Communication Quiz Results: Your Loved One Is a Narrator
What Is a Narrator?
Sane, stolid, secure, reliable. Narrators are the sort of people who get described as “my rock, my greatest fan, the wind beneath my wings.” They shun the spotlight, and when they’re thrust (often unwillingly) into a leadership role, they act as servant-leaders. Quiet and thoughtful, narrators love to plan. They make budgets, excel at strategy games like chess, and enjoy seeing how little details fit together to make the big picture.
They’re not extroverted, but they are people-oriented. Narrators hate conflict and want everyone to be happy and get along. They avoid drama, and prefer routine. People often describe them as the ‘workhorses’ of an organization. In community groups like scouting and Kiwanis, the narrators are the ones that will show up, work the fundraisers, fill in for others, and yet never take any credit for themselves. They’d dependable, not flashy. They’re committed to principles, fiercely loyal, and calm in high-pressure situations. They don’t strive to get ahead, but they appreciate a job well done. Narrators often underestimate themselves and their importance to others, so they need encouragement and appreciation. Nagging and criticism make them withdraw into themselves, because they hate the feeling of having disappointed someone who depends on them.
In retirement, narrators often give their time and talents to local service organizations. They happily care for grandchildren and great-nieces and nephews. They’re often regulars at certain businesses and events, and even though they’re quiet, people enjoy seeing them and talking to them. Even-keeled and fairly positive, they don’t tend to complain or make their own needs known. If you’re the caregiver to an aging narrator, you may have to be especially attentive and perceptive, since they won’t bring up problems and worries on their own.
Communicating with a Narrator
The following are a few general tips for communicating effectively with a narrator.
- Show appreciation before difficult discussions. Narrators hate conflict, so prepare for difficult discussions by first giving them positive news and feedback. Compliment them, thank them, and only then address difficult topics.
- Let them take charge of planning. Narrators excel at long-term planning and strategy. Let them focus on details and build a plan. If you notice that they lack necessary information, help direct them to better sources. This personality type loves to gather and synthesize information.
- Put discussions on the calendar. ‘Think, plan, and think some more,’ sums up the narrator approach to decision-making. Don’t spring important discussions on them at the last moment. Give them time to plan ahead, think about what they want to say, and evaluate their options before you start a discussion.
- Combine facts and feelings. Narrators are very pro-social and want everyone to be happy, but also appreciate having all the facts when they have to make a decision. Combine both facts and feelings in your discussions, but be careful. In the face of strong feelings, a narrator may simply give in to the more passionate person to preserve the peace.
- Give them space to express their opinions before you give your read on the situation. Because narrators hate conflict, if you give your opinions first, they’re likely to go along with whatever you say. In fact, they may reply to questions with “I don’t know, what do you think?” Make sure they understand that you value their input and will be happier if you can hear what they have to say.
- Avoid criticism and nagging. For a narrator, one of the worst feelings is the feeling of disappointing someone they care about. Nagging or angry criticism will leave them feeling attacked, and can derail the conversation.
- State the rules for the conversation at the outset. Narrators are natural rule followers and appreciate parameters and boundaries. By stating the ‘rules’ for your discussions at the outset, you make it easier for them to think, plan, and effectively reach a solution for the problem at hand. For instance, you can state “We’re only discussing issues related to Grandma’s estate sale right now.”
- Be prepared to take your time. Narrators like to come up with a plan, discuss it and think about it, then reassess and revise it. That means that they cannot be pressured to make a ‘quick decision.’ If you’re planning a discussion with a narrator, be prepared to sit down, talk things over, and mull things over. They appreciate your insight and input, but they will not be rushed, and any attempt to rush them is likely to backfire.
These tips apply to any serious discussion with a narrator, but they become especially important when you’re talking about issues related to aging. Because the aging process involves a lot of strategy and planning, narrators can excel at addressing the issues you highlight, but only if you give them time to think.
Narrators may need extra support when it comes to dealing with conflict, bringing up concerns, and putting their own needs first. Any time the focus shifts from others to themselves, narrators may feel uncomfortable and shrink into their shells. As a caregiver or loved one, you may find yourself having to act as an advocate, especially in situations where professionals aren’t meeting the needs of your narrator.
Use the links below to learn about communicating with your narrator about:
Institute on Aging Blog
Karyn Skultety, PhD
Executive Director, Openhouse SF