I continue to be mystified by the presence of Quantum Flirts. Since discovering this concept in relationship coaching training this past spring, I’ve found myself tuned in more than ever to what the universe so deftly parades before me.
Today was no different, even half asleep as I was before the sun’s weak rays peeked out. Sorting through my email traffic (and there’s a lot of it), I wandered into a message board discussion about personality type. Specifically, it dealt with the ISTJ and the ENFP – for the unfamiliar, that’s the Introverted-Sensing-Thinking-Judger and the Extraverted-iNtuitive-Feeling-Perceiver. In English, that means that the ISTJ processes thoughts and ideas internally while anchored in the realities of here and now, making decisions based on objective cause-and-effect logic, and driving toward decision-making, closure, and structure. The ENFP processes thoughts and ideas externally while pulled toward the possibilities of the future, making decisions based on subjective values-based logic, and coveting open-ended flexibility with always expanding new information. In short, the two can set off alarm bells if they don’t understand their differences.
The question was about how to help just such a couple (business partners, actually) create an understanding and valuable relationship. Buried within the multiple comments was one from noted type expert Danielle Poirier. Her comments shook me awake … specifically this:
Instead of perceiving the quiet introvert as having something to hide, the extravert realizes perhaps that she is the one who holds things in only when they are too harsh to speak out, and therefore perceives wrongly the other’s silence. Distortion in our perception (due to projection) is, in my experience, the greatest foe in any relationship.
The instant I read that, I realized it was blindingly true, because I stand revealed in her words. I am the ENFP – the extraverted possibilitarian who loves conjecture and open-endedness. Charlie is the ISFJ – the introverted sensiblitarian who is matter-of-fact and structured. And this morning I recognized the truth in Danielle’s words. I do that! I hold things in when they seem to be too delicate, too difficult, too harsh to allow free. My silence is the silence of inner churning and always, always the concern for harmony and relationship.
Because that’s what I know and experience, and because it’s my story, I naturally project onto others the same sense of silence. That’s why Charlie, whose silence is SO NOT similar to mine, hears “is something wrong? You seem quiet.” “What’s on your mind?” “Are you unhappy about something?” and a million other phrases designed to breach that silence and break open the words and feelings that I just know must be there in his head. After all, that’s MY experience. Isn’t it everyone’s? Or so I project.
He tells me, each time, that he’s just “concentrating on driving.” Or “not thinking about anything, really.” Or maybe thinking about something entirely different and not relationship-related at all. Like maybe how the tires need rotated or the gutters cleaned. I have always had difficulty believing that, but as Danielle has illuminated for me, perhaps I have been wrong all these years.
It’s hard to acknowledge – and I mean really acknowledge – something that flouts your story and your reality. But you know what? I’m driven by this crazy value of authenticity and I can’t NOT acknowledge it. So here’s the thing: over the past several years, I’ve developed my Introversion, Sensing, and Judging preferences. I actually am able to honestly answer, “nothing,” when I’ve been sitting there, silent, thinking about, well, “nothing.” That surprised the hell out of me when I realized it then, but I never really “got it” until today.
So that’s what it’s like. And that’s what it means. All these years I’ve approached the silences from my side of the story, from my perceptual biases, where silence signaled undercurrents, not smooth, glassy waters. I would have been able to tell you with confidence just what Danielle said – but until this morning, the pieces never came together for me so vividly and personally. And that’s the difference between understanding something and really living it.
Thus the universe dangles yet another Quantum Flirt before me, in the form of two sentences. Thanks. How embarrassing. But how rich, and how real and, oh, how surprisingly satisfying.
The photo included with today’s blog is from my excursion on the New River during Bridge Day last weekend. See those two bridges? Which one do you think is closer? If you say the big one (the New River Gorge Bridge), you’d be wrong. Perspective. Illusion. Sometimes we need to apply that lens of skepticism to our own beliefs. Be skeptical today (but learn to listen).