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  1. #1
    Senior Member Uytuun's Avatar
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    Default Doing Something Nice for an ESFJ

    My ESFJ mother has been having a hard time lately and although I do not connect easily with her (INTJ), I'd like to do something nice for her that shows that I care. I try to do that, but I feel like I Fi it out and my lofty speeches or spontaneous hugs only puzzle her.

    Perhaps she'd prefer something as simple as helping her do the dishes or calling her to tell her I went shopping and bought a new sweater (sorry for the slightly stereotypical portrayal)? Suggestions?

  2. #2
    Senior Member King sns's Avatar
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    Actually, i've got an ESFJ mom, too. And your ideas sound pretty good.. You could also ask her about her hard time. (i'm not sure what her "hard time" is) but she will really appreciate if you show interest in her problems.

  3. #3
    Free-Rangin' Librarian Jae Rae's Avatar
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    Something pampering, like a gift certificate for a massage, facial or manicure.

    Helping around the house is always a great idea.

    I also like SnS's advice about listening to her. Just don't try to "fix" her problems until she's finished talking. The listening part is the gift.

    My INTP son isn't big on giving hugs, gifts or cards, but one year he made a Mother's Day card for me that said something along the lines of "Relax and take it easy. You deserve it." Siimple words, great gift.
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  4. #4
    Plumage and Moult proteanmix's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Uytuun View Post
    My ESFJ mother has been having a hard time lately and although I do not connect easily with her (INTJ), I'd like to do something nice for her that shows that I care. I try to do that, but I feel like I Fi it out and my lofty speeches or spontaneous hugs only puzzle her.

    Perhaps she'd prefer something as simple as helping her do the dishes or calling her to tell her I went shopping and bought a new sweater (sorry for the slightly stereotypical portrayal)? Suggestions?
    If you're looking for a short-term gift solution a spa day or something very pampering like Jae Rae and SnS suggested.

    If you're looking for a long-term solution maybe you could pick one day a week to have a heart to hear with her with or one topic about yourself to get personal with her about. If you're in school maybe you could consistently tell her how a class is going (consistency is the key) or you could pick something around the house to consistently help her with. What you're going for is the bonding time and she probably would find that very special.

    The spontaneous hug may puzzle her because they are spontaneous. I don't think the hugging part is the problem. She also may have realized you're not as physically affectionate as she is which when it does happen it throws her off. If you did that kind of thing more consistently then she wouldn't be surprised every time you did it. That's something you can continue to do only on a more regular basis.
    Relationships have normal ebbs and flows. They do not automatically get better and better when the participants learn more and more about each other. Instead, the participants have to work through the tensions of the relationship (the dialectic) while they learn and group themselves and a parties in a relationships. At times the relationships is very open and sharing. Other time, one or both parties to the relationship need their space, or have other concerns, and the relationship is less open. The theory posits that these cycles occur throughout the life of the relationship as the persons try to balance their needs for privacy and open relationship.
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  5. #5
    Senior Member Chris_in_Orbit's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Uytuun View Post
    Perhaps she'd prefer something as simple as helping her do the dishes or calling her to tell her I went shopping and bought a new sweater (sorry for the slightly stereotypical portrayal)? Suggestions?
    Wow, I think you answered the question for yourself, don't you love when that happens?

    Only thing I would add is that if you are going to help out or call her, do it consistently... I know my mother (ESTJ) would easily forget any good deed you did so doing it regularly would definitely show how much you care. (And she won't be able to bicker about how you were never there)

    EDIT: I just read proteanmix's answer. She beat me to the consistent thing... anyway, do it! It works!

