Sensitive kids or sensitive adults who are prone to feeling anxious, down and sometimes blue are Empathizer-type communicators, and I discuss E-types, for short, in my book “Talk to Me.”
Empathizer communicators’ feelings run as deep as the ocean. In fact, your lovable E-type child often feels like a fish out of water, floundering about, flopping about on a sandy beach and drying out in the sun. An Empathizer’s secret worry: “Is something weird or wrong with me because my feelings run SO deep?”
TURNING SMALL WEAKNESSES INTO MIGHTY ASSETS
Your empathetic understanding and caring words of guidance “light up” Empathizers whose lights are burning dim. How you can tell if your “anxious” or “shy” child is an Empathizer communicator who will benefit from learning new communciation tools that reliably turn small weaknesses into mighty assets? Here are some common traits:
1. ANXIOUS. The E-type kid secretly wonders, “What’s wrong with me?” Or, “Why am I able to “see” what people are really feeling and thinking but not saying out loud or talking honestly about?” E-types “tune in” to feelings that are denied or “brushed off” by insensitive others who strive to be tough.
2. OUTSIDER. The E-type kid can be quiet, hardly any trouble, able to entertain him/herself, follows the rules, likes to please others, is deathly afraid of conflict and angry power plays, is a brave-hearted includer instead of an excluder, is kind to discarded animals and unpopular people alike, etc…Empathizer kids can feel like they’re on the outside of their social group (or family nests) looking in. Their quietness doesn’t mean serenity.
3. SHY PEACEMAKER. The E-type kid doesn’t want to make anyone mad…even if the NegaTalker/person or relationship bully has it coming. Empathizers don’t want to make waves, impose their will on an event, will smile through the pain, fail to be pushy when a push is needed, and are prone to thinking magically that everyone can change or get along. E-types don’t want to hurt anyone and feel very anxious about making anyone upset…especially people they depend on to feel good.
4. TOO NICE. The E-type kid is too tolerant of interpersonal stupidity and others’ self-centeredness, and tolerating these type of negative behaviors raises their anxiety level more. In fact, because Empathizers don’t fuss much or raise a ruckus…they can send the wrong message that a heavy-handed behavior is approved of when the E-type child silently despises such behavior. Thus, E-types need to be thicker-skinned: “I don’t care if that big, fat liar, gets flipped off at me…I’m still going to give them a piece of my mind!”
5. JUST SAY YES. The E-type kid will say “yes” when they really mean “no.” Being a yes-sayer will confuse family members and friends, alike. Since Empathizers don’t want to hurt anyone, they fail to set limits and fear the wrath of telling someone…”NO! THAT’S ENOUGH!” E-types are also vulnerable to put downs, jabs, psychocritiques, guilt bombs, social pressures, carrying grudges, mindless stupid remarks, propaganda or gossip campaigns, relationship triangulation or backstabbing and gossiping, social exclusion and shaming, just to mention a few heavy hitters that are used in grade school, junior and senior high school.
6. ‘WHAT IF’ WORRIER. The E-type kid can be an obsessive worrier and play the “What IF” worry record too damn loud. Please get your sensitive kid to talk aloud about their worries instead of keeping them rolling around their skull like a hamster running in a treadmill! Typical worries that can drive you bonkers: “What IF I’m picked on?” “What IF the bully comes on strong?” “What IF my friends or teacher or the group disapproves?” “What IF I’m laughed at for the clothes I’m wearing?” “What IF no one talks to me?” “What IF no one likes me?” “What IF I/we don’t have enough money?” “What IF I can’t get to sleep tonight?” “What IF I can’t stop worrying myself?” Whew…
7. JUST WANT TO BLEND IN. The E-type kid just wants to blend in, fit in and not stand out like a sore thumb. Empathizers want to feel “normal” when their Emotional I.Q. is Gifted. Empathizers look upon their unique strengths as weaknesses; for example, their highly developed intuitive skills are labeled or perceived as “kinda’ odd or crazy.” Trying too hard to blend into a faceless crowd can make E-types turn away from actualizing the true self which is the root of all happiness.
