March 3, 2014

Horsenality/Humanality course notes (part 1): The four humanality types

As I mentioned in my last post, I just finished the Horsenality/
Humanality course with Linda Parelli and Patrick Handley a few weeks ago. In a way, I've been waiting for this course for years, ever since I tried to piece together a little more information—particularly on the humanality end of things—after my Fast Track. (Here is the blog post where I made some decent headway with that effort.)

I was even more inspired to keep learning about humanality and horsenality after Patrick and Linda's excellent savvy club DVD of April 2013. 

There are two things in particular I love about that DVD. First, the information in it has been huge in helping me to understand myself and others in a more positive and accepting way. And second, Linda and Patrick are uproariously funny and delightful together. When I heard they were teaching a course, I didn't so much make a decision to attend as just do the only obvious thing: sign up and go!

And the course did not disappoint. I soaked in information as fast as I could, and I thoroughly enjoyed the anecdotes and humor throughout. It feels greedy to keep so much wonderfulness to myself, so I'm going to do my best to share a lot of it here, including, as much as possible, the bits that really tickled me. 

But first I want to start with what Pat said. He was sitting on his horse and rambling on, as he does, joking and talking about nothing in particular, when he suddenly turned serious and said, as he does, something really amazing. And it was this: "Horsenality/Humanality is not an excuse: it's a strategy and a starting point."

I think we can all worry about being pigeon-holed or about having our depth and complexity minimized by schemata like the humanality types. Conversely, we can all be seduced by the possibility of establishing a clear identity and then never stretching ourselves beyond it.

Yet the horsenality and humanality types aren't intended to limit ourselves or others. Rather, they are meant to give us, as Pat said, a starting place—a springboard to greater understanding and compassion for both ourselves and others, be they human or equine. They give us as well the tools—the strategies—we need to be able to communicate effectively with those who are different from ourselves. And at their very best, they give us the opportunity to live more expansively by creating an understanding of our starting point and mapping out where we might want to go next in our quest to be our best selves—as well as how we might get there. 

Everyone has their own journey and their own maps to follow, and I'm a big believer in letting folks get on with their journeys in the way that suits them best. So I don't want to insist that studying things like humanality is the only way. 

But I'm also a big believer that awareness about things like the different humanality types can make a real difference—especially in the amount of human kindness out there—and it's to that end that I'm sharing this information. (And also because I just freaking love this stuff!).

I'm going to start with an overview on the humanality side of things in this post, and then in future posts move on to my notes about interactions, triggers, and strategies, as well as the horsenality stuff. 

Here's the basic humanality breakdown:

 Left Brain Extroverts
Robert Downey, Jr. as Iron Man
is like a double helping of LBE.

LBE's are motivated by achievement and focused on results: "Get to the point and do it now!" They are active ("When things are happening, we're having a good day!") and competitive ("You play to win! Who cares if the kid you're playing against in Monopoly is only 4?"). They are confident and assertive and have a great capacity to believe in themselves, and generally to convince others as well . . . even when they're wrong. Patrick described a trail ride with his wife where they got lost, except that she didn't believe she was lost: "She was lost and convinced that she knew the way home. That's a bad combination." Patrick, having been married to an LBE for a long time, did not, at least, fall into the trap of believing that, because she was confident, she was also right. This is a big danger for other people around LBE's, to whom the other types often defer.

Princess Leia gives fellow LBE Han
Solo a run for his money in Star Wars.

(notice the direct eye contact)
Because LBE's are so direct and assertive, it's easy to know where an LBE stands. But sometimes the rest of us have trouble responding in a big enough and direct enough way that the LBE knows where we stand.

In a debate this situation is even more obvious. LBE's love to debate because they know they're going to win—if only because they keep turning up the volume and getting more forceful the more you debate them. Whereas an RBI can't think of what to say in a conflict, an LBE thinks of several things they shouldn't say and says them anyway. An RBI isn't likely to get in a fight with an LBE, though, because an RBI could have two whiskeys and a massive amount of caffeine and still not be able to get big enough to keep up with an LBE. 

Beatrice in Much Ado:
"Her wit values itself so
highly that to her all
matter else seems weak."
(notice the confident body
posture and cocky smile)

LBE's, however, are not just willfully pugnacious; for them, engaging in a fight is a key part of connecting and if you fight with them, it means that you care. Patrick says of his wife: "So I engage in fights sometimes. It seems like a total waste of time to me, but it's meaningful to her. Though if she were here now, she'd say, 'What fight?' because what feels like a fight to an RBI isn't even on the radar screen of an LBE." Often this is because LBE's can appear angry when they're simply passionate about doing something:

         They're focused on results. 
         Sometimes there's roadkill.

Goldie Hawn in almost every
role: loved and in love with
others and with life.

Right Brain Extroverts

"Tell me what you want and give me a couple of hugs and smile!" RBE's are the golden retrievers of the human world. They are focused on relationships: they like people and they want people to like them. And they enjoy demonstrating their affection both physically and verbally. (If you receive an email with a whole string of smiley faces, it was probably sent by an RBE.) Given their great love for interacting, the most painful thing for these playful, engaging people is to be left out. 

Their energy is of a happy, bouncy, but somewhat scattered nature. It doesn't shoot out like a highly focused laser the way an LBE's does; rather, it tends to project out chaotically in multiple directions. 

Meryl Streep's character in Mamma Mía being enthusiastic & expressive.

An RBE's enthusiasm can make it difficult for them to settle down and stay focused and on-task. Their physical environment might reflect this internal state: while an LBI 
Nathan Lane's character
in The Birdcage is the
definitive RBE drama queen.

will have a very specific system for, say, hanging up their halter, an RBE won't even be able to find their halter.

