“we have this built-in system of contempt. It’s a mutual reciprocal system of contempt in our culture between intensives and expansives.”

It’s February, and our theme this month is “Love the One You’re With.” And what we mean by that is, thinking about how to love and appreciate and work with people who are on the opposite side of the Intensive-Expansive scale from ourselves. There is a often a socially constructed send of contempt between intensives and expansives. How do we break that system in order to appreciate the gifts and skills that each brings. (Hint: we need each other.)

For starters, let’s talk about how to recognize intensives and expansives in the wild. You probably know which one you are- but how do you know about the person across from you?

For the SIEF assessment, visit: https://intensivesinstitute.com/assessment/

To learn more about the Gottman Institute and the Four Horsemen of the Relationship Apocalypse, visit: https://www.gottman.com/

Transcript and notes:


Recorded 5 February 2024.


Hey, everyone, thanks for tuning in.

So we're into February. We're into this month where everyone is talking about love. Except this year, it seems like it's a little toned down, or maybe a lot toned down. Or probably very toned down, because we're all, most of us, having a really hard time for one reason or another.

It may or may not have anything to do with our intimate relationships, but it's rough out here.

So what is this "love the one you're with" plan anyway? What am I talking about?

I'm talking about... I'm talking about this thing, where we're taught to hate each other. And where maybe we don't have to.

So if you've been in the world for any length of time, or in my world for any length of time- which is probably all of you- you've noticed, there are certain things and certain ways of being that we elevate and that we decide are optimal and certain ways that we don't.

And if you've heard me talk about intensiveness, you know, that intensives are often the marginalized group. We are often the ones who are told we're doing it wrong or too much or too loud or too overwhelming, or too too too too too too too too too- until we shrink, right?

We try to shrink because we don't want to do harm and the implication behind everybody saying that we're too this and too that and too the other thing is that, if we would just be a little less of that we would do less harm. That this too much is harmful to the people or the places or the activities around us.

And we don't want to be harmful. So we're dialing it back, and we're dialing it back and we're dialing it back.

We're squishing, squishing, squishing squishing- that's not great for us. And it's honestly not great for anyone else, right? But at the same time, because we're marginalized and because we know that there's value in who and how we are; at some level, whether it's squished intensive, just under the surface deep buried, we know somewhere that it's gotta be okay to be us.

Or whether it's tempered intensive. You know, alright, fine, I can change how I behave for you, but only because it's strategically supportive for me. Otherwise, I wouldn't do it. Right? We have somehow a sense that we must be okay.

And so when we're together, and we relax, and we click and we bond, what happens is we create our own cultural space. And in our cultural space, those other people, those slow people, those annoyingly boringly rigorous people. Yeah, those people. Those people are the ones who are wrong. And we can be mad at them for being wrong and for being oppressive. For telling us that we have to be like them.

Because we know we don't have to be like them, we could just be like us. Our way actually works, if only it had space. If only, if only there were someplace for it to expand, right, so we take up more space. And then we're told her to beg. And here we go again.

So we have this built in system of contempt. It's a mutual reciprocal system of contempt in our culture between intensives and expansives. And there are other similar systems for a lot of oppositional sorts of categories.

And I think that's why sometimes when people find the SIEF- the Sinha Intensive-Expansive Framework- they balk. Because they're like, oh, you can't put me in a box. And we don't need to be divided any more than we already are, and what are labels for anyway? But the fact is that if you've been told you're wrong all your life, it can be really supportive and comforting to be told that this is a known thing.

This is a way that people are that there are other people like you, and that you're not wrong for it. And so sometimes, as with unusual illnesses, having a diagnosis, having an idea, having a name for who you are- this is- intensiveness is not something that can be diagnosed.

But having a name and a category and colleagues in your being-ness can be really supportive. It can be really helpful.

So that's why I continue to support the existence of this framework that I developed, even though I am between categories in almost every case. And I talk endlessly about the value and the benefit of liminality. Which is another way of claiming an address, an identity, a name, for something that most people pass through. That's kind of my gig.

So when we talk about who we are, and we define a category, I define intensiveness, and I define expansiveness. And these are these two buckets. Nalls. Bubbles. Categories. Whatever you want to call them right they're these two groups, and they're almost mutually exclusive. So you can't really be both.

You can be somewhere on the continuum. But there's a point on the continuum where you cross over from one to the other. So you can have a, a way that's more able to understand the other way, but you're still really in one category, or the other category. And they only just barely touch. Which means that to define one is necessarily to define who's in and who's out.

And that can be, as I said, before, really beneficial for identity. Especially if you're accustomed to being marginalized in the world. But it can also be really divisive. So people push back and they're like, I don't want categories. Well, okay. Are you part of the dominant category, though? Is that why you don't like categories? Or are you part of a different category, and you don't feel included in either of these categories.

