“often the breakdown between us is that we don’t communicate with the same kinds of expressions of care. And when we don’t use the same expressions of care, that means that it’s harder to recognize when someone is caring for you, or caring about you.”

This is the second episode on our theme of “Love the One You’re With.” Today, we’ll talk more about the differences between intensives and expansives, and how knowing and recognizing these differences can help us better communicate the care we feel for each other. Because recognizing that we have differences helps us realize that one of those differences is in how we know when someone cares for us. So in this case, what is good for me may not, in fact, be good for thee.

Check out Sarah Marie Lacy’s portrait paintings at https://smlacyart.com/

Transcript and notes: https://dev.intensivesinstitute.com/captivate-podcast/love-the-ones-you-know

Recorded 5 February 2024.


Hey, everyone, thanks for tuning in.

So last time, we talked about just the basics, how to know whether you've got an intensive or expensive in front of you. Like at a networking event in three minutes or less. Who's facing you? What are they on about? How much energy do they bring to the interaction, that sort of thing.

And as you explore that, what you'll discover is that it's really clear that this is different from introvert and extrovert. A lot of people ask me, Are intensives and expansives the same as extroverts and introverts? No. Just no. I, myself, am an introverted intensive. And that is absolutely a very common thing.

There are also overlaps- people do ask- there are also a lot of overlaps between people who identify or who have been diagnosed with various kinds of neuro divergences, and intensives and expansives. But I'm not going to talk about medical diagnoses, because that's out of scope for me.

So for example, there are a lot of people who are autistic and ADHD, that find the things I say about intensives and managing being an intensive in the world, really useful. But that is all I'm gonna say about diagnostic labels.

So if you are looking for tools, and you are diagnosed ADHD, or even self diagnosed; or diagnosed autistic or self diagnosed autistic; or you're curious, or you- this happens a lot: you think that they sound sort of right, but maybe not entirely right. You might find this really helpful. You might. A lot of people do. So that's one thing to look at.

Last time we looked at like these, these like snap judgment identifications. But what if it's someone you work with? What if it's someone you're in a family with? What if it's someone that you see everyday, someone in the grocery store that you talk to. Someone you, you know, serve as a, as a minister, or as a leader, or somebody who you work with as a coach.

Or, like, a lot of these cases are places where we get to know people fairly intimately. We get to know what their personalities are like. We get to know them under stress, we get to know them when they're relaxed or happy or sad. And so we get a much more robust picture than we get in a three minute conversation in a crowded room standing up on the seventh floor of some building in downtown wherever we live, right.

And, and so what is it? What is it when we start to go a little deeper? What is it?

First of all, we need to know that there's a certain amount of faking it that people do. Our culture tends to, in most cases, reward expansiveness. We are trained from the time we are small, especially if we're being socialized female, that our behavior should be expansive. That expansiveness is superior to intensiveness.

There are a few exceptions. And it's getting less common, and I'm so glad of that. But there's definitely what I call expansive bias.

So in general, especially as we get older, especially under certain kinds of marginalization, we are more favored if we are quiet and even keeled and not very emotional and don't take up too much space, right. All of those things if, if a category of people is more likely to be accused of being too loud or too emotional, or too angry, or dancing too hard, or partying too much, that category of people is probably being conditioned to believe that it's better if they would be expansive.

With the possible exception of frat boys. And frat boys- like specifically, men in fraternities- are encouraged to behave in certain ways because they tend to be men in a certain level of privilege.

And so sorting that stuff out gets a little more complicated. This whole thing has so much nuance and so much complication. That's why when I teach it, it's usually- like my preferred format to just introduce people to this is about a three hour workshop. So that we can go over the basics and then we can go over people's emotional reactions and who people think they are and who people think the people closest to them are.

And it's actually really interesting to see how people gut-judge people. Gut-judge the people nearest to them about how intensive or expansive they are. But if you have this deeper, longer, richer relationship with someone, then the first thing it's important to take into account is that, how they have learned or been trained to behave is not necessarily the deepest core of themselves. And this is really a framework that describes the deepest core of themselves.

So, if you're looking at someone you know, fairly well, then you may know that they are always on time, always organized, always like right there. But that it feels like it's a strain. That it feels like it's a lot of work for them. That it feels like it's something they feel like they have to put a lot of efforting into.

