When opposites attract

By: Marti Olsen Laney Psy.D., author of The Introvert Advantage (Workman 2002)

Author: Canadian Living


When opposites attract

By: Marti Olsen Laney Psy.D., author of The Introvert Advantage (Workman 2002)

Find out how your extrovert or introvert personality can impact your relationship with your child. Pick up a copy of the March 2005 issue of Canadian Living and read What's your parenting personality?

Bridge the gaps
Whether you are dating or in a committed relationship, the most important aspect of communication between introverts and extroverts is learning that because of your differences in temperament, you have different ways of expressing yourself. Often what's English to one is Greek to the other. Neither style is right or wrong; each offers advantages and disadvantages. If you understand both styles, you can "translate" and begin to work together. Let's take a look at how this works:

The introvert's communication style

Introverts tend to:
• Keep energy, enthusiasm, and excitement to themselves and share only with those they know very well. Hesitate before sharing personal information with others.

• Need time to think before responding. Need time to reflect before reacting to outside events.

• Prefer communicating one-to-one.

• Need to be drawn out or invited to speak, and may prefer written to verbal communication.

• May occasionally think they told you something they didn't (they're always going over things in their head).

The extrovert's communication style

Extroverts tend to:
• Share their energy, excitement, and enthusiasm with almost anyone in the vicinity.

• Respond quickly to questions and outward events.

• Share personal information easily.

• Communicate one-to-one or in groups with equal ease and enjoyment.

• Think out loud, interacting with others, and, in the process, reach their conclusions. In addition they often don't give others a chance to speak and don't always attach tremendous meaning to what they say.

• Prefer face-to-face, oral communication over written communication.

How to talk to your introverted partner
If you are an extrovert and you would like better communication with an introvert, try the following:

• Make a date to discuss how the two of you can "dance" better together. This gives introverts time to prepare their thoughts.

• Don't interrupt -- it takes energy for introverts to start talking again. Hear your partner out, then talk about your thoughts and feelings.

• Count to five and think before you speak -- an introvert will remember what you say.

• Repeat what you heard your partner saying so that you make it clear you were listening. Ask her or him if your summation is correct.

• Learn how to sit quietly sometimes in your partner's presence. Remember, he or she may have depleted energy but still wants to be with you.

• Your partner is a good listener, but be sure he or she gets a turn to talk.

• Ask what your partner's day was like. Sometimes he or she needs to be drawn out.

• Occasionally communicate in writing. Introverts can take in written words with less overstimulation. Leave a card by the phone, put a note in his or her lunch container, suitcase, briefcase, pocket, or on his or her pillow.

• Enjoy pauses. Take some deep breaths and enjoy just sitting. Experience being alone together. Share your partner's pace.

• Acknowledge how much energy it takes for your partner to talk at times; express how much you appreciate it.

• Use nonverbal communication -- for example, blow kisses to your partner, wink at him or her in a crowd, hold hands, and give hugs.

How to talk to your extroverted partner
If you are an introvert and you would like to have improved communications with the extrovert in your life, here are some suggestions:

• Tell your partner you want to talk. Set a date and time to do so. Make a reminder.

• Practice short, clear sentences. That will make it easier for your extrovert partner to listen to you.

• Don't be afraid to yell or talk loud if you need to. You may feel overstimulated, but sometimes your more extroverted partner won't trust that you mean something unless the volume is up.

• Practice saying anything that pops into your mind. Don't always rehearse.

• Allow pauses. It's okay not to keep up with your extroverted partner's nonstop pace.

• Tell your partner you know it is difficult for him or her, that you take time to make decisions, and that you don't always say what's on your mind.

• Write down your feelings on paper and give it to your partner, if you feel strongly about an issue but have trouble talking about it.

• Don't worry if you get overstimulated during or after a disagreement. It's not a bad thing to have feelings. In any case, they will pass.

• Tell your partner how you feel about him or her. It's easy to forget this. Your partner wants to hear he or she is cared about. So leave notes and e-mails, lavish kisses, and don't forget to give compliments.

Excerpted from The Introvert Advantage by Marti Olsen Laney, Psy.D. Copyright 2002 by Marti Olsen Laney. Excerpted, with permission by Workman Publishing. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Share X

When opposites attract