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Book review: Sensitive by Jenn Granneman and Andre Sólo

What does it mean to be a highly sensitive individual? MeaningSphere content curator Anna Weltner reviews Jenn Granneman and Andre Sólo's book Sensitive, a new release which offers some answers.

A man's silhouette as he sits on a bench in a park, thinking.
Image: Chinmay Singh on Pexels

Sensitivity gets a bad rap in our culture. Being called sensitive feels like an insult (and sometimes it is). We associate sensitivity with people who overreact, cry too easily, or need to toughen up to face the realities of the world. Sensitivity, in other words, is often equated to weakness.

With their new book, however, authors Jenn Granneman and Andre Sólo offer a much-needed reframe. Published earlier this year, Sensitive: The Hidden Power of the Highly Sensitive Person in a Loud, Fast, Too-Much World is highly illuminating and deeply destigmatizing. (I still took the dust jacket off this one immediately before reading it in public, so I might have something to work on there.)

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A sensitive person, according to the authors, is genetically predisposed to better "receive, process, and respond to one's environment." For these highly attuned people, understanding and accepting this unique ability is the key to enjoying its benefits, rather than allowing them to get the better of you. A sensitive person's ability to pick up on sensory information others miss may make them a great private detective, physician, or photographer. But this ability can just as easily make them overwhelmed, exhausted, or even a target for bullying.

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Image: Shutterstock

Sensitive employs a mix of storytelling, scientific research, and actionable ideas and advice. The book will be of greatest value to readers who self-identify as sensitive (there's even a checklist of common traits), but friends, partners, and employers of sensitive people may also glean a useful new perspective on the sensitive experience.

The authors are the founders of Sensitive Refuge, an online resource for highly sensitive people (sometimes called HSPs). Human stories, experiences, and quotes from members of this online community, as well as historical anecdotes, add valuable color to the book, which otherwise might feel dry.

The book's nine chapters address topics such as stigma, childhood and parenting, relationships, and the double-edged sword that is empathy. "The Five Gifts of Sensitivity" which uses Jane Goodall's life and work as a case study, is an especially validating and encouraging chapter for people with a strong intuition who have been taught not to trust their gut.

If there's one chapter that resonates most with this blog, it's "More Than Just a Paycheck," which discusses the sensitive person's strengths in the workplace and offers tips for creating a more conducive emotional and physical work environment for sensitive workers. My own workplace, MeaningSphere, is an organization dedicated to helping people find meaning at work, and reading Sensitive I not only saw myself in the descriptions of the "HSP," but my immediate coworkers as well. Where we all highly sensitive, I wondered? How could that be? Then I came across this passage:

Along with need for the right work environment, sensitive people also have a high need for meaning on the job. Rather than just collecting a paycheck, they want to know that their efforts make a difference for other people and contribute to the greater good. Of course, no one, sensitive or not, wants to think that their work is pointless, but many sensitive people feel the need for meaningful work so strongly that they will organize their entire lives around finding it.

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Image: Shutterstock

Without knowing it, perhaps, our organization itself had become a beacon for the highly sensitive person. I came away with more compassion and understanding not only for myself, but for my colleagues as well.

It's insights like this that make Sensitive worth reading (even if you feel the need to discreetly slip the cover off before cracking it open in a crowded bar.) Weaving together science and storytelling, Granneman and Sólo have created a thorough and credible resource that will enable sensitive people (and those who love, live with, or work alongside them) to better understand their experience and take advantage of its unseen benefits.


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Anna Weltner is a writer and content curator at MeaningSphere.


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