And if that's the case, and if that's the case, then it's important to account for the possibility that they are not as expansive as they seem. That they seem to be very even keeled, that they seem to be very contained in their expressions, that they seem to really like things to be orderly. But in fact, that that's them kind of hemming themselves into a box that they think they need to occupy.

So just keep that in the back of your mind as you observe them. And remember, of course, people are people first. And categories are only useful insofar as they're descriptive of what's real for people. So, so again, don't ever use this as like a first line diagnostic. It's just one piece of information about how somebody might act and what somebody might need.

So keeping in mind that sometimes people learn to fake it. Intensives learn to fake expansiveness, especially. But expansives also. If they're in a high intensity, you know, if they work in an emergency room, for example, they're in a high intensity, highly intensive environment. And so they may learn to fake being intensive, and it may just be absolutely wearing them out. They may end up being completely fried.

So, with all of that in mind, what do they seem to favor when they have less structure? First of all, do they like less structure? Expansives tend to prefer more structure. Intensives tend to use structure, but prefer less structure. Intensives tend to use structure. Like it can be really useful, because intensives can kind of lose track of what they're doing. Especially if they have some kind of diagnosis that makes them more like that, more scattered.

But, intensives can also find that the spaciousness that they really need, that we really need to be creative and to shine is hard to come by. And when we can come by it, you'll just see us light up. Light up at a level that we don't light up ever otherwise. And dive deep in a way that we don't ever otherwise.

So how does this person respond to structure? Does this person tend to reject authority? Unless it's their own? Does this person need to know why all the time? Those are really classic characteristics of intensives? On the other hand, does this person really like an eased-in engagement with anything? Right?

Like, if you're introducing a new idea, you need to be like, oh, there's gonna be a new idea- next week. And then not tell them much more about the new idea until next week. And then they're ready for it. And then you say, here are the basic points of the new idea. And you wait another three days.

If that's the best way to communicate with someone, they're an expansive. And if you think that sounds absolutely torturous, you're probably an intensive and you didn't realize that there was anybody in the world who might like it that way.

But they do, they like it that way. They like that easing in. They like that time to absorb things in layers. Whereas intensives tend to want all of it at once. Intensives are the ones who really prefer to be able to binge things. And expansives are the ones who are just fine with broadcast TV's old schedule of like half an hour, once a week. And we sit down at 4pm. We have our crackers and we watch a show.

So how do they like to engage with new material? How do they like to engage with new ideas? Do they like new ideas at all? This one's a little tricky, because there are definitely intensives who don't like change. But most of the time intensives are really eager to know whatever's new. Intensives are really eager to try whatever's in front of them.

And again, if there are conflicting diagnoses, this may not be true for every intensive. That's why I describe it as like a cluster of behaviors. But if the person that you're engaging with does not actually want things to change at all and wishes their computer could just be upgraded, but look and feel exactly the same way all the time. That's probably an expansive. And if the person is like, if it's shiny enough and new enough, I will stand on the sidewalk all night.

You remember back when Apple devices were so appealing that everybody wanted to stand in line for them forever. It wasn't everybody, it was just the intensives. It's just that Apple was marketing to intensives at that time. Now Apple markets to expansives. And so their product development cycle, their publicity cycle, everything is different. And I have a whole, I should probably do a whole episode on Apple's evolution with regard to this framework. Because it's really interesting to me.

But when you've got someone who is like an old school Apple fan, that's an intensive. When you've got someone who just wants their computer to work, and doesn't want to think about it, doesn't want to tweak it. Just wants it to open up and work. And that's it. That's an expansive. And maybe they don't feel that way, specifically about technology, maybe it's something else. But if that's the pattern of their general behavior, then that can help you figure out if you've got an expansive or an intensive in front of you.

If they get really into things and want to just focus on one thing forever and ever, that's an intensive. If they would rather break up every project into like an hour of project A, followed by an hour project B, followed by an hour project C, every day. That's an expansive. Expansives tend to want to break things up, and digest them slowly and proceed through them slowly in some kind of regular manner. And intensives tend to want to do everything all at once. Vroom.

