You Are a Demonstrator
For you, relationships with other people are the most important things in your life. You love travel, spontaneous adventures, and getting out of the house, but it’s seeing people that really fulfills you. You’re a bottomless well of energy and you want everyone around you to be happy.
When a loved one, or even a random stranger, needs you, you help, almost without thinking. You hate conflict and wish that everyone could just be kind and friendly all the time. You live in the present, neither dwelling on past mistakes nor worrying too much about the future.
People sometimes call you a free spirit, a cheerleader, a diplomat, or a social butterfly. You care more about helping people get along than you do about winning, and you often let your needs and wishes take a back seat to the needs and wants of the people around you. When you’re communicating with other personality types, you excel at brainstorming and forging consensus. However, your fear of conflict can mean that your own needs go unmet, and your lack of attention to planning or detail can derail conversations and decision making.
In the sections below, you’ll learn how to use your strengths and minimize your weaknesses in conversations with other types of communicators.
When the two of you get together, you always have fun. You love bouncing ideas off each other, heading in new directions, and feeding off each other’s energy and enthusiasm. However, when it’s time to make a serious decision, this bonanza of fun can actually hold you back from effective planning and communication. When you’re talking with another demonstrator, you may need to dial back some of your natural tendencies to help them make a decision. This is especially true for boring, detailed discussions about things like finances and health needs.
Quick Tips for Demonstrator-Demonstrator Conversations
- DO post a reminder so you keep coming back to the topic of discussion.
- DO write things down and take notes, so you can see what progress you’ve made toward the goal.
- DO set a timer to keep yourselves on track, and take breaks (also timed) to recharge.
- DO have the conversation somewhere you both enjoy, so neither of you feels trapped.
- DO NOT avoid tough and unpleasant topics that need resolution in the near term.
When Two Demonstrators Get Together, Lists Are Essential
You love to talk. They love to talk. You have ideas. They have ideas. Even though you need to have a serious conversation with your loved one, this should be easy, right? It depends. Do you have decisions that need to be made and goals that you have to reach? You’ll have to work overtime to keep your loved one, and yourself, on task and focused.
Sometimes, it can help to involve a third party who’s more focused and detail oriented. If that doesn’t work, embrace the power of the marker and the whiteboard. You’re both probably web-thinkers rather than linear thinkers, so it may help to write or draw the points from your discussion so you can go back later, summarize, and commit to a decision.
You both hate conflict and want to reach a consensus, so it might help to set a time limit for your talk. Even though it might make you feel a bit boxed in, a limit will make sure that you decide something by the time you have to go, even if it’s only a step towards the final solution.
As demonstrators, you might have luck communicating and deciding by using the ‘next actionable item’ method. That way, instead of getting tied up with daydreams or bigger ideas, you can just make the next decision that needs to happen. Then, plan to get together again to make the next decision, and so on.
Meet at places you love. Parks, coffee shops, and malls all make great places to talk. Walking and talking is also an option, as long as you remember to take notes on your phone as you go.
Remember to check your discussions and decisions against your initial to-do list, and you’ll come up with great, workable solutions to problems with fairly little conflict or heartache.
You hate conflict. They see the most basic conversations as a debate with points to score and an ultimate winner. You both like big-picture thinking, but you soar over obstacles while they prefer to push them aside. Assertors like to be in charge and get their way. You just want to make everyone happy.
However, when your loved one is an assertor, you have to resist the temptation to simply let them take charge and make a decision. You have a right to be heard, too. The assertor may try to motivate you or score points by criticizing you, but you need to avoid apologizing for who you are. You need to help your loved one navigate difficult situations, even when it goes against your natural tendencies.
Quick Tips for Demonstrator-Assertor Conversations
- DO stand your ground and be heard. Your opinions matter, too.
- DO ignore personal attacks from the assertor. These are attempts to score points, not valid commentary on you or your choices.
- DO prepare in advance so you can present them with details, facts, and possible pitfalls.
- DO be willing to call in a third party as a mediator if it becomes too hard to communicate.
- DON’T let the assertor unilaterally make decisions unless you truly agree those are the best courses of action.
Demonstrators Must Find Their Inner Strength to Work with Assertors
Assertors aren’t known for their attention to detail. That means you’ll have to be the one to spot trouble and point out the flaws in their plans, or else you may end up with a disaster. Since you’re not naturally a detail-oriented person, this means that you’ll need to prepare for conversations in advance.
Jot down a list of points you hope to bring up and problems that you foresee before the start of the conversation, and refer back to it. Once the assertor states an initial preference, see if any of your objections apply and voice them. You’re a bigger help when you stand your ground and help the assertor make the strongest possible decision.
You may also need to act as go-between to smooth over difficulties between a more abrasive assertor and the other people in their life. That means that you may have to take an active role gathering information, making phone calls, and even negotiating contracts. Finally, if communicating with the assertor becomes too difficult or stressful, remember that you can ask a third party to help you negotiate conflicts and reach a satisfying decision that works for you and your assertor.
