“How do you get from generalizations to the specificity that allows you to interact with a particular human being that’s across from you?”

Our theme of “Love the One You’re With” continues… but let’s not make any big assumptions. Intensiveness can be a fairly influential characteristic, but we should always remember that there are wide variations in personalities, even among intensives or expansives. Let’s look at some of those variations so that we can get to know who we are talking to a little bit better.

Transcript and notes:


Recorded 19 February 2024.


Hey, everyone. Thanks for tuning in.

So I have to be honest with you, when I looked at my notes for this week, I kind of blanked. And I was like, what? I don't know what I meant by that. But I only sort of don't know what I meant.

What I wrote was "now these are the ones just like me, right? Differences in type." And what I think I meant, what I might have meant- what we're gonna go with is: we think that because we are all intensives, we are very similar, because we're all expansives, we're very similar. That we work the same way, that we think the same way. That once we understand this system, a lot of people will to "oh, well, then I just want to hang out with my type." Especially low tolerance folks.

So I haven't really talked about tolerance levels very much on this podcast. But tolerance levels are how well you play with the people who aren't you. So if you're an intensive, and you play really well with expansives, even though you're not an expansive, that's high tolerance. And the same the other way. If you have an expansive who just loves intensives, even though they roll their eyes at intensives, then that's probably a high tolerance expensive.

But a lot of folks, especially lower tolerance folks, when they discover SIEF, and their own SIEF type, they decide that what they're going to do to solve all of their problems- especially intensives do this to solve all their problems- is they're just going to interact with intensives going forward. They're just not going to have any expansives in their lives. They're going to date intensives, they're going to hire intensives.

And you already know that I don't think that's a great solution. Because we really do need each other. And we create a kind of balance for each other that is not just supportive. But also when we respect each other, and when we care about each other, it's loving. It's delightful.

But we have to obviously have that respect, which is why this system exists, why I do this work. To help us really get to that point of appreciation and co-engagement, that doesn't require us to cut each other off. And doesn't require us to stereotype. And doesn't require us to do all those things that don't help us be good people in the world. And don't help us run good organizations.

But the problem with that assumption is that these are very broad types. And that was deliberate. When I created this framework, I was not trying to describe people down to the finest little detail.

You'll notice with most personality frameworks, like Enneagram, or Myers Briggs- I know Myers Briggs especially is particularly problematic, but a lot of people use it. Or the Gallup Strengths Finder, Clifton Strengths Finder system. Aall of those things try to describe people pretty pretty tightly. They try to get people down to just a number that describes them exactly. And, where you really could say like, most nines are the same, or most INFJs are the same. And- that's not what I wanted to do.

What I wanted to do was describe this particular axis of behavior and world interaction. How do we function in the world as intensives, or as expansives? Period. That's it. And allow for all of the variation, all of the diversity, the variability that happens within that category.

I'm just talking about this one locus of behavior. This one piece of the pie. And in so doing, I frustrate a lot of people. Because they're like, Well, I'm different from this other intensive. Yeah, you are. So we're going to talk about that. How are we different from each other? And how are we the same as each other? What kinds of generalizations can you make? And how do you get from generalizations to the specificity that allows you to interact with a particular human being that's across from you?

So thinking about that, let's start with intensives. I usually start with intensives because we are the greater mystery. Not only to ourselves. often because we haven't been taught how to understand ourselves. But also to the people around us. And that's what's causing the friction.

So intensives are intense. And that is the thing we have in common. We are intense and we express that intense-ness in a variety of different ways. But the thing that we have in common is that almost vibration of energy. Some intensives are very calm, focused intensives. But they still get really into what they get into.

Some intensives are really loud, exuberant intensives. And they still get into what they get into. What we're looking at is just that element of intensity. And the way that it expresses itself is all these other things I talk about. The go like hell and rest like the dead thing is pretty common. It's kind of rare to find an intensive who doesn't do that. So that's one of the questions I often use as kind of a cocktail party diagnostic. A really quick question that I can ask people that helps people know who they are, if they're curious.

What we can't do is assume for example, that all intensives like loud noises. Some intensives are also autistic. And wear noise cancelling headphones or noise reducing earplugs almost all the time. Other intensives really like that loud noise. Not all autistics don't like loud noise either. It's complicated, right?

So. So when we meet another intensive. When you're an intensive, and you meet another intensive, the thing you don't want to do is assume that they're just like you. Think of any category of humans you can. And that's always the case, right?