And often, it's because intensives are working off of inspiration. And expansives are working off of a list or system or plan. So intensives have to hold the whole project or the whole trajectory, the arc of what they're doing in their head, and not make too many notes. Because the inspiration is what drives them forward. And the curiosity about what's coming next is what drives them forward.

Whereas for expansives, what drives them forward is they sat down at their desk, and it's two o'clock. And so we're working on project A. And so we're going to be working on Project A. And the next thing on the list is this. And so they do it. Expansives like the satisfying nature of moving forward on a schedule because you're supposed to.

Expansives are duty-driven; intensives or not.

So when you get into this level of depth with intensives and expansives, what you end up doing is just becoming more deeply familiar with the rich, nuanced description descriptions of how these things work. You know, and you'll find intensives, who have learned to create systems for things that they don't like to do or that are hard for them.

And you'll find expansives who have learned to get deep into something and give themselves a large work block for something because it's the only thing that makes sense.

I know one expansive, who is a portraitist. She paints oil portraits in the old school, and she is incredibly, incredibly talented. Her name is Sarah Marie Lacy. And if you ever need a portrait of your family or of yourself, I highly recommend that you contact her. Get on her waitlist. It might take a minute, but it's so worth it.

She is an expansive. But sometimes it doesn't make sense to get out all your paints and set out everything so that you can make like three brushstrokes. Sometimes you have to. But sometimes it doesn't make sense. So she will still work in fairly significant blocks, even though she's an expansive.

Why? Because that's what serves her work. And her work is her passion.

So- and I think she's- you know, I go back and forth actually about her type. But I'm pretty sure she's an expansive.

So when you are looking at someone and trying to figure out who are they? What makes them tick? What would appeal to them? These things are the things that will make it easier for you to appreciate them. To recognize what they need, and most of all, and I know this is gonna sound boring, but most of all to make them predictable.

If you know what helps them feel better, what helps them feel comfortable, what helps them feel seen and heard and understood and can provide it; then you can get out in front of so much conflict. And so much misunderstanding and so much stress and so much fatigue. And it doesn't even have to be a heavy lift. You just know.

Or you know that you can't provide it and you can be appropriately apologetic. I know it would be easier for you, if we could do it this way, but we can't right now. We're gonna have to do it that way. I'm so sorry. I know it's stressful. And you bring them an extra cup of coffee, or whatever their treat is, to soften the blow. Because you know it's hard and you're acknowledging that. And so they know that you care.

Because so often the breakdown between us is that we don't communicate with the same kinds of expressions of care. And when we don't use the same expressions of care, that means that it's harder to recognize when someone is caring for you, or caring about you, or trying to improve your experience.

So if we can bring that just a little bit closer together, if we can match our expressions of care just a little bit. If I know that you're an expansive and you need lead time, and I can say, Hey, I know you lead me lead time, I don't have a lot of details, but I wanted to tell you that this thing is coming. Even though I can't give you more details than that right now. So you can start to prepare for it.

That's me meeting reality with what I know about this person, who's on my team, who needs support like that. And who will appreciate just knowing, so they're not completely surprised.

Or, Hey, I know, I dropped that thing on you in the last minute. And you did a really great job with it. And I wanted to acknowledge that so I put you in for a bonus, or I put you in for some extra time off, or I put you in for- I don't know, a gift certificate to a massage place. Something, right?

Something to acknowledge that you asked extra of them. And it was hard for them. Even though it might not have been a big deal if someone had asked the same thing of you.

So this one is really about breaking the golden rule. Because if you're working with expansives, and you're an intensive; or you're working with intensives, and you're an expansive; unto others, as you would have done unto you is not necessarily the thing you want at all. It might be the exact opposite.

And so this is an opportunity to figure out what that opposite is. So that- you know how they say you should break rules, but like break them on purpose. Break them in an informed way. This is breaking the golden rule. But in a way that actually brings you closer to the other person. That moves you closer to the other person. That helps you support the other person.

And helps them support you, helps them know you well enough that they can give you what you need, and not what they would have needed.

So that's how you know who's across from you. And that's how you start to think about what that could be useful for. Next week, we'll be talking a little more about how that might be useful, how it makes people predictable. How not to be so surprised that someone liked or didn't like something, based on whether or not they're an intensive or an expansive.

Thanks for tuning in. Talk soon.