When you’re used to looking on the bright side and accentuating the positive, a contemplator can seem like a bit of a downer. Their detail-oriented worldview is extremely focused on avoiding past mistakes and lowering expectations for the future. Contemplators are perfectionists, and they have a knack for finding things that don’t meet their exacting standards. Meanwhile, you try to make the best of everything.
The contemplator sends their food back to the kitchen if it’s not hot enough; you’ve been known to eat the wrong menu item without voicing a word of complaint. You enjoy grand plans and big brainstorms, the contemplator works exhaustively on one small idea, trying to smooth out every last flaw. Can the two of you hope to communicate and make decisions together? Yes, if you each focus on your strengths and try to understand each other’s worldview.
Quick Tips for Demonstrator-Contemplator Conversations
- DO listen to and appreciate their enumeration of details.
- DO help refocus on the big picture if the conversation gets too focused on minutiae.
- DO feel free to focus on facts, not on the negative emotions attached to the facts.
- DO encourage the contemplator to rank options, since no one option is perfect.
- DON’T let the contemplator keep picking apart the decision after it’s been made.
A Demonstrator and Contemplator Must Play to Each Other’s Strengths
Your sunny, upbeat nature may irritate them sometimes, but when it comes to choosing between difficult choices in situations where ‘perfect’ doesn’t exist, you can be a contemplator’s strongest ally, expanding horizons and creating paths where none existed before. However, before you can help you’ll need to slow down a little and give the contemplator time to explain all of the details and pitfalls weighing on their mind. If you rush this part of the conversation, there will never be a decision.
After you let the contemplator air the details, help refocus them on the larger issue. Without this help refocusing, contemplators can get stuck in a loop, going over the same details again and again as they try to find a solution that solves every problem forever. (Hint: these sorts of solutions never exist in the real world.)
Use facts to refocus the contemplator on the problem at hand. Ignore any statements of the form “But you always,” or “We never.” You should be aiming for a consensus, and you’re just the person to forge one. Since no option is perfect, have the contemplator list the pluses and minuses of each, and then score them and put them in order.
One tool that many contemplators find helpful is a PMI chart. In a PMI, you can go through each option together and list its pluses, its minuses, and anything you find interesting. You’re essential for this part of the process, because your optimistic nature will allow you to see positives that the contemplator overlooks. Meanwhile, the contemplator will be able to flag negatives that you miss. Working together, you’ll be able to settle on the best course of action more quickly than either of you could working alone.
Once the two of you reach a decision, move on to something else. Contemplators have a tendency to revisit decisions they’ve already made and second guess themselves. You can’t stop this process, but you can implement the agreed-upon solution before the second-guessing starts, since it won’t actually result in new information or a better course of action.
You both hate drama and love consensus-building. You love to brainstorm, they excel at problem solving. It should be an easy partnership, but there’s one huge problem. A narrator will not be rushed, while you love to jump right to the solution.
To work well with a narrator you need to be able to slow down, take time to listen, and both ask and answer probing questions. The great thing is, this new way of communicating won’t just strengthen your ability to work with a narrator—you can use it in all aspects of your life to improve your communication skills everywhere.
Quick Tips for Demonstrator-Narrator Conversations
- DO slow down and give the narrator time to process information.
- DO approach negatives as problems to be solved rather than avoided.
- DO listen to their preferred options and then express yours, so you can both work towards a consensus.
- DO come prepared with facts and research. Narrators like to know where you got your information.
- DON’T forget to set a timeline for a decision. Narrators love research, and without a deadline will never leave the ‘research phase’ of decision making.
When a Demonstrator Works with a Narrator, Take it Slowly
In some ways, you’re the perfect match. You both get along well with people, shun arguments, and tend to take a positive outlook. You’re loyal and friendly. But when it comes to solving problems and making decisions, your natural communication styles can be at odds. You move between ideas quickly, picking one up, dropping another. You prefer to reach a solution by trial and error, seeing what works and what doesn’t, then moving on.
Meanwhile, the narrator would rather move slowly and think strategically. They deal with objections or roadblocks by fixing them. And they’re willing to take the time to come up with the perfect fix. Give them that time. If you rush a narrator, they just withdraw and refuse to go anywhere. So give them the time to play tortoise to your hare. They’ll reach a consensus with you, but you probably leaped to it. Now you need to wait for their slow and steady decision-making process to catch up.
When you’re stating problems or working towards solutions, don’t pepper the narrator with one idea after another. Take a break and give them time to absorb what you’re saying and think about it. It may help if you keep a notepad handy while you talk. When your brain runs ahead of where you’re at in the conversation, jot down your thoughts to mention to the narrator later.
Finally, set a deadline for a decision. You don’t need it, but your narrator does. Without a deadline, researching problems and crafting strategy will take over, and a narrator may get ‘stuck’ at this point in the decision-making process. A deadline and some encouraging words can help keep the narrator progressing towards the ultimate goal.
Institute on Aging Blog
Karyn Skultety, PhD
Executive Director, Openhouse SF