Help the intensives and expansives in your world resolve and avoid conflict by giving the, the language to understand each other, and helping them recognize that their different wants and needs and styles are inherent to them and how they are their most effective selves.

Pace & Kyeli:

The Gottman Institute and the infamous four horsemen of the relationship apocalypse:

Other PowerPivot episodes about intensives and expansives:

How intensive or expansive are you? Look here for the assessment:

notes and transcript:


Hi, everyone, thanks for tuning in. I know I often decide to use poetry as a way of explaining things. But sometimes things are just better in prose. So we're going to talk today about that 'communication breakdown' thing that happens on teams so often. I can't tell you how often I've seen it. So I decided to talk about it. Let's imagine for a moment that you have a team and that team is mixed intensives and expansives.

If you're not familiar with intensives and expansives as a concept, there are a couple of podcast episodes, one that talks about intensives, and one that talks about how to love your expansives. That will give you some idea, but I'll give you this 10 second version, which is that intensives are the GO GO GO GO GO GO like super excited, or super sad, or like big intensity, big feelings, big innovation, big disruption people, and expansives are the slow steady, like really even-keel, don't like surprises, don't like a lot of emotion in their day, people.

That's the really, really short explanation, you can find more information on my website at There's an assessment. So you can try and figure out which one you are if you don't know already. And I really highly suggest that you explore the framework as a way of understanding yourself and the people that you live with and work with. It applies in relationships, it applies in business.

But today, we're going to stick to this very, very specific instance. So imagine that you have a team and that your team is some intensives, and some expansives. So again, intensives are the like people who work from their gut, people who pivot on a dime, people who are like, I'm just gonna go until this is finished, even if it's a 16 hour day, and then I'll just take some hours off tomorrow to make up for it. Those people, those are intensives. And then the expansives of the people who are like, Yes, I will come in at 9 am, my butt will be in the chair, I will have my coffee, which I got at 8:55, I will be working on my project by 9:15, after having checked my email, which I do for exactly 15 minutes.

Like those people, those are expansives. So you have some of each of those on your team. And the intensive does that thing that I just described, where it's like, "Oh, my God, this is a huge project, we're on a deadline, I'm just gonna stay late, instead of trying to come in early and get started again. I'm in the flow, I'm just going to stick with it."

And so that intensive, instead of going home and clocking out and like having dinner and stuff, stays in the office or stays at their desk, 5pm 6pm 8pm 10pm. Realizes they haven't eaten. Orders Chinese food or pizza or something. Keeps going, maybe doesn't remember, they haven't eaten until two o'clock in the morning when they're like, Wow, I feel weird. They stand up, they realize they have to pee, they do that. And then they go back to working. They finally crack it, they like figure out the coding problem. Or they finally finished putting that last graphic into place, whatever it is they're working on, at like 3:25. And then they're like, "Oh, thank God."

So they shut down their computer, they put a post-it on their computer, if they're thinking. They put a post it on their computer, if they're in an office, or they send out an email to everybody, whatever works for their work environment, they post it to Slack. And they say, "Hey, listen, everybody, I was up until 3:30, I'm not going to be in tomorrow, sorry. I'm gonna miss the morning meetings." And then they go home, or they go to bed. And they just stay asleep until they wake up at like, you know, two o'clock.

So the next day is pretty much a write-off. They wake up, they shower, they have their coffee, they're at their desk by three, they plan to stay at their desk until like six or seven. They do a bunch of work, you know, kind of puttering around sorts of work. They check in on the thing that they fixed last night. Yeah, it's working great. And they check their email. And there's a bunch of people yelling at them for not having been in the office, even though they said, they told everyone they weren't coming in because they had worked this extra long day.

And this happens a couple of times. And after a while the expansive team members, who are the in their seat every morning at 9am clock out at 5pm every day people, the expansive team members start to think, even if they don't say it out loud, they start to think: "the person is so irresponsible, they're so flaky. I don't understand why they can't just be responsible and show up when they're supposed to show up. Nobody's making them stay late, they could just go home and start again the next day like the rest of us, so they're on schedule with everyone else."

That's not how intensives work, but that is how expansives work. And what Pace and Kyeli call the "universal error," which is assuming that everyone else works like you work, is in absolutely like Technicolor glory here.

Because the intensive is like "I know what I'm doing. I'm I'm holding all these loose pieces of this project in my head. If I put it down, it's going to be a mess. I may not even remember what I was working on by the time I get back tomorrow. I know they want this done by deadline, I know the deadline is like four o'clock tomorrow. So I'm just going to pursue and do this and make sure it gets done. I am doing the right thing for the company, for my job, to make sure this gets finished. And for my own satisfaction, because I won't sleep well, if I know that this is hanging over my head."

