One Feels while the other Thinks in family relationship by Father Henry Siew
(CatholicNews—Sunday March 18, 2007)
It is important to know whether your spouse is the feeling type or the thinking type to avoid misunderstanding and conflict, and create harmony and intimacy in the family, writes Father Henry Siew
MRS YIP TOOK a taxi from Tampines to Boon Lay to visit a former neighbour. On her return, she complained to her husband, “the taxi driver went around in a big circle and took a long time!”
“You didn’t give clear direction, right?” her husband responded.
“Of course, I did. I asked him, `Do you know how to get to Boon Lay?’ and he said `Yes, I know.’ But he couldn’t find Peggy’s flat when we got there. He was obviously dishonest.”
“Don’t be judgemental!” Mr Yip commented. “Did you really make it clear which street you were going to”?
“Yes, I did,” Mrs Yip said. “I told him there was a 7-Eleven shop near the junction of her flat.”
“Oh dear, you call this clear? Who can find the place with such information? How can you blame the driver?” Mr Yip said.
“Ok, ok, it’s my fault,” Mrs. Yip submitted unhappily.
“Why do you show such annoyance? The driver should be the unhappy one when you led him round and round without clear instruction,” Mr. Yip said in earnest.
“Yeah, I am wrong. The driver is right… You idiot! I will not tell you anything in future”! Mrs Yip said angrily and walked away.
When Mrs Yip was complaining about the taxi driver to her husband, she was just venting her vexed emotions. She thought he would take her side and grumble along with her. But Mr Yip’s comments gave the impression that she was muddleheaded and petty, and that she had overreacted. In the end, she felt indignant towards Mr Yip.
It wasn’t that Mr Yip was uncaring to his wife. It was his insensitivity that annoyed her. He was too eager to find out the facts so as to make the right judgement. By taking the “problem solving” approach he failed to be attentive to her feelings of frustration and anger. He thought that making her “see the facts” would make her less upset and stop her grumbling.
There are some among us, including men like Mr Yip, who think more than feel. While others, females particularly, like Mrs Yip, are more feeling. When they complain about a problem, they do not want solutions. They just want consolation and assurance, a response that indicates “I know how you feel”.
They are not incapable of knowing the problem and resolving it; it is just not their primary concern. For example, Mrs Yip knew that she was partly at fault when she did not tell the taxi driver clearly the location she wanted to get to and so caused the driver to lose his way.
However, when she complained to her husband, she was not looking for instructions on “how to give clear instructions”. Thus when he started questioning and commenting, she felt upset at his lack of sympathy and understanding. What she wanted from him was an expression that said he understood how frustrated and helpless she felt. She wanted consolation, not logic.
The Feeling Person
Feeling persons like to pour out their concerns and worries and they want to be listened to. At times they appear to be irrational when venting their emotions. They expect from others understanding, consideration, compassion and gentleness. When they share, they do not ask for solutions, they just hope that you identify with their feelings. They are not just giving you some information; they are giving you a part of themselves.
If your spouse is a feeling person, you should take the “emotional orientated” approach to her complaints. Just listen to her and she will feel accepted, cherished and content. A thinking person must be aware of his tendency to analyze and judge, and of the temptation to give answers and guidance.
The next time your spouse talks about her worries, difficulties and unhappy encounters, you should just listen patiently without attempting to offer advice. If you want to speak, say words that reflect her emotions and show that you care. Basically, what she wants is emotional comfort, not clever talk and logical analysis. You can help her explore solutions only after she has vented her feelings and asks for your suggestions.
The thinking person
There are people who think more than they feel. These people are methodical and logical in thought and speech. They appear to be confident, decisive and authoritative. They do not like to be seen as uncertain and indecisive. When they encounter difficulties, they are anxious to look for solutions quickly, and to find out the result.
If your spouse is the thinking type, he is probably reluctant to express his feelings or vent his emotions. When he is in trouble and feels frustrated and upset, he wants to be left alone to ponder about it. A spouse who tries to force him to speak out will often get a “leave me alone!” response. Do not react to his remark. His personality is such and there is no point grudging him for it. If you can’t bear to see him upset and downcast, just hold his hand, hug him, embrace him and use body language to show him that you care.
Be patient with him and do not insist that he opens up and speaks. Allow him time to think through the problem. When he feels enlightened and finds a solution to his problem, he will talk. That will be the opportune time to listen to his problem analysis and his logical exposition. Just listen and he will feel good.
Feeling or thinking, getting in touch with emotions or finding solutions, different people will behave differently because they have different personality traits and different priorities. About half the world’s population is more feeling, while the other half is more thinking. Their different personality traits influence directly their communication patterns. When you know your own inclination and that of your spouse, you can be considerate in the manner you treat each other. Learn to accept each other and develop the skills to flow with the tide. This will avoid misunderstanding and conflict, and help you create harmony and intimacy with your spouse.