and come home and do my homework. And I had my own room. I was an only child, had my own room and I, it was very quiet, right?

And then I would go to my dad’s most weekends, cause my parents were divorced. And my dad was a huge extrovert. In his house, he and my stepmom’s house, it was always full of people and there are always things going on and he’d bring me back on Sunday night.

And of course by about that time I would be done, right? I’d be tired. And it’s time to go back to the quiet house. 

Thomas: And you were fulfilled.

Laurie: Yes. And I have an every week about Thursday, I would be like, I’m tired. I’m sick of these quiet people. I’m ready to go to the party house, right? Like where all the people are.

Robyn: Yup. Oh man.

Laurie: I loved it!

Robyn: You know, it’s, it’s so interesting because I don’t know, I still am working out the conflict for myself, right? But use the word “party”, right? And to me, parties, parties are important, right? And it’s so hard not to say that without feeling superficial, right? So I can feel the introvert’s going, ‘Oh, come on parties,’ right?

‘How, how, how flaky of you.’ Right? But there’s something… I think. But imagine an HSP, imagine an HSP who actually enjoys a party. Imagine an HSP who goes to a party and says, ‘Huh, there’s there’s people to talk to. And I’m having great conversations. Yeah. And my stimulation level is fine for now. I’m enjoying this a fun game or this fun music, or, you know, this, this great dynamic between people,’ you know? All the things that are enjoyable about a party. You enjoy them that much more, right? Because you’re highly sensitive.

So. There’s a lot of, like, reward in being in that external world. That’s I think that’s what makes, that’s what makes the HSP extrovert extroverted, is that there’s just more reward in these, in, in these social, external moments, right? And again, it’s not superficial.

Laurie: No.

Robyn: There can be quite a bit of depth and richness in these moments, right? In the social connection, in your interactions with people, but then the difference between that person and a pure extrovert is that by the end of the weekend, you’re like, ‘Okay, I’m done.’ And I’m happy to have a little bit of peace and quiet, whereas the really pure extrovert would probably want to keep going, right? Or would be fine with continuing in that, at that energy level.

Thomas: And here’s what’s funny for me, you know, I, I grew up as a very shy, sensitive kid in a household, my mom was introverted and, but my dad is extremely extroverted and, and when I was a kid, parties meant being with strangers and being awkward.

And now for me, parties, the, you know, a good party is an opportunity to connect with people on a deeper level. And, you know, as, as long as it’s not a bunch of strangers and as, as long as it’s not about superficiality, ‘Yeah, take me, take me to that party!’ Because, you know, I want, I want to learn, I want to grow. I want to, you know, I want to experience.

So I, I, I think that’s, at least for me, sometimes I wonder if that sensitivity is also linked to the introversion, to the extent that, maybe, you know, maybe I was meant to be a little bit more extroverted then, then, um, then I was, just simply because of, of having, uh, an environment that was overwhelming to me, right?

In other words, maybe if I was in a less overwhelming environment, I’d be a little bit more extroverted or a little bit more outgoing, I guess, is the way to put it. I don’t know? I mean it’s an interesting question.

Robyn: I think, um, it would be great if we could include in the show notes that article I was referencing uh, um, by Jacqueline Strickland. She outlines like almost 20 points to try to narrow down what exactly is a highly sensitive extrovert and, uh,

Introversion, Extroversion and the Highly Sensitive Person

Rayne: Absolutely.

Robyn: One cool thing that I like is that she says in there, um, she references the book quiet by Susan Cain.

And she says, actually in that book, it’s hard to tell which parts are really referring to HSPs and which parts of referring to introverts. Even though the book is supposed to be about introversion, she gives the example of someone who read the book, is introverted, non-HSP and actually felt that they were reflected, that they were represented less by that book, than someone who’s extroverted and HSP. So it’s possible that some of what Susan Cain was writing about, um, really is high sensitivity.

Laurie: I’ve heard that too.

Robyn: Yeah.

Rayne: Interesting.

Laurie: Yeah. And I wanted to go back Thomas and answer your question a little bit more about, I think what I’m doing now in my life is kind of replicating what I had as a child, but doing it for myself. Whereas I’m monitoring my own nervous system, right? And I’m actually, I’m proactively down-regulating on a daily basis because I know, right? That I get over-stimulated just because.

Thomas: Right, right.

Laurie: And then because of that, I also know that when I’m in a situation, I think about things before I go or before I am engaged, and because I’m actively down-regulating, I’m naturally more in touch with, ‘Well, am I overwhelmed? You know, or am I getting there?’ Right? Because I’m spending time with my nervous system and spending time with my sensitivity that gets like, uh, I made friends with it. I know it. I know what it needs and doesn’t need, so then go ahead.

Rayne: I just want to, I’m, I’m really curious. What does down-regulating like look like? What, what is that?

Laurie: Well to me, it’s meditation or, um, like, because we take in so much sensory information sometimes it’s not meditation. Sometimes it’s movement to release that extra energy from that extra stimulation to just, or even like an inhaling and then exhaling and just making a sound to let that extra energy go. Cause I feel like I hold onto so much stuff, I don’t even realize.

Rayne: Thank you. Thank you for explaining that. Appreciate that.

Thomas: For me, it might be just simply leaving the room for a few moments.

Robyn: Yeah, I would agree. Yeah, I would do that too.

Thomas: Well Laurie, I want to thank you so much for today’s conversation. I, uh, I’m curious to know how you feel about it. Were there some points that resonated with you?

Laurie: I love that Robyn has this article to refer to. That’s so beautiful. I love that all four of us have such a different point of view to bring, and that extroversion is getting a little bit more airtime here, right? And you reflecting on maybe you are actually more extroverted. And so that got me thinking about nature and nurture, right?

Thomas: Yeah.

Laurie: Uh, and I could go deep into that one and then thinking about small talk, right? What is small talk? Why do we not like it? Um, is that an extroverted/introverted thing, or is that a highly sensitive thing? So I was kind of riffing on that one too.

Thomas: Well, thank you so much for joining us today.

Laurie: Thank you for having me. It’s wonderful.

Rayne: Yes. Thank you, Laurie, I really, um, I really appreciate it. Thank you for your courage to come on and bring and bring this up. Because I think it’s important. There’s a, there’s a lot of HSP extroverts out there, so I, I, and, and it does need more air time, so it’s going to be helpful for them. So thank you.

Laurie: Wonderful.

Robyn: Yeah, I’m going to say thank you too. And thank you to our listeners extroverted or introverted. Um, so please, everybody do join us for the next episode where we’ll be having another interesting HSP conversation.

And to any highly sensitives out there who have a burning HSP-related question, big or small, we invite you to ask it on the HSP World Podcast.

Just email [email protected]

 

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Music credit: Intro and Outro music from the YouTube Music Library. Song is Clover 3.

 

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