Type at the Family Conference Table: Extraverted Feeling

17 May 2016

Written by Mathew David Pauley, JD, MA, MDR

The image of a family conference in a hospital is typically one of high emotion, even when no apparent conflict is readily identified.  Physicians might be giving bad news, chaplains might be leading families in prayer, or nurses might be leading children into their mother's room to meet their new sibling; in all cases, lots of people are bringing lots of emotions to bear on a panoply of circumstances. ESFJs and ENFJs, whose favorite mental process is Extraverted Feeling, are generally at ease in expressing their emotions and being with others who are expressing theirs. Accordingly, their strengths lend themselves well to hospital culture—so much so that healthcare culture itself is described as having ESFJ preferences.

For ESFJs and ENFJs, who often see themselves as peacemakers, sustained conflict can nevertheless be a huge stressor. They are attuned to and respond to the needs and values of those around them, so it is understandable that a conflict that is growing within their family, shutting down communication and proliferating negative interactions, can lead to an eruption of their least used mental process: Introverted Thinking.

Unfortunately, critical illness and a prolonged hospital stay have often caused deep wounds in the relationships within loving families. For instance, a 22-year-old college student with ESFJ preferences has taken a leave from her studies because her grandfather has been in the intensive care unit for the past two weeks. Her mother has asked her to come home and help run errands because she refuses to leave her father’s bedside. Over the next week, this young woman feels that "things are off” and that her aunt and uncle are being exceedingly cruel to her mother based on their curt encounters with her and their seeming lack of sympathy toward what her mother has had to deal with—she was Grand-dad’s caregiver for the past three years.

The young woman’s outburst at her uncle in the hallway, claiming that he was trying to go over his mother’s head iStock_Giving Support_Smalland have the doctors take her grandfather off life support is in line with her being in the grip of her least favorite mental function. Whereas ISTPs and INTPs would strive to analyze her grandfather’s situation and her uncle’s actions objectively, regardless of her relationship to anyone, including her mother, Introverted Thinking, as a least favorite mental process, employs a less structured and developed analysis—separating the problem from the people isn’t the normal approach for the Extraverted Feeling type.  A week of stress, worries about family and school, and attending to the needs of her family—all without focusing on herself—has burned her out.

ESFJs and ENFJs tend to seek to help, promote, and protect others. In entrenched family conflicts, there are often too many people to try to help, which can overload Extraverted Feeling individuals, who will very likely forget to safeguard themselves along the way. Healthcare practitioners frequently tout advance directives as an important way for individuals to prevent family conflict when they are ill, and they can be very helpful.  However, when there is conflict, encourage the Extraverted Thinking individuals in your life to take a break and center themselves. They will often be the first to “run into the burning building” and may be the first to suffer symptoms of prolonged interpersonal conflict.

Want to read more? Check out my previous blogs in this series:

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