Picture this: you have a colleague with a hair-trigger temper. At the slightest hint of conflict, they start yelling and accusing you of attacking them.
Eventually they calm down and apologize. They tell you they were ‘triggered’ and that they’re ‘highly sensitive.’
Is this sensitivity? Or is it blackmail?
When highly sensitive people use our sensitivity as an excuse for bad behavior, that’s called emotional dysregulation. We may lash out or shut down when overwhelmed; we may blame others for hurting us, even when that hurt was unintentional or unavoidable.
Emotional dysregulation can damage and destroy our careers, not to mention our relationships. There are only so many times we can bark at people before they start to shun us.
The antidote to lashing out: emotional regulation.
Learning to regulate our emotions is not the same as repressing them. When we start to explore our sensory and emotional triggers, we can learn how to identify and process them BEFORE we react negatively. If we DO lose our cool, we can still revisit the trigger, do the cognitive or physical processing we need, and defuse it before the next time it bites us.
When we design spaces for highly sensitive people, we know that your space cannot regulate FOR you. We explore your sensitivities in order to mitigate the environmental triggers that push you to your limit. This gives you as much bandwidth as possible to process the inevitable stresses of living.
The rest is up to you.
Bottom line: High sensitivity is a trait; emotional regulation is a skill. The first is innate; the second can be learned.
For practical tips on how to learn emotional regulation, check out Susan David’s book, Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change, and Thrive in Work and Life.