My teammate Kristin and I are often mistaken for sisters, and were referred to in Cambodia as “the foreign twins”. We do share a similar build and height, but when you linger near us long enough you will notice the myriad of ways we bring different gifts, strengths and weaknesses to the table.
We have served together for five years in southeast Asia, surviving language school and making multiple moves across Cambodia, often as the only members of our organization in those locations. Our relationship has endured sharing apartments, the same bedroom, and a whole host of adventures through those years. We are sharing some humorous and painful stories today about all that we have learned– through the joys and mistakes– about living peacefully as teammates and friends.
Sarah: For some reason I went into overseas life expecting my teammate would be able to read my mind, but over the months and years I learned my expectations were not fair or realistic. For a year we lived a 9-hour bus ride from the capital city and our favorite (or any) grocery stores. We made room in our suitcases to bring back precious supplies that we would try to make last for the months until our next trip. On one such supply run we stuck in a container of yogurt. We both started daydreaming about all the ways we could use this yogurt to change up our village menu- but without talking or sharing those ideas with each other. On the day I hoped to whip up some homemade enchiladas for supper, Kristin beat me to the yogurt and made granola from scratch and reconstituted blueberries with sweetened yogurt. Instead of appreciating her hard work, I was furious that the yogurt was all used for our special breakfast. Had I communicated (out loud) that I had a plan for the yogurt? No. Our teammates are not mind-readers, nor should they have to be.
Kristin: We may not have been good at mind reading in those first few years, but sweat, tears, and challenges faced together as teammates sharpened our ability to understand each other without words. Our “eye contact conversations” became quite useful during our stint in the village when curious new friends gathered around and pelted us with questions: “do you eat bread or rice?” “are you married?” “how do you have such white skin?”. It may have been the strain of trying to keep up with fast conversation in our second language, or the hot sun beating down and loud music pounding raucously in the background, but sooner or later one or the other of us would reach our limit and a desperate glance to the other said, with no words needed, “I need to leave, now!”. That look of desperation signaled it was necessary to say the quick but traditional goodbye of “we’re going now” and extract ourselves from the ongoing conversations. It was experiences like these that honed our skills of reading each other’s distress signals and forged a relationship of sensitive understanding, mutual trust, and honest communication.
Personality and Gifting
Kristin: When Sarah and I first decided to be teammates we found ourselves compatible in how similarly we saw the world, ourselves and others. We had not known each other long, but we thought we knew each other well- after all, we had so much in common!
That belief was quickly upended by reality. Our harmonizing personalities could only go so far when the strangeness of our new culture and life descended on us and stress levels rose. As self-awareness grew, our understanding of each other grew as well. One essential resource for becoming more real and honest with each other was learning about and comparing our Myers-Briggs personality traits. It was evident that my teammate brought the order, clarity, and planning to the table and I brought the creativity and spontaneity. She made a great leader, and I appreciated being in a supportive role.
A second much-loved resource for learning about ourselves and others was the Enneagram. How do a type 4 and a type 6 work together? What happens when we both are operating out of our “wing 5”? What are we like when we’re healthy vs. stressed?
These resources allowed us to go wide and deep in our relationship with each other and with others. It also brought smiles to our faces, rather than the half annoyed grin, when we heard “Look! Foreign twins!” as we were out and about. If our mannerisms were so identical, and the sister vibe so strong to be labeled as such, it made us proud of the hard work we’d done of learning to get along!
Sarah: When Kristin and I hit snags in communication, in understanding why a situation was harder for one of us than the other, or when we fought to understand each other’s deep fears and triggers, we realized along the way that we had to patiently uncover the layers of personality and gifting and be good students of each other. This meant weekly check-in conversations with coffee and tea in hand, notebooks out and hearts ready to listen. It meant slowing down when one wanted to rush ahead or felt left behind, sharing the parts of our hearts that didn’t want to see the light of day. That vulnerability was achingly painful yet there was enough trust built up that we knew the other would hold those things gently. As we started off with clunky interactions, we slowly figured out how to celebrate our differences and support each other in our weaknesses.
Introvert Days- Care Well for Yourself and Each Other
Kristin: Two are better than one. This truth was proved over and over as we kept each other alive crossing roads in crazy traffic, monitored each other’s energy levels during village visits, and navigated transitions from village to town and constant travels. My teammate loyally cleaned the stitches on my back daily post-surgery, and frequently took up the slack when I couldn’t muster the energy to go to market and buy food. She looked out for me on my “off days” and I did the same for her. It was somewhere in year 3 or 4 that we realized the importance of individual recharge time so we could be better people for each other and those we served.
Our personalities peek through in this way too. I need silence and solitude to recover well, and my teammate enjoys journaling time and a cup of something warm at the coffee shop. Noise-blocking ear plugs are my go-to for “introvert day”, that, or earbuds and soothing music. I love to catch up on reading, sleep, and writing. A perfect ending to my rest day is a hot foot soak with essential oils (with the A/C cranked high of course!). In nurturing our own bodies and souls we became better nurturers of the relationships around us.
Sarah: Kristin is my favorite adventure buddy, but we realized that part of striving for health included time on our own. We set a specific day to be our “introvert day” so that we could give each other this intentional space without the worry: “Is she mad at me and that’s why she’s in her room with her door closed?”. We set clear expectations, protected this day, and sometimes debriefed together to see what the Lord spoke, or what special treat we discovered while experimenting in the kitchen or trying out a new coffee shop.
Over to you, friends! What have you learned about growing in your teammate relationships? What tips can you share with us as a community?