  6. #6
    Senior Member Uytuun's Avatar
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    (thinking aloud - can I do that in the SJ forum? j/k )

    About the consistency, it's funny that you bring it up, because her need for that has always inspired a "give her a finger, she takes an arm" feeling in me. Although I suppose that she just wants a really constant, close (also physically in the sense of being around, not away in another city), affirming, in a sense straightforward Fe-oriented bond. I'll never be able to give her that (consistently), it goes against my very nature and I've often refrained from participating in those things because she hungered for them so and I found it threatening and because I knew I would inevitable have to let her down and hurt her badly (or am I projecting my Fi on her and can that stuff be rectified again by simply going shopping and restoring the pattern - I don't know how far it reaches, is she intensely unhappy?).

    However, thanks for the suggestions. She doesn't care much for spas and stuff, but she loves to go shopping and she had a tradition with her mother (extremely close bond) to go shopping (which she tried to involve me in, but that failed). She loves when I talk about my shopping experiences (which I tend to find too banal to relate, but these are the only instances she really seems to show some enthusiasm or response to me), so I might invite her along. I know she'd be thrilled like a child.

    For now I try to be as understanding as I can with her (and MBTI has definitely helped here) and explain her to my father (also INTJ), who doesn't seem to get her at all (and the reverse - but he's very patient/responisble/caring with her). We talked about what she wanted to do after retirement today, which was very hard because she has very little self-awareness and has been used all her life to simply do as she was told (yeah, low self-esteem+INTJ spouses aren't always a lol-fest) rather than think. I always try to listen to her and affirm her way of being, but she isn't used to really talking to us. I use a lot of questions with her, hoping that she will take charge of the situation and she does open up to me more, but there always seems to be that appeal for guidance. I seriously fail at Fe, so the closest I come to that is saying that I can understand how she feels - that it makes sense knowing how she functions.

    Anyway, the funniest part was that my dad and I kept suggesting charity stuff or you know personal growth stuff, art classes, whatever and he kept being stuck on that because those things seemed free, fun, interesting, no social constraints etc. to him. When she said that really she would like to do stuff like work in a bakery for a day or two/week, I realised that we were going about it all wrong and then I remembered she'd mentioned wanting to open a Bed and Breakfast (which my dad vetoed :p), so I went from there supporting her in trying to pursue a similar occupation, realising that being Fe Si she most likely loved working and especially with people. My dad didn't understand at all, he'd go back to uni and just take courses that interest him and bum around when he retires. Anyways, I tried to support her and threw in some personal experiences with friendly shop assistants. I think it was a good convo, not Fe Fe, but with genuine curiosity and a minimal amount of fix-it-like-this! thrown into the mix.

    Although now that I think about it, she'd probably have appreciated it more if I had actually put on the new sweater she'd been nagging to see on me all weekend. At least more than a conversation. Irony oh irony.

    (note that on her part, she's also not exactly open to exploring how other people function, which is something I find difficult to deal with)

    Proteanmix, What you say about the hug is true - my father loves those hugs, he knows how meaningful they are, they are bred from Fi. My mother is comfortable touching me when I go away to uni, when I cry etc. These are ritualised externalised circumstances that frankly to me seem empty sometimes, but that seem to grant her a lot of comfort. I touch her on an almost daily basis I think (dude, this sounds freudianly wrong), but she seems to not care much for the touch on the arm in passing with which I want to communicate that I know she's having a rough time.

    ESFJ/INTJ seems to be a rather difficult combo. But interesting, very interesting.

  7. #7
    Let's make this showy! raz's Avatar
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    My mother is ESFJ also. I have a hard time getting along with her. It's easy to mutually respect each other and go to her for mother sort of things, but it's hard to be friends with her. I always go for really meaningful things. Like for mother's day, I bought a snow globe and put a picture of me in it. One thing I've noticed though about her since learning about MBTI, is she uses Si in a totally different way than me. Whereas I use Si to constantly analyze past events, she always brings up past events to compare them to what she's doing right now. I think that's just the Extraverted way of using Si.

