Reality Check: Speak up or stand down?

We each have our special qualities, yet groups of us share characteristics, such as whether one is an introvert or extravert. In her book, “Gifts Differing,” Isabel Briggs Myers states that there are more extraverts than introverts, with extraverts being “more vocal” than introverts.

The implication is that those numerous extraverts are ready and willing to offer their opinions, suggestions, and comments at the drop of a hat, while introverts, for whom it’s natural to remain silent, prefer to leave their thoughts unspoken, even when asked.

Whether it comes naturally for you or not, there are times when it’s important to speak up. Equally important, there are times when it’s important to hold back the impulse to express yourself.

Beth and her husband Seth are both introverted, and seldom talk about anything other than the everyday management of their lives. Beth has stayed home with the children and manages the household, while Seth is achieving notable success in his career.

How well does that relationship work for them?  While neither would have called themselves discontented, Beth felt reluctant to express herself. Even though she recognized the importance of what she does, she perceived that Seth saw her as a lessor partner in the relationship—a passenger along for the ride.

Then Beth was struck with a serious illness. In this new reality, where both realized that their relationship might be coming to a permanent end, conversations emerged that were quite different than their usual, “How was your day?”

During one difficult moment, as Seth was attempting to grasp a host of details that Beth had always handled, she was astounded to hear him say, “I’ve always admired how you’ve kept our lives on track. You’re my rock.”

Beth was speechless! She knew that she was the glue that kept their relationship together, but she had no idea that Seth realized that, too. They had lived a relationship of quiet misunderstanding.

Why? It had never occurred to Seth that it was important to tell Beth, “I rely on you totally.” And Beth’s perception was such that she never dared ask, “How do you really feel about our lives together?”

Would it have been helpful for Beth and Seth to have had this conversation before? Would it have improved the nature of their relationship, the decisions they had made, the connection they felt? Likely, yes!

However, they can’t go back in time and change what they didn’t say.  While it could have been helpful to have shared this understanding earlier, it’s still better now than never.

So, when is it helpful to speak up? Consider this: If you have something supportive, caring, or encouraging to say, say it. If you are grateful, appreciative, or thankful, speak up. It will do no harm, and it may do more good than you could imagine.

Are there times when it’s more helpful to stand down than to speak up? We’ll take a look at that possibility next time.

Do you make a habit of speaking out? Or do you keep your thoughts to yourself? Even if you’re an introvert, let me know

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