8 Valid Reasons Why Highly Sensitive Introverts Might Step Back From a Friend

A highly sensitive introvert and her friend

If your friends cross your boundaries or make you feel undervalued, you’re not being “too sensitive” for feeling hurt.

Growing up, I had three sets of friends: one from school, one from church, and one from work. I knew I was an introvert because I was not fond of parties, team activities, and other big get-togethers, and I was often hesitant to share personal information about myself. I was more of a listener than a talker. I was socially awkward, too. However, when my friends did things that bothered me, I thought I was just being immature and “too sensitive.”

As I got older, I learned more about introversion and became aware of certain things that people did that hurt me. I discovered that many introverts are also highly sensitive people — it’s nothing to feel “abnormal” about. When I gained a deeper understanding of highly sensitive introverts, I finally understood my reactions to my friends’ behaviors. I wasn’t being “too sensitive.” Often, my friends were crossing important boundaries of mine or making me feel undervalued.

Eventually, I couldn’t take some of their un-friend-like behaviors anymore — so it was time to step back from them. (After all, introverts don’t consider everyone to be their friend.) This didn’t mean I burned bridges. I just spent less time with them and gave them the same energy they gave me. To be specific, here are the things that made me decide to distance myself from them once and for all.

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8 Reasons to Step Back From a Friend

1. They are conversational narcissists.

I can’t help but feel irked when someone constantly talks about themselves. I used to put up with friends who did this, thinking they didn’t mean to do it. But when I felt unheard and excluded, I knew it was unhealthy. My confidence dropped because I thought I was not worth listening to. Soon I noticed that I was becoming nervous every time I hung out with them. 

So I kindly told them what I felt — and that I thought they were being inconsiderate. Although they acknowledged it, and even apologized, they barely adjusted their behavior. When very little changed, even after talking with them about the issue, I knew it was time to move on.

2. They emotionally dump on you… a lot.

Sometimes my friends would suddenly open up to me without first asking if I had the bandwidth to listen. They wouldn’t ask me if I was going through a crisis or hardship of my own — they’d just start pouring out all their negative emotions onto me. 

Not everyone is aware they’re emotionally dumping, but not trying to fix their behavior — even after you talk with them about it — is hurtful. As a highly sensitive introvert, I tend to be the doormat on which people step and wipe out their problems. All the emotions eventually accumulate… until I can no longer carry them all. Without healthy boundaries in place, the doormat becomes unrecognizable.

3. They don’t listen to you after they ask, “How are you?”

Similar to #1, when I’d answer their “How are you” with “Not okay” — and would tell them why — the spotlight would quickly shift back to them. They would say the same thing happened to them, and then elaborate on it, without ever getting back to my story. 

At first, I convinced myself they did it to let me know they could relate to me. But I was always hoping there would be a follow-up conversation about what I’d shared. Otherwise, why did they even ask me how I was in the first place?

This situation may seem petty, but I’d not only absorb their negative emotions, but their lack of interest in my life made me feel unimportant.

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4. They ignore your softly-spoken ideas.

Society considers the introvert’s quietness to be a weakness. It seems to imply a lack of confidence. While this may be true for some introverts, it’s not always why we’re quiet. It may be due to the innate sense of calm that we possess, or we may be thinking about what we’d like to say and waiting our turn to speak, rather than saying the first thing that comes to mind.

Unfortunately, some of my friends didn’t understand my quietness, so they often dismissed my ideas. Even when I tried to be more assertive, they still didn’t listen to me.

5. They make fun of your introversion — or say you’re “too quiet” or “too sensitive.”

Some of my friends laughed about my quietness, awkwardness, and the way I’d take time to process new ideas and experiences. They looked down on my reticence (saying I’m “too quiet”), put me in an uncomfortable situation, and mocked me for not expressing strong opinions when I was deeply analyzing the subject first. Or, if I was more emotional about something than they were, they’d say I was “too sensitive.”

When I told them I didn’t like what they were doing, they thought I was exaggerating, and this made me feel bad about being a highly sensitive introvert — to the point where I wished I wasn’t one. Eventually I realized that nothing was “wrong” with me; my friends were the problem, not me.

6. They didn’t pay much attention to me.

As a highly sensitive introvert, I tend to read others well. I could tell when my friends were in a bad mood just by their facial expressions or how they typed their messages. I could empathize with their feelings because I was able to pick up on their subtle body language. I could validate their silent happiness or reach out to them when I knew they were feeling down. It made me happy that I could make them feel understood. However, I found it frustrating because they didn’t return the favor. 

Indeed, my ability to understand them was a gift. However, it is a gift that should be used wisely. It needs reciprocation, which I didn’t experience with these friends. 

7. They don’t remember little things about you.

Again, it may seem petty that I distanced myself from my friends for this reason. But as much as I wanted to ignore how they barely associated me with, for example, the things I love, I couldn’t help but feel sulky. 

I wondered how it would feel to have a friend who recognized and remembered little things about me, like my favorite TV show or my favorite meal to order at a restaurant. Yet, with the friend circle I had, I only felt self-pity. 

8. You can’t have meaningful conversations with them.

I actually loved how these friends and I conversed about frivolous topics. They made me laugh, brought out my funny side, and honed my small talk skills

However, I longed for more meaningful conversations, where we could talk about our perspectives on certain issues or share deep ideas. When one of us had a problem, I was often waiting for a more thought-out response, aside from mindless sentences like, “Oh, that’s okay. Don’t be sad,” or “It will pass. You’re fine.” It’s like they didn’t really listen or try to delve deeply into the situation. 

So I would wait for my turn to speak or send a private message to the friend who needed genuine empathy and reassurance. As a highly sensitive introvert, I need more than just shallow conversation, because it implies the relationship is likely superficial. And if the relationship is superficial, what’s the point?

Distancing Myself From Them Meant Getting Closer to Myself

The moment I decided to distance myself from them, I found peace and accepted who I am as an introvert. It’s indeed better to be on my own and hang out with these friends only occasionally, like for special occasions, vs. considering them part of my inner circle. 

While it’s hard to make friends as an introverted adult, it is possible — and worth it when you find the ones who truly “get” you.

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