Over the past couple of days, I've had the privilege of watching two old friends get re-connected. The joy in their voices and the easy flow of their conversation has been magical to see. It's as if there were never any lost time between these two ladies (and it is so strange to type 'ladies' when I want to type 'girls', as we were all just kids the last time we were all together.) Yet as I have been listening to them this morning in their strong connection, I have been feeling a huge sense of separation. As bad as that may sound to most people on a superficial level, it really isn't, because I know myself and my needs much better now than I have in the past.
I am an Introvert. An extreme Introvert, on any scale you wish to use to measure Introversion/Extroversion. My two friends are Extroverts, and about as far apart from me on the scale as they could be. And I believe there has been some confusion/disappointment/misunderstanding between one of those ladies and I this morning, as most people don't have a good understanding of Introversion, since we Introverts are vastly outnumbered by Extroverts. But where the big problem lies is not so much in the understand of what is and Introvert/Extrovert, but in our understanding of ourselves and our real needs. We simply can't appreciate and understand the needs of another until we understand our own needs.
All of us have an innate need for connection with other people, and a need for a connection with people that can relate to our own needs at different levels. The purely social niceties of our acquaintances, the camaraderie of closer friends, and the deep understanding of those who love us are all necessary to be a healthy and integrated human. The need for some solitude and introspection is also vital to our well being, but understanding the levels of our needs is always a big issue in our relationships. Especially in the relationships that cross the boundary of Introversion/Extroversion.
Whichever type we are, we 'get' our own type very well. Problems occur in the understanding across those types, and to a greater extent on the Extrovert type, I believe. There are lot more Extroverts than Introverts (75% to 25% is a figure I've seen quoted and believe to be fairly accurate). and an even greater disparity of those of us on the extreme ends of the I/E scale (notice that I always list the 'I' first, where you will see more of the 'E' coming first in personality inventories; that's because we 'I's are outnumbered! lol) Big misunderstandings occur in these relationships for two different reasons: Introverts understand what Extroverts need, because they encounter more Extroverts, but they have difficulty using the social tools of the Extrovert very well, and, Extroverts have a hard time understanding what Introverts need, because it is so different from their own experience, and we Introverts aren't very skilled at explaining our needs.
Whichever side of this equation we are on, it is vital to have an understanding of our type and of our personal needs, as well as that of our partners. Good communication between partners is so very important also, and it is a skill that I am having to work hard at to develop properly. And it is even harder for me to figure out the amount of time I need to spend connected with my friends, my girlfriend, and God, and the time I need to be separated and looking withing myself. It's easier for me to see that time with friends builds to a more easily understood stress in my life; less so when I get the other three out of balance. Regardless, I can't have quality connections without my time of separation, and I believe it follows for others as well.
Slainte Mhath, and good luck to all of us in figuring out when we need to be connected, and when to be separate.