By Joanna Andrews
I’m going to be completely honest: I’m not really sure how to write a letter to you about my tendency to relate to people first on a rational level over an emotional one the way you do.
To pretend like I am a robot without feelings feels disingenuous—like I’m trying to pretend that I either don’t feel things deeply (I do) or that I’m better at thinking logically than you are (I’m not).
And yet, on the other hand, pretending like I don’t feel uncomfortable when you start ugly crying at movies (or when we’re having a serious conversation), would also be me telling a lie—which leaves me (especially as a “thinker” woman), I’m stuck in an even more uncomfortable middle.
If anything, this tendency of mine to lean on my mind more than my heart is just me talking about my first inclination when I interact with people—the first responder in my internal hierarchy of influence, if you will, and the way I feel most comfortable expressing things.
The truth is, Feeler, that it can be difficult for me to deal with you sometimes. It’s hard to see eye-to-eye when it feels like you most prize harmony and connectedness over objective reality—which becomes even more frustrating when I do feel an emotion, because there never feels like there’s enough room for the both of us. In environments that prize emotional connection over rational ones, this can be especially alienating, considering sometimes the best way to get me to process my emotions is to give me time to focus on literally anything else.
For me, laying out the realities of reasonable situations is comfortable, predictable and safe—the place I retreat to when I need to feel whole again, even though I am learning to give weight to “well thought out emotions.”
In our relationship, this can mean a number of things: It means I might at first seem distant or un-personable in the face of serious emotional issues or problems, or that, if asked to listen to a problem you present while showing obvious distress, I may unwittingly respond to you with a solution to your problem with minimal empathetic considerations.
Still—these are all just my relational truths, and how I function doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Also--no matter how much I try to deny it—I actually care a lot about how I get along with people…so, I’ll do my best to help us out.
Even I recognize that people are more important than being right all the time. But what does that mean for our relationship?
First off: in moments when I give you solutions instead of empathy, it’s not because I want you to shut you up—it is done out of love, and out of a desire to see your happiness and contentedness return most quickly. I know I can sometimes come off as cold or unwilling to hear you out—but (and I’m sure you realize this) you just get caught up sometimes.
Second: you are more than welcome to tell me when I’m saying something that hurts your feelings. Unless I force myself to filter my words through empathy (which is rare, and requires an unbelievable amount of effort to do in every interaction for me), I probably didn’t even realize that’s what I was doing. Your tears, as justifiable as they often are, don’t really help me understand the situation—and because I put a lot of effort into processing my emotions into nuggets of useful, actionable logic, trying to do the same for me is more appreciated than you could possibly know.
Lastly—in moments when you want to know what’s going on in my heart, give me time to process the emotions I’m feeling in my own way, rather than expecting me to come to you initially. My distance isn’t meant to keep you away—rather, it is my attempt to make sense of what’s going on in my heart before I burden the world with my unbridled emotions.
Even for thinkers that are external processors, it is often easier to hear equally “reasonable” people’s opinions of my feelings before I bring them to anyone who wants me to reveal the emotions in their raw forms—and while there are moments when open expressions of emotion are what’s necessary, it is often a balance between the two of us that would be the best answer—somewhere between total silence and aggressive shows of emotion.
Sure, it may be a little foreign to both of us at first, but understanding that we complement each other in our differences is important. I value all that you bring to the world with your vivid emotions and passionate movements of feeling in the world, emotive—and I hope you will equally value the steadiness, sharp problem-solving and rational determination that my “thinker” tendencies can bring.