Empath and HSP

How to Not Take Things Personally When You Are a Sensitive Person

Published by
Sherrie Hurd, A.A.

Whether you’re easily offended or not, you have to learn how to not take things personally. Just let some things go.

Dealing with criticism and negative feedback is no easy task for some people. While one person may brush off less than attractive comments, others may dwell on words for long periods of time and grow depressed. Why do words have this power?

What are we but words inside living creatures? Well, we’re quite a bit more than that. But we made these words, good or bad, and fashioned the use of each and every letter. From country to country, we created a language to convey a message. Sounds pretty simple, doesn’t it?

Well, these words don’t just explain things, compliment people, and express happiness. Sometimes they hurt, as I stated above. And when words do hurt, the speaker must analyze what he said, and the sensitive must learn to not take the things said to them personally.

Sensitive or mental Illness

There’s another facet to this discussion as well. People tend to take things to heart when they’re sensitive, and yet, they also do this because they suffer from mental illness. This changes how we deal with people, and how we help them. So, let’s break down some ways to help people stop taking things so personally.

What can we do when we take things too personally?

1. Understand why

Okay, the first thing you need to do is understand whether your offense is due to sensitivity or mental illness. If you’re taking things too personally, according to someone else, then first ask others about the situation, conversation, or comment.

It’s possible that you’re not being too sensitive at all. It could be a matter of opinion. Yes, you could be a sensitive person, but being sensitive isn’t all that bad.

If you suffer from mental illness, and you are easily offended, then this is a whole other issue. Some mental disorders can cause us to take things personally when we shouldn’t.

Anxiety can make us paranoid, depression could get worse due to certain comments, and heaven knows what bipolar disorder can make out of a stray raw comment.  The first way to deal with taking things to heart is to find out why.

2. Know the importance of comments

While some comments can be cruel and damaging, not everything has to be mulled over for weeks. Now, with mental illness, this gets a bit more complicated. If you’re only sensitive, you can learn which comments are serious enough to deal with and which ones you can just let go…and you can let some of them go and forget about it.

The mental disorder makes it hard to decipher the difference between the two and sometimes you don’t know when to let go and when to hold on. In this case, seek support and a sounding board to help you see things from another perspective.

3. Take a good look at the source

To not take things so personally, we must also consider the source of the information or comment. Is this person happy about their lives? Are they the gossiping type? Can you return a similar comment to them if you chose to?

Consider things like this before you become offended. Some people are so bored with their own lives, that making off-color comments to others is the only thing that brings them excitement anymore.

For those with mental disorders, you can consider the same thing. If you can see the source as they really are, you can soothe your anxiety, and even feel a bitter lighter as well.

4. If they’re toxic, stay away

If you’ve received more than a few negative comments from the same source, consider they may be toxic or narcissistic. If so, whether you’re a sensitive person or not, stay away.

Being around toxic people will never make you feel all that good. Yes, you should learn how to not take things too personally but not by constantly being insulted. Toxic people will only make things worse.

5. Some people just say dumb things

Keep in mind, some people don’t say things to intentionally hurt you. In many cases, they just don’t pay attention to their words and something absolutely ridiculous and hurtful comes flying out.

In this case, you should remember that none of us are perfect, and even you say dumb things sometimes. So do I. Ask yourself if a person could just be saying something dumb because they’re tired or frustrated with someone else. This will help you with your sensitivity.

6. Clear up misunderstandings

Sometimes during a conversation, a seemingly hurtful comment is made. In so many cases, this either start a fight or makes one person stop talking and ignore the other out of hurt feelings. You should never take things personally until you’ve gotten a bit of clarity on that statement that hurt you.

Maybe the statement was meant to help you instead of insult you. I know sometimes I say things to others and then realize how bad they sound. I try to stop and clarify it for them before the anger sets in. Sometimes it works and sometimes they insist on holding offense toward me.

Anyway, with mental illness, clearing up misunderstandings can be a bit more difficult but must be done. If you have anxiety, you are prone to jump to conclusions quickly when a statement is made.

