Dear Vicki: I hope you can help me understand my younger brother. I love him, but he drives me crazy. Growing up, Gavin was very outgoing, to say the least. He ran instead of walked, jumped around when excited, and always seemed busy. When we were little, I wanted to stay inside and color or read, but that bored him. In high school, he was on the pep squad and in theater. Just watching him made me tired and irritable. It still does. We’re in our early twenties now and have both moved back home temporarily to take care of our aging parents during the pandemic. My parents love him because he’s funny, but he always laughs louder than anyone else, even at his own jokes. And he tells way too many jokes. Honestly, I find myself wanting to be around him less and less, which is pretty hard in a small house with so much shut down these days. What can I do? Signed: Exhausted
Dear Exhausted: These are certainly trying times in many different ways. Moving back to your childhood home – even for a very good reason – is a big change and bound to be stressful. The incredible degree of uncertainty in the world these days is also stressful. And being thrown back into an uncomfortable dynamic with your younger brother is obviously going to be stressful. But while we can’t change the world right now, or even the people in your life, I can help you understand the personality dynamics between you and Gavin and offer you some suggestions on ways to improve them.
To begin with, as you describe him, Gavin is clearly a primary Fire personality. Fire people tend to be upbeat and outgoing, quick with a joke, and constantly in motion. They are usually happy to connect with people (current friends or strangers) and are firm believers in the old adage, “The more, the merrier!” And you are correct: Most people love being with Fire people because they are entertaining and just plain fun.
However, there are certain elemental personalities that can find Fire people difficult to be around. One of them is the Water personality. Water people tend to be quiet and reflective individuals who avoid crowded, raucous activities. Based on the fact that you loved coloring and reading when younger, and your basic reaction to Gavin in general, I suspect you are probably a primary Water personality. And as we know from nature, fire and water usually don’t mix well. The same can be true for people. Let’s look at why.
Dear Vicki: My widowed mother passed away earlier this year. My older brother, Paul, was named the executor of her will and estate, which surprised me; I assumed we would be co-executors. But Paul is an attorney, so I guess that makes sense. He is very responsible and orderly and has approached this task like it’s the most important thing in the world. But even though I’m a book nerd librarian who coaches girls soccer, I think I have something to offer the process. Basically, the problem is that Paul has a woman who wants to buy Mom’s house straight out, but I think the price is too low and we should wait until the pandemic is over. I have tried discussing this with Paul, but he refuses to budge and just shuts me out. How can I approach Paul and this situation without inflaming it? I feel extremely frustrated and angry, like he has slammed the door in my face. These are such difficult times, and this is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. Can you help? Signed: Saddened Sister
Dear Saddened Sister: First, I send deep condolences to you and your brother on the loss of your mother. As you say, these are already difficult times, but the passing of your mother certainly makes things much more difficult for your whole family.
To help you address the issue with your brother in the midst of your loss, let’s start by looking at the Five Element personalities and dynamics involved. As a self-described book nerd and librarian coaching girls soccer, you sound like a mix of the Water and Wood elemental personalities. A passion for books and reading usually sits in the Water personality. But it takes a lot of focus, planning, and outward-expressing energy to coach soccer. These are attributes of the Wood personality. Your brother, on the other hand, sounds like a stereotypical primary Metal personality. As we have said here many times, it takes a great deal of detail and precision to practice law, and the Metal elemental personality excels at that.
Dear Vicki: A supervisor at my brother’s company is retiring in the spring and Jim has been asked to apply for his job. Jim thinks it’s a great idea: He’ll make more money and because it’s a supervisory position, he thinks he’ll also work fewer hours. My concern is that Jim is someone who has always loved starting things or making them better, and spends a lot of time in his current position doing just that. I really think the “hands-on” approach he takes now is what the company appreciates about him. But in a more supervisory position, I’m concerned that “hands-on” will be seen as interfering or controlling in a job where he’s just supposed to support ongoing operations. How do I talk him out of this change? Signed: Worried Sis
Dear Worried Sis: Jim is very lucky to have a sister who knows him so well. Your concerns are certainly justified, but there might be ways Jim’s time in the new job could be positive. Let’s take a look at his primary elemental personality and then consider the possible pros and cons of Jim taking the new position.