And the expansive is like, "the right thing to do would be to come in at nine o'clock like everyone else and pick up where you left off just like everyone else does make yourself some notes, it'll be fine." This is this is an incompatibility that comes of the type, it is not actually the barrier that it usually shows up as. Because what happens is the expansive starts to resent and grumble about the intensive in their head and think, "you know, they should just do it this way, they should just do it that way. They just need to be more organized. They just need to have more tools, they just need to use the tools they have better over and over and over again, ad infinitum."

Meanwhile, the intensive can tell that the expansive is mad, but can't figure out why. Because the intensive went above and beyond to make sure that that deadline got met. And so the intensive is like, "I don't understand why this person has a stick up their ass. I was being a perfectly good employee. I worked hard. I put in overtime. And then I just rested afterwards, because it didn't matter, really, if I made it to morning meetings. There are eighty-five people in those meetings, nobody's gonna care whether I show up or not. I don't need to be in that meeting. But I did need to finish this project so that you would hit your deadline."

This is a classic intensive-expansive conflict. The other direction. If it were the other direction, it would be the intensive going to the expansive and saying "hey, I just had this great idea. I think we should change this right away right now." And the expansive, because expansives don't like rapid change, getting there back up and being like, "no, don't you know, we have a procedure for that go follow the procedure." And the intensive being like, "I don't know why you're so stuck in the mud and why you're so boring. This is a perfectly good idea, you're gonna make us lose three weeks, because you have a procedure. We don't need the procedure, we need the new process. Right now we need to implement this right now I just had this idea. And it's really, really good. Let's do it." And the expansive is like "you're being irresponsible" and the intensive is like "you're, you're getting in the way of our progress."

And again, you have this conflict, right and, and this is happening mostly because they don't understand each other. And our culture teaches us to overlay this judgment on each other all the time. There's a lot of backstory to this in my introductory class series, if you're interested in in taking that I'm just about done revamping that and relaunching it as a full set. But it's in my introductory class series, where I talk about all of the reasons why this is true.

But for purposes of a short podcast episode we're going to just stick to it's true that our culture supports this kind of judgmentalism, especially unfortunately, in one direction, with an expansive bias. So in favor of the expansive and against the intensive. This idea that an intensive is not mature, is not leaderly, is not grown up, is too scattered, is childish. Like all of that stuff. There's a lot of like racism and classism embedded in that, that I will probably have to do a whole other class on the racism and classism aspect of it.

But, but for now, let's just stick with" this is what's true is that our culture has a heavy bias for people who do things a little at a time, our culture has a heavy bias for people who who count their productivity by hours, rather than counting their productivity by accomplishments. Intensives are task-oriented and expansives are time-oriented. So an expansive will say I had a productive workday, I went into work for eight hours. And an intensive will feel completely disappointed by having spent those same exact hours doing the same exact things.

Because they will have gotten to the end of the day and not finished. And if they just stayed another two hours and finished what they were doing, then they would have a tremendous sense of accomplishment and a dopamine hit from having accomplished something and then they would be satisfied with their work day. But they might not have as much energy to get started as early or work in the same way the next day. So So understanding that that's that this is essentially- it's not diagnostic, but it's just a way brains are.

This is the way our brains are and this is how they are different. This is brilliant, because as we all know every business has some tasks that need to be done in a routine way. Every business has some tasks that need to be done a little at a time on a daily basis. You know, you shouldn't be entering this data or you should be checking this level or whatever it is. Every business needs that. And every business also needs innovation, disruption, creativity.

And this is not to say that expansives can't be creative, or innovative, but expansive creativity and innovation are different. And they tend to work within the existing model. Whereas intensive creativity and innovation often goes about it by, by using as the base concept, that we are going to disrupt the existing model, we are going to break the model and start over, we are going to start from scratch because that's more interesting. We're going to start from scratch because then we're not hemmed in.

In fact, when I write sermons, I write several days. And I write one section. And then instead of continuing from where I left off, I actually start from a blank page the next time I sit down, this is also true of a lot of my other writing. And it shows up in the way that, for example, my book reads, it doesn't read in the same kind of continuous narrative that other books of its type often do. Because it's written as though each time I'm starting fresh. And then later, I go back and notice where I've repeated things and pull and sort and organize.

I'm doing the same thing in my next book right now, figuring out what I've said six times. So clearly, it matters to me. And what I have neglected to say because it's so obvious to me. We'll figure it out. But, but when when we're looking at the cadence of work, some of work needs to be done in sprints. And some of work needs to be done with a very systemic kind of regularity. So I want to emphasize that we need both types. But what we also need is to understand both types.

