Just because your introverted partner doesn’t want to go to a party with you doesn’t mean they don’t want to spend time with you.
“Why can’t she just take a deep breath and calm down?” I thought as I watched my introverted classmate struggle to give a presentation. She was standing in front of the class shaking, and it looked like she was experiencing a panic attack.
As an extrovert who was raised and surrounded by other sociable and outgoing people, I never had a problem when it came to socializing, attending a party, public speaking, or other similar social situations. I didn’t understand why staying calm was so hard for introverts when they talked, and I thought that it was a weakness.
But after meeting my boyfriend, I realized how wrong I had been.
From ‘the Weird Guy’ to ‘My Boyfriend’
My boyfriend is an intellectual person with a small circle of friends, yet he spends most of his time alone. My first impression of him was exactly the opposite of what I think of him now: “He is the weird guy who doesn’t talk to anyone other than his three friends.”
One day, several years ago, we had a discussion in our English class. My boyfriend usually doesn’t talk much, but on that day, he performed very well in the debate. His points were valid and he was able to look at the big picture from various viewpoints — I admired (and was pleasantly surprised by) his intellect. Since then, I wanted to get closer to him. Luckily, he was attracted to me as well. It took about three months before we started dating. Despite his introversion, he was the one who asked me out first. We’ve been together for almost four years now.
Getting to know him — and exploring his mind — has been one of the best things I’ve ever experienced in my life. He wasn’t weird after all, but just a unique human being who has his own way of perceiving the world, expressing himself, and presenting his ideas. Before I met him, I had the “wrong idea” of introversion. Then he completely changed what I think about introverts, and I am eternally grateful for that.
So, I am now writing about my experiences to raise awareness about introversion. Many extroverts (like me, formerly) misunderstand introversion. Nevertheless, it’s important for extroverts to try to understand and support introverts — many of the problems that introverts face are caused by society’s misconceptions of them. That said, here are seven things I’ve learned about introverts through getting to know my introverted boyfriend.
7 Things I’ve Learned About Introverts Through My Introverted Boyfriend
1. Introversion is not a weakness that needs to be fixed.
My boyfriend doesn’t often speak or express his opinion, but when he does, it becomes obvious that he’s the smart guy in the room. Many introverts have trouble when it comes to work and school, because some people perceive introversion as something that needs to be fixed rather than a healthy personality trait. For example, quiet and introverted students may even get lower grades (especially when it comes to class participation), even though they are just as smart (or smarter) than the more vocal students.
When you discover that someone is introverted, it doesn’t mean anything more than that — they just enjoy being in a calm and low-stimulus environment and get their energy from being alone vs. among others. But being introverted doesn’t define one’s intelligence or ability.
2. Give them time to think.
What I’ve also learned from my boyfriend is that introverts tend to overthink. If you ask me a simple question, I might give you an answer right away, but this isn’t the case for introverts. They try to see things from different perspectives, and because it is so natural for them to overthink, they won’t answer in the blink of an eye.
The one thing that you don’t want to do is rush them. If you give them time, they will provide you with a great answer. But if you rush them to think more quickly, you will leave them with no other choice than simply saying an idea that they haven’t fully thought through.
So don’t force them to speak if you want a well-thought-out answer. I used to rush my introverted friends to respond quickly. It only left me with unsatisfactory answers and caused them discomfort. Now as a person who tries to understand and respect people’s personality differences, I always ask them if they need more time. This simple question will save your conversation (and probably your friendships).
3. Do not force them to socialize.
Imagine that you are an extremely outgoing extrovert and you have been waiting for a certain party to happen for a long time. But you can’t go, because someone has just forbidden you from going — maybe you have to work late. Yes, that’s what an introvert would feel like if you try to pull them out of their comfort zone and push them to socialize.
They know that socializing is an important part of life and will do it — but not all the time. They don’t crave it like we extroverts do. Next time you want to convince your introverted friend to go to a party with you, put yourself in their shoes. Whenever my boyfriend and I receive an invitation to a social event, I ask him whether or not he wants to go, and I let him decide. After all, going to an event alone is not a big deal for extroverts, and understanding the one you love is what matters the most. It’s a win-win for us both.
4. They like to talk… but when it’s a meaningful conversation.
My boyfriend doesn’t like small talk or chit-chat. But when he talks about something he is interested in, he becomes the most talkative person in the room. Some introverts just don’t enjoy small talk because they think it is pointless and wastes their time — they prefer having deep conversations about meaningful topics. But that doesn’t mean they never initiate a conversation and you should always leave them alone. If they feel comfortable around you and the conversation is interesting to them, they come out of their shell and will speak up.
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5. They like doing fun things (when they are “introvert-friendly” activities).
Don’t make the world a place only for extroverts. Introverts count, too! Back in my school days, I was the student council president and used to organize all sorts of events, such as science and ping-pong competitions. As the organizer, it was also my responsibility to collect feedback and suggestions. What I realize now is that many students didn’t feel comfortable sharing their opinion with a large audience; some of them didn’t know me well, and it was clear that face-to-face conversations made them nervous.
So I decided to take their requests in the written form — via texts and messaging platforms. It was a win-win situation because they didn’t have to fight their social anxiety to get their suggestions heard, and it made organizing the events more efficient for me. Social situations — like events or meetings — can be anxiety-inducing for introverts, so try to organize and plan events to be as friendly for introverts as possible.
6. Be patient and don’t take it personally when they want alone time or don’t want to share everything that’s on their mind.
Maybe you were expecting instant replies and more attention from them. But things didn’t go as you thought they would and now you’re afraid that something is wrong.
But remember that introverts take time to reflect, so their anxiety (or other negative feelings) may not have anything to do with you. They may be genuinely busy. Or having some alone time (which they need to recharge). Plus, if they don’t express their feelings as often as you do (as an extrovert), this also does not mean they’re not into you.
And when an introvert doesn’t share their thoughts with you, that doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t trust you. It might mean that they need a little more time and space to think and translate their thoughts into words. (Or they want to keep certain things to themselves, which is also okay and has nothing to do with you.) So before you get paranoid and start taking it personally, try to understand their needs and be more patient. Your introverted partner will appreciate your thoughtful actions.
7. Introverts make wonderful friends and partners.
“Introverts are so complicated. I wish the world was full of extroverts.” If this is what you think, you have no idea how awesome introverts are. My boyfriend has taught me many wonderful things about being an introvert. Extroverts need introverts in their life, because they balance each other out. Your introverted friend will be the greatest confidante to you, since they tend to deeply analyze issues and observe details that we extroverts usually miss. Also, introverts are the ones who truly listen to you when you’re feeling down (they are master listeners!). Maybe they won’t show up to your party, but as soon as you need their help, they will be there for you.