RBE's see everything through an emotional lens. The saving grace for them on the emotional roller coaster that can ensue is that they tend to be optimists, sometimes to the point of being a bit Pollyannish. However, they can also veer toward the drama queen end of things under duress.

Whether RBE's feel high or low, they want to talk about it. They enjoy emoting, connecting, and expressing themselves, and conversation gives them an opportunity to do all of these things.

The donkey in Shrek is a perfect example of how
all that happy chattiness can drive an introvert berserk.

Left Brain Introverts

The opposite of the emotional RBE's, LBI's pick a few key emotions and then say, "That's enough. No reason to have all of these emotions. They are totally unnecessary and get in the way."
Showing the bare minimum
of emotion, Tommy Lee
Jones in Men in Black is
the quintessential LBI.
As Patrick put it, "These people are like Elvis—when too much emotion comes out, they have left the building."

Whereas RBE's like to give and receive constant
reaffirmations of affection, LBI's take the stance of "I told you I loved you when we got married twenty years ago. I'll tell you if something changes." 

The passion of an LBI (yes, they do have passion, though some might call it obsession) lies in systems. They are highly logical problem solvers and vastly prefer to solve their problems by inventing new systems. They also tend toward the perfectionistic end of things: they've never met a system that couldn't be improved on (unless, of course, it's one of their own).

LBI's make wonderful researchers because they like to have plenty of facts and numbers to support their systems. And in an argument, you
In the Harry Potter books,
Hermione can solve any problem
with a little more research.
cannot budge them off their data: "I've got the facts and numbers on my side and I'm not changing that just because someone's emotional." However, they won't make it personal while they're telling you how wrong you are; they'll just calmly reiterate in a detailed way for the 58th time why you are, in fact, incorrect.

But their favorite thing to do with their facts and numbers is to analyze them. And then analyze them some more. As much as they love systems, LBI's love perhaps even more the theories behind systems. These are the "why" people who want to understand every aspect of a project before they begin. 

The private Mr. Bates, who operates
by his own lights in Downton Abbey.
LBI's might talk animatedly about the ideas with which they're obsessed, but it's often a fairly one-way conversation. As Linda said of Pat, "If we have company, he'll talk non-stop, but he's really auditioning his ideas." Otherwise, LBI's can tend to be a little aloof. This is because LBI's are generally reserved and reluctant to share a lot of personal information. Nor do they have a great need for interaction: LBI's are usually happiest when left in peace to think about and perfect their systems.

Right Brain Introverts 

Frequently cast as an RBI, Hugh
Grant turns hesitancy into charm
every time.
RBI's are modest (sometimes to a fault), unassuming, and conflict-averse. For RBI's no conflict is a useful conflict, and it's amazing what RBI's will consider to be a conflict. Already a little muted by nature, RBI's tend to downplay their own feelings and needs in an effort to avoid that much-dreaded conflict. This often leaves them waiting for others to read their minds, although RBI's would say that you don't need to read their minds—just their subtle signals: 
"I think I've been perfectly clear: I was looking at the clock, and
      that clearly means it's time to go." 
"Well why didn't you just tell me it was time to go?" 
"Because I didn't want a conflict!"

In Pride & Prejudice, the only time Jane
Bennet argues is when she tries convince
her sister to take a kinder view of others.
The strength of RBI's lies in their ability to be diplomatic, a skill which most RBI's have honed in their efforts to avoid conflict. But when diplomacy doesn't work, they tend to get steamrolled by other people. Generally the only kind of fight they can win is a freeze out, but they're usually well gone before it reaches that point. While LBI's might leave because they don't want to deal with emotion, RBI's leave because they can't handle it. Patrick's father, for instance, tended to run for the hills when his mom was mad: "You could just barely see Dad out mowing the North 40 . . . if you used binoculars." Although given that Patrick's mom was also an RBI, she probably only showed her anger by raising an eyebrow or shutting a cabinet door a little more firmly than usual.

Although the situation in The King's Speech
  is an extreme one, George VI's literal
inability to speak up for himself is
emblematic of the struggles of many RBI's.
RBI's can get a bad rap for being passive aggressive, but this tendency generally stems from the fact that they don't feel they can assert their needs directly: first, because it might create conflict, and second, because it feels immodest to put their needs before those of others. RBI's tend to worry about what others need and put themselves out for everyone else, and are generally waiting (usually rather fruitlessly) for others to do the same for them. Their default response, therefore, is "I'm fine" or "That's fine," and you may have to repeat your question several times before they will admit, "Well, um, really, if you're very sure it's not too much trouble I might possibly rather do this—but not if it will put you out at all!"
Juno's Bleeker is the classic RBI nice
guy (I don't think you can have a nick-
name like 'Bleeker' if you're not an RBI).
may then feel a little guilt over the possibility that you were put out but, like them, were too nice to say so. 

Though challenging for others to read, RBI's are nonetheless some of the sweetest people you will ever meet. If you give them time and space and understanding, and if you're gentle and patient with them, they will share their very large hearts with you.

I'll close with a video we watched in class that purports to be about the different ways men and women communicate, but I think is more accurately a portrayal of two different humanality types trying to communicate (I'm thinking, in particular, LBI and RBE):   

Tune into the next post for more on how the different humanality types interact with and irk each other. . . .

**Special thanks to Patrick Handley for his excellent teaching, and to my H/H course mates, who contributed a lot to the descriptions and archetypes that I included of each humanality.