February 9, 2013

Confessions of an Incurable Melancholy: The Log in My Own Eye

Now that I’ve gotten that pregnancy rant out of my system, I realize it’s time to take a step back and take my own advice. If all these well-meaning people are Sanguines (some of them aren’t, but for the sake of simplicity, we’re going to generalize), and their emotional needs are attention, affection, approval, and affirmation, I’m not doing a thing to help them feel loved by avoiding them or being cold when they ask me probing personal questions. To me, their nosey questions feel overwhelming, but since they aren’t the ones who understand personalities, it’s my job to cater to their personality styles. (How many times have I told other people that? Oh, how I hate it when my own lectures come back to bite me in the butt…)

If I’m the one who is uncomfortable, it’s my job to speak up and educate others about my emotional needs – check. As long as an impersonal blog counts… Still need to work up the nerve to tell people in person… It is ALSO my job to take what I know about their personalities and adjust my approach to them. So, instead of giving them a brusk, borderline rude answer and the cold shoulder, I need to find a way to pay attention to them, acknowledge their interest, and kindly place boundaries where I can be comfortable without hurting their feelings. So much easier said than done…

For the sake of my figuring all this out, let’s role play. Here’s how this situation would go prior to my log-in-the-eye epiphany:

Sanguine Suzie: (merrily popping into my office while I’m trying to work toward a deadline) Hi, Laura! How are you feeeeling??

Melancholy Me: I’m here. (Continues typing without making eye contact.)

SS: Good! Have you decided on a doctor yet? I heard Dr. So&So is really good. My best friend’s cousin said it was the best birth she’d ever had.

MM: Not yet. (Continues typing without making eye contact. Beginning to fume internally.)

SS: Oh, well you know, you really need to make a decision here soon. That baby’s going to be here before you know it!

MM: Well, it better not come before I make this deadline. I have a ton of work still to do. (Typing, typing, typing, fuming, fuming, fuming.)

SS: Oh… well… I guess I’ll let you work then… Bye… (Slinks out the door not quite as merrily as she entered.)

Not nice, I know. Definitely not proud of how I’ve been acting, but I’ve been so caught up in how I’m feeling internally about this pregnancy that I haven’t really cared. Now that God has my attention, let’s see if I can find a way to try that interruption sequence in a more appropriate fashion…

SS: (merrily popping into my office while I’m trying to work toward a deadline) Hi, Laura! How are you feeeeling??

MM: (taking a deep breath and looking up from the computer) I’m fine. Is there something I can help you with?

SS: Oh, no, just wanted to say hi and see how you’re doing. Babies are so fun!

MM: I’m sure I’ll feel that way once this one arrives. Until then, I have a ton of work to do. I’m sorry to cut this short, but I really do have to get this stuff done.

SS: Yeah, sure, no problem. See you later! (Merrily bops out of the office and down the hall.)

Huh… I was more polite this time, but I was also more up front about my need to work, and miraculously – the conversation and interruption were SHORTER! How had I forgotten this wonderful fact about Sanguines? When I stop and give them my full attention (remember their emotional need for attention?), they say what they need to say and are fine when they bump into clearly stated boundaries. No spirit crushing necessary! When I try to ignore them in hopes they’ll go away, they try harder to get my attention and the whole process takes much longer. I need to remember this lesson!

Alright, Sanguines – your turn to chime in. What did you think about how I handled that second role playing scenario? Would you have been hurt by how I talked with you? Any suggestions for improvement?

Melancholies – How else could I have handled the interruption problem? How do YOU handle it when you’re interrupted?

Here’s to learning and growing together!


  1. Hmm - I probably would have flashed a pleading smile with I'm sorry to cut...... Or I hope I would!

    I just found your blog through a devotion site.

    1. Hi, Judy! Welcome to Scattered Woman! While envisioning this sequence, I had to stop and force myself to smile while addressing SS and make my tone friendly. Now I keep practicing that friendly response in my head over and over again, praying that when that situation happens again, I'll be able to respond well!

  2. Hey Laura!
    I have to say, that if I was the extrovert in that first scenario, I would immediately assume something was wrong, and I definitely don't think that is your intent.

    The second scenario is better, but I wonder if there are some "stock personal answers" you can give to extroverted people that don't make you feel like you are sharing your personal life, but also make extroverted people feel like they haven't intruded and received information. I am merely speaking from the extroverted side of things. If I asked how you were feeling, obviously I would want to know how your pregnancy was going. I wonder if you could say something like, "I'm excited and nervous! It is too bad I have to keep working right now." Or, "I'm feeling blessed with this, and cursed with work!" Something of that nature. I am thinking that if you aren't careful, you might come across as subversive, and people will make assumptions about why, when the reality is that you aren't comfortable with sharing (which is totally okay and not negative like it could come across.)

    1. Thanks for the thoughts, Leah. I'll have to keep thinking about what I could use as that stock answer that wouldn't encourage a longer conversation.