We all have our soft spots—the tender underbellies of our psyche. But to the hypersensitive among us, a gentle poke can feel more like a thwack from a meat tenderizer. Comments don’t slide off of us like water from a duck’s back. Instead, we feel more like a sitting duck.

Why we’d want to toughen up seems obvious: criticism hurts more when we’re sensitive or take things personally. But aside from protecting ourselves from pain, not taking things personally pays off in other ways as well.

For example, the overly sensitive among us often react to hurtful comments with defensiveness and anger, which leads to relationship conflict and makes it harder to work or live together. Plus, if you’re in charge, being hypersensitive can lead to an autocratic, overcontrolling leadership style, which stymies your team’s morale and, eventually, performance.

So how can we take things less personally, both to benefit ourselves and others? How can we toughen up without become hard-hearted?


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