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Too Sensitive or Analytical: How We Make Decisions

The Short Cut
If all of this seems a bit confusing, don't worry about it. When your child is upset, simply ask him, "Would you like a hug?" Or say, "I'm so sorry that happened." If he responds to your empathetic response, keep going, putting a "Band-Aid" on those feelings. But if he rejects your offer of empathy, switch to a thinking strategy and say, "Tell me what happened." Considering your child's preference for dealing with the facts or feelings first is a critical step to keeping those lines of communication open and your child working with you.

Putting It All Together
Initially, when you're trying to decide whether to respond to your child as an introvert or an extrovert, or to approach her with facts or feelings first, it may seem complex, but it really isn't. You're just making two decisions – to talk or to reflect, and to address the facts or the feelings first. One day, to demonstrate how simple this idea was, I divided the parents in my class into four groups: introvert thinkers, introvert feelers, extrovert thinkers, and extrovert feelers. They started teasing one another, each group declaring their superiority. I found their comments startlingly different, yet all very insightful and helpful. I thought I would include them for you so that you might better understand your style, your strengths, and the things that might pull you into power struggles when you're working with your child.

Extroverted Feeling Parents
You are very aware of and sensitive to feelings and are comfortable talking about them. When you have a problem, you like to talk about it, sometimes over and over again, with anyone who will listen. If you have an introverted, thinking child, be careful not to invade him. Offer your hug, but respect his need for space. When he does come to you, stop what you're doing and listen, because he's only going to want to talk about his issue one time. Once he can read, relay information to him via the written word. Be careful not to ask too many questions. If your child prefers extroversion and thinking, expect debates. Understand that this child is trying to understand the facts and doesn't mean to offend you. You'll have to work hard to hold the line with him because a little conflict doesn't bother him as much as it bothers you. Teach him to value harmony as you do, and to give him phrases he can use that will help him learn to be more tactful.

Extroverted Factual Parents
You're great at analyzing situations and coming up with solutions, but you may need to hold back on giving advice until your child is truly ready. Recognize that your feeling child needs his feelings validated. He doesn't want to be argued out of them. Know, too, that when your feeling child comes at you with strong emotions, you may feel defensive. All those feelings are a bit overwhelming to you. Take a deep breath, pause, and remember that he's not trying to attack you; he's venting his strong emotions, and he's not going to die. Later you can teach him how to vent without triggering others. Recognize, too, that when you have a problem, you prefer working with someone who will help you to analyze a problem and come up with solutions. You don't like too much empathy or sympathy.

Introverted Feeling Parents
You are very tuned in to the emotions of your children. Humor is often one of your greatest resources. You can use it skillfully to bring harmony back to a situation. Your challenges are not to take on your child's emotions as you work with her and not to be offended by your straightforward-thinking kid. It's also important that you get enough space and quiet to meet your own needs. You need that reflection time to be able to perform at your best.

Introverted Factual Parents
You are very observant of things that are not fair. It's your extroverted feeling child who can really wear you down. Help this child find others who can be a sounding board for her so that she doesn't exhaust you as she processes her emotions. Your extroverted kids may also need more feedback from you than you are accustomed to providing. Remember, the feelers need to know you like them, and the thinkers want specific feedback. Know, too, that you need space and quiet in order to perform at your best.

When you know your preference and your child's, you'll have a much easier time getting under the surface to the real feelings and needs; doors will open, lights will go on. Use this information to help you understand what your child is experiencing and why you are responding as you are. Knowing yourself and your child keeps you connected.

Coaching Tips
If you or your child prefer thinking:

  • Recognize your need to consider the facts first.
  • Find others who will enjoy a good debate with you.
  • Allow yourself to linger with your feelings longer.
  • Once you've analyzed the facts, remember to check the feelings.
  • Validate the emotions of others; avoid trying to argue them out of their feelings.
  • Let others know you're trying to figure something out so that they don't feel invaded by your questions.
  • Understand that you're more comfortable planning for "next time" than reviewing your mistakes.
  • Know that sometimes saying you are sorry is very important.
  • Ask others to give you a chance to tell them what happened.
  • Remember that not every emotion needs a solution.
If you or your child prefer feeling:
  • Find others who will validate and respect your feelings.
  • Recognize your need to find solutions that consider the feelings of all.
  • Consider your own needs as well as those of others.
  • Once you've explored your feelings, check the facts.
  • Understand that thinking types also have feelings; they simply explore them differently than you do.
  • Let others know you are not ready to problem solve yet, but you will be.
  • Know that being sensitive is a "gift."
  • Appreciate your ability to create harmony
  • Remember that disagreement can often lead to greater harmony.
  • Offer support to others, but understand that you are not responsible for their feelings.


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From the book KIDS, PARENTS, AND POWER STRUGGLES: Winning for a Lifetime by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka, published by HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. Copyright 2000 by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka. All rights reserved.

Buy the book at www.harpercollins.com.


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