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How to Get Along with Introverts

Extraverts tend to be exuberant and enthusiastic and sometimes feel like a bull – or at least a calf – in a China shop around introverts. “Must we always restrain ourselves in order to not offend?” they might ask. We all want to feel free to be ourselves, but relationships run more smoothly when we’re aware of one another’s needs and sensitivities. The following suggestions are intended for both introverts and extraverts, for when two introverts are in a relationship, one tends to take a more introverted and one a more extraverted role:

  • Ask if now is a good time to talk instead of taking it for granted introverts want to have a conversation.
  • Unless you ask some clarifying questions, you often can’t tell whether introverts are worried about something, involved in their own thoughts, or want to be left alone.
  • Treat introverts gently – loud or dramatic expressions of emotion may frighten them. Your point of view will come across better through gentle persistence than if you come on strongly or put them on the spot.
  • Think of creative solutions if pacing is a problem:

    I used to call introverted Bob “passive aggressive” for keeping me waiting so long for a response while he looked around and ruminated about what he was thinking as if I wasn’t there. But I realized he wasn’t trying to “get” me, so I would have him follow me into whatever activity I was doing while he considered and finally came out with a response. That worked well for both of us. – Elaine Chernoff, an extravert.
  • Respect introverted friends’ and family members’ wishes if they prefer to be alone in times of stress or sadness: In a culture in which interpersonal relationships are generally considered to provide the answer to every form of distress, it is sometimes difficult to persuade well-meaning helpers that solitude can be as therapeutic as emotional support. – Anthony Storr.
  • When introverts opt for privacy, remember this goes along with their inborn nature and is not necessarily a rejection of you.

  • Anthony Hopkins, an introverted actor, likes to socialize occasionally, but feels his main non-acting activities (playing the piano, composing music, and taking road trips) would be less pleasurable with other people along.
    “Most of the time,” he told an interviewer, “I am enough.”

    “One’s company, two’s a crowd.”
    – Oscar Levant in the movie, “An American in Paris.”

  • If you feel let down because your introvert isn’t expressive enough, pay more attention to the words than their delivery. Extraverted Elaine multiplies her introverted partner’s expressed emotions by ten; he divides hers by ten.
  • Look for nonverbal signs of affection. Introverts are sometimes more comfortable expressing their feelings in writing or by their actions than through speaking.
  • If your introverted friends or relatives go off to watch from the sidelines alone, don’t assume they’re unhappy:
    We extraverts belong to a club where we share the belief that interacting is always wonderful and fun. I’m sorry that introverts don’t get to be part of this club. – Nancy Kesselring.
  • Invite introverts to join in, but do not push them.

    The leader of the meeting looked at the silent member and said, “you are quiet, but I think you have something to say.” This introvert wouldn’t have broken into the meeting to speak, for it would have seemed a disservice to her ideas to shout them out above the noise of the others. But since she was invited, she spoke – quietly and with great wisdom. – Carolyn Rhodes.
  • Question the adjectives and definitions you use for introverts: instead of “passive,” perhaps they’re “shy and gentle.” Instead of “anti-social,” perhaps “their main interests do not always involve other people.” Instead of “self-centered or narcissistic,” perhaps they have “satisfying inner lives.”
  • Let introverts know you appreciate them for being their own person:

    What makes a man interesting to me is when he’s free. When he does not feel the need to look a certain way, to behave a certain way. When he’s himself. Always. When he doesn’t want to please everyone. – Michele Laroque, actress.
  • In order to accept one another more easily, remember that neurological differences underlay introvert/extravert conflicts. Introverts have naturally busy minds, sometimes referred to as “inner wakefulness,” and are easily overwhelmed by sensory stimuli. Extraverts become unpleasantly restless with too little stimulation, so they often seek action.
  • Since our culture seems to be celebrating extraversion much of the time, extol the virtues of introversion as well:Extraverts like to do things together. The experiences themselves usually count more than pondering about them.

    Extraverted Nancy believes every occasion can be improved upon by adding more people. Her husband and son are both introverts, however. She might have labeled them as simply wrong, she told me, had she not understood type differences. Instead, she learned to respect their temperaments and they hers. Even though they are not crazy about social activities themselves, they support her when she wants to invite friends over or throw a party.
  • Extraverts are easier to “read” than introverts. Introverts aren’t necessarily trying to keep a secret – disclosing their thoughts or feelings often just doesn’t occur to them.
  • “Thinking type” extraverts can do with few complements, but “feeling types” put effort into relating to others and depend on getting attention back. If you are an extravert who feels you put out more than your share of energy, it helps to remember that introverts can also accomplish a lot, but their accomplishments will likely be of a different nature.
Some relationship examples
  • Introverted Michael appreciates his extraverted wife’s openness with people. When they met, he was fearful of social situations and Barbara was his entry into conversations. Little by little, he learned from her to join in on his own. She learned from his example to pay more attention to her quiet side.
  • Introverted Gregory becomes frustrated at his extraverted friends’ slowness when it comes to internal processing, such as grasping metaphors and meanings in movies. He claims that people find him “abysmally slow and frustrating”, however, when it comes to external processes such as preparing schedules, getting packed, decorating, and so on.
  • When Dixie wanted to have an exchange student live with her family, her husband and children, all introverts, made it clear that they would be miserable with a stranger in the house. In order to satisfy her desire for more people in her life, she became more involved in community activities…………

The Happy Introvert


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