  8. #8
    Plumage and Moult proteanmix's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Uytuun View Post
    (thinking aloud - can I do that in the SJ forum? j/k )

    About the consistency, it's funny that you bring it up, because her need for that has always inspired a "give her a finger, she takes an arm" feeling in me. Although I suppose that she just wants a really constant, close (also physically in the sense of being around, not away in another city), affirming, in a sense straightforward Fe-oriented bond. I'll never be able to give her that (consistently), it goes against my very nature and I've often refrained from participating in those things because she hungered for them so and I found it threatening and because I knew I would inevitable have to let her down and hurt her badly (or am I projecting my Fi on her and can that stuff be rectified again by simply going shopping and restoring the pattern - I don't know how far it reaches, is she intensely unhappy?).
    If you say you don't want do the consistent part of it, you've got to realize you're sending her a contradictory message. If I'm understanding you correctly, you just want this to be a one time only deal you don't have to keep up or something you just want to do sporadically? If your mother isn't being unreasonable in her desires (what is/isn't reasonable needs to be something you two decide on) then wouldn't you want to do the things that make her happy? Does she do things for you that make you happy? Just basing my responses on what you've said, your mother isn't necessarily demanding anything of you, you just feel like by her needing the type of connection she wants to have is putting undue pressure to perform on you?

    Quote Originally Posted by Uytuun View Post
    However, thanks for the suggestions. She doesn't care much for spas and stuff, but she loves to go shopping and she had a tradition with her mother (extremely close bond) to go shopping (which she tried to involve me in, but that failed). She loves when I talk about my shopping experiences (which I tend to find too banal to relate, but these are the only instances she really seems to show some enthusiasm or response to me), so I might invite her along. I know she'd be thrilled like a child.
    I highly doubt it's The Shopping and The Shopping only. She probably feels like it's an area of expertise for her, something she feels confident and competent in, something easy to share and bond with you over. If you feel the lack of connection with her, I'm almost positive she feels it with you. Maybe she feels like shopping is a 'safe' topic and she sticks to it. I notice with the ESFJs in my life if they find out I like something they stick to it till the end of time. I told one of my ESFJ coworkers over Halloween that I like coconut almond joys and I swear every week since then he's given me a coconut almond joy! I also want to reiterate it's probably the bonding part of shopping that she enjoys with you, although blowing money like it's nothing is quite fun.

    Quote Originally Posted by Uytuun View Post
    For now I try to be as understanding as I can with her (and MBTI has definitely helped here) and explain her to my father (also INTJ), who doesn't seem to get her at all (and the reverse - but he's very patient/responisble/caring with her). We talked about what she wanted to do after retirement today, which was very hard because she has very little self-awareness and has been used all her life to simply do as she was told (yeah, low self-esteem+INTJ spouses aren't always a lol-fest) rather than think. I always try to listen to her and affirm her way of being, but she isn't used to really talking to us. I use a lot of questions with her, hoping that she will take charge of the situation and she does open up to me more, but there always seems to be that appeal for guidance. I seriously fail at Fe, so the closest I come to that is saying that I can understand how she feels - that it makes sense knowing how she functions.
    So in terms of MBTI you know an ESFJ has inferior Ti. Contrast your mother's behavior in the bolded parts with her confidence in speaking about shopping. I don't know your mother so I can't say if she lacks self-awareness or not, but having inferior Ti myself I know that I do tend to look for guidance and rely quite heavily on people's knowledge in impersonal situations I don't have much confidence in. Like just this week open enrollment ended for various health benefits at my job. I just wanted to throw all that stuff in the trash and not deal with it. I don't even want to take the time to figure it out because it feels overwhelming. I would be more apt to just let somebody else figure it out for me, tell me what I need to sign up for and be done with it. You and your father are Ts and you're probably approaching her with T-centered stuff. She could feel inept in that arena which comes off to you two as lacking confidence and initiative, when it maybe a genuine weakness for her that she needs help in. You say yourself how uncomfortable you feel when affirming her or trying to connect with her on this level. Maybe she feels the same way when talking about what you and your father probably prefer to connect with her with.

