That’s why we need some ground rules. Here are 13 of them. Suggested use: Sharing this article with your friends and talking about which “rules” resonated with you and which ones didn’t. Highly discouraged: Nailing these rules to your friends’ doors and demanding unwavering compliance.
‘Rules’ for Being Friends With an Introvert
1. Unless something’s on fire, don’t show up at our home unannounced.
Most extroverts seem to have no trouble suddenly being “on,” and they love — even welcome — an unexpected social surprise. But not so for us introverts. We need time to mentally prepare to see people. And to us, our homes are private spaces where we let down our guard and relax. Do not, I repeat, do not infringe on our sacred space — without getting permission from us in advance.
2. If it’s supposed to be just the two of us, don’t invite other people.
It’s hurtful if we feel like we’re just another warm body in your entourage. We want to mean something to you, because if we’re friends, you mean a lot to us. Due to our limited people energy, we don’t let just anybody into our inner circle. As Adam S. McHugh puts it: “Introverts treasure the close relationships they have stretched so much to make.”
If you have to invite other people, at least give us a heads up. There’s hardly anything worse for introverts than being ambushed by a raucous crowd when they were expecting a quietly intimate chat.
3. Skip the crowd. Hang out with us one-on-one or in a small group.
Want to make an introvert disappear? Put them in a large group of strangers, and they may quietly fade into the background. Pretty soon it’s like they’re not even there.
But when you get introverts alone, it’s a different story. Introverts thrive in intimate settings because when we’re talking to just one person, it drastically reduces our stimulation level — we only have to pay attention to the words, body language, and tone of voice of one person. For our minds, which are already quite busy with the internal stimulation that comes standard with being an introvert, paying attention to one person is plenty.
Plus, one-on-one, it’s easier to talk about more meaningful topics. Group talk tends to revolve around “safe” topics like what you did this weekend or how the new work project is going. Introverts crave diving deep, sharing big ideas, and talking authentically about things that actually matter.
4. Give us a tiny moment of real connection over hours of polite chitchat.
How are you really? What’s actually on your mind? Don’t just say it was a good weekend. Tell us about the existential crisis you had over the fact that you’re getting older and your life isn’t where you thought it would be. We’d rather know what’s going on inside you — what’s really going on — than just see the polished, “social media friendly” front that you display to everyone else.
As Laurie Helgoe writes, “When an introvert cares about someone, she also wants contact, not so much to keep up with the events of the other person’s life, but to keep up with what’s inside: the evolution of ideas, values, thoughts, and feelings.”
5. Encourage us to share our thoughts.
As an introvert, I’ll be the first to admit that I often need encouragement to chime in, especially when I’m with a group of people I don’t know well. Often, I won’t talk about myself or give my opinion about XYZ unless asked. It’s just in my nature to keep my thoughts to myself and only speak if I think I have something of real value to add to the conversation. Honestly, sometimes it just don’t even dawn on me to say what’s running through my mind. Plus, like many introverts, I’ve been cornered by an overly chatty extrovert countless times, so I’m especially sensitive to dominating the conversation. Don’t pry, but do ask how we are or what we think.
6. Don’t judge when we go quiet or get lost in our inner world.
The introvert’s inner world is vivid and alive, and we process things deeply. This means we’re prone to daydreaming, suddenly going quiet, needing extra time for word retrieval, and just all-around getting lost in our thoughts. If we drift off for a moment, or need a few extra beats to think, don’t slap us with a “Helloooooo come back to Earth!” or a “Why are you so quiet?” This will only make us feel extremely self-conscious.
7. Let us talk, too.
I have an extroverted friend who will go on and on about her life if given the chance. Suddenly 20 minutes have gone by and I’ve barely said anything. I like to listen and support her, but of course I have my limits, as all introverts do.
Introverts like to talk, too, but we’re often loathe to interrupt, because we know just what it feels like to have your deep-processing train of thought derailed. Make sure your quiet friend gets their turn, too.
8. We need more than 10 minutes to mentally prepare to hang out.
Spontaneity can be fun, and it has its place. But seriously, we need time to mentally prepare to be “on” — even if it’s with a close friend. Every introvert is different, but I prefer to be asked at least a day in advance.
9. We’re probably going to head home earlier than you. You have to be okay with that.
The introvert hangover is real, so don’t expect us to stay at the party as long as you do (if we go at all).
10. Don’t expect constant contact.
Unlike your more extroverted friends, we’re not going to text you every day — or even every weekend. That doesn’t mean we’ve forgotten about you. On the contrary, you likely float through our busy mind quite a bit when we’re apart. But we know we’ll soon see each other again, and we’d rather catch up in a way that’s meaningful — in person, favorite beverage in hand, one-on-one.
11. Text, don’t call.
It’s no secret that introverts absolutely loathe talking on the phone, so use your “call” feature sparingly.
12. Understand that even though we had fun hanging out yesterday, we probably don’t want to hang out again today.
If you’re an extrovert, socializing energizes you. But we feel tired, even when we enjoy ourselves. That’s because our brain is wired differently than your brain; we don’t get “high” off socializing and excitement like you do. Give us time to recharge, and we’ll want to see you again soon.
13. Seriously, we’ll be at home.
There will be a lot of nights and weekends when we’re just too drained to go out. Trust us when we say it’s nothing personal — we still love having you in our life.
This article was adapted from my book, The Secret Lives of Introverts. To better understand your awesome introvert self (or the introverts in your life), check it out on Amazon, or wherever books are sold.
You might like:
- Introverts Don’t Hate People, They Hate Shallow Socializing
- 12 Things Introverts Absolutely Need to Be Happy
- 17 Signs That You Have an Introvert Hangover
- Why Are Words So Hard for Introverts? Here’s the Science
- 15 Signs That You’re an Introvert With High-Functioning Anxiety
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