You Are a Narrator
You’re quiet, kind and reliable, the sort of person everyone wants on their team. You often end up in leadership roles, not because you’re loud and flashy, but because your strong sense of self and your loyalty to others make you an ideal servant-leader and consensus builder. You’ll work hard when you feel loved and appreciated, but can withdraw if you feel attacked or unworthy.
When you communicate with others, you’re great at solving problems, developing strategy, and providing deep background knowledge. You think and plan for the long term. On the other hand, your desire to solve problems can irritate people who just want to share emotions, and your quiet, reserved nature can frustrate more outgoing personality types.
If you want to capitalize on your strengths to help loved ones make good decisions, you’ll find help here.
There will be no conflict in this communication pair, but you may fall prey to inaction and uncertainty. You both love to research, develop strategies, troubleshoot possible paths, and build consensus. However, when two narrators get together, there’s no one to push them towards a decision. It’s easy to get so caught up in the research phase of the process that you never actually reach your goal.
To help a narrator loved one make decisions about complicated issues, you’re going to need to step out of your natural communication role and stretch yourself in new directions. Otherwise, you’ll fall into the trap of endless discussion with no real decisions made.
Quick Tips for Narrator-Narrator Conversations
- DO embrace the power of checklists to keep yourselves on track.
- DO set a deadline for the decision so that you can move forward.
- DO wait to engineer solutions until after you have chosen a path.
- DO feel free to bring in a neutral third party to help you decide and to keep you on track.
- DON’T neglect feelings when considering important life decisions. Facts and feelings both matter.
When Two Narrators Talk, It’s a Chance to Grow
You seldom come across a business, community group, or team made up of only narrators. That’s because you value consensus and servant-leadership, but function at your best when you’re judging and weighing inputs from all kinds of communicators. In a narrator-only environment, you may never reach a consensus because neither of you feels strongly and both of you want to gather more data. Plus, you’re both so easygoing that you feel that there’s no rush to decide. Narrators don’t like to be hasty about things.
In extreme cases, you may need to ask a neutral third party to keep your discussions on track. Otherwise, you can become so involved in solving the most interesting problem in front of you that you lose sight of the big picture and the original goal of the discussion. When you need to help a loved one make decisions related to aging, however, it doesn’t make sense to tackle a problem related to finance when you need to be discussing the side effects of a drug. Sometimes, you need help to focus on the immediate, and a third party can do that for you.
If you can’t ask for help, you’ll have to stretch yourself. Checklists and timers can be a great way to keep a discussion on track, hit all the key points, and make real progress toward a solution. If you treat the decision-making process itself as a problem to be engineered and solved, you’ll be able to reach a decision within a reasonable timeframe.
Finally, don’t reduce the final decision to one based solely on facts. With big life decisions, how you both feel can be as important as other realities on the ground. While taking refuge in a facts-only view can help avoid conflict in the short term, you’ll reach a better decision in the long term if you consider both facts and feelings, even when the feelings cause you some discomfort.
The first rule of narrator-assertor communications is ‘stand your ground.’ Assertors often mistake your quiet, detail-oriented nature for a lack of interest or of an opinion, and will charge right past you in their single-minded pursuit of their goals. While you hate conflict, trying to avoid it in this case will leave you without any input at all.
Meanwhile, hard-charging, impulsive assertors actually need your help. Your ability to spot difficulties, solve problems, and think strategically means that you can give your assertor necessary information for making a truly good decision. When the two of you work together, you can both develop solutions and take immediate action on them.
Quick Tips for Narrator-Assertor Conversations
- DO prepare for some drama and conflict. It’s how many assertors self-motivate.
- DO stand up for yourself and your own needs, even if it exhausts you.
- DO remind the assertor about how their actions affect other family members and friends.
- DO gather and organize information before the conversation. Assertors like to make decisions quickly.
- DON’T take the assertor’s bluster and criticism personally. It’s not actually about you at all.
When a Narrator Works with an Assertor, It Helps to Have Thick Skin
Narrators have a habit of retreating from a situation when they feel hurt or undervalued. While this is an understandable survival strategy, it will hamper your attempts to communicate with an assertor. If you want to help your assertor make decisions about touchy subjects like health, finances, and their personal lives, you’ll need to stretch beyond your comfort zone and be ready to deal with conflict.
Assertors tend to criticize and pick fights partially because that’s how they motivate themselves to act and achieve. They see the negativity as a challenge, something to disprove through action. Meanwhile, you take personal attacks, well, personally, and they hurt. When you deal with an assertor, you just have to ignore the opinion and focus on the facts. Keeping the discussion fact-centered keeps them focused on decision-making, rather than on their rather questionable motivation techniques.
Assertors tend to consider only their needs and wants when they make a decision, so you’ll also have to advocate for the interests of other loved ones, even if they’re not present. Luckily, you excel at building consensus. In some ways, you’ll be acting as a moderator between the assertor’s needs and those of the absent parties. As a narrator, you often function better when you’re defending others and their interests, so this dynamic actually plays to your strengths as a communicator.
Finally, while you like to think strategically, research, and work through decisions with an eye towards minimizing risk of failure, assertors are whirlwinds. They thrive on risk, love taking action, and make decisions with their guts. To ensure that the ‘gut decision’ is also a good one, do your research and strategizing before you sit down to talk with the assertor. Then you can both minimize conversation time and maximize the odds of a good decision.
