Every Friday my syndicated column appears in a bunch of newspapers in southeastern Ontario and Saskatchewan. If you and your husband deal with an extrovert/introvert conflict, you’ll appreciate it!
Last week I did something stupid. I sent in my Easter column that I thought wasn’t too bad, and then realized only afterwards that I probably offended my Jewish readers by not mentioning Passover. It certainly wasn’t a deliberate omission; it just slipped my mind. And as soon as I realized it, I spent the day feeling horrible because I may have hurt some without meaning to.
As those of you who have read me for a while likely know, I don’t mind writing controversial things and offending some if it’s something I’m passionate about. What makes me cringe is when I offend because I worded something carelessly or, like last week, I made a sin of omission.
These tend to be landmines for me interpersonally as well. You see, I’m an extrovert, which explains a lot.
For those of you who are immediately picturing me at a party dancing on a table with a lampshade on my head, that is not actually what the technical definition of an extrovert is. An extrovert isn’t necessarily the centre of a party; an extrovert is simply someone who gets their energy through being with other people. When I need to rejuvenate, I talk. And I can talk a lot. In fact, it’s usually through talking that I figure out what I’m thinking. When something is bugging me, or I can’t find a solution to a problem, I talk. And while I talk, I throw out different ideas until the right one somehow magically emerges. I have to talk to bring it out.
An introvert does the opposite. An introvert energizes by having space to think. That’s why, by the time an introvert states an opinion, it’s something he or she has mulled over and now firmly decided upon.
Imagine, then, a conversation between an introvert and extrovert about something serious. The extrovert blurts out something inflammatory, and the introvert could easily believe that the extrovert truly thinks that. An introvert may assume the extrovert has expended as much mental energy leading up to the conversation as the introvert has, when really the extrovert is just trying on different opinions to see what fits. When the introvert says something that they’ve thought about at length, though, the extrovert is often quick to dismiss it, thinking, “they can’t really believe that, do they?” They figure most opinions are open to debate. No wonder we often talk past each other!
Unfortunately for those around me, though, I’m not just an extrovert. I’m an extrovert who is also a black and white thinker, which leads to several bouts of righteous anger a day, usually coinciding with reading the news, listening to a friend’s woes, or discovering that a family member has devoured the last piece of chocolate cake.
My daughters were recently in a bit of a conflict to do with some committees they’re a part of. I listened to their tale of woe and my typical extroverted black and white thinker self immediately wanted to charge in. My 17-year-old, slightly exasperated, said, “Mommy, your solution to most things is to storm the castle and burn it down. I think in this case I’d like to knock on the castle door and suggest a compromise.” Which is what she did. And it worked. Perhaps intelligence grows each generation.
Anyway, one of the hard lessons that I’ve had to learn over my lifetime is to think before I speak. It is not an easy one, because it goes against every fibre of my being. But if I did think before I spoke—and before I wrote—I’d likely save myself those days where I just feel so badly for burning down a castle I really didn’t intend to see smoulder.
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