Last week, I wrote about three things not to do for a highly sensitive person on their birthday.
I promised to follow it up with a post about things that you can do for an HSP’s birthday …
Before we jump in, though …
Thank you for being concerned enough about your HSP friend or loved one to want to learn how best to celebrate them!
Small story as to why I’m so grateful:
When I was a teenager, I lived with foster parents in a group home.
One birthday I remember vividly (because it was one of the worst birthdays ever), each time I entered a room with others, they began singing the happy birthday song to me.
After I had suffered through it about a dozen times, I went and tried to find safety in the room that I shared with four other girls.
Somehow, the foster dad found out that I was being “anti-social” and sought me out.
He told me in no uncertain terms that birthdays were for other people, not the birthday person, and that I should get off my high horse and let them have fun by singing to me.
I got no cake that year.
But a lot of unwanted “happy birthday to you” songs.
So, for a long time, I thought that I, as a highly sensitive person, had to suffer through whatever other people wanted to do on my birthday …
Like the surprise birthday party I mentioned in my last post.
And it was only recently that I began to realize that, no, my birthday is my day. And I should be allowed to enjoy myself on that day.
The highly sensitive person in your life deserves to enjoy their special day and not feel obliged to throw a party (or accept a party on their behalf).
So, thank you for being interested and wanting to know how best to celebrate the HSP in your life on their special day.
Here we go …
Ask them what they want to do.
I know, it sounds almost too easy, doesn’t it?
It’s surprising, then, that so few people do this.
Lots of people just assume that whatever they like to do is the same thing that their HSP loved one would like to do.
“I like going out to eat, so I’ll take them out to eat on their birthday.”
“I enjoy big parties, so I’ll throw a big party for this HSP.”
Even if there are things that your HSP spouse or family member has enjoyed doing on their birthday in the past, it doesn’t mean that they necessarily want to do it again.
(Maybe they were just being accomodating last time they said yes to the birthday activity.)
So, a few weeks before their birthday, ask them what they would like to do.
Why a few weeks before their birthday? Because they might need a bit of time to think about and process the options before they come up with an answer.
And listen to their answer.
Highly sensitive people tend to be gentle.
This means they can be easily intimidated by people with stronger personalities.
So, don’t ask them what they want to do on their birthday if you don’t plan to truly listen to their answer.
One of the worst things you could do is have them respond, and then give a “suggestion” of something “better.”
“A candlelit dinner at home sounds nice, but don’t you want to check out that new restaurant uptown?”
A highly sensitive person tends to second guess himself and will often defer to your suggestions…
Even if it’s not what he really wants to do.
Offer something that fits their love language.
You’ve likely heard about love languages, made popular by author Gary Chapman in his book The Five Love Languages.
The five main love languages outlined in the book are:
- Words of Affirmation
- Acts of Service
- Physical Touch
- Receiving Gifts
- Quality Time
There are online quizzes by which you can figure out your love language, and just as importantly, the love language of your highly sensitive friend or partner.
If they like words of affirmation, maybe try writing them a poem …
Or give them a card that says all the right things.
If they like quality time, set aside time in your schedule to do something special together … something that they would want to do.
If receiving gifts is their love language, get them a gift …
But keep this next point in mind:
Buy a gift according to their interests.
For years, my partner gave me jewelry or perfume on my birthday …
Although I rarely wear either.
I would try to wear the necklace for a few days, but it was for his sake and usually I’d take it off before a shower, forget about it, and never put it on again.
Then one year, he got me an Ansel Adams print.
I nearly cried when I opened it
… not just because I love photography and Ansel Adams is a photographer I absolutely worship …
… but because that gift showed me that my partner knew who I was.
He understood me by recognizing my passions and giving me something in accordance with my interests.
Sometimes it’s difficult. I understand.
You might know a highly sensitive person who has few interests, or whom you don’t know well enough to know what they like.
If that’s the case, though, return to the first point:
Just knowing that you care enough to ask will be meaningful to them, even if you don’t get it completely right.
Maybe you’re a highly sensitive person reading this post.
And if so, you might be thinking to yourself, “I wish my friend/spouse/family member would read something like this.”
Send it to them (or give them a printout).
Or offer them suggestions, even if they don’t ask.
If your sister loves taking you out every birthday for a night on the town (but in reality, you hate it), before your next birthday, say something like this:
“Hey, I love that you like to celebrate my birthday with me and make it special. This year, what I really want to do is spend a few hours checking out used bookstores. You are more than welcome to come along.”
Whether HSP or non-HSP, I think we all mean well, and are trying to do the best we can for each other.
Sometimes, though, it’s almost like we’re speaking different languages, and it takes time to learn to understand one another.
I hope this post offers a step in understanding …
And in helping you create a more accepting and sensitive world.