A fundamental clash
I just received an urgent question from a client whose been working from home–in close quarters with her family–for over three months now. I would hate to see all the pain, anxiety, and tumult that we are collectively experiencing reduced to the E/I lens alone, but it is an unavoidable fact that sheltering in place and working from home are hitting like a bullseye on the core differences between those of us who prefer Extraversion and Introversion. Close quarters; social distancing; dispersed, non-co-located work lives; crimped boundaries and smaller circles of personal space—these are conditions that tax both Extraverts and Introverts. It is fundamentally difficult for us as humans to fully understand how taxing and diminishing it is for someone else to struggle with something that we so deeply want and need—nothing highlights that like E’s and I’s sharing the same space. Extraverts fret over their Introverted partners’ foot-dragging over a conversation or small social check-in while Introverts low boil over their Extraverts’ seemingly bottomless need to “plug-in.”
While there are many actions you can take, the suggestions fall in one of two basic buckets—you can flex, at times, to the needs of your partner and their preference, and/or you can ask them to flex to or focus upon your needs. A winning familial relationship seems to be a liberal mixture of both of these options. Below are some tips for and about both Extraverts and Introverts—hopefully this will give you some ideas about both what to do and ask for.
- Be open and disclosing—share what is going on with your thinking (even if it is unfinished).
- Be where your partner is and your family are—and join in with their activities & conversation. Remember, simply being the same room or house does not count for most Extraverts as having been “together.”
- Speak out—even if you have to push yourself—let those around you know what you are thinking or feeling, no matter how awkward it seems.
- Jump in—don’t wait to be invited.
- Initiate contact and conversation with your partner. Be the one to suggest a trip, an activity, a social engagement (even if only on Zoom).
- Edit yourself out loud instead of inside your head.
- Pay attention to the sights, sounds and activities of the world going on around you—be present.
- Be quiet and reserved—hold back from sharing what you are thinking.
- Practice spending time alone and not disclosing your thoughts and feelings.
- Allow—and even invite—others to have space and quiet time from each other. Remember, Introverts tend to feel that parallel play is binding. I can be here doing my work while you are right there reading your book, and even though we were not talking directly, we were “together.”
- Hold back and let someone else speak and make a move first—and allow for the fact that such relinquishment may mean no move is made and no conversation is had. Let that be OK.
- Sit with someone and be quiet. Really listen to what they are saying.
- Pay attention to what you are thinking and feeling—to what is going on inside of you.
- Reflect—through meditation, prayer, journaling—your inner life and world, and let that be a complete act that does not have to conclude with your sharing and talk about the content of this inner exploration with someone afterward.
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