Can introverts and extroverts actually do life together?

Expanded discussion guides for Bread and Wine{This post was prompted by a question in Bread and Wine discussion guide, part 2.}

After planning for an hour or so our conversation turned serious. Just a couple feet of table separated us but it felt a little like miles and miles sat between us. As she filled me in on some of the tough stuff that was happening in her life, I sat in silence. My hands rested around my empty coffee cup and I wished there was at least a drop so I could do something other than stare.

I was already formulating what I would say before her voice petered out. In situations like this, my friends are generally looking for advice, so I went about scripting my opinion. It was probably my lack of any response that prompted her to ask, “what do you think?” And the flood gates of my opinion opened on this hurting woman I had only known for a month or two.

My spouting sputtered out and an uncomfortable silence settled. In the batting of one of her long eyelashes she was back to business as usual, firming up the plans we had been discussing previous to her moment of vulnerability. As our meeting drew to a close, I couldn’t ignore that sinking, icky feeling developing in my gut, the sign you know you’ve messed up. I knew I had missed the mark with my response…

Can extroverts do life with introverts?Since reading Shauna Niequist’s first book, Cold Tangerines, I have held her commitment to honesty and vulnerability in the mess of life in high esteem (okay, maybe idolized it a bit). I wanted to be a person who could be real with others and wasn’t afraid to slog through the mud with broken people, my own self included. In my efforts to do life with this new friend, even those messy bits, I hadn’t paused to consider who she was and what she actually needed. I wanted to approach the mess with a vacuum cleaner and make it disappear.

As an introvert, my natural tendency is to listen, observe, analyze, and make suggestions based on those three things. Because I don’t offer a multitude of words, I like to make the one’s I say count. I realized I had pushed my own agenda (in my advice) and my own strengths (in delivery) onto an extrovert who really just needed to verbally process. My mishap made me wonder if it was even possible for someone like me to do life properly with someone like her.

An apology and various discussions later, we are still doing life together. God is teaching me that being messy with people is just that, messy! As much as I’d like to, I can’t just cross “do life together” off my daily chores list. It’s a process, just like life is a process.

And you know what? Our differing personality types had little to do with my missing the mark (as much as I’d like to place the blame somewhere else…). I missed the mark because I wanted to stay comfortable. She was looking for someone to express love and give prayers, not someone to analyze the situation.

Doing life with people is less about compatibility and more about sacrifice and humility.

The mess becomes a beautiful mess when we are able to put our preferences aside, admit our weaknesses, and love others how they need to be loved.

PS – Shauna talks about her own mess-up in ministering to a friend in “Cupcake in The Oven.” (from Bread and Wine)

PPS – This girl and I are still friends and understand each other better and better as we do life together :)

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3 thoughts on “Can introverts and extroverts actually do life together?

  1. I read this back when you originally posted it in October but never commented and I should’ve. I think we’d be good friends. Introverts unite! :)
    I so struggle with telling people my opinion after they talk. I, too, start formulating what I’m going to say as if they really need to hear what I have to say each time we talk. I feel like I’m a good listener but after reading this post I realized I really wasn’t. So, thank you for posting this and encouraging me to be a better listener and understander of people and their feelings.
    I’m stalking your blog right now and just loving what I’m seeing. I always have but it’s really resonating with me today. Thank you for your transparency and honesty in what you write.
    Also, I’m making my “to read” list for 2014 and I’m finding quite a few suggestions from what you’ve read. Thank you for what you’re doing!
    I hope you and baby boy are doing well and growing like crazy! Praying for you both as you enter the last stages of pregnancy.

    1. I think we’d be friends too :)

      I so deeply appreciate YOUR encouragement, Ginny! Thank you for reading and commenting – it’s a blessing to me. And thanks for the prayers. 8 weeks to go and it becomes more and more real everyday!

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