Revisiting introversion and extroversion: Learning from each other, part 2

Alright, back to my introverted brother. Last time I left off by stating that the less-than-ideal condition of our sibling relationship wasn’t just because of my brother, but also because of me. Here’s what I realized:

I was trying to impose my own idea of an ideal sibling relationship on my brother, without thinking about whether or not it was a realistic goal given our own personalities. I didn’t take into consideration the fact that maybe, with a lot going on in his life in and out of school, he wasn’t in the mental space for a heart-to-heart conversation with anyone on our drives home from school. It was more about his mental space rather than him not wanting to talk to me at all. I realized that it wasn’t fair of me to get frustrated with my brother; it would be like one of my friends being frustrated with me because I didn’t want to go to a big social event after I had a long week and wanted to catch up on a show to recharge my battery. 

As cliché as it is, I think all this comes down to being able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, being able to understand a person’s needs and the way that this affects any sort of relationship and its dynamics. For an introvert thinking of an extrovert, it’s about understanding that they are happy with more stimulation, and the give and take between having time to yourself to recharge and doing things with people that you care about. And for an extrovert thinking of an introvert, it’s about understanding and respecting the need for alone time and lower-stimulation activities. It can be good to help people push out of their comfort zones, but again there’s a give and take, an ability to be aware of pushing someone out of their comfort zone versus pushing someone to do something that they don’t have the mental energy for.

I still sometimes find myself comparing my sibling relationship to other people’s and becoming jealous of the relationships other people have with their siblings. But then I’ll stop and remind myself that my brother and I don’t have a bad relationship. We are different people with different needs, and there is nothing wrong with that. Understanding and respecting my brother’s needs allowed me greater insight into why he sometimes did what he did, and enabled me to approach our sibling dynamic in a different way that’s more conducive to both of us as individuals. And this holds for introversion and extroversion as well as for beyond it. My brother doesn’t like talking on the phone much, so lately we’ve taken to playing Game Pigeon games together. And just like when we were kids, I know that appealing to his own interests instead of trying to engage in mundane small-talk is a better way for him to be engaged in conversation.

Writing these past two columns, I couldn’t help but be reminded of a quote from Jane Austen’s “Sense and Sensibility” (1811) that seemed rather fitting: “I wish, as well as everybody else, to be perfectly happy; but like everybody else, it must be in my own way.”


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