Are You a “Space Invader” or a “Watchdog”? [Guest Post]

By Ray W. Lincoln

Is there any one factor that contributes to the disturbances in the home?  I believe there is.  The differences between extroverts and introverts account for many of the clashes and disturbances that occur in a family.  Why?

The introvert wants his space and is disturbed when it is invaded.  The extrovert is attracted by people and invades the space of the introvert at will – meaning no harm, just seeking the company of people.  The introvert feels violated at this intrusion and reacts in defense of his territory.  Neither can understand the other.  Both resent the other, and wars start.

There is a deep-seated reason for this resentment.  For an extrovert, the energy of the human spirit is charged by interaction with other people and things, but for the introvert, their spirit is drained by the same interaction.  This means the introvert must seek out solitude to refresh, while the extrovert needs people to recharge their batteries.  When the introvert, whose battery is flat, suffers an invasion of his space (his solitude), he reacts – sometimes strongly – to protect his wilting spirit from being submerged in the draining experience of yet another person.  Let’s see how some scenarios for interactions, both helpful and not helpful, work out.

•   The introverted mom is worn out and seeks a little solitude in which to recharge.  The extroverted child finds her and shouts, “I’ve found her!” and her three extroverted children converge on the spot, invading her “space.”  She reacts with annoyance.  The children can’t figure out what she is annoyed about and feel they must somehow be distressing her.  We can see where this can lead.  Solution?  The mom must educate her children about her needs.  If she doesn’t, she will become more irritable and her children more wary of her presence.

•   Extroverted parents are prone to invade the space of their introverted children.  “Why are you up in your room?  Why don’t you come down and be a part of the family?  Come sit with us.”  They wonder why the introvert is so antisocial.  The introvert’s behavior worries the extroverted parent a great deal.  Since only approximately 25 percent of the population are introverts, you may have only one introvert in the family, and they will feel the odd one out, the strange one.  Be careful not to reinforce this feeling in them.  A seemingly harmless question of “What’s wrong with you, why don’t you …” can disturb them more than you think.

•   Even the well-meaning query “Am I bothering you?” can be very disturbing to an introverted NF.  The child may just be recharging a flat battery, and the parent hurts the child with this line (“Am I bothering you?”), which implies a backhanded accusation.  The parent has provoked the anger of the introvert.  The NF introverts will feel this hidden accusation more intensely.  You should not be surprised if they show irritation at what you feel is a minor infraction at most.

•   Consider this: “Why don’t you come down and have fun with us?” is a frustrating lack of understanding that the introvert is having fun – quiet fun!  “Why does fun always have to include others?” they ask themselves.

•   Introverts and extroverts predominantly live in different worlds: the extrovert in the outer world of people and things, and the introvert in the inner world of thought and imagination.  Don’t try to force one to be happy in the other’s world – except for brief periods.  Each world is a valid way of living.  On occasion, they will cross over and show that they want the opposite environment.  But don’t confuse this with their natural world.  The introverted NTs and NFs compound this inner world issue.  Their inner world experiences are far more intense since they live there more often.

•   Extroverts aren’t usually good listeners, unless they are extroverted NFs.  Even extroverted NFs are not as good at listening as introverted NFs.  A family must have good communication.  So extroverts need to act deliberately to listen to their introverted members, and introverted members need to make more effort to communicate fully since they also tend to abbreviate their thoughts or keep them to themselves.

•   Introverted children are usually more timid and shy in new surroundings.  A great idea (for introverted children) is to walk them through new surroundings prior to the time they must appear there with others.  Introduce them to people they may meet there, and let them “feel” the surroundings.  Among the introverts, the NFs need this most, as they react more to a change of atmosphere.

•   Introverts are usually slower to do things than extroverts because they are thinking about it more and processing the scenario to (among other reasons) protect themselves from possible hurtful situations.  The speed at which they process is determined by the state of their inner world and how ready it is to accept new information.  If that inner world is already full and busy processing highly important, imaginative or actual matters, it may not be ready for new thoughts.  If the parent insists on a speedy answer or action, they should not be surprised at an angry response, or even a lie that tells them “I wasn’t ready, so you get whatever I think of first!”

•   Extroverts seek to be approved by others, since their world is composed of others.  If you don’t give approval liberally to your extroverted children, they will distance themselves from you and seek approval elsewhere.  Watch out for this – particularly during their teenage years – because you don’t want them to focus their lives on peers and exclude you as a parent.  If you don’t like repeating your approval of them and their achievements, you will likely not meet an extrovert’s standards for approval (or for that matter, of all NFs). They need to hear continually that you love them and approve of their contributions.

•   The introverted child often will not acknowledge the presence of others when they enter the room.  This is particularly true of the SP, SJ and NT introverts.  It is not a crime.  Draw their attention to others if the circumstance warrants it.  Otherwise, let it pass.  The other people in the room have probably met introverts before!

•   An introverted parent will often fail to recognize a child’s presence.  If the child is an extrovert this can be a cause of friction in a parent-child relationship.  The introverted parent can also be less affirming and affectionate than the extroverted or NF child will require.  You will usually hear complaints about your coolness, which is helpful in alerting you.  If you don’t heed the complaints it can lead to problems.  Furthermore, an introverted parent might be less likely to treat seriously the ramblings of an extroverted child.  The blow-by-blow descriptions of an extroverted child, or of the SP and SJ temperaments, are a display of their capability to recall the details well.  They should be encouraged, not offhandedly dismissed.  I say this because a blow-by-blow description can irritate an introvert, particularly one whose profile ends in a J.  However, these details are important to the extrovert who will feel you don’t relate to their needs.

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This guest post is an excerpt from the book, I’m A Keeper, by Ray W. Lincoln founder of Ray W. Lincoln & Associates,  and who runs RayWLincoln.com, a website and blog that nurtures relationships through understanding of temperament.  Ray is offering a great package of supporting gifts FOR A LIMITED TIME to those who purchase I’m a Keeper at athttp://web.me.com/raynmaryjolincoln/RayWLincoln/Imakeeperbook.html .

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