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Mon, 17 Mar 2003
Extrovert on Introverts
Elizabeth Lane Lawley gives an extrovert's take on the introvert / extrovert thing started by Jonathan Rauch's article in the The Atlantic. I found the following excerpt particularly interesting:
Over the past year, Elouise and I have had a couple of interesting “talks” about our differences in personality type. Most of the substance of these talks, however, has occurred in e-mail or IM. I didn’t give that much thought until last night, when Gerald and I were having coffee with AKMA and his wife Margaret. She was talking about how useful IM is for parents communicating with children at college—particularly when one or both tend toward introversion, since the IM process allows a slower unfolding of the conversation.

It was an illuminating moment for me. It made it clear why my friend Elouise and I have been able to have these conversations about different approaches so much more easily in electronic media. The playing field is leveled by the nature of the medium. I can’t fill all the available bandwidth with my excited ramblings—and she can carefully choose her words, making sure that what she says is exactly what she means.

I've certainly found that IM is a productive medium -- I usually prefer it to the telephone, which doesn't have that rate limiting effect.

This excerpt is giving me some food for thought about how different people handle conflicts:

When we had our first lengthy meta-conversation about these issues, it was touched off by an incident between me and a mutual friend. I'd been pushed a little too hard by this person on a bad day, and I’d behaved in a pretty characteristic (for me) way—I lashed out, and said something really hurtful. I'm not terribly proud of what I said that day, but I knew (and assumed that he would, too) that things said in the heat of the moment like that aren’t that meaningful—they’re like lancing a wound. Something nasty comes out, but then you can heal. But this friend was deeply hurt by my outburst, and his response was to shut down. No communication. Period. When I pushed back, I was told in no uncertain terms to back off.

So I told Elouise—via e-mail—how baffled I was by this reaction. With her permission, I’m going to quote from our dialog, because I think it's instructive. She told me: "What helped me keep the friendships I do have, is that in the same way you grew up forgiving and expecting verbal collisions, they forgave and understood the way I’d retreat. (Like a cat licking its wounds). I am not saying either way is particularly healthy. In a perfect world there would be no conflict…but clearly, what behavior is considered appropriate or offensive in anger are opposite."

We then went on to have a lengthy exchange about the whole "leave me alone" approach. I said that the longer I went without talking to someone after a fight or misunderstanding, the more I tended to blow things out of proportion, attribute meanings that weren’t really there, and generally create an entire (and often inaccurate) world of hurt to wallow in. She, on the other hand, said that the longer she goes without talking to someone she’s angry at, the easier it is to forget the bad and start remembering the good. Being forced to talk about the event or conflict, to her, was a lot like picking at a scar. The healing had to happen internally, with a barrier against the outside world.

But at some point, the healing has to come into the relationship. You can't go on not talking to people forever.
[18:33] | [society] | # | TB | F | G | 0 Comments | Other blogs commenting on this post
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