“Talent is nurtured in solitude;
character is formed in the stormy billows of the world.”
~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
A lot of folks disbelieve it when I tell them I am an introvert, because I am a ‘talkative introvert.’ Yes, we exist. Introversion has nothing to do with talking. Its about how someone gains or loses energy.
I am not the ‘pull-up-the-moat’ kind of introvert my father was, though as I get older, I find maybe I am: the nut doesn’t fall far from the tree. For an introvert, energy stores are depleted in social situations. To rebuild them, we need to be alone for awhile. We’re not always shy, but we are easily worn out when there’s heavy engagement with others.
Extroverts gain energy from others. They can end up inadvertently dominating introverts, because they bubble over with the enthusiasm that connecting with the world provides them. They may assume introverts have no important thoughts or intentions of their own.
Now, picture this: I am married to an full-on extrovert, and we love to travel together. So what to do when we are in a car together 24/7 for three-plus weeks, and sleeping in a very tight space on top of it?
Here were my life savers:
- Bring the difficulty of the two types together out into the open. Talk about it. It’s just two types bumping together, nothing personal. Explain you need lots of quiet time to feel comfortable and happy. Don’t assume he knows. For example, if you’re a writer cooking on new ideas for your book, deeply involved with your characters, or just need a quiet morning, tell him so, and ask for quiet. Establish parameters. We use Gasho* times to do this, as well. (See #9 below.)
- Read a lot. Take naps. Bend over your journal and pretend to write. Better still, write. Slip out to the bathroom. Stay in there a long time. Meander a little off the trail. Study a flower. Take lots of pictures.
- Ask him not to read aloud from the travel guide as you drive, and explain to him that you are enjoying your own mind. Reassure him he can read it to you later, or ask him to preface his remarks with “May I share something with you,” so he won’t just assume you are ready to listen.
- Nod and smile if you don’t want to engage with everything he saying, but to let him know, with minimal cues, that you are basically following along.
- Encourage him to go inside to ask directions or inquire about the best things to see and do in the area: if there is live music somewhere, an ATM, where the campground is.
- Establish “Chat Circle” etiquette: My husband cannot help but get into chats with people he meets everywhere. He is open, eager, gracious, and talkative, and he truly likes other people most of the time. Sometimes this is enjoyable and brings much into our lives. But often there’s someplace we need to be at a particular time, too. He has left me in the car at a gas station for what seems like hours, because he’s gotten into a fascinating conversation inside. So, if it’s really important, ask him, in advance, to please not get into a chat circle. And keep a book with you at all times, just in case.
- When you are ready, or even when you are not, but it’s important to do so, listen as deeply as you can, and let him know you have heard him. Deep listening is healing.
- Look for the good in your situation. There’s lots of it. You may give him ‘depth,’ but he gives you ‘breadth,’ too, and brings so much into your life that you would otherwise have to go out and get. (Or, more likely, not.) Be sympathetic, because he’s having just as hard a time with you. Genuinely appreciate all he brings to your journey together.
- We learned the Gasho process at a silent retreat, where we were to remain quiet throughout the entire four days. (It was hard for both of us.) If we had to speak to each other, we were to put our hands together in a prayer pose and whisper the word “Gasho.” Only when we were acknowledged with a nod, could we speak, and then only quietly and briefly. We use it, now, all the time. Respect for our own and other’s silence goes a long way in renewing our interest in each other.
- AND … Invite him to write a blog about how to survive a flaming introvert!
Surviving A Long Road Trip with An Introvert
- Realize your partner needs lots of silence, and don’t take it personally.
- Know your introverted partner will initiate conversation when ready. Sometimes she will engage a lot!
- If there’s something you really want to talk about, ask for a time/meeting to discuss it.
- Get some time every day away from each other, and take advantage of that to engage with others.
- When you are without your partner, around others, get your gab on.
- Listen to music and talk radio on earphones.
- Sound your partner out about how they feel in a group setting. Your partner might be very talkative and engaged in a social situation and then want to leave early. Prepare for it.
- Take something to do by yourself: reading, crosswords, puzzles, sketch book, etc.
- Be careful not to burst in on conversations your partner might be having with someone else. It may seem natural to you, but feel offensive to your partner. Introverts frequently like to have conversations one on one, and not be interrupted. The same is not necessarily true with extroverts.
- Keep in mind that you are two people trying to get energy in two decidedly different ways. That’s all. No one is right or wrong.