I am an introvert. In fact, I am quite sure that I was the blueprint they used to write the definition of introvert. I am the quiet one at the party, or the coffee shop or the meeting: standing off to one side, silently taking everything in. Speaking only if I have something of significance to say: and then, only when I have taken the time to carefully formulate it in my own mind first.
I love and usually instantly recognise my fellow introverts: we can say so much to one another without ever uttering a word. Silences are long, comfortable and effortless. On the other hand, I have always been drawn to extroverts as well: they can make potentially painful conversations such effortless things. They kindly take over the discussion; the event; the party; the meeting and leave me to the happy business of bustling about in the background, or just observing until I really do have something to contribute.
I met my friend “J” at work. She had a booming voice that carried all over the building. Much of her work was spent on the phone with clients, and anyone within a few feet of her desk learned a great deal about the nature of her work simply by involuntarily overhearing her loud, animated conversations. Although I knew her only a little then, I had already decided that I very much liked her. She was real. She was colourful. When it was announced that our office cubicles were to be placed side by side in the little office space where I had been – until then – working alone, I was pleased and agreeable with the arrangement.
“J” was not so sure. “I can be really, really loud, you know,” she warned me, with a concerned look on her face. I assured her that I was very good at tuning people out when I was in my own ‘zone’. I assured her that we would get a long just fine. With a doubtful look on her face, she began setting up her desk, just inches from my own.
It took two days. “Patti, I can’t STAND it,” she finally burst out, pulling me out of the deep contemplation of some document I was working on. “I don’t think I’m going to be able to work in here with you!”. I stared at her in surprise. Besides the usual morning and evening greetings, I hadn’t done anything; I had barely spoken since she had arrived two days before. I had barely used the phone: I had barely made a peep. “That’s the whole problem!” she wailed, “I really like you but you’re just TOO QUIET! It’s driving me CRAZY!”
By the time our howls of laughter had finally subsided, our friendship had been firmly cemented. After a respectful conversation on how best to resolve my – ah-hem – ‘problem’, we agreed to introduce a little noise into our space via a radio station that we could both stand listening to: at a volume we could both tolerate. From that moment on, I tried really hard to be as loud as I possibly could (I’m not sure that “J” ever noticed much of a difference) and ‘J’? Well all these years later, despite the fact that we no longer work together or live in the same province, we still love and admire one another. And we still occasionally check in to see how the other is doing.
I am constantly amazed at how often I am drawn to my polar opposite: my best friend – there is no greater extrovert – told me once that ‘I am not a party-pooper; I just get pooped by the party.’
I think that’s the thing: introverts and extroverts can be the greatest of friends; they just have to really, really respect and understand one another’s differences. The rest will take care of itself…
Patti Moore Wilson/© wednesdayschildca.wordpress.com