When Someone Says You're Too Sensitive

When Someone Says You're Too Sensitive
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 28 May, 2024

Words can often do more harm than any weapon, we all know that. And there’s an equally important extra factor – the way you interpret certain messages. All of a sudden, someone comes out with a sentence you weren’t expecting, a series of words that take you by surprise, words you have no idea how to process or digest.

“You’re too sensitive. I can’t say anything to you. You make way too big of a deal out of things.” As strange as it might sound, that’s one of the most commonly repeated messages in a lot of our relationships. It’s also one of the messages that affects us the most.

The reason that group of adjectives, verbs, nouns, and articles has a negative impact on your mind is very simple: it invalidates your emotionsA mental siege that strong will affect your thoughts, leading you to wonder if you might actually have a problem.

That’s why you need to understand what’s behind the phrase. What dothe people who say it to you really think, and what should you do?

Thinking about being sensitive

“You’re too sensitive,” how many times have you heard that in your life?

Ana just went out for a coffee with her coworkers. Around the middle of the conversation, she was explaining how over the past few months she feels out of step with her boss, and that it’s been really hard for her to meet the objectives he sets for her.

And then one of her coworkers says this to her, “Come on, if you’re his favorite then you’re just being too sensitive, you’re making way too big of a deal out of it.” 

After she heard that, Ana stayed quiet. Now, after leaving the café downhearted and reflective, she’s trying really hard to process the comment calmly.

She knows the message had a bad effect on her, and there’s an obvious reason it hurts – her relationship with her boss is really tense, they aren’t agreeing on things, and her work is starting to take a toll. The comment hurt her because her coworker couldn’t simply be receptive to a real worry she had. 

This example might be extremely familiar to you. And you might be having doubts about yourself. Is it true that I have thin skin, and that I see problems where there aren’t any?

What if I’m really losing control? Before you reach that conclusion, you should give a thought to some of the ideas we’ll talk about below. 

Woman with flower petals

What does being “too sensitive” mean?

In the first place, we should clear up one important thing – “being too sensitive” doesn’t mean being “highly sensitive.” The two can actually be very different.

  • “Sensitive” people are the ones who interact with other people and their surroundings from an emotional point of view. They’re usually very aware of the quality of their relationships and the little things when it comes to human interaction. They talk openly about their moods and usually value other people’s sincerity and respect. When other people don’t give them this, they suffer or feel annoyed.
  • According to Tomkins’ theory of 9 affects, everyone has a personal script of how they understand and relate to their emotions.  There are a lot of people who have absolutely no idea about other people’s internal states. Instead, they’ll react to those people by thinking they exaggerate everything.
  • We also can’t leave out the fact that there are people who won’t empathize with your emotional reality at all. In fact, they’ll be uncomfortable about it.

So some people will see exaggerated behavior in what are actually completely normal emotional patterns. The thing is that the person you’re talking to just doesn’t understand your sentimentality or your personality. 

Don’t let them hurt your feelings

Everyone reacts in their own way to certain things. Everyone has their own way of understanding, feeling, and even experiencing the world. So for someone to tell you that you’re too intense, too happy, too sensitive, or too emotional, is just a way of them casting a shadow on your personality, of invalidating who you are as a person. 

The word “too” has a negative connotation here. So it would be better to use other terms and talk about the issue in a different way. Instead of using the cliche phrase of “you’re too sensitive,” it would be better to choose words that are more useful and productive. How about: “I think this is affecting you, how are you going to confront it? Can I help you with anything?

Emotional woman

Since those last couple of things aren’t something people say very much, you’ll need to do a quick personal review when someone labels you as “hypersensitive.” Being sensitive and seeing the world from an emotional point of view isn’t negative or worthy of punishment. It’s who you are, who you’ve always been, and it’s the way you breathe, the way you feel…

So don’t let it get to you too much when someone uses this inaccurate phrase. In the end, they just aren’t able to understand who you really are.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.