Sunday 23 July 2017

Don't shy away

People who are emotionally reserved just don't fit into our huggy-kissy culture

Mary Kenny
Mary Kenny
Mary Kenny

Mary Kenny

I felt sorry for Theresa May during the turbulent month of June because she was so widely blamed for having the wrong kind of personality. The British prime minister had a bad election campaign, seeming arrogant, aloof and unable to connect with people - so unlike her Labour rival, Jeremy Corbyn. She was savaged for not responding more spontaneously to the dreadful Kensington inferno at Grenfell Tower - while Mr Corbyn knew, instinctively, you just go to suffering victims and hug them. It's not Theresa's way. She can't.

I recognised Theresa's type so well: she is a reserved person who cannot easily express (or sometimes read) emotions. As well as that, she is an only child. There are many advantages to being an only child - the singleton is more intellectually and verbally advanced at an early age, has a strong sense of responsibility and is a high achiever. But there is one noted disadvantage: it is harder for them to learn 'negotiating' skills. Miriam Cosic's study Only Child tells us that the only child needs to be "in control" - with no siblings with whom to swap, squabble, reconcile and settle on a compromise deal over toys, clothes or personal space.

The only child isn't always shy, because shyness is often an inherited trait. But it's clear that Theresa May is emotionally reserved. When her privacy is threatened, she puts up that basilisk stare. She depends on two or three very close advisers, and does not bond with wider groups. Even her best friend at Oxford said that the young Theresa "never had a gang". She never palled around with a circle of friends. Ever the reserved only child.

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