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Is Your Sensitivity a Career Liability?

Several years ago, I was giving a presentation to a board of directors for a project that that was near and dear to my heart and I wanted their blessing and support. As I was giving the report, one of the board members made a rather offhanded remark about the project that made the entire board laugh. I was humiliated! This was, I felt, an important project and a partnership that would be beneficial to the entire organization – and they were laughing?! As I sank down into my chair, one of the board members told me, “Gena, you are such a bleeding heart. You wear your emotions on your sleeve. How do you expect to get anywhere if you are going to be so sensitive?”

He was right.

Although, sensitivity can be a gift that could help others because of your attunement to environment, energy and thought patterns and because it is quite normal (nearly 15-20% of the population is sensitive in some way), being overly sensitive can actually hurt your career if not managed correctly.

Here are a few tips to help you manage your sensitivity at work:

  • Change how you view criticism – It is usually negative self-talk secretly that says, “I am not good enough.” Change that paradigm and view criticism as if you are doing something great that is worthy of attention.
  • Check your mood – sometimes it really not about what your co-worker is saying, maybe there is something deeper going on that you need to look at.
  • Act, don’t react – say this like a mantra. Try not to blow things out of proportion or over exaggerate. If you do there is a strong possibility that people will not take you seriously and will assume you’re over reacting and distorting the truth.
  • Check your body language – Facial expressions and body posture says a lot. Remain relaxed and calm. Think: ‘this is not about me.’ Keep your tone even and friendly.

Remember, it is okay to be sensitive (I am totally a sensitive person). We are kind, empathetic, creative and we love to help others. However, knowing how to effectively manage your sensitivity when you are confronted with challenges will make you even more successful in your career and in life.

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