This system doesn't work for everyone, even though I believe that everyone can be, can be identified as one or the other. But it's not useful to everyone to have that identification. So if you're one of those people for whom it's not useful, please don't use it. Don't harm yourself.

But if you are one of those people for whom it is useful, then come on in, the water's warm.

So when we create categories, and we define identity, we define who's in and who's out. Who belongs and who doesn't belong, how much you have to be part of something to belong. That's why I just dropped a line in the middle of the continuum. Because I didn't want any gatekeeping. Right?

I didn't want anyone being like, well, I'm only half intensive. What do you mean half intensive? You're intensive, you belong. Or I'm only half expansive. No no: if you're expansive, you're expansive. You belong. And, of course, the closer to the middle line you get, the more sympathy you probably have for people on the other side of the line, because the closer you are in your functioning to them.

But there is still this separation, there is still this difference. And, unfortunately, especially where there's stress, and exclusion or ostracization involved- is ostracization a word? Especially where those things are involved, especially where people are being excluded, actively excluded from something that maybe carries with it privilege, or maybe carries with it a sense of identity, a sense of home.

There's almost always this contempt thing that creeps in.

Now, I'm going to pause for a moment. And I'm going to talk a little bit about John Gottman. So John Gottman runs an institute about relationship. And usually intimate relationship. Usually romantic partnership type relationships, and talks about how to make them better. And there's some really great research out of the Gottman Institute. If you're not familiar with their work at all, I suggest you go explore it.

But one of the concepts that they use, that I talk about all the time, is this concept of the four horsemen of the relationship apocalypse. So when he would interview a couple, if he saw these four things, he was like, oh, no, this relationship is in trouble.

And what are those four things? These four horsemen of the relationship apocalypse are: criticism, by which he does not mean constructive criticism. He means the unhelpful kind. Contempt. Defensiveness. And stonewalling. So criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling. And the reality is that these things show up in our personal relationships. They also show up, of course, in our work relationships.

Anytime you have people who are in a protracted engagement, you can see the possibility of these things turning up. And how likely they are to turn up and how likely they are to, to grow. And to take root. And to become a central part of the interaction, kind of does determine how likely that relationship is to survive. Or survive well.

Sometimes you can't get away from it right? Sometimes, sometimes you work with this person, and they're assigned to the team and you're assigned to the team and unless you quit, there's no way out. But you can see the relationship disintegrate when these things show up. And the reason I raise it here is because contempt is so built in.

Criticism and contempt together are so built in to the way that we're taught to interact with people who are different from us in our culture. Not always, not in all contexts. But so often. And between expansives and intensives, we see it all the time, right?

Intensives are like, "Ah, you're so boring. You're so unimaginative, you're so uncreative, you're such as stick in the mud. Why do you have to just sit there and crunch your numbers? And why can't we just imagine? Move forward and dream."

And meanwhile, the expansives are like, "uh. excuse you. You need to grow up. You need to act like an adult, you need to do your duty. Duty is very important, and you completely ignore it all the time."

Right? So we end up with this critical contemptuous relationship between intensives and expansives. And then we can't work together. And then we can't appreciate each other.

So what I'm talking about this month is "Love the One You're With." How do we move from this culturally trained contempt for each other, for each other's behavior, for each other's- really skills, but we start to see them as flaws. How do we move from this culturally trained contempt into a joyful appreciation of each other?

And the first place- I'm just going to take us down, start us down the path today, because I don't want this episode to get a million years long, and we have time. But the first thing I want us to consider is: who is it? Who are these people? Who is across from you?

How do you know if you don't want to like whip out the assessment? If you do, it's at intensivesinstitute.com/assessment. But if you don't want to whip out the assessment, or if they're not going to be cooperative, how do you tell whether the person across from you is an intensive? Or an expansive?

You probably know what you are, but how do you identify someone else?

So the first thing is, what's your gut? And why? So your gut feeling: is this person intensive or expansive? And then what is it about them, that makes you think that? And that can be a little hard to tease out because often the way we know an intensive is we feel that click. And the way we know and expensive, is we feel that kind of pulling back a little bit.

I don't know if you've ever had that happen. Where you're at a party or a networking event, and you go up and you introduce yourself to someone. And you feel that like generic openness that you try to have when you meet someone new. And then after they've said what they do, and you're starting to say what you do, or they've said who they are, and you're starting to say what you are or who you are, how you are in the world, you can feel them sort of recoil a little bit.

You can feel them kind of crunch back away from you. Just a little bit just ever so slightly. And their face becomes more of a glazed over polite mask and less of an engaged open face. And then they've asked you a question that's deep. And so you're trying to answer it with an appropriate level of depth. And you're aware that you're in a social environment. And maybe you shouldn't say too much, but you're trying to kind of hit that balance.