    Quote Originally Posted by Uytuun View Post
    Anyway, the funniest part was that my dad and I kept suggesting charity stuff or you know personal growth stuff, art classes, whatever and he kept being stuck on that because those things seemed free, fun, interesting, no social constraints etc. to him. When she said that really she would like to do stuff like work in a bakery for a day or two/week, I realised that we were going about it all wrong and then I remembered she'd mentioned wanting to open a Bed and Breakfast (which my dad vetoed :p), so I went from there supporting her in trying to pursue a similar occupation, realising that being Fe Si she most likely loved working and especially with people. My dad didn't understand at all, he'd go back to uni and just take courses that interest him and bum around when he retires. Anyways, I tried to support her and threw in some personal experiences with friendly shop assistants. I think it was a good convo, not Fe Fe, but with genuine curiosity and a minimal amount of fix-it-like-this! thrown into the mix.

    Although now that I think about it, she'd probably have appreciated it more if I had actually put on the new sweater she'd been nagging to see on me all weekend. At least more than a conversation. Irony oh irony.

    (note that on her part, she's also not exactly open to exploring how other people function, which is something I find difficult to deal with)

    ESFJ/INTJ seems to be a rather difficult combo.
    Well, at least you're trying which is good. And are you sure she's not open to exploring people or just not in the way you'd consider exploring?
    Relationships have normal ebbs and flows. They do not automatically get better and better when the participants learn more and more about each other. Instead, the participants have to work through the tensions of the relationship (the dialectic) while they learn and group themselves and a parties in a relationships. At times the relationships is very open and sharing. Other time, one or both parties to the relationship need their space, or have other concerns, and the relationship is less open. The theory posits that these cycles occur throughout the life of the relationship as the persons try to balance their needs for privacy and open relationship.
    Interpersonal Communication Theories and Concepts
    Social Penetration Theory 1
    Social Penetration Theory 2
    Social Penetration Theory 3

  9. #9
    No moss growing on me Giggly's Avatar
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    Like the others said, take the time to listen to her. With the ESFJ females in my life, I usually dedicate a whole day or even a whole weekend to them, and I tell them that I just want to hang out with them doing whatever it is that they normally do, and I get them talking and do a lot of listening/supporting. They seem to appreciate it. It's also good to give them the pampering type of gifts like a day at the spa or something like the others have suggested. If not, when you spend time with her, she's bound to eventually let on to the things she likes, if you let her talk for long enough.

  10. #10
    Senior Member Uytuun's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by proteanmix View Post
    If you say you don't want do the consistent part of it, you've got to realize you're sending her a contradictory message. If I'm understanding you correctly, you just want this to be a one time only deal you don't have to keep up or something you just want to do sporadically?
    I guess I am. And yeah, I'm not around that often and am not looking for final reconciliation or major efforts, just a way to let her know that despite our fundamental differences and failure to connect, I see that she's going through a rough time and want to do something nice that might give her a happy vibe, if only for a minute. If consistency is an integral part of that, I'd go for helping out.

    I highly doubt it's The Shopping and The Shopping only. She probably feels like it's an area of expertise for her, something she feels confident and competent in, something easy to share and bond with you over.


    We're a very T-oriented household, she probably feels incompetent and left out a lot, that's how I would feel if I were her, but she doesn't complain. I'm making much more of a fuss about this than she ever would, she just seems to be happy to be in the household, to continue her daily tasks and routine. She has very low expectations of what a relationship/family should be like (at least to me)...I cannot believe she feels that way on the inside, but maybe she does.

    And then again, I think she is a lot more fun/happier with other people than she is with us. Probably because we've unwittingly bashed her with non-affirmation and criticism to such an extent that she simply doesn't show herself to us anymore. Which is something that makes me very sad, but she won't communicate about it, I've tried.

    And are you sure she's not open to exploring people or just not in the way you'd consider exploring?
    Good point. She certainly isn't into theoretical explorations - I guess that she's actually pretty awesome at exploring other people's...moods, she's interested in other people, but not in the otherness of people, I think.

    (thanks for taking the time to reply BTW)

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