But, also with those who suffer from anxiety, they generally think things over later on and realize that there could have been a mistake. The best thing to do is return to the person and ask for clarification of what was said. Usually, it’s not as bad as you thought.

Sensitive Vs Insensitive

You have those who are too sensitive and those who don’t have enough softness about them. It is important, however, to learn how to not let things get to you and scar you personally. Yes, it’s tougher for those with illnesses, but with a little help, those with anxiety and those with depression can also learn to take more things in stride.

I will let you in on a little secret. I take things too personally sometimes myself. In fact, I do it a lot. So you’re not alone. I am trying harder every day to differentiate which things will only matter for 5 minutes and which will matter 5 years from now.

Think about it for a minute. You know which ones to throw out. Talk to you later!


  1. https://www.psychologytoday.com

View Comments

  • Great contrast between insensitive, sensitive and mental illness! The DSM (bible for diagnosing mental illness) is based on 'degrees of normalcy and inability to effectively function in life,' so if you use that standard, the line dividing sensitive/insensitive and illness would be how much it prevents you from effectively functioning in life and how 'abnormal' it is relative to the culture you live in. People can be too insensitive too...mental illness can go both ways.

    As someone on the insensitive end of the spectrum, I have learned through Emotional Intelligence to recognize when the 'reasonable' degrees of sensitivity between two or more people significantly differ, but I have not mastered the best solution when they clash. A more insensitive person is focused on facts and objects; a more sensitive person is focused on feelings and people. The clash comes when insensitive people refer to people as objects, and sensitive people see them as people with feelings. The 'healthy' thing for more sensitive people is to help the less sensitive recognize that people might be objects, but they have feelings too! And if that insensitive person can't respect that, they are what the article calls toxic.

    But I have not figured out what the healthy thing for less sensitive people are who recognize that people have feelings too, but also know how destructive feelings can be. A destructive emotion is one that causes them (the emoter) to feel or do things that are harmful to them or others, while a constructive emotion is one that causes them to feel or do things that are helpful to them or others. With enough Emotional Intelligence, every emotion can be constructive/helpful, but very few people have that, and the less someone has, the more harm emotions can have. When I encounter someone who allows their emotions to become destructive, I'll make an effort to help them see what's happening, that they are allowing their emotions to become destructive, but as you can guess, that typically makes matters even worse...so I back off and typically retreat from the conversation altogether...and more often than not, from the relationship too because it becomes toxic in the other direction.

    I would love to hear a better reaction for a less sensitive person living/working with more sensitive people, preferably from more sensitive people. I highly value sensitive people who can make me aware of important things my insensitivity misses, but only when the feelings of others are constructive...because if they are destructive, I feel compelled to help them turn into constructive ones, or simply walk away to maintain peace....

    • I absolutely love this contrast here, and what it does for me is help me realize that we, as human beings walk a thin line of balance between the two. We can be too sensitive or too insensitive, and it is best to learn from each other. As a sensitive person, I do sometimes take offense when someone tries to tell me to "calm down". Of course, I suffer from many mental disorders so it's incredibly difficult to calm down during panic attacks, just as it's incredibly hard to pick myself up from depression.

      As for ordinary sensitive people, most of the ones I've met get offended by me too. This is strange because my illness makes me sensitive, and the things they get offended by, I also do not understand. Insensitive people may have been taught to be that way from childhood, or through genetics, but they can learn to see in a more sensitive light, especially when it comes to people. We need more understanding both ways, in my opinion.

      Maybe I am only reiterating what you've said but I'm trying. I've only ever met a handful of insensitive type people, so I guess it's hard to see through that lens. Even my family sought drama and lived with mental illness. My son, he can show happy emotions but finds it difficult to show sad or angry emotions. He is an unnervingly calm person and it drives me crazy sometimes. Maybe this is as close as I can get to an insensitive type of person.

      Anyway, maybe we can all learn to help one another find that mediation which is labeled normal, whatever that is.

Published by
Sherrie Hurd, A.A.