Emotionally sensitive extroverts may sound like a contradiction in terms, and in many ways it is, but it is also a social superpower and a deeply impactful personality trait.
Here are 13 important things to know about emotionally sensitive extroverts:
1) Emotionally sensitive extroverts have a love/hate relationship with social stimulation
Simply put, it isn’t uncommon for an emotionally sensitive extrovert to crave quiet time while also wishing it wasn’t quite so quiet.
As it turns out, the reason some people are extroverted and others are introverted isn’t so much because of a choice anyone has made but because of how our brains respond to dopamine and acetylcholine in social situations.
Most people either have a high sensitivity to these important chemicals in the brain (introverts), or a low sensitivity to them (extroverts), but the emotionally sensitive extrovert responds in an entirely unique way to it—constantly adjusting to the need for more and less simultaneously.
According to Forbes, Dr. Elaine Aaron, the psychologist who has extensively researched the “highly sensitive trait“, studied the MRI scans of highly sensitive people’s brains and discovered that “they experience sounds, feelings, and even the presence of other people much more intensely than the average person.”
Emotionally sensitive extroverts walk a tight line between getting their emotional tank filled and being overwhelmed by social situations.
2) Emotionally sensitive extroverts have a small but tight-knit group of close friends
This isn’t because an ESE can’t make or nourish friendships — quite the opposite.
Emotionally sensitive extroverts are highly skilled at making others feel welcomed and included. This social skill is a trademark of emotionally sensitive extroverts.
ESEs prefer a small, tight-knit group of friends because they crave depth of relationships over breadth of relationships.
Emotionally sensitive extroverts want a small group of people with whom they can live life, dig deep, and know better. And when it comes to their circle of friends, there is nothing an emotionally sensitive extrovert won’t do to help or encourage.
An emotionally sensitive person is truly one of the best individuals to have as a close friend.
3) Emotionally sensitive extroverts are amazing with details
Emotionally sensitive extroverts can read a room better than just about anyone.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise since we know highly sensitive people are the ultimate body language experts.
One of the many reasons emotionally sensitive extroverts make great friends is because they have the superpower of noticing what other people miss.
The ESE can tell in record time that someone is having a bad day. The ESE can also pick up on clues about someone’s favorite color or place to eat.
If you’re lucky enough to have an ESE as a friend, chances are, that person has silently cataloged all kinds of wonderful details about you and will use them on a special day or at a time when you need a little emotional boost.
Emotionally sensitive extroverts love to make others feel loved.
4) Emotionally sensitive extroverts are creative
Chances are, the most creative friend you have is your emotionally sensitive extroverted friend.
Not only do they enjoy creative outlets—such as writing, singing, photography, painting, etc.—but they are creative in the way they communicate and share their lives with others. They give creative gifts and are, themselves, creative, unique people.
The emotionally sensitive extrovert is also creative with excuses.
One quick example: Emotionally sensitive extroverts love a good party, but they also like to leave early.
They also tend to cancel plans at the last minute — not because they don’t care about people or don’t want to enjoy an activity, but because they fear overstimulation.
Often, emotionally sensitive extroverts wait until the last minute to commit to plans because they don’t know how they will feel when it’s time to actually do what was planned.
Sometimes these cancelations are misunderstood or frustrating to extroverts who don’t understand overstimulation.
Note: When emotionally sensitive extroverts do end up canceling plans at the last minute with a creative excuse, they usually end up feeling very guilty.
5) Emotionally sensitive extroverts can connect with strangers in record time
It isn’t uncommon for an ESE to be at the grocery store and have total strangers start sharing personal details about their lives. This isn’t necessarily the goal of an emotionally sensitive extrovert.
This happens because emotionally sensitive extroverts send empathetic signals — without even meaning to — telling the world that they care about everyone around them.
And the crazy thing? They do care about everyone around them.
Chances are, your emotionally sensitive extroverted friends have been caught many times in situations where they need to leave or they’re running late or they know they’ll cause frustration if they don’t get going, but they can’t easily untangle themselves from a conversation they’ve been sucked into by someone they don’t even know.
This is the life of the ESE.
A kind smile or offer to help can quickly and easily turn into a discussion that lasts far longer or goes far deeper than anyone intended.
This is also, by the way, why emotionally sensitive extroverts make great therapists and often gravitate toward the world of counseling or psychology.
Many ESEs who don’t formally pursue counseling as a profession still become the go-to friend who is known for being wise.
6) Emotionally sensitive extroverts are loved by kids
Children are typically very skilled at identifying who in the room cares about them and wants to be their friend. And since the ESE genuinely cares about everyone around them, this is a perfect recipe for friendship.
At a party where multiple generations are present, it’s common to find the ESE hanging out with the kids — talking about school, playing dress-up, or reading books.
And chances are, the ESE is genuinely happy.
Since emotionally sensitive extroverts and children both dislike overstimulation, they can often be found hanging out in the same places with the same disinterest in overstimulating events.
Emotionally sensitive extroverts don’t like loud noise.
Also, since children are still learning communication skills and emotionally sensitive extroverts are highly skilled at picking up non-verbal clues, children enjoy being around ESEs because they feel understood and valued.
