As a parent of three children I am frequently afforded the opportunity to observe relationship dynamics at their best and their worst. There is no other relationship that better forces the conditions of intimacy (day-to-day, in your space and in your face) like marriage as the sibling relationship. There’s an obligation to “relate” to each other because of proximity and genealogy. Some are better at it than others and I’ll explain why I believe that.
Introversion and extroversion are polar opposites on the personality continuum. Most people fall somewhere just to the right or left of center if you were to view these personality styles on a gauge. However, there are some whose personalities are in the far right or left extremes on this scale. Neither one is “better” than the other. They both have valuable attributes that are beneficial in every situation. Often introverts need time to process thought before sharing it with others, and extroverts need to voice thought as it comes into their heads. Extroverts can sometimes appear to railroad over introverts in meetings and heated discussions because they are a bit more experienced at shooting from the hip so to speak. Introverts will find themselves have to apologize less than extroverts for things said that can be hurtful.
This discussion I just had with my kids last night:
The stay-at-home parent lives and works in the home 24/7/365. My wife home schools our children so her “office” is our home. I consider myself to be a very organized individual and enjoy sharing the benefit of my skill with others. So, early in our marriage I would get a wild hair and “reorganize” the kitchen drawers and their contents so it made more sense. The part that I didn’t appreciate was that this kitchen was the same to her as my office was to me. Every person works differently according to their personality, training, and experience. My way wasn’t “better” than hers, and it was arranged to suit her personality and the way she worked in it.
In relationships where it is obvious who the “owner (i.e. responsible individual)” of a particular job, it is very important in your helpfulness to respect that the owner may not work the same way as you do. If you wish to “help” someone, make sure your help is truly helpful. This can only occur if you share your idea with them before taking action. Now in this instance please don’t think me a sexist because I’m not, I have learned that when I use the kitchen, I use it according to the arrangement/design that my wife prefers because overall, I do spend less time in it than she does. I try to make at least one meal a week, and do a lot of the cooking on the weekends. But, back to the point of this entry.
Introverts should not get discouraged and give up in situations where an extrovert is exercising their “good idea” capability. In intimate relationships, it is important to have equal voice and for both to be heard/considered and valued for the positive aspect each contributor is offering. You can have five people in the same room talking about one subject, but five different perspectives. Three may see the glass half full, and two may see it half empty–but all are viewing a glass with 50% of its volume filled with fluid. Allowing all of the views to be heard is how creativity is born in collaboration environments. (this applies marriage, siblings, teams, working groups, etc.)
Respecting ownership of ideas is very important! If Johnnie has an idea for a game but is struggling on one aspect, he may ask for help from his siblings. Jill, excited by the whole idea may want to change key elements because it isn’t how she would have planned it. When you’re invited to “help” on someone else’s idea you must remember that the originator of the idea probably already has at least an 80% solution for the end state in their head. It’s better to offer your opinions and suggestions in the form of a question, rather than critical comments. It requires a bit of thought and processing in your head before you share it with the person who has invited your creative assistance.
Ownership and expression of ideas is what helps us become known by others. Michael Jordan is known for his skills on the court. Martha Stewart is known for her expertise on the domestic front and how to make a house a little more home-y! Chris Brogan is known for his expertise in social media. Oprah Winfrey is known for her position as queen of daytime TV and a promoter of authors. Ellen Degeneres is also known for her position in daytime TV but comedy is her thing! We are all great at something! It is important that we look for and respect those skills, talents, and perspectives in each other and remember when we are asked for help that our help is FOR the person asking. When you take hostage someone else’s ideas, and begin to change them to suit your own perspectives, you are asking for discontent and a fracturing of the relationship.
We humans are fragile, sensitive, particular beings; male or female, introvert or extrovert, optimist or pessimist. Caring for and nurturing a marriage, supervising a sibling relationship, or leading a team at work requires a careful balance of observation, a LOT of listening, and meditation BEFORE you open your mouth or take action.