I am an external processor. This means that I think out loud. This blog is a great example of how my personality works. When I have an idea, the very act of writing it down or speaking to someone about it is how I process it. This can be a frustrating experience for some of my friends – as I can come across as someone who is wavering and uncertain and wishy washy.
I have noticed, that in the midst of difficult times, it is other external processors that I connect to the most deeply. External processors have a way of validating that only comes with intention for internal processors after they have had time to think about it. It comes almost on accident for us external thinkers.
So let’s say a crazy situation happens in my life and I’m explaining it to a friend who is hearing it for first time. If they have not grown their skill of encouragement and validation and active listening, then their first reaction to you is likely going to be an emotional one. You will not experience being listened to or believe that they hear you. You will receive an emotional reaction to your news. If it is unpleasant news, it will likely be an unpleasant reaction.
Of course, if the people have grown their skills and ability to listen and validate – then they are able to override their gut reaction and give a response that shows that they are listening and care. I am assuming though, that most of us have not grown that skill, and so this post isn’t about these people at all. Rather, it’s about those of us who haven’t honed that skill.
Internal thinkers take in the information and then do all the processing inside their heads. You have no idea what they are thinking. And for someone who just revealed an intimate or vulnerable thing, this is maddening. You constantly are wondering what they are thinking and longing for something – anything as a response and engagement. External thinkers start talking right away. You get their range of emotions of what they like and don’t like, of what they are angry about or happy about or what they understand or don’t. So you end up getting validated because their honest processing will overlap at times with where you need to be validated. You get a lot more than validation, and sometimes you’ll get a lot of negative judgment as well of course. But at least the validation is in there too. So, on accident, external processors end up being much better people to be friends with at the beginning of hard times.
Again, it’s obviously better if we, despite our disposition to how we think, could just become really good at validating and affirming people no matter what the circumstance. Realistically though, all of our friends aren’t going to be able to do this. So I find myself become a lot more connected to those that process externally when I need to be vulnerable and share something and I tend to avoid my friends that are internal processors because the lack of engagement and affirmation. Validation will likely come later from the internal processors once they have had time to think about it and work it all out – but when things are fresh and new and you need to get something off your chest and share – and you don’t necessarily have a professional listener at your fingertips, find those that will process things with you out loud right there on the spot- I think in the midst of the processing you will at least get some of what you need.