No two people are the same…and neither are our life experiences. As life unfolds, we each develop a unique set of coping strategies that help us navigate those experiences – especially the ones that are most painful. While we are each unique, these coping strategies tend to fall within one of two general categories: Minimizing or Maximizing. Minimizing, as you might guess, is when we minimize our feelings and act as if everything is ok even when it clearly is not; maximizing is when nearly everything seems significant, and we express ourselves frequently and effusively.

Each of the coping strategies has its own set of general characteristics. See if either of these sounds familiar:

The Minimizer

  • Doesn’t need anything or anybody
  • Rarely starts the conversation
  • Avoids conflict
  • Finds difficult conversations exhausting, frustrating, and unproductive
  • Considers themselves less emotional, more composed
  • Prefers to “just drop it” or “just move on.

The Maximizer

  • Needs everything all the time, and lets you know it!
  • Is usually the one who “needs to talk about it” and uses a lot of words to do so.
  • Sees conflict as an opportunity to address their needs
  • Prefers to talk about or analyze a conflict
  • Often dominates the discussion by rambling, not allowing the other to get a word in edgewise
  • Repeatedly talks about the same issues

Which one resonates with you?

In Safe Conversations, we have a playful way of talking about these character types that help to describe them. Minimizers are called Turtles and Maximizers are called Hail Storms, for reasons you can probably easily identify.

Funnily enough, these character types are often drawn to each other in relationship! The Turtle is drawn to the energy a Hailstorm provides and the Hailstorm is drawn to the Turtle’s calmness.

As balanced as this dynamic can be in the beginning, over time, and especially in situations of conflict, problems can arise that make communication between these two character types strained and a bit complicated.

So, what can you do when conflict between a Hailstorm (Maximizer) and a Turtle (Minimizer) arises?

Safe Conversations founders, Drs. Harville Hendrix and Helen LaKelly Hunt, address this in their book “The Space Between”:

A message to the Hail Storm: If you, the Hail Storm, notice the Turtle retreating into their shell, don’t hail on them. That will cause your poor Turtle to retreat all the more. Plan something to do that you enjoy—find a new hobby, start reading a great book, or call a friend. Pick some activity you can truly enjoy to take your mind off the situation [temporarily]. If you use patience, your Turtle will soon come out of their shell, more available to address the problems. They will also be deeply appreciative that you have waited until they were available to work on solutions together.

A message to the Turtle: Take heart, you Turtles! Your Beloved is worried and upset. The more you withdraw and shut out your partner, the more they will increase the hailing and the storm! This is a great time to ask them if there is something you might do for them. Try mirroring them and then validate their point of view. This helps the storm clouds dissipate and the bright glowing sun return! You will be much happier once you’ve helped your Hail Storm calm the storm.

If you’re a Turtle, practicing Safe Conversations can help you communicate more openly, rather than withdrawing and retreating. If you’re a Hail Storm, practicing Safe Conversations can help you not overwhelm the conversation by “hailing” down all those words on your partner.

This week, we challenge you to determine if you tend to be more of a Minimizer or Maximizer; are you a Turtle or a Hail Storm? Now, what can you do to make conversations with your Turtle or Hail Storm partner safe and healthy? Let us know – we’re here to help!