When it comes to talking, I have the gift of gab. When I was in elementary school, a friend’s grandmother told me I had diarrhea of the mouth. It hurt my feelings. She wasn’t wrong. The truth can sting.
When it comes to not talking, my husband, Judah, is comfortably quiet. When at a loud party, packed with people, he can be found in the corner reading a book. It can hurt people’s feelings, communicate a lack of interest in what’s going on around him. They aren’t totally wrong. Truth is nuanced.
You see, when I am around introverts, I can feel like I have to carry the conversation. I can over-talk in an effort to keep everyone comfortable and engaged. When Judah is around a lot of people, he gets overwhelmed. He has a hard time hearing conversation with too much background noise, so he retreats into a book for safety.
We are both trying to avoid discomfort, just in different ways.
When we are alone, just the two of us, I have found myself repeating something I’ve said but using different words. After 16 years of marriage, I catch myself sooner than I used to, but it still usually takes me until the third iteration of a point before I realize: I’m saying the same thing over and over!
At the other end of the conversation, I am met with silence.
“Do you understand what I’m saying?”
“Yes! I got it the first time.”
“Why didn’t you say anything?”
“I didn’t know what to say.”
“Well, say something!”
And then one day, he did.
“I acknowledge I heard what you said.”
This changed everything!
It may sound simple. Or even lackluster. But it’s honest and communicative. I don’t get swept up in the current of ridiculously repeated rhetoric, assuming I haven’t been clear. He doesn’t get drowned in a deluge of descriptives, as if lacking intellect.
He understands me, and I understand him.
We both win.