HSP Problem #237: Small Talk

I’m currently thankful to have the WordPress app on my phone, so I can sneak in an entry while waiting for my butter biscuit at Chick-Fil-A. This is a post I’ve been wanting to write for over a week, but just now am getting time.

Recently, I got involved in a discussion in the comment section of a fellow-HSP’s blog. She mentioned that she went to an HSP event, and people started talking and sharing at the outset. Then, they moved on to the “small talk” of their conversations. She talked about the HSP tendency to over share in conversation. Small talk is uncomfortable. Let’s cut to the meat of the conversation.

At that point, the caged tiger that is the HSP’s mind is unleashed. Once that door is opened, the mental tiger goes on a rampage. And it is very, I repeat: VERY, difficult to coax it back into the cage.

Truthfully, the tiger realizes at some point that the public can only handle a certain amount of exposure to this wild animal. It wants to return to the cage, but it’s got too much pent-up energy.

For clarification, this is a kind-hearted tiger, who doesn’t want to actually maim anyone. This is a playful tiger, who wants to be friends, but goes about it in all the wrong ways. This scares the public off.

Translation: non-HSPs can be easily put off by this tendency to over-share. Don’t believe me? Ask anyone who has ever talked to me about…anything.

I’ve been told that this makes it seem as if I don’t want to hear about the other person’s life. Unfortunately, this is far from true!!! (Or maybe, that’s fortunate?) Actually, that exactly what I want: for people to also open up and share.

There’s a vicious cycle that occurs here. HSP starts sharing. HSP over-shares. Non-HSP feels put off and decides not that HSP is not interested in non-HSP’s life. Non-HSP declines to share. HSP fills the sharing void with more information. Non-HSP feels more put off…and on and on it goes.

It makes me so sad to say that this tendency of mine, and other HSPs, I’d imagine – which I’m only recently grasping – has led to the weakening and/or demise of many a friendship.

(“Go, go Gadget: Tears!” Yes, I’m still in Chick-Fil-A.)

Now that I see the sharing thing in this light, I realize that, no, I can’t stand small talk. I go completely awkward, until the point where the conversation might turn to some actual heart-informational exchange.

Usually, that heart-informational exchange isn’t going to happen in a passing conversation. So, I try to avoid the whole mess. Many times have I ducked past someone whom I only know very casually while out grocery shopping, or whatever. I guess it’s in order to escape the dread of the pint-sized, kiddie pool-depth
conversation that would inevitably occur.

In cases where avoidance is impossible, I do end up looking and feeling like an idiot.  I guess the problem is that I don’t want to say all of the small talk things, so I just don’t know what to say.  And I feel like I should have something profound to say.  It seems that the other person is expecting that.

I’m starting to realize that, in all likelihood, they aren’t waiting for me to ask them about their deepest-felt emotions.  Nor are they waiting for me to share mine.  But because that’s the kind of talk I want to have, I’m supposing that everyone else is wanting the same.  At a loss for words, my face betrays me.  My facial expression becomes one of bewilderment and discomfort.

I do have in mind a couple of ways to combat this issue.  I will share those with you soon!

Friends, can any of you relate to what I’m talking about here?  I hope this isn’t just me!

Torn: Highly Sensitive and Highly Self-Centered

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.  Psalm 139:14

 Woe to those who quarrel with their Maker…  Does the clay say to the potter: ‘What are you making?’ Isaiah 45:9

While reading and learning more about HSP, I have noticed that it is considered to be a gift to be grateful for.  After all, the Lord made us this way. Just days into starting this blog, however, I composed an entry in which I expressed doubt that there could possibly be anything positive about being an HSP.  The only use I could see for this trait was to make me cry or become very angry and tense at what would appear to be inopportune moments.

Much of the literature I’ve read on Highly Sensitive Persons mentions that HSPs are very in tune with other people’s feelings and thoughts.    Intuition and insight into others’ feelings and thoughts are part of the gift.  This is why HSPs often find themselves in helping/human services, I’d imagine.

In all my reading about HSP, my life has basically been flashing before my eyes.  So many aspects of my life started to make sense through the lens of my Highly Sensitive Personality.  Hurts, heartaches, mistakes, embarrassments…

There was a glaring exception, though:

The bits about being sensitive to what others felt and needed did not resonate with me.  At all.

How could this be possible?!  I am a model HSP in so many ways!  How on earth did I miss out the empathy part?

Then, it came to me.  My greatest downfall in life has been self-focus, or self-centeredness.  Let me be clear:  I never, ever had the thought, “I’m more important than everyone around me.  Therefore, I will put all my needs first and expect them to do the same.”  That may have seemed to be the case, but it simply is not true.

Looking back at my childhood, I can see some ways in which I could have become this way.  Though I am not an only child, I was one for several years before my mother had a second child.  As an only child, and after my brother was born, I was given most of what I wanted.  I was taught to think highly of myself from a very early age, with regard to physical appearance and intellect.

(side note:  if I ever have an academically gifted child, this child will not be made aware of high standardized test scores and percentiles.)

These circumstances are a breeding ground for conceit and self-centeredness.  Let’s also not forget that every, single person living on the planet is a sinful human being who, to some extent, is inherently selfish.  It’s just that some of those humans grow up in situations that teach them to think more highly of the needs of others.

I didn’t.

But can God redeem that time?  Of course, he can!

“I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten….”  Joel 2:25

In hindsight, I only remember very few situations in which I was very open to sense another person’s feelings.  Mostly, I remember being so wrapped up in my feelings and needs that I (unknowingly) built a wall between myself and the other person.  This wall prevented me from recognizing their needs and/or intentions on deeper levels, and possibly prevented me from being able to speak life to a person who may have needed encouragement.

Again, God can and does redeem our lost time!  Even before I began to learn about HSP, I’d been working to be less self-centered and to focus more on others.  It is a work in progress, let me tell you!  Still, God has been changing me step-by-dying-to-self-step.

How can I make the most of this part of my HSP “gift”? And if you also experience the sensitive/self-centered dichotomy, how can you? 

I’ve actually composed a list in answer to that question, but I’m going to take my own advice and pray before posting it.  It just doesn’t read right; and I want to step back and think it over.  Maybe even rewrite.  Let’s see.