You don't want to assume that this other person is just like you even if they share this one characteristic. Intensiveness is one fairly influential characteristic. But it's not everything. Some intensives love math, some intensives hate math. Some intensives- I use the spreadsheet as kind of a, a shorthand, right? When I'm talking about expansives, I say expansives really like to see that zero in the bottom right hand corner of their spreadsheet. Intensives really like seeing the zero, but intensives often don't like doing the work to get to the zero.

But that's not true of everyone. I know a handful of intensives who love that really intense focus on making sure that all those numbers are right, so that they get to the zero.

One of the things that we tend to have in common is that we like to go back up the ladder and figure out where the system is broken rather than solving symptoms. That's something that almost all intensives have in common. Is that we get really frustrated with solving the same symptom over and over again, when we could go back and solve the system. So we don't get the symptom anymore. And that's true from healthcare, to organizational dynamics, to politics, to climate change. Like the entire range of stuff, you'll see the same pattern in intensives.

What you won't necessarily see is the same desire for action. So you'll see different kinds of- Everybody wants to act, but you'll see different kinds of action. So some people will be activists, they'll be in the street. Some people will be working the political system. Some people will be... they will have gone into science to develop scientific solutions and mechanical solutions for the problem that's at hand.

It's- we have such a diversity of approaches. And that is one of our strengths. When you get several intensives in a room, they might wildly disagree. Because each one of them is focused on their particular approach to this problem. But if we can appreciate each other, and all of our approaches, what we end up with is a very robust approach.

A room of five or six intensives can develop a multi pronged approach to a problem that will actually address all of the major issues. It might feel huge. It might feel overwhelming. Which is why we then break it back down and say, Okay, this team is going to work on this and this team is we're going to work on that.

And when we try to find intensives and expansives, who feel that that approach is the useful approach. Because people have to believe in what they're doing. Expansives are going to be a little more flexible, But intensives we, we tend to, we tend to have to believe in what we're doing in order to do it. So when we think about intensives, and like, oh, this intensive is going to be just like me-mmmm. This intensive is going to have some stuff in common with you. And probably some stuff different from you. And maybe you'll get along or maybe you'll hate each other.

It's unlikely that you'll feel neutral about each other. That's just the way intensives tend to be. Right?

So then expansives. Let's think about expansives for a moment.

Expansives I usually describe as the even keeled, steady, prefer predictability, don't like big emotional rage- like those people, right? And we love our expansives. We love our expansives because expansives are the people who make sure things get done. Expansives are the people who follow through. But you know, some expansives really do want to feel a mission behind what they're doing. They don't just want to do it because they're supposed to. They want to do it because they believe in the thing. That's important to some expansives, not all of them.

Some expansives want to go upstream and figure out why the system is broken. But not all of them. But what expansives have in common is this steady state existence. This calm pool. If intensives are rapids, and oceans and storms, expansives are like lakes on a clear day. And that energy of 'lake on a clear day,' and that energy of like, "okay, I want everything in order, I want everything predictable, I want everything to fit into a category,' is that common thread. Everything else about expansives is movable.

Some expansives really like high energy spaces. Some expansives don't. Some expensives really likes social engagement, some expansives don't. That stuff is all it's all second tier, or third tier. Some expansives do get really excited, or at least they express excitement in culturally recognizable ways. Some expensives don't.

So figuring out what you're looking for, is really about that central, that one characteristic that I was trying to describe when I created it, right? We're looking for the intense focus, the intense engagement, the passion. Or we're looking for this very calm, clear lake. That perfect still water at sunrise. That thing. That feeling in the gut. Although an expansive might not necessarily describe it as a feeling in the gut.

But that steady sense is at the heart of expansiveness. And it is what gives rise to all the other things. It's what gives rise to the moderated emotional expression. It's what gives rise to the very tidy- that, you know, I sort of half jokingly talk about crossing out lines with a ruler. But some people do that. And it's really important to them. And I have huge respect for that. I am not that patient. But I have huge respect for that.

So when- This is really just a cautionary, a cautionary moment. When you meet another expansive. Or when you meet another intensive. When you meet someone else who is your own type. Remember that this is only describing one piece of their very large and complex personality. And everything else that you're going to find out about them is going to be specific to them.

And you'll probably notice that it does fall into the behavioral patterns that I've talked about for intensives and expansives. But, but don't fall into the trap of assuming that just because you're intensive and you like this thing that they'll like this thing. Or just because you're expansive and you like this thing, they'll like this thing.

It's much more about using it as a lens through which you can absorb additional information about them, and retain, categorize and make predictions. But just know that those predictions need to be based on who they are, and not your own experience of your own intensiveness or expansiveness exclusively.

So that's the first episode for this week. And next we're going to talk a little bit about what's fun about these variations, and about how we click with each other.

Thanks for tuning in. Talk with you soon.