I am a high introvert, an internal processor, and a habitual emotion-stuffer. The number of things I think but do not say are enormous. The number of things I feel but do not understand are weighty.
And I have learned the hard way the toll this can pay; not only on me but also on those I am in relationship with.
The reasons I don’t always share what I am thinking are vast and not all of them are bad. Sometimes I don’t say anything because I know what I am experiencing is more of an internal issue. Sometimes I am afraid of what they would think of me if I shared. Sometimes, I know my thoughts/feelings/ideas would lead to an argument and I want to avoid conflict.
It is complicated because it is never just one of these things. And I am constantly trying to weigh, measure, and parse all of the things that might be keeping me silent and whether or not they are justified. And, even if they are justified, whether or not that should keep me from sharing.
The result? I, like most people, spend a lot of time building up resentment. I keep score (even though I know I am biased) about the times I didn’t say anything, as if others are to blame for my silence.
All of this can be a subtle poison in a relationship. Two people doing this are involved in an invisible spider web tug-of-war that can pull people apart (not only from one another, but from themselves).
The things we do not say are not easily discarded. They take new forms and pile up in some corner of our minds. We synergize the collective silence in our relationships. If left untreated and unacknowledged, it can really lead to some trouble.
It is hard to be human. I can’t say that enough. And although the other humans around us can often make the difficult task better, they can just as often make it worse.
The choice we need to make is how much to share and when.
I don’t know the proper scale to use when talking about being introverted. But wherever I am on it, my wife Kylie is the same on the extravert side. As you can imagine, this can lead to some challenges in our relationship. But it is also the source of our success as a couple.
One of the beautiful things about marriage and healthy family dynamics is having someone you can talk to no matter what. This is why unhealthy marriages and dysfunctional families hurt so deeply – we need places to express ourselves and feel accepted.
I still think there are plenty of things that I think that belong just to me. But not near as much as I once imagined.
The people we are in relationship with need to hear from us. Honestly. The good, the bad, and the ugly. We need to express ourselves. And not just for them, but for our own peace of mind. Now, I’ll warn you, being heard and having people agree with you are not the same thing. Be humble, brave, and gracious about hearing others just as fervently as you fight to be heard. We need both; and they are almost never mutually exclusive.
Even when we don’t speak, we are sharing cues to how we think and feel. Most of our communication is nonverbal, after all. Have the courage to put words to your thoughts and feelings, understanding that you do not have a monopoly on the truth. And that is okay. Because sharing the truth begins with sharing. Just like you can synergize dysfunction in your relationships, you can also synergize discovering truth.