7) Emotionally sensitive extroverts typically lack some confidence
For one thing, emotionally sensitive extroverts often care too deeply about the opinions of others.
While on the outside an emotionally sensitive extrovert can come across as confident and popular, inwardly, an ESE can actually be extremely sensitive and destructive about perceived personal weaknesses or flaws.
To the same degree that emotionally sensitive extroverts genuinely embrace the imperfections of others, they have a difficult time accepting their own limitations.
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It’s common for emotionally sensitive extroverts to hold onto embarrassing moments or personal mistakes and use them to self-sabotage long after others have forgotten them.
Emotionally sensitive extroverts are often their own worst critic.
This lack of confidence can actually come across as genuine humility — which in some ways makes the ESE even more lovable — but it also means emotionally sensitive extroverts often carry burdens, guilt, or shame nobody knows about.
Sometimes it takes a therapist or another ESE to see or identify it.
8) Emotionally sensitive extroverts often struggle with feelings of sadness
Because emotionally sensitive extroverts like to think and nourish a rich inner life — and because they can be their own worst critic — it isn’t unusual for them to struggle under a dark cloud of over-analyzing or self-doubt.
Also, because emotionally sensitive extroverts constantly walk a thin line of over — or under-stimulation — they struggle with feelings on loneliness when they’ve been alone too long.
ESEs have to work harder than others to combat feelings of perfectionism, guilt, and loneliness.
The ongoing challenge for the ESE is to create an outward-focused life in addition to the naturally-formed inner life.
9) Emotionally sensitive extroverts value loyalty above almost anything
Loyalty is an emotionally sensitive extrovert’s most deeply held currency.
Not only do emotionally sensitive extroverts offer loyalty to the people they love, but they love it when loyalty is returned. From friends to family to lovers, the ESE prizes loyalty and considers it the greatest gift.
Which is why disloyalty often does the deepest, longest, and greatest damage to an ESE.
Ask emotionally sensitive extroverts to tell you their greatest disappointment in life and very often it will draw a straight line back to a personal betrayal in a close relationship.
Emotionally sensitive extroverts also take offense when those they love are hurt or betrayed by others.
Because they are so empathetic to the needs and feelings of others, it can feel like a personal attack to watch people they love experience deep hurt or trauma.
10) Emotionally sensitive extroverts love to learn
Emotionally sensitive extroverts are endlessly curious…about everything.
An emotionally sensitive extrovert is a lifelong student — either literally or practically.
ESEs love to listen to podcasts and read blogs and/or books. There are very few topics an ESE won’t research in order to find the answer a friend or family member needs.
One way to identify an ESE in your life is to listen for the phrase, “Recently I read …”
Whether working on a project for school or teaming up on a challenge at work, emotionally sensitive extroverts thrive in scenarios where everyone is working together to create solutions.
An emotionally sensitive extrovert makes a great team player!
Since emotionally sensitive extroverts need time alone to recharge, it makes sense that they would spend this time in the solitary act of reading or listening to something.
This act of reading and listening actually translates into better ways to know and understand the people around them.
11) Emotionally sensitive extroverts are often misunderstood
They are misunderstood about many things, beginning with who they are.
One of the worst questions to ask an ESE: Are you introverted or extroverted?
Emotionally sensitive extroverts don’t know how to answer the question, because the answer is both!
An emotionally sensitive extrovert enjoys a night on the town with friends and appreciates a quiet night out to dinner alone.
To some people, this may seem like plain ol’ indecisiveness, but to the ESE, it’s much more complicated.
Before the term emotionally sensitive extrovert (ESE) was officially coined, people believed ESEs were just introverted. After all, they weren’t always outgoing, so they had to be shy, right?
Then Dr. Elaine Aaron, the psychologist who famously studied the “highly sensitive trait” made the astounding claim in her book, “The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You”, that as many as 30% of highly sensitive people are, in fact, extroverts.
12) Emotionally sensitive extroverts dislike making decisions
Decisions are one of the fastest energy drains for an emotionally sensitive extrovert.
This decision fatigue often happens because emotionally sensitive extroverts feel the need to consider every outcome and the implications it has for every person involved.
Something as simple as choosing the restaurant for dinner can be a difficult process for the ESE in the group who will happily go along with any decision made by the group.
13) Emotionally sensitive extroverts love to fall in love
Emotionally sensitive people fall in love easily.
Because emotionally sensitive extroverts are deep feelers and because they enjoy a good adventure, falling in love is a type of euphoria for them.
The ESE loves falling in love…with people, with opportunities, with challenges, with hobbies.
The sky’s the limit.
The intoxication that comes from experiencing the emotional mountain top of love can’t easily be beaten.
On one hand, being an emotionally sensitive extrovert is a great gift, because it means the ESE can enjoy the best of both worlds.
On the other hand, emotionally sensitive extroverts often move through life uncertain where they actually belong.
One thing is sure:
The conflicting opinions, choices, and desires of an emotionally sensitive extrovert are not signs of weakness. They actually indicate a great capacity to love and be loved by people of all types.
In many ways, emotionally sensitive extroverts are the glue that holds the world together.
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