Based on your description, I suspect Jim is probably a primary Wood personality. Wood people are usually pretty hands-on in their work. They almost always see ways to improve things, too, and are excited (some might say impatient) about getting started. It takes a lot to talk a Wood personality out of a new project or improvement because they love the movement that comes with creating and manifesting almost anything. People often think that the Wood personality is never satisfied, but that’s not really it. Wood people just always see creative opportunity; it’s in their core wiring. A Wood person doesn’t look at something and think, “That sucks.” They look at something and think, “What if?” They really are visionaries.
Dear Vicki: My brother Joe is in his early forties and works as a cook, which is just his “day job.” His passion is music and playing guitar. When we were younger, Joe wanted to write songs for a rock band or be an elementary teacher. Neither ever happened. But about a year ago, Joe met a woman who runs a nursing home. Carol is close to his age, kind and caring, but also very exacting in how she approaches things. She’s always punctual, too. Since Joe moved in with Carol, he has changed in very positive ways. He’s less scattered, more organized, and even thinking about going back to college for a degree in early education. Our whole family is thrilled, and I’m wondering if there is anything we can do to help Joe in his relationship with Carol. She is so good for him. Signed: Caring Sister
Dear Caring Sister: It’s wonderful news about Joe, and no surprise that your family is so happy. In the Five Elements model, family sits in the Earth element. That means we’re all a little Earthy around our families. Deep, lasting relationships matter to Earth people. They also really want the people they care about to be happy. In fact, there appears to be a great deal of Earth energy in your family. Not only because you all want to help Joe and Carol stay together, but because I suspect both Joe and Carol have Earth as key parts of their elemental personalities. So, let’s take a look at them individually, then move on to their relationship.
Joe’s passion for music and songwriting suggests he has a primary Water personality. But his current job as a cook, as well as his desire to be in elementary education, suggests that he has a strong secondary Earth personality. I suspect Carol has a strong secondary Earth personality, too. Earth people make wonderful nurses. But to run a nursing home means that Carol has a more structured element as her primary personality: either Wood or Metal. And given her tendencies to be exacting and punctual, I suspect she has a primary Metal personality.
Dear Vicki: I like your blog but haven’t seen many questions from guys. Here’s one and I hope you can help me; I’m having a problem with my sister, Anita. I’m 24 and she’s 22 and we’ve been close most of our lives. We are both working our way up the corporate ladder, although in different companies, and months ago set up to go to a business seminar together in a nearby city. We planned to drive there and back with each other and make a whole day of it. I know I’d been looking forward to it, and I think Anita had, too. Well, last week she called and told me that while she will drive to the event with me, she’s going to go straight from it to a “girls only” party at a friend’s nearby cabin. Now, I’m a big boy and can certainly drive home alone, but it feels like she’s dumping me and part of our time together for something else, which sort of sucks. Signed, Dumped Dude
Dear Dumped Dude: It’s very interesting that both you and your sister would end up in business. And that you are both “working your way up the corporate ladder” implies that you must both be primary Wood personalities. Wood people do well in business and, given their emphasis on the future, are usually very focused on getting ahead. The big difference between you and Anita is in the secondary element of your personalities. Anita’s ability to quickly change plans, especially in the name of fun, suggests she has Fire as her secondary personality. Your hurt at her changing plans suggests you probably have Earth as your secondary personality.
It’s very understandable that you would feel dumped by your sister. Your Wood personality will have specific expectations for your time together with Anita and those expectations matter. Also, Wood is the planning element and honoring plans, once made, also matters a lot to Wood people. On the surface, it would seem that, as a fellow Wood, Anita should feel the same way. And at one level, she probably does. If you asked her, I’m sure she’d say that the time with you and your plans together are very important to her. So why did she change them slightly and why is it bothering you so much? The answer lies in the significant difference between your secondary elemental personalities.