I have decided that every CEO needs to read Quiet and Rework. I finished both of those books this morning and felt like someone actually understood me and half of the people I know. Both books talked about face-to-face work environments, open office plans, misled leadership and disconnected customer service; and emphasized that flexibility and understanding were the only way to both prosper in this new economy and keep valuable employees. Love it.
I’m sad, though, that most extroverts won’t read Quiet, simply because of the title. It was almost equally about extroverts as it was about introverts, and I thought the author made a nice point that we all balance each other out. Extroverts draw introverts out of their shells, out of their comfort zones and into more cheerful territory. Introverts give extroverts a safe space to get serious, consider their internal motivations and discuss personal issues. Extroverts are the heroes and introverts are the trusted advisors. I love that balance.
I also love that I’m married to another introvert. As much as an extrovert might draw me out a bit more, my introverted husband understands when I need downtime. He might get frustrated when my anxiety is running high, but he doesn’t fault me for it. He’s learned extroverted ways of acting in order to get along in the world, the same as I did — though his extrovert mask is different from my own — so he understands how exhausted I feel when I’ve had to “perform” for people for a while.
All in all, a great day for the both of us involves sitting on our double-recliner together, engrossed in reading. Are we the most exciting couple in the world? Decidedly not. But there are no walls between us.
Today when I was eating lunch, I watched part of an interview that Oprah did with a couple who lost their child in the Sandy Hook shooting. Oprah commented that most couples would have split up after an event like that. Statistics agree with her on that as many people pointed out to us after we lost our own child. But the husband said something along the lines of, “When you experience a loss like this, you need something to live for. We became each other’s reason to live.” I so completely understand that.
I feel I can speak for Jeremy in this and say that we both feel the same way. But we also became each other’s mirror. We went through something together that no one will ever understand. Our natures were unique to begin with, and when that element of shared trauma was added, our understanding grew that much stronger. I can look over at Jeremy’s misty eyes and simply say, “I know, honey. I know,” — and that’s that. No deep talks, no questions about what got to him. And he can watch me angrily dismantling a crib in a now-unused bedroom, and without so much as a What are you doing?, he simply grabs a wrench and helps.
For all the thoughts, feelings, opinions and values we disagree on — and there are many — our shared understanding overrules it all.
When I saw that couple on Oprah, I immediately thought, How can they get through this interview? It hasn’t even been a year. But it dawned on me quickly how they were able to handle it. They were together.
I’ve known other couples who have gone through loss together. Loss of parents, siblings, children. And now that we’re among their ranks, I see something I never saw before. Death changes you — as a person and as a couple. It either isolates you from or melds you with your partner. We’re some of the lucky ones.