My partner and I are opposites…in everything!! He loves socialising, I would rather sit in and read a book. He would stay up until dawn, I’m in bed soon after our kids! And when it comes to music…well, he’s a metalhead, enough said!
Even at the best of times, we tend to react differently and have different opinions on many things, it keeps things interesting! But over the last 4 months, as we’ve been navigating through a pandemic, the differences in our personalities have never been more defined. The reason being that he is a talk-to-anyone-and-everyone extrovert, and I am a happy-in-my-own-little-world introvert!
The best explanation I have heard is this: extroverts need social interaction to boost their energy levels, they feel happier and more fulfilled when surrounded by people. Introverts, on the other hand, find social interaction draining, so they need to spend time alone to build back up their energy levels after being in the company of others. When I first heard this, it just made so much sense to me! I had always believed that I was just not a people person, that I was awkward around people I didn’t know, and therefore it was something that was ‘wrong’ with me. I envied those around me, like my partner, who could talk to anyone, stay out all night partying, and seemingly love the buzz of a busy life.
During the lock-down, it became increasingly obvious as a family, we were all coping with it in different ways. Our eldest daughter and I loved being at home, we enjoyed the slower pace, the quieter world. However, my partner and our youngest struggled. They became frustrated with the restrictions, anxious to get things ‘back to normal’. Of course, none of us have lived through anything like this before, so we were having to figure it out as we went along.
Among our friends and on social media the same patterns were emerging. Those who would normally have spent their weekends socialising, AKA extroverts, were keen to get pubs and restaurants back open. Introverts fought back, misunderstanding their anxieties as ignorance or lack of compassion. The extroverts claimed some people (the introverts) were over-reacting, that they were spending too much time alone over-thinking the situation. Neither side could understand the other.
Unfortunately, as humans, we tend to always believe we’re right. We may listen to other people’s opinions, we may even agree with some of their points, but ultimately we will tell ourselves that we’re actually right and they are sadly mistaken. We try to change their minds, show them how their thinking is skewed, maybe even judge them as being less intelligent. But rarely do we stop and think that their opinion is just based on a different viewpoint. It’s a bit like the saying ‘one mans trash is another man’s treasure’. The old chair you’re throwing out may seem worn and dated to you, but to another person, it may seem so much bigger and more comfortable than the one they have currently. The chair remains the same, but the opinions vary.
As things start to re-open and our thoughts turn to what the future will look like, I’m reminded again of how differently my partner and I perceive the situation. He is full of worry over the economy, impatience at the continued restrictions, and a burning desire to get to the pub! On the other side, I’m already dreading the school runs, the incessant birthday parties, and the inevitable crazy Christmas rush!
So although we both experienced the same situation in the same household, our memories, and the lessons we take with us into the future won’t be the same. We both respect the restrictions, we both feel greatly for those who have suffered as a result of the pandemic, but the stories we tell our grandchildren will be very different!