We do not want contempt. We do not want stonewalling, we do not want any of- John Gottman talks about the four horsemen of the relationship apocalypse. And I believe they apply as clearly in the workplace as they do in intimate relationships, which is where the Gottman Institute focuses. And we don't want those four horsemen, we don't want contempt. We don't want criticism that's not helpful. We don't want defensiveness. And we certainly don't want stonewalling in our team dynamics, or in our managerial dynamics.

So in order to avoid those, what we have to do is stop assigning moral value to one or the other ways of being, which means we just need to understand that they're inherent. It's like whether someone has brown eyes or blue eyes, you wouldn't get mad at them for having brown eyes or mad at them for having blue eyes, you would just recognize that some people have one and some people have the other. And if that affected something particular, you would just work with it. If you were a costume designer, you just work with it. If you were a stylist, you just work with it, you wouldn't be like, "Oh, well, I don't like working with brown-eyed people."

And this is similar. So So when your team understands all of the intricacies of what it means to be an expansive and what it means to be an intensive, then instead of the expansive looking at the intensive and going, "why can't you just be responsible?" the expansive looks at the intensive and says, "Oh, I get it. You're an intensive. So you addressed this crisis-level deadline in an intensive way. You just stayed in your chair and ate pizza and didn't sleep until it was solved. And then you needed to make up for that somehow. And that's why you weren't in your chair at nine o'clock in the morning. Okay, that wouldn't work for me. But it worked for you. And you met the most critical deadline of the day, we had the thing and it worked at four o'clock. And you were even in the office before four o'clock in case we were having a problem. But we weren't. Because you did it right. Because you did it the way that works for you."

On the other hand, the intensive goes to the expansive and is like "I have this great idea" and the expansive cam say "listen, listen, I'm sure your idea is great. And I need you to introduce it to me a little more gently." Because both of them have this language about intensives and expansives. And so people can ask for what they need. Now. expansives are less direct than intensives, generally. So the expansives asking for what they need directly might be a little hard.

But the intensives will also notice that they're being like, a little tense, and be like, "oh, right, that's how expansives are. They don't, they don't take new ideas right away. So if I want this to go down well, with these expansives on my team, what I need to do is like write them a memo that lays it out really slowly and easily. And give them a couple of weeks to digest it or give them a couple days to digest it depending on the timeline. And meanwhile, I'm gonna go be really excited about this idea with my other intensive teammates, who will just be able to get on board and be excited, or tell me why it's terrible. And then we can work on it and improve it together."

And by understanding that there are certain kinds of interactions that are going to go better with expansives, certain kinds of interactions that are going to get better with intensives, certain kinds of support, you're going to get better from one or the other. Certain people who are what I call buffers and bridges- they can be people or they can be strategies- but you can actually create a system that makes it easier for your intensives and your expansives to interact. And this is also true when managers are assigning tasks There are all kinds of other contexts where this is applicable.

But in this particular case, where you have this kind of personality conflict and resentment brewing, it's really easy to head it off. If your team knows who's an intensive and who is an expensive and has learned the system. One of the things that people often ask me is you created a personality framework like, aren't there a million of them out there? And two things I need to say about that.

One is, yes, I created a personality framework, there are a million of them out there. But I created this specifically because I didn't see this particular axis described by itself anywhere. There was no way to isolate this in a framework like this until I created this framework. Secondly, because it is a single axis, I'm I'm describing behavior. First of all, I'm describing inherent patterns of behavior, but I'm not, I'm not trying to describe the whole person, right? I'm just trying to describe how intense you are, from a zero to a 10. On a single axis scale. How intense is this person? And how does that intensity or lack of intensity, affect their function in the world? With their family, with their stuff, with their work, everything.

And by keeping it that simple, I've made it possible for people to understand it, grasp it and use it right away. Even from this podcast, you can probably figure it out. But if you can't, and you decided to take one of my trainings, or buy one of my classes or read my book, there are a lot of ways to get this information, then you would have a robust understanding of it. I wouldn't necessarily go around telling everyone what they are. But you would at least get it internally, you would have a sense that you could use. So then you could go out on the street.

And you're meeting somebody, you're talking to someone, you're having a negotiation and you can recognize almost immediately "oh, this person's an expensive or oh, this person's an intensive. If this person is an expansive, what does that mean? If this person is an intensive? What does that mean? And then they're, you know, slight variations on the theme. Are you tempered, are you squished? Are you fried?

But the basic idea that you want to know how intense this person is, because if they're at the intense end of the scale, they're going to need different things. They're going to feel comforted by different things. They're going to feel supported by different things. If they're on the expansive end of the scale, they're going to need and want and desire different things. It affects everything.

So when you start out with this single axis understanding, you can carry it around in your head. It's not a 16-box matrix like the MBTI. it's not nine different types like the enneagram. It's not- I have to be honest, Human Design baffles me. It's not that either. It's just this one thing that makes our lives easier. And in this case, it reduces the chance of conflict on your team. Thanks for listening.