Deep conversations and one-on-one get-togethers are the way to an introvert friend’s heart.
Hear me out on this one: Having an introverted friend is like having a bird. You know how a pet can be loyal to one or a few people, but hesitant around others? Now, I’m not saying introverts are pets; I’m saying introverts are selective about how (and who) they expend their energy with.
Yes, this might sound funny, but it’s true — for introverts, social interaction is a form of exertion similar to going on a hike. For us, it takes energy, can be draining, and there are some things introverts will do to circumvent those feelings!
Now that we got that out of the way, let’s delve into some of the basic introvert “rules” you must know to understand your introverted friend. Although we are currently in a pandemic and our level of social interaction has changed, these rules are generally ones that introverts stand by.
6 ‘Rules’ For Being Friends With an Introvert
1. Stick to small groups or one-on-one get-togethers.
Introverts are all about setting. We like to be around “small” groups, such as those considered to be our closest family and friends, because these are the people we can be ourselves around and open up to. The keyword here is “small” since only a few people fall within our inner circle.
A small group setting — where the introvert is surrounded by their tight-knit group — is almost like two friends exchanging their thoughts or cracking jokes about a TV series they’re following. Since they share that same connection, they’re able to have deep, meaningful, and laughter-prone conversations.
If we introverts are not in this setting, such as when an introvert is celebrating a friend’s birthday (in which other people are there, too), our vibrancy completely changes. In that environment, we become more of an observer and feel like the fifth wheel. We may feel like the odd ball out, like the only one at the party who hasn’t seen that TV series and doesn’t understand the jokes.
The interesting thing to note here is, it doesn’t matter if we’ve met the other people at the party several times; we just don’t feel close enough to let our guard down, so we remain reserved in their presence.
2. Don’t expect them to say “yes” to every social gathering.
We introverts like to go out and have fun, too, but expect us to repeatedly turn down your invites. When you invite us to a party or other social event, we’ll usually interrogate you about the details — who’s going and where it is. We’ll also think about what the purpose of going is, as well as how long we’ll plan to stay.
Introverts go through this process because they’re deciphering if they want to bear the awkwardness of that social gathering, or forgo it to do something more productive or relaxing at home. Oftentimes, when introverts agree to go, they purposely plan to have something to do immediately afterwards so they’ll have to leave at a certain time.
Depending on the event, attending might mean that we’re “put on the spot,” meaning we’re forced to share information about ourselves that we’d rather reserve for our inner circle. It’s almost as if everyone outside of that tight-knit group is like a stranger. I mean, how much are we going to disclose to someone we pass by on the sidewalk as we’re going for a walk? Not much, right? For introverts, people are categorized, and it’s our closest friends who really “get” us and see our full personality unfold. Everyone else just gets a piece of the jigsaw puzzle and makes assumptions about us, but in reality, they don’t really know us.
Also, keep in mind that just because you know that you will have a good time socializing at that event doesn’t mean your introvert friend will. And in the likelihood that they’ll actually have fun, they will still approach the next event you invite them to with the same hesitation as before (because it’s just in their nature).
3. Respect their need for alone time and privacy.
We introverts need frequent downtime or privacy. This is because we often feel exhausted or overstimulated when we’re around people for an extended period of time. So we need that alone time to unwind and recharge, whether that means concentrating on projects or internalizing our day.
If an introvert just went to a social event yesterday, they might want to space out the time before they go to their next social activity. (The “introvert hangover” is real!) This could be another reason why introverts might take a raincheck on your request to go out, as multiple social engagements can be social overload.
Another example is if an introvert like me was on the phone all day for work, and you call; I’ll likely text you back instead. Or (pre-pandemic) I may prefer to eat my lunch in my car; in pandemic times, I’ll eat in my bedroom instead of interacting with others. Without this separation, we introverts are prone to irritability.
4. Don’t ask: “Why are you so quiet?”
Introverts hate it when people ask: “Why are you (always) so quiet?’’ This typically happens in social settings when they’re around people outside their inner circle. Many introverts are active listeners, they enjoy hearing a good story, and don’t always feel the need to comment on things. (Some may not think they have anything meaningful to contribute while others may need extra time to collect their thoughts on a situation.) And if introverts are quiet in a one-on-one setting, most likely they’re just internalizing their current environment.
An example of this would be when you’re at work or school and the people around you are having their own conversation, and whether you interject with a smile or laugh (or you don’t), someone will suddenly ask why you never talk. Or you’re in a work meeting and the host will say, “We’ve heard some great feedback so far, but there’s still some people that haven’t shared their thoughts. (Your name here), what is your take on this?”
Both examples show how your lack of contributions become the focal point of the conversation, and everyone’s now staring at you awaiting your response. What people don’t understand is that everyone takes in information differently. Just because an introvert doesn’t share their opinions out loud doesn’t mean they aren’t listening; they may just be taking everything in.
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5. Although they enjoy listening to you, remember to reciprocate.
Introverts are loyal friends: They will make the time to be there for you when you need someone to vent to and will actively listen to your problems. However, just as they are there for you, they want that support reciprocated. This is crucial, because introverts tend to bottle up their feelings and frustrations and reserve them for the people they are closest to. If those people are unavailable, that is very frustrating.
Depending on how they handle conflict, if certain people are repeatedly unavailable during an introvert’s time of crisis, they may hold a grudge and respond with passive-aggressive behavior when the person does communicate with them again. Let’s say the introvert got into a big fight with their significant other, and they’re in desperate need to speak with their best friend, Jane. If they call or text Jane, and time and time again, Jane doesn’t respond until evening or the next day, the introvert might take offense to that. All they wanted was a shoulder to cry on, but Jane wasn’t there. They might reach a point where they feel: Why keep a friendship like that when it feels like a one-way street?
6. Don’t put them on the spot — ever.
The great majority of introverts will reject opportunities that result in them being the center of attention. Let’s say an extrovert was reaching out to their introvert friend to see how their date went last night. If the extrovert does this by calling the introvert and putting them on speaker phone (while there’s people in the background), that’s a big no-no! This situation highlights that the introvert has an audience, and in essence means the introvert will give a watered-down version of the events because they didn’t feel comfortable having others listening in. Had the extrovert waited until it was just the two of them, the extrovert would’ve heard an amazing story!
Please don’t put them on the spot in social situations either. Ever. (Thank you.)