How I process difficult situations

On my desk, I have a stack of post-it-notes. When I have an idea, I write it down and stick it to the wall. It serves as a way to remind myself to do something or to remember a goal.

One of these notes says:

E i(N)tuition (Extroverted Intuition)

I (F)eeling (Introverted Feeling)

E (T)hinking (Extroverted Thinking)

I (S)ensing (Introverted Feeling)

Each line represents a breakdown of my Myers Briggs type “ENFP“. If you’re unfamiliar with this personality test, I wrote a post explaining how it works (linked here).

I use this post-it note to remind myself how I tend to react to situations.

Extroverted iNtuition (called Ne) identifies me as a curious person. My first typical reaction involves gathering massive amounts of information. I want to understand what’s going on, what each person’s opinion is, and what it means.

Then Introverted Feeling (called Fi) makes me process how I feel about the situation. Typically when something happens (i.e. get bad news), I first try to understand everything that’s going on, then I try to observe how I feel about it.

After processing my emotions, I move to Extroverted Thinking (called Te). This part of me wants organization. When I get to this part of the processing a situation, I usually take out a notebook and write everything down. I want to create diagrams and organize the situation to make the best decision about how I will react to it.

Usually I don’t make it this far down in processing. If I’m stumped, meaning I can’t get enough perspective on the situation, discern how I feel about it, organize it into a fancy little chart, then I depend on Introverted Sensing (called Si).

If I make it this far, usually I’m desperate to resolve the situation. Si makes me relate current situations to past situations. Have I encountered this before? What have I done in the past?

This is my typical process of dealing with difficult situations.


Today I added another post-it note next to the other. It reads:

-Curious but focused

-Emotive but down-to-earth

-Organized but spontaneous

-Aware of the past but detached from it

Each line is a reminder about how I resolve situations.

Curious but focused tells me to remain interested in gathering information about a problem but not getting too absorbed in it. Usually I’ll fill pages of notebooks with virtually useless information trying to understand the ‘whole issue’. I need to remember to stay focused on resolution rather than asking everyone’s opinions about what’s going on.

Emotive but down-to-earth refers to how I react to my emotions. I get caught up in them and try to feel too much. I’m aloft when it comes to emotional processing. Normally I’ll retreat to my room or go for long walks to figure out how I feel about it. This makes the issue seem larger than it is. Usually whatever I’m struggling with doesn’t require 4-hour walks. I need to remember to be down-to-earth and realistic about what I’m going through.

Organized but spontaneous lets me know that it’s okay to map it all out as long as it doesn’t become a rigid topic. I want to organize the situation into bullet format but remain spontaneous enough to let go of the organization when it becomes ‘too much’. Not everything can be put in fine lines and clean charts. Sometimes difficult situations are just difficult.

Aware of the Past but detached from it reminds me to look back but not to get too concerned with what’s already happened. This part of the processing tree comes quicker than it should. Some days I’ll get so caught up in how I used to feel that I forget how I feel now. I become obsessed with situations and the exact wording that another person used. That’s unimportant. I need to be aware without getting obsessed.


This process happens all the time. I start by learning as much as I can, then I try to understand how I feel. Afterwards, I organize what I’ve learned and how I feel into paper charts and venn-diagrams. If I haven’t resolved the issue by now, I may as well throw up a white flag. When I start looking to the past for a solution, all hope is lost. I get caught up in irrelevant feelings and now I’m unable to process the situation at hand.

The new post-it note reminds me how to resolve situations without getting caught at each step. It’s a gentle reminder on how the processing usually happens. If I’m aware of what’s going on, I’m better able to make solutions in the future.

By the way, this post is a result of the Organization (Te) part of the process. Writing really helps make my thoughts feel linear. I feel a lot better having written this. If you have any questions, feel free to write a comment below. The process is difficult to understand (and even more difficult to communicate), so I’m not if this will make sense to anyone else.

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