When You’re an Assertor Communicating with a Narrator

You care about the big picture. She wants to discuss details. You thrive on conflict. She strives to build consensus. When your loved one is a narrator, it can seem like she’s opposed to everything you stand for. Or she would be, if she wasn’t so darned conciliatory all the time. However, if you’re willing to hold some of your gut reactions in check, you’ll find that your contrary communication styles can lead to a strong decision-making process.

Quick Tips for Assertor-Narrator Conversations

  • DO begin the conversation ready to take your time and talk through details as well as larger goals.
  • DO respect the narrator’s love of strategy and long-term planning.
  • DO avoid confrontational language. Instead, use praise and supportive language.
  • DO expect the narrator to examine the same issue from many different angles before reaching a decision.
  • DON’T urge the narrator to hurry up or to do things your way. This will bring the conversation to a halt.

When Assertors Meet Narrators It’s Important to Take Time to Talk

You tend to see decisions as an obstacle course. You look at roadblocks, take the fastest route over or around them, and voila, you have the perfect plan. Meanwhile, narrators are all about details and strategy. They treat major decisions as a game of chess, mentally playing out the available options until they find the best way forward.

You’re willing to take great risks if there’s a chance of great gain; narrators are almost pathologically risk-averse. You want to lead and have everyone else fall into line, the narrator prefers to gradually build a consensus before acting. How on earth can such wildly disparate personalities hope to communicate well and make a decision together?

When you’re trying to talk with a narrator about important decisions, it’s important to take your time and to give them time to analyze the options. Ideally, you should think in terms of several ‘meetings’ (narrators do well with meetings). Take the first meeting to state the problem and the roadblocks you see, the second to discuss what you see as acceptable solutions and what paths the narrator sees forward, and the third to come to a decision.

You can’t force a narrator to act faster, so your best bet is to plan for a decision to take a while. Think of the first two meetings as the ‘information gathering stage.’ You can act as project leader, but until the narrator has a chance to complete her research and strategy, it’s impossible to proceed.

For more urgent decisions, you can still follow this strategy. Just compress the timeline into hours instead of days or weeks, and give the narrator a clear deadline. Narrators work well under pressure, but not if the people around them insist on creating drama. So give them a goal and a schedule, and then respect them and their space.

If you enter the final conversation ready to listen to the results of the narrator’s information and thought processes, you’ll be able to choose a course of action that empowers the narrator, satisfies you, and is ultimately better than what you would have come up with on your own.

Learn more about communicating with a narrator here.