When my wife Adrianne asks me about my day, she means it. She genuinely wants to hear about what I did, what I’ve been thinking about, and how I’m feeling. In some detail.
I need to get the detail part through my head.
Actually, I need to work on my head — my thinking — where sharing is concerned. And I doubt I’m the only introvert on the planet who can say that.
As Sophia Dembling wisely notes in her Psychology Today “Introvert’s Corner” blog post “When the Listening/Talking Ratio Is Out of Whack,” it’s often easy for us introverts to listen to the stories of other people’s days in great detail while neglecting to share the full stories of our own, or anything even close to it. It takes less energy, and in some ways it’s simply a lifelong habit that is such a part of our essence that we don’t even realize we’re doing it.
Yet it can be problematic, too, as Dembling points out. She says we introverts can find ouselves “perpetually in the position of sounding board,” for starters, which has the potential to lead to fatigue and resentment over time.
But there’s a much more sinister problem to be concerned about.
Often when Adrianne asks me her loving question — “How was your day?” — my brain’s first response goes something like this:
Fine. I guess. I did some administrative crap this morning, wrote a little, and did some house-y stuff in the afternoon. The end. It’s so boring, who could possibly care to learn more? Yawn.
Not good. Not related to my energy expenditures or my habits. And certainly not at all what Adrianne is looking for with a question that comes straight from her heart each time she asks it.
If you’re an introvert who, like me, struggles to share at times — even with a very close and trusted loved one — you might have a self-worth issue on your hands. And while it may be connected to your introversion, it is not your introversion in and of itself. It’s a different animal. And it will be critical for you to get some help with it, from a counselor (that’s the route I’ve taken) or from another trusted soul in your life.
In the meantime, practice. That’s what I’m doing when Adrianne asks about my day: I’m practicing sharing in detail. One day recently, I knocked the ball out of the park and shared with her for several minutes, elaborating on several activities I was particularly proud of, including blogging. Yesterday, conversely, I laid an egg with my one-word reply: “Fine.” I didn’t come through, for her or for myself.
That has to change.
I don’t have to change who I am as an introvert, and neither do you if you wrestle with this issue. We don’t have to be something we’re not. But we do need to be heard, and to allow other people to hear us.
The only way we can do that is to give people something to hear. Especially when they ask.