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Helping families make the most of personality differences.

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TAGS: Relationships, Siblings, Differences, parenting

Siblings: Tender vs Tough

Yvonne Nelson-Reid, B.Ed., M.A.
YVONNE NELSON-REID, B.Ed., M.A., is a mother of 5, writer, teacher, depth psychologist, and career coach. As a certified MBTI and MMTIC professional, she uses typology as a tool for helping others understand differences and communicate more effectively.
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To me, empathy for others is an innate and integral part of who I am. So when I noticed a lack of empathy towards others in my 3rd child, my heart sank. 

With her siblings and with friends on the playground, she would come across as cold and uncaring. It wasn?t like she was mean or cruel, she just seemed removed from the situation. If someone got hurt, or was in a scuffle with another child, she could simply state a rational, logical explanation as to what happened, while others were crying and dramatically telling the story as it best fit their desired outcome. 

When watching her interact with others, I would often think of Spock from the Star Trek TV series. For her, everything had a logical explanation. Getting all sentimental and wrapped up in emotional drama didn?t make sense to her. As you can imagine, being the only child among her siblings that value truth over harmony, reason over compassion, and analysis over empathy, has created a great deal of friction and many misunderstandings. 

To hear her say that nobody likes her breaks my heart. To hear her siblings say she is rude and mean breaks my heart. Over the years, I have played the intermediary, often stepping in to ease hurt feelings on both sides. Reminding each of my children that it isn?t always about being rude or mean, although we have those moments, too, but that our behaviors could just be about different ways of assessing and acting on a situation. 

My analytical child does feel deeply and tends to reserve those moments when she deems it necessary. She has a passion for working with special needs children and those children who are underprivileged. It is here where her deep compassion and empathy for others shines through, with an emphasis on how she might better a system that seems in need of improvement. 

I encourage all my kids to recognize and appreciate differences in each other, not only in their sibling relationships but in those relationships outside of the home, with friends, teachers, and extended family. It isn?t always easy and we visit this conversation often. My hope is that one day they will truly get it. 

Understanding that being ?tender-hearted? or ?tough-minded? isn?t good or bad, but just a different way of being in the world, has helped to bridge the communication gaps.