When you see a couple sitting in a restaurant over Sunday breakfast, each reading the newspaper, do you think:
a) OH! How tragic! This couple is ignoring each other! I wouldn't want to be in a relationship that cold and unconnected!
b) Ah, how nice. This couple is starting their Sunday together with coffee and the newspaper. I'd love to be in a relationship that comfortable and relaxed.
This is a discussion that popped up on Facebook recently when an extremely extroverted friend (judging by the number of party pictures she posts) spotted a couple at breakfast, each absorbed in a Kindle. My friend saw it as an ominous sign that technology is destroying human connections, and posted something to that effect in her status line. I suggested that perhaps the couple was reading the Sunday paper, via new technology, over breakfast. After all, reading the Sunday paper together is a treasured ritual for many people (including me and my husband).
No matter, my friend said. It's rude.
After all, some things are in the eyes of the beholder.
Consider the woman who commented, in the post about introverts and extroverts in love, that her ex-husband used the fact that she had few friends against her, as proof that she is somehow flawed.
That's perception being used as a bludgeon.
Seen one way, someone with just a handful of friends is to be pitied, maybe even scorned as somehow unlikable.
But seen another way, someone with a small number of friends has more time and attention for each. Perhaps those friendships have more depth. Perhaps. Or maybe not. Maybe we're all just different.
I'm not particularly comfortable being friends with people who have bajillions of friends--my perception is that I'm lost in a crowd. I prefer feeling special.
That's a perception, too. Maybe extroverts with lots of friends have a different capacity for caring about people--perhaps even in their blizzard of friends they manage to consider each and every one of us a special snowflake.
That's fine. Doesn't change how I feel, though.
We are free to feel as we feel. As long as we don't hurt others, we may live as we prefer. But trouble starts when we pass judgment on each other's choices and perceptions. One reason we see extrovert bashing on this blog is because a lot of introverts who have been harshly judged for their preferences feel free here to vent their perceptions for a change. It's not always easy, in a world where extroverts seem to rule, to defend our quiet ways.
I felt sorry that unknown couple, quietly enjoying (I hope) their breakfast together while, unbeknownst to them, a stranger was assessing their relationship.
A couple of other people on Facebook echoed my perception of the couple at breakfast. My friend didn't seem to buy it. She prefers conversation when she's out to breakfast, she said. Another friend gave her a big AMEN.
That's cool, I responded. Nobody's judging you.
But some of us see it differently, that's all.
My book, The Introvert's Way: Living a Quiet Life in a Noisy World, is available for pre-order on Amazon. It will be released December 4, 2012, just in time for party/festive/family-togetherness season. You know you need it.
Copyright 2010 Sophia Dembling