And you can see, you can feel, that like two-second moment where they realize that you're actually going to answer them in depth. And they don't want you to answer them in depth. They want to get out of there. And you can feel them kind of curl away. If you're very observant, you might actually see some physical cues.

And then like the next thing- this just happened to me at a networking event- the next thing that they say to you is "well, it was really nice to meet you. Take care." And so you have no choice socially, but to walk away, say oh yeah, it was nice to meet you and walk away. But you can feel that request.

You can feel that separation moment. Right? But that's not something you can really codify. That's a gut instinct. Sometimes it comes after some time. We don't really know why that happened.

So here's some things you can look for that will help you know if you're working with an intensive or an expansive within the first little tiny bit of meeting. Within the first few minutes.

So one thing: do they express themselves with a lot of pitch modulation? Does their voice go up and down and round and sideways; or is it very steady and even? Do they tend to talk in a monotone.

This isn't a dead giveaway. None of these are. But they are things you can look for. And if you see as- with the scale itself- if you see a cluster of behaviors, you're more likely to be dealing with either an intensive or an expansive. So if they use a lot of vocal modulation. A lot of up and down, a lot of in and out, a lot of- they sound excited. If they sound emotionally connected to their subject. They're probably an intensive.

If they sound more even keeled, if they sound like their expression of excitement would be, "that's wonderful. I'm so glad to hear it." That's probably an expansive. So that's one thing. Voice.

Another thing is this something similar but physical. If you see them gesturing a lot, moving a lot, or looking like they wish they could, but the room's too crowded or they're too shy. They're probably intensives. If you see them with very kind of muted physical expression, they're probably expansive. Intensives: big. Expansives: less big. Not small, not like shrunk, not timid. Just they don't, they don't occupy as much space, usually in the, in the expressive range.

If you ask them how things are going, and they say, "good, good." That's probably an expansive. If you ask them how things are going, and they're like, "Oh, my God, it's great." Or, "Oh, you know, I've just been struggling so hard." That's probably an intensive. Somebody who's more likely to give you more information about what they're doing, right off the top, with no preamble is an intensive.

An expansive is likely to need that buffer that like very gentle- It's, it's like getting into the water right? An intensive is likely to dive right off the diving board. And an expansive is likely to want to find the shallow end, with that little sloped entry point and just slowly enter. Like, if we can even get away from the stairs and find like a gentle- like a beach, going in really gently. That's the expansive method.

So if you find after five minutes of conversation that you haven't really gotten to anything deep. That's probably an expansive. If you find that you already know who they are, what their health history is, and what three businesses failed before the one that they're working on. Now, that's probably an intensive.

And finally, what does it feel like when you part? Does it feel like they're definitely going to get in touch again? Probably tomorrow. And they're excited to see you? Or does it feel like maybe there's gonna be some time. Maybe they want to, like, chat a little bit on the computer or on the text?

Or- How are they getting into the relationship? Again, with the dive versus the easing in? If they dive in to knowing you, and they're like, oh, yeah, let's get together, I could spend hours talking to you, this is great. That's an intensive. If they're like, oh, it would be lovely to have a 15 minute phone conversation in two weeks. That's an expansive.

Neither one means that they don't like you. Neither of those expressions means that they don't like you or that they're necessarily disinterested in what you have to say. The first one maybe like if they're trying to get out of the conversation, maybe.

But often, often, what they're really dealing with is just needing to ease in if they're an expansive. Or really needing to stay connected and stay engaged, if they're an intensive. Because if they're an intensive, and they need to stay engaged, and you don't stay engaged, they know they'll lose it. They'll lose the thread, they'll wander off. They'll become interested in something else, as intensely. So if you want them to stay engaged, you do need to follow up and you need to follow up fairly rapidly. And with some level of excitement.

So that's the most important thing, if you're like in a networking situation, is to know that just because an expansive seems muted compared to an intensive, doesn't mean the expansive is not interested.

And just because an intensive seems very excited doesn't mean they're going to turn into a stalker. All it means is that they're very excited.

Now, if your spidey sense is going off, by all means, listen to it. This is not ever about discounting your gut sense of what's happening. But if it's not about your spidey sense, and you're just like, wow, they were super excited, that's a little weird. No, that's just a little intensive, and it's fine. It's fine.

They're excited. That's good. That's what you want. You want them excited, you want them engaged. And you want to follow through as quickly as possible, so that that excitement becomes momentum. And that momentum becomes continuity. Because it might be that you'll meet a few times really excitedly and then it'll drop off. And then you'll meet again a few times really excitedly and then it'll drop off. And if that's what happens, that's okay. That's that's the rhythm.

But it means that if you want to move into an ongoing relationship, you need to pick up that first piece of momentum.

So that's all I'm giving you today. How to know who's across from you. Because that will help you know how to love the person who's across from you. How to appreciate the person who's across from you. And how to continue that relationship if you want to.

So thanks for tuning in. We'll talk soon.