Sensitive and Introverted Does Not Mean Irrational and Weak: Valuing the Input of the Compassionate and Contemplative
We are locking horns again over the way he treats others. His tone demands I argue with him in succinct direct points, show the logic in my beliefs. If I don’t or can’t, he is superior.
But I’ve been on the ropes for too long. I’ve spent too much time with the group lately, so many people needing me. I’m strung out from too much togetherness and emotional caretaking. After several rounds of battle, my voice wavers with emotion. It’s that, just about to cry voice, that I despise myself for revealing.
He ends the conversation by saying, I can’t even talk with you right now.You’re not rational.
Feelings count as much as facts
The above scene is all too familiar to me. Most sensitive introverts would dodge the company of such individuals. Our soft hearts and non-argumentative natures do not do well when called on the mat, forced to prove ourselves with concrete statements and voices solid with conviction. But when such individuals are part of your family you don’t have a choice.
The truth is using personal values and empathy to make decisions is rational, especially when the decisions involve people. In fact, a sensitive feeling perspective can be just what is needed to shed light on a problem and its solution. Observing, listening and putting yourself in someone else’s shoes have been found to be key attributes of successful leaders precisely because they help them make decisions that benefit the people involved.
The trouble comes in the delivery. It’s not perceived as quick enough or strong enough. This is a key struggle for this intuitive feeling introvert. My mind is so flooded with thoughts, emotions and stimulation, that I can’t process rapidly and respond with power.
A big lesson I’ve learned is that it is perfectly wise to say, I need to think about it, when asked to defend my position or make a decision. For a long time it felt like a copout but I now realize how rational and beneficial it is for my processing. The resulting replies are much more well-founded.
Knowledge is power but not for long?
Our culture has prized the knowledge purveyor and information slinger for decades. They win arguments and make deals with their fast retorts and computer-like recall. The creative, compassionate type has been perceived as less intelligent and less successful for just as long.
As I wrote in Introverted Not Incompetent: Validating Softer Life Skills, there’s a fair amount of shame that goes along with feelings of incompetence. I should be able to do this. Everyone else can do it. I must be slow/dumb/weak.
According to, Daniel H. Pink , author of A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future, the tides are shifting and the creative, intuitive, compassionate types’ time is now. Due to abundance (think about all the items for sale in Target, Costco, Walmart), automation (computers doing number crunching and fact finding) and Asia (jobs done overseas for less) our culture is shifting from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age.
The ability to synthesize, innovate and emotionalize is more important in the Conceptual Age. Routine knowledge work (Information Age) can be reduced to rules and farmed out to fast computers and left brain thinkers abroad. The ability to set yourself apart, empathize and tell stories becomes more valuable. As more people lead lives of abundance (own their home, have a car or two, ability to choose from 15 types of toothbrushes) a desire for meaning in life becomes more common.
A fact is ‘The queen died and the king died.’ A story is ‘The queen died and the king died of a broken heart.’ — E. M. Forster
Going with your gut
The job of finding a new realtor to sell our house became mine after my ex-husband and I let the first agent go. I talked to three or four agents, got referrals from friends and made my decision. My ex-husband came in at the end of the search to approve the financial portion of the contract. After the financial meeting my ex-husband told me he was not impressed with my choice.
I immediately felt compelled to spew out logical, quantifiable and concrete reasons why I chose as I did. I couldn’t do that because the truth is he just felt right. He wasn’t the business oriented, money-focused, typical real estate agent. He was professional but also creative. He had vision regarding small improvements we could do to make the house more appealing. He saw the uniqueness in our home and intended to capitalize on that by contacting potential buyers directly by phone (versus email or flyers) and telling its story. He knew how to put emotion into it and offered resources to spark the house’s interior. None of these points are particularly logical but they aligned with our needs.
So far, we’ve had more showings in two weeks than we had in two months with the old agent.
Different not better
Perhaps the soft skills will have their day. Perhaps empathy, emotion and intuition will be as respected as objectivity, conviction and facts. The truth is the world needs both skill sets. The two are both valuable and should be equally honored, just like introversion and extroversion.
Do you often feel pressure to back up your feelings and choices with quantifiable arguments? Do you have a hard time arguing your case? Do emotions speak louder than facts to you?
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