8. LOVE TO HATE. Empathizers have a SUPER-hard time being hateful, hurtful, spiteful, mean, exclusionary or vindictive, which are common social tactics of the immature soul. In fact, healthy anger raises their anxiety level to new heights, because: “I’m not a good person and I will be punished for being so rude and uncaring!” I wish E-types would rant and rave and make a scene and make the self look bad and scream and shout their lungs out and rip insenstizers a new one because we’d ALL (and the world) be far better off being emotionally genuine.
9. INCLUDERS, NOT EXCLUDERS. The E-type kid doesn’t want anyone to be excluded or left out in the cold, particulary when the person might be “odd or different,” “hurting or shunned” or “diverse.” E-types don’t need to receive diversity training, because they FEEL mad that so many people are SO prejudiced about SO-O many things in the first place…including their parents! Religion, politics, gender bashing, racial and cultural extremism are just a few of the topics E-types shy away from due to the angry-shaming prejudices commonly shown.
10. DIM SELF-IMAGE. The E-type kid needs a self-esteem booster shot now and then. Empathizers can be loyal to a fault, be stepped on like a doormat, talk to people to whom they should give the cold shoulder, act nice when they ought to act mean, try to be good and act “nice” when being bad and acting “mean” might be a better solution. E-types are relationship-centered and “people fixers” by nature…so getting mixed up with the wrong family/crowd will put their inner light on a dimmer switch that is a downer.
11. PRIVATELY ENJOYS SELF. The E-type kid likes to laugh, loves to have fun, enjoys special time with pets, loves to go on “talk-and-walks” solo with dad or mom. Empathizers are SO prone to going on unearned guilt trips, and anxiously worry: “Am I a bad person who deserves to be punished because I’m not good or grown up enough?” E-types can even worry that God is critically watching and condemning them mercilessly.
12. SUPER SENSITIVE. Ah, the biggest strength of the E-type kid…super-sized on the sensitivity factor…is their biggest Achilles Heel. There’s nothing to worry about! Empathizers feel the “tribe/group feelings” that others fear feeling…feelings about war, the environment, divorce, family squabbles, poverty and the class system, religious scapegoating and religious fruitcakes…just to mention a few. Some day let’s be brave enough to ask: “What would Empathizers do?”
A LONG-TAILED CAT IN A ROOM FULL OF ROCKERS
God love our E-type kids. Born to be super-sensitive, prone to anxiety, on the shy side even when they are extroverts, active and anxious, driving too hard to be liked, fearing too much, skittish of acting mean or nasty, socially awkward like “a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs,” suffering from a guilt complex when “no” is the right answer to give, prone to acting or saying what others what to see or hear, shy to act proud of the self, living alone by the golden rule of love vs. the rusty rule of resentment, “seers and hearers” of how to make YOU and this world a far better place…our beloved E-types’ emotions are as deep as the deepest ocean.
My wish for every Empathizer, child and adult alike: You have EVERY reason to like yourself and feel proud of yourself because YOU ARE GOOD ENOUGH JUST AS YOU ARE!! All of us would do far better to adopt your sensitive nature and take after your emotional honesty.
In the meantime, people can either enjoy you as you are or stay out of your way, face and space. You don’t have to keep your mouth shut and act so reserved. Being caring also means not caring for bad treatment…and speaking up about it forcefully and in a “ME”AN tone of voice.
Dr. Dennis O’Grady writes about Empathizer communicators, kids and adults alike, in his book “TALK TO ME: Communication Moves to Get Along with Anyone.” In Dr. O’Grady’s studies, Dennis has found that about 40% of us are E-type communicators, whether we are introverts or extroverts, young or old, male or female, rich or poor. Knowing your communicator type as a parent, and understanding the communicator type of your child, will make all the difference in communicating effectively in ways that bring out the best in your child or teen. You can read about the opposite communicator type, the Instigator or I-type child by clicking on the underlined link. Also, you can view an adult comparison of the two types by reviewing the article “Are You A Sensitive or Insensitive Communicator?”