Sensitivity In The Office

Have you ever had a moment where you thought to yourself, “I have way to much sensitivity to be a business professional?”

Yeah? Me too.

As a sensitive guy, it’s been challenging for me to accept that the higher I rise in leadership, management, and business, so the level of conflict also proportionally rises.

I have worked alongside wildly successful people who never seem to care when they rock the boat. They navigate all the conflict they encounter effortlessly, pissing people off with no problem, so it appeared to me that successful business people are not as sensitive as I am.

This caused me to have multiple moments in my professional journey when I wanted to give up, because encountering conflict & negative emotions from others every day was just too much. I knew if I was to continue to grow and become the best at what I do, I had to learn how to harness my sensitivity in the workplace.

Now I can talk for hours about all of the tools I’ve acquired over the years, so here is my jump-start guide to overcoming sensitivity as a professional:

1) Consciously control your breathing

The moment your body or brain thinks it is under attack, your breathing changes. This is part of your fight-or-flight response mechanism that has kept your ancestors and you alive up to now. When your brain thinks you are under attack, whether emotionally or physically, your biology kicks in, changing your breathing and cuing the rest of your organs and mind to prepare for battle. Luckily for you, breathing is one of the few bodily functions we can perform consciously and unconsciously[1]. This means you have the ability to slow your breath and convince your body that everything is a-ok[2] at any time

2) Change your posture

Want to control your emotions? Start from the outside[3]. If you want to feel like crap at this moment, sit the same way you do when you feel like crap. If you want to feel like you’re on top of the world, then stand and breathe like you are the king or queen of the world! The human mind takes cues from your physiology. Combine mindfully changing your physiology with controlling your breathing and you are on your way to controlling your sensitivity when things don’t go the way you want!

3) Label the other person’s emotion

The best practice I’ve learned to control my sensitivity is to label the other person’s emotion. The second I tag the way I think the other person is feeling, the situation is no longer about me. I say something to myself like, “She seems disappointed because…” or “He seems overwhelmed because…” or “They are pissed because…” By tagging the other person’s emotion, you are detaching yourself from it. You are literally objectifying the feeling and assuring your mind that this is their emotion, not yours, which allows you to release the negativity. Combine this with #1 and #2 and you are on your way to easing into your new work-skin.

4) Play it back

Want to move forward past all the sensitivity? Stop dwelling on it. Ask the other person for clarity. Asking something as simple as, “So what you are saying is…” or “I want to make sure I understand what you are alluding to” can go a long way. Again, naming the external force and making it real, gets it outside of you and out in the open.

5) It’s about the situation, not about you

I didn’t list this one first, but it’s one of my top sensitivity hacks. Remove yourself from the equation all together. What is this person pissed about? Why do they dislike your work so much? This is not about you; it’s about the situation. What’s the situation that is causing the ill feelings directed towards you? It’s barely EVER about you personally, and almost always about the situation at hand. Situations can be resolved and mistakes can be mended.

6) Name the voice in your head

Sometimes the emotion isn’t an external force, but rather, you against you. You are emotional at yourself because something didn’t go perfectly or you could have done better. Most of the time my sensitivity stems from my own disappointment in myself. When this happens, I ask myself which of the voices in my head is currently trying to discipline me. Is it the parental voice? Or perhaps it is an authoritative voice – a former boss, a teacher, a parent etc. Well, this is the time to tell that voice, “Thank you for your input and for trying to protect me, but this is not the time for you right now. I will call you when I need you.” The voices in your head are important and are part of who you are. They sometimes need to guide you, but when they get in the way, you have full entitlement to say, “This is not the time for you. Thank you. Goodbye.” Props to Dr. Michael Mongno for teaching me how to use this nugget.

7) Ask yourself, “What is this here to teach me?”

I learned this hack while listening to Oprah speak! Taking responsibility means you are “response-able.” In the event you or your work is being attacked, take control of how you respond. Ask yourself, “What is this here to teach me?” The moment you learn something about the other person or the situation, you can grow and move forward. Otherwise, you’re likely to harbor the negative emotions and delay your ability to move past them. Check out my previously posted blog on this topic!

8) Know that conflict is healthy

I learned this one from Larry Seal. Richard Branson talks about how he hates conflict. He clearly understands, however, that conflict is part of business. Without other people, there would be no conflict, but without other people, there would be no business. So, conflict is an opportunity to grow. People won’t always see eye-to-eye. Navigating conflict is part of your responsibility as you grow as a professional.

9) Move external energy away from you

Most of the time when you’re encountering a negative vibe from another person it is because you are allowing that feeling to permeate your being. This means you are open to receiving the other person’s energy (vibes). Now, imagine re-directing your energy up towards the sky and down into the ground. You can keep other peoples’ emotions outside of your reception area by changing the direction of your energy to not include theirs which is coming towards you. Now I will admit, when I learned this hack from Dr. Marcie I thought it was totally “Woo Woo” and didn’t believe it would work until I tried it. It did end up working for me. So, take this nugget literally or merely as a visual.

10) Know your sensitivity is your greatest gift

Sometimes it is hard to believe being sensitive is one of your greatest gifts, but acknowledging this is one of the easiest steps to getting rid of it. Your sensitivity is part of your intuition and your mind’s ability to assess situations. Not everyone has the ability to be in tune with nature and other humans the way you do. Gratitude is one of the quickest ways out of a slump. It’s impossible to be grateful and feel like crap at the same moment, so the next time you’re feeling crappy after becoming sensitive to something someone said, be grateful for your gift instead. Feel the gift radiate within you. Thank yourself, your maker, and your biology for being so in tune with the universe around you.

Even if you only implement one of these skills, I’d like to think it will take you light years closer to growing into your professional skin.

Take it from me! I used to curl up on my couch in the fetus position when I encountered conflict or someone was angry at me and never thought I would be able to withstand my own emotions and sensitivity in the professional environment, yet here I am, growing every day as a business professional.

Never EVER allow your own sensitivity to prevent you from pursuing your dreams. Your sensitivity and emotions are your greatest assets. Train yourself to harness their powers by learning how to overrule them during times you feel yourself being attacked.  Refer back to the emergency toolkit above whenever you feel yourself becoming sensitive from a confrontation or disappointment in the workplace. Heck, I’d love it if you added this list to your bookmarks!

Have any questions about any of these tools, sensitive team members in your workplace, or still trying to control your own emotions? E-mail me! There is no greater gift in my eyes, than to help another professional-empath develop the emotional-insulin that will allow them to thrive and develop their own legacy.

Harnessing The Sensitivity Of The Legacy of You,
Michael Ian



–  If you have any sensitivity hacks that work well for you, send ‘em my way!
– In the comments section, list which of the above tools appeals to you most, and how you think you will be able to use it



I’d love the chance to come to your organization to talk about this “sensitive” topic. Give me a shout out.







Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *