In today’s episode we’re talking about just how different people can be! It’s natural to assume that other people see the world in the same way we do, and that they experience and process things just like we do. But in reality, we are all unique. And while we are our own unique beings, there are some general traits that can be helpful to understand. Not understanding these simple differences can lead to a lot of hurt feelings and misunderstandings.
So, we’re going to talk about a few of the biggies that tend to come up in relationships, such as introversion and extroversion, internal and external processing, and sensitivities. Diving into some of these differences can be so helpful in understanding our loved ones and in avoiding some of the common miscommunication that can happen between us.
We hope today’s episode sparks some fun insights for you and we invite you to dive deeper with our Episode Questions. And join us on Instagram or YouTube to continue the conversation and share your reflections.
Let’s dig deep, challenge paradigms, choose connection, and live joyfully!
- Do you feel you are more introverted or extroverted? How about the most important people in your life? How do you see them and how do they see themselves?
- Are you more of an internal or external processor? What about those around you? Have you seen this cause confusion before?
- What areas of sensitivities or just preferences do you wish your partner or friends understood about you? Ask them if they have any that they’d like you to know.
- What is your love language (physical touch, words of affirmation, gifts, quality time, acts of service)? Your partner’s? Your child’s?
Myers-Briggs Personality Test: https://www.truity.com/test/type-finder-personality-test-new
Love Languages Quiz: https://5lovelanguages.com/quizzes/love-language
Highly Sensitive Person Test: https://hsperson.com/test/highly-sensitive-test/
ANNA: Hello and welcome to the Living Joyfully Podcast! We are excited you found us and are interested in exploring our relationships—who we are in them, out of them, and what that means for how we move through the world.
In today’s episode, we’re going to talk about how different people can be. I think it’s a human nature thing to just automatically assume that other people see and experience the world in the same way that we do. And in reality, we are all unique.
And while we really and truly are our own unique beings, there are some general traits that can be helpful to understand. Not understanding these simple differences can lead to a lot of hurt feelings and misunderstandings. So, I’m excited that we’re going to talk about a few of the biggies that tend to come up in relationships, especially.
Let’s start with introverts and extroverts. There are a lot of misconceptions about this one. Many think that people who are more introverted are shy and if they just got some skills, they would be extroverted. I’m here to say no. I’m an introvert. I am not at all shy. I can speak to a crowd of 500 people and not break a sweat, but put me at a party and I’m usually in another room with the dogs.
It’s interesting, because even if it’s a party where I do talk and make a lot of connections and have a wonderful time, when I come home, I’m tired, exhausted sometimes, and I just need some quiet space to decompress and bring back up my energy, while for my more extroverted friends, they are super recharged by the party and want to have more conversations. They’re raring to go!
And it’s good to keep in mind that this is a spectrum, but it’s still helpful to understand you and your partner’s tendencies when it comes to this, because how this plays out in relationships is that, if you have one who’s more one type than the other, it can be a lot of misunderstandings. The more introverted partner comes home from work and just wants to retreat, while the more extroverted partner is waiting at the door and they want to talk about their day and connect right away. And so, what can feel like a slight and even result in some hurt feelings is really just a personality difference. And it’s easily solved for by allowing some transition time and then connecting.
I have a close friend who’s an extrovert, big time, and she will actually start to have low energy and start feeling depressed, even thinks she’s coming down with some kind of an illness, and then we realize she hasn’t seen people in a couple days and a quick dose of in-person interaction and she perks right back up. So, understanding these bits can help us help each other and understand each other. And watching how our energy ebbs and flows with interaction is one clue.
PAM: Oh, definitely, definitely. I think the energy piece can be such a great clue about where you lie on that introvert/extrovert spectrum. And yes, remembering it’s a spectrum, not a slot, is very helpful.
So, after a group event, like say a family get-together, dinner with friends, or a holiday party, how do you feel? Just take a moment. Are you energized and excited to engage with more people or projects? You want to just get to the next thing? As soon as it’s over, are you happily just thinking, just looking around going, what can I do? What can I do? Or, do you feel, like you mentioned, Anna, fulfilled emotionally, yet drained energetically, ready for some alone time? Do you look forward to curling up with a book or a show to just recharge for a while?
And then, if that energy lens doesn’t resonate, just think of what you’d freely choose to do after hanging out with a group of friends for a few hours. Would you like to then hang out with another group of friends? Do you want to tackle a big project on your list? Well, then you’re likely higher on the extrovert side of the scale. And if either of those options made you shudder inside, you are probably more of an introvert.
Also, as you alluded to earlier, Anna, neither one is better than the other, but it is really helpful to understand that aspect of our personality and that of our friends and family, because if we don’t, it can lead to all sorts of misunderstandings and even taking the other person’s choices personally.
ANNA: Right. And that’s the big thing. We’re taking something personally that really has nothing to do with us.
And so, along these same lines, but not the same, is how we process information. So, people tend to be internal or external processors. Internal processors take ideas and they think about them for a long time, while they’re weighing options and coming up with a plan and just thinking all about it in their head. And when they tell you something, they tend to be ready to act on the idea. That’s a big difference. An external processor wants to see and hear the ideas in front of them, bouncing off other people. What kind of input are they going to get? “Let’s think about all these different things.”
And so, they’ll say things that they have no intention of doing, just to see how it feels. And if we don’t understand this, it really can lead to a lot of confusion.
So, my externally processing friend is talking about moving to Europe one day. So, in my mind, I’m planning the going away party. I’m thinking about how sad I’m going to be that they’re gone. And later, I realized that they just wanted to walk through that idea. They were nowhere near making a decision at all.
And, Pam, I’m here to say, if I say out loud that I’m moving somewhere, like the truck is lined up and the boxes will be arriving that day. There is no doubt. So, again, you can see how that could lead to conflicts and confusion if we don’t understand how the important people in our lives process information and what they need to process big decisions, be it space, or the listening ear.
PAM: Yes, yes, yes. This was such a big revelation for me. I still so clearly remember many years ago when my partner mentioned mid-week about going somewhere on the weekend. So, me, I went straight into planning mode, right? Boom, boom, boom. Let’s make this happen. And the next day, just asked him a quick question, and his earnest reply was, “What are you talking about?” And I was just flabbergasted. I’m like, “What? You said you wanted to do this!”
So, a quick conversation and I realized he had just been tossing that ball up in the air with zero investment in where it landed. Whereas I had already scooped it up and started running towards what I thought was the goal line. Let’s go there this weekend!
So, I learned to be less invested in the random balls and instead to just be curious about them, because I knew he was an external processor, to ask questions, to learn more. Are you looking for a change of scenery? What would you like to do there? Just playing with it with him, that helps him process what it might feel like.
And, of course, we don’t need to stick anybody in the box again of internal or external processor forever. But it can be really helpful to understand their tendency, so we are more able to join them where they are, whether it’s fantasizing and brainstorming, like with your friend, Anna, too, or getting ready to help tape up your boxes.
So, understanding that others may well process things differently than I do, I might preface my words so they come across more clearly. So, maybe I say, “I’m dreaming about moving to Europe. What do you think that might be like?” Or, “I’ve been thinking about changing careers for a while now, and I just found this great job I’d like to apply to. Can you help me tweak my resume?” I don’t think it really ever hurts to give people a little bit more context so they can better understand where we’re coming from and what we’re looking for. It helps us connect more quickly.
ANNA: Yes. And with all those pieces, they’re just things to consider, patterns to look for, ways to not take things personally, again, because that’s so often where we derail just because someone has a different process or experiences things in a different way. So, letting go of judging also that there maybe is one way or a better way or, “This is the way,” when we can let that go, it just really opens us up to that connection.
And so, one of the other things I wanted to touch on are sensitivities. Some people are just wired to experience more. They see more, smell more, take in more. And the situations that feel really easy for one person feel nearly impossible for another. And the confusion comes in when someone takes it personally when someone says something doesn’t work for them.
So, I have a hard time in cities. This is a well-known fact for anybody who knows me. The lights, the smells, the sounds, the energy from all the people. So, if someone asks me to go to a city, I would most likely say no pretty quickly. But it’s not a no to spending time with the person, necessarily. And so, I try to be clear, like you were talking about, and transparent, because it helps give them that additional information, which I think is probably always a good idea. Let’s provide some context and information.
But it really does help when we take the time to learn about each other’s preferences so that we can honor them and not take them personally.
PAM: Absolutely. Recognizing that we’re all different in the way we experience and engage with the world helps us sidestep so much of that judgment and unintentional hurts that happen so often.
So, when our introverted partner beelines for the couch to quietly watch some TV after a fun afternoon with extended family, it does not mean that they’re purposefully ignoring us or that they didn’t enjoy the afternoon. It really can just be about their need to recharge. It doesn’t need to be a reflection on us at all.
And when we ask our friend about joining us at the big local festival this weekend, “Yay!” and they say they need to think about it, that needn’t be a slight on us, either. Maybe they’re an internal processor and need to think through what a change in plans would mean for them, or maybe they’re an introvert and need to consider how much recovery time they’ll need after and whether they can work that in. And maybe they’re sensitive to the sounds and smells that come with a festival full of food carts and loud music, and need to consider some tools to help them navigate the environment reasonably comfortably for them.
And, as you mentioned, Anna, even if they decide not to join us, there is a very good chance that, too, is not about us. We can have a conversation about it with them and next time invite them to get together in a way that works better for them.
And the more we know about how we tick, the more easily we can have those kinds of conversations with others. We can share those little pieces of ourselves and open up the space for them to share more with us. And that way, they see that our choices aren’t judgments of them, but are examples of how we care for ourselves. What a difference it makes to our relationships to understand these fundamental differences between people.
ANNA: And, I mean, you would think we would know some of this, but really it is a surprise to a lot of people I talk to. It’s this, “Oh yeah, they do that! Now that makes sense.” And so, right, just putting these pieces together and thinking about it for ourselves, even, because that’s the thing, I think sometimes we don’t even have this awareness about ourselves. And so, that’s why I think it’s going to be really interesting this week to think about the important people in our lives, to think about ourselves. What do we know about them? What might we not know?
And so, here are our questions to reflect upon for this week. So, first, do you feel you’re more introverted or extroverted? How about the most important people in your life? How do you see them and how do they see themselves? And I want to point this out, because if people meet me in a work environment, they think I’m an extrovert. I took a Myers Briggs test in a corporate America job and they were like, something’s wrong there. I was the farthest on the introvert scale.
So, it’s not just how we see someone. Learn about them, because then you know, they may be able to be at this level, but it’s draining them. So, that piece is important.
Are you more of an internal or external processor? And what about those around you? And I think it would be curious to look at, have you seen this cause any confusion and peel back some areas where you’ve had some disagreements and think, “Ah, was this at play?” So, I think that could be really interesting.
What areas of sensitivities or just preferences do you wish that your partner or your friends understood about you? And then ask them if they have anything they’d like you to know. I think that’s interesting, because I think sometimes we think people just know these things about us, because we’re spending all this time together, but we don’t.
PAM: And then, there’s also that expectation we can have of our partner, too.
ANNA: To mind read.
PAM: Yeah. It’s like, okay, well they should have figured this out about me. No, let’s be open and share all the little pieces, not have expectations of others to figure it out on their own. That’s a big one, I think.
ANNA: Let’s keep sharing, keep that context coming. And lastly, we just wanted to make a quick mention about love languages. So, this idea was put forth by Gary Chapman in his book, that there are five love languages. We each tend to have a primary and a secondary. He lists them as physical touch, words of affirmation, gifts, acts of service, and quality time.
What that means is that we receive and feel love best when it’s expressed in our love language. It’s another way that people are different. And the challenge is that we often want to give love in the way that we want to receive it, which of course makes sense. But if the language of our loved one is different than ours, then it will sometimes miss the mark. So, following the link in the show notes, take the love language quiz if you haven’t, and figure out what’s your love language and your partner’s and your children even.
And then just look at, “Oh, is that at play with some of these pieces? Are they looking for these words of affirmation that maybe don’t come naturally to me or I don’t think about, or this quality time that in our busy lives we’re not able to prioritize as much and maybe we can prioritize that.”
So, it’s just going to be fun digging in to see, just to learn more about each other. And that’s the fun richness of relationships, where we’re learning about ourselves and each other.
PAM: Exactly. And I think this one will be really fun for people to play with, too, because one of my love languages is acts of service. So, for me, I love doing little things for people, but are they receiving that as an act of love or just like, “Oh yeah, that thing got done.” It’s not that that anybody’s reacting negatively, but it is it expressing what I’m trying to express through it as well?
So, it’s really interesting to then shift it and realize they may have other love languages and to then say, “Oh, well, how could I use their language to express?” And just play with that.
You’ll hear me say this many times through the podcast, I’m sure. Let’s play with things and see how they feel, see how they unfold. When we do something, it doesn’t mean we have to do it forever. It doesn’t mean we have to do it the same way forever. It doesn’t mean we ever have to do it again.
We learn so much when we just try something out and see what happens. It’s fun. That brings the fun and the playfulness to it.
ANNA: I do think relationships are fun and interesting and that playful, open, curious attitude is really what helps that, “Hey, we’re in this together. Let’s figure each other out. Let’s see how we want to move through the world.” So, yeah, I love it!
PAM: Yay! Well, thank you so much for listening, everyone, and we will see you next time. Bye.