You’re both focused on details, but your approaches to decision-making tend to be at odds with each other. As a narrator, you tend to focus on problems because you intend to solve them and make a course of action workable. The contemplator, on the other hand, focuses on problems to highlight negatives and to rule out certain courses of action.
That means that whenever you start trying to solve a problem (perhaps by answering “But the concert’s on Tuesday and I have an appointment Tuesday morning,” with “Well, we’ll have plenty of time to shower and change in between”), the contemplator feels like you’re minimizing their worries instead. Since contemplators also love drama, this can trigger a dynamic that’s fun for them but toxic for you. Learning to rein in some of your natural tendencies can help these conversations go more smoothly.
Quick Tips for Narrator-Contemplator Conversations
- DO understand that when they list a potential negative they’re not asking for a solution.
- DO refocus personal attacks as attacks on the situation, not on you.
- DO set a deadline for making a decision, and stick to it.
- DO periodically refocus the conversation on larger goals.
- DON’T withdraw in the face of contemplator drama.
When a Narrator and a Contemplator Meet, Milestones Are a Must
There are two big pitfalls that can derail communication and collaboration between narrators and contemplators. On the one hand, it’s easy to fall into a negative dynamic, where the contemplator picks at the narrator, trying to get a reaction and spark drama, and the narrator withdraws, antagonizing the contemplator even more. On the other hand, when you’re working well together, the combination of your detail-oriented natures may keep you from ever reaching a decision.
To avoid drama, acknowledge a contemplator’s feelings, but do not treat excessive negativity as a commentary on you, your skills, or your ideas. Contemplators use drama to rouse themselves to action and goad themselves forward. They also see attention as a sign that you value them and understand their feelings. So, the more you ignore them, the more devalued they feel, and the more they will attempt to provoke a reaction.
Instead, acknowledge their negative feelings from the start, but throw in a bit of praise. “I understand this is a difficult and depressing conversation for you, and I’m so proud of how you’re working through this problem.” That will refocus a contemplator on the decision to be made instead of all the negative events that have led up to the current situation.
Set up milestones before you get together with times or dates attached. This will help keep both of you on track, since both narrators and contemplators thrive when they have clear rules and boundaries. As you work through options and analyze approaches, periodically restate the overarching goal so that you continue moving towards a decision.
Once you have a decision, write it down and have the contemplator commit to it. This will let you both move on to other conversations and projects.
You think like an engineer, methodically working through the problems in front of you in an orderly manner. Meanwhile, the demonstrator is like a stereotypical artist, brainstorming, jumping between threads and plans, and generally uninterested in boring details. However, you both thrive on consensus-building and have generally positive outlooks, so your conversations will be fairly free of conflict and drama.
If you can help the demonstrator come down to earth a little and can keep up with the flood of new ideas, analyzing and sorting as you go, the two of you can be a great problem-solving team.
Quick Tips for Narrator-Demonstrator Conversations
- DO try to record a demonstrator’s ideas to work through later rather than trying to keep up with them as they appear.
- DO have a general outline for the conversation prepared in advance, so you can steer them back to the topic when they go off on a tangent.
- DO expect a fairly quick decision from the demonstrator once you explain options.
- DO bring up obstacles and possible solutions at the same time, to keep the conversation positive.
- DON’T provide so much structure that the demonstrator feels coerced and boxed in.
When a Narrator Meets a Demonstrator, A Happy Medium Is Key
You seek order and structure. They don’t want to be boxed in. You like to proceed methodically, with an eye towards strategy. They’re more spontaneous, tactical thinkers. When a narrator and a demonstrator team up, they can be unbeatable innovators, as long as they can find a happy medium between their preferences. Luckily, both types thrive on consensus, so your natural tendencies will help you strike a balance.
One of the most important places you’ll need balance is in creating structure for the conversation. Demonstrators are natural brainstormers. One of their most common phrases is, “Oh! I just thought of something!” That something may be related to the problem you’re working on, but it may be related to something you discussed a week ago, or something that you haven’t even addressed yet. Since you like to be methodical, dealing with each idea as it surfaces can derail any hope of a decision.
Instead, agree at the start to write these ideas down and to circle back to them at the end of the process, before the final decision. This will give you time to think about them and analyze them, but without dampening the demonstrator’s natural enthusiasm and imagination.
Like narrators, demonstrators thrive on the positive. They don’t like to be weighed down by large numbers of problems and objections. You can keep the discussion practical yet positive by mentioning each negative along with one or more possible solutions. “This apartment isn’t walking distance from your gym, but if you chose it you could learn to use a ride-sharing service or find a closer gym.” When a demonstrator weighs options, they weigh both the positives and the negatives, but a negative with an easy solution won’t hold them back from an almost-perfect solution.
Decision-making with demonstrators is often fairly quick and easy. They’re happy to tackle the problem so they can get on to the next big adventure. Once they’ve decided, they may count on you to work out the details, but that plays to your natural servant-leader strengths. As long as you keep them from feeling trapped or boxed in, you and the demonstrator should be able to work well together.
Institute on Aging Blog
Karyn Skultety, PhD
Executive Director, Openhouse SF