Remember the old crossing-guard command, “Stop, Look, Listen”? Sensitive people have our own version of this traffic safety awareness mantra. It’s called “pause to check”, and if you are an HSP, you’ve certainly done it: “pause to check” is a key hallmark of the HSP trait: it describes the way we engage with new situations.
Elaine Aron describes this “pause to check” stance in her book Psychotherapy and the Highly Sensitive Person, saying that HSPs prefer “to be on the sidelines in a situation for a while before entering it….generally exploring a situation more by observing and reflecting than by moving about within it.”
To be clear, observing from the sidelines in this reflective way does not mean we are timid or faint of heart. One HSP friend of mine has climbed a 19,000 foot peak in the Andes. But before doing that, she planned meticulously and trained extensively. And she made a tough but prudent decision to turn back just short of the summit, knowing she could not go further and still come down safely.
Because I’m an HSP myself, Elaine’s description of observing from the sidelines sounds logical, rational, and, well, right. It probably sounds right to you too. But if you think back on your life, I’m guessing you can remember times when people around you—parents, coaches, teachers, even friends—misread your “pause to check” behavior.