If you’re friends with an introvert, know that we’d rather have one tiny moment of real connection over hours of polite chitchat.
Introverts need friends, too, but we “quiet ones” socialize in a different way than extroverts do. Due to the way our brains are wired, socializing (and life in general) can be extremely draining for us.
That’s why we introverts need some personal ground rules to make our lives and relationships run smoothly — here are 13 of them. Suggested use: Sharing this article with your friends and talking about which “rules” resonate with you and which ones don’t. Discouraged use: Pinning 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.
In general, extroverts seem to have little trouble suddenly being “on,” meaning, it’s easy for them to pick up and don the social masks that we all wear. Many of them love — and even encourage — spontaneous socializing, because people time tends to give them energy, not drain it. However, unexpected visitors do not sit well with us introverts. Generally speaking, we need advanced notice to mentally prepare to chat and be with people. And, to us, our home is our refuge away from the noisy world, a private space where we can let down our guard and relax. Do not, I repeat, do not infringe upon this sacred space without getting permission from us first.
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2. If it’s supposed to be just the two of us hanging out, don’t invite other people.
It’s hurtful when we feel like we’re just another warm body in your extroverted entourage. As your friend, we want our presence to mean something to you, because trust us, your presence means something to us. Due to our limited social energy, we don’t let just anybody into our inner circle, and we certainly don’t consider most people we meet to be our friends. As Adam S. McHugh, author of Introverts in the Church, puts it: “Introverts treasure the close relationships they have stretched so much to make.” If you must invite other people, at least give us a heads up, so we know what to expect.
3. Skip the crowd. Hang out with us one-on-one.
Want to make an introvert disappear? Place them in a large group of strangers, where they will soon become so quiet that it’s like they’re not even there.
However, when you get introverts alone, it’s a different story. Introverts tend to thrive in intimate settings because these social environments reduce our stimulation level. In other words, socializing one-on-one means we only have to pay attention to the words, body language, and tone of voice of one other 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. (We would also accept a small group of friends or family who we know well.)
Plus, one-on-one, it’s easier to have a meaningful conversation. Group talk tends to revolve around “safe” topics like weekend plans or silly banter. Introverts would rather dive deep, share big ideas, and talk authentically about topics 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 that you had a good weekend. Tell us about your existential crisis 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 see the polished, “social media friendly” front that everyone displays in public.
As Laurie Helgoe, author of Introvert Power, 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 often need a little encouragement to chime in, especially when I’m socializing with a group. Usually I won’t talk about myself or give my opinion on XYZ topic unless asked. I recognize that this behavior isn’t always ideal, because let’s be real, most people won’t pay you the courtesy of asking for your perspective. These days, I make an effort to share my thoughts spontaneously, but I think it will always be in my nature to hold back. Plus, in my perfect world, all of us would only speak when we have something of real value to say — not just empty words. Honestly, as an introvert, sometimes it doesn’t even dawn on me to verbalize what is running through my mind. Don’t pry, but do ask us how we are or what we think.
6. Don’t judge us when we go quiet.
Do you know what it’s like to live with an inner monologue that never shuts up? Or a brain that never turns off? We introverts do. Our inner world is vivid and alive. Everything we experience, we process deeply, including ideas and emotions. Our vivid inner world means we’re prone to daydreaming, suddenly going quiet, needing extra time for word retrieval, and just all-around getting lost in our own thoughts. If we drift off, or need a few extra beats to think, don’t slap us with, “Helloooooo come back to Earth!” or “Why are you so quiet?” or “Where’d you go?” These kinds of phrases will make us feel self-conscious and less likely to open up in the future.
7. Let us talk, too.
I have an extroverted friend who, if given the chance, will go on and on about the most mundane aspects of her life. Suddenly 20 minutes have gone by and I’ve barely said anything. Of course, I like to listen to her and support her, as any good friend would do, but I have my limits, as all introverts do.
Introverts like to talk, too, but we’re often loathe to interrupt, because we know how it feels to have your train of thought derailed. Over the years, I’ve become more comfortable interrupting, because I’ve realized that interruptions are just par for the course for most people — but it will never be second nature for me. So, if you’re my friend, please make sure that I get an opportunity to talk, too.
Do you ever struggle to know what to say?
As an introvert, you actually have the ability to be an amazing conversationalist — even if you’re quiet and hate small talk. To learn how, we recommend this online course from our partner Michaela Chung. Click here to check out the Introvert Conversation Genius course.
8. We need more than 10 minutes to mentally prepare to hang out with you.
Of course, spontaneity has a time and place. However, as I explained in #1, introverts generally need time to mentally prepare to be “on” — even if we’re hanging out with a close friend who we’ve known for decades. Every introvert is different, but I prefer to be asked about social plans at least a day in advance.
9. We’re probably going to head home earlier than you, and you have to be okay with that.
The introvert hangover is real, so don’t expect us introverts to party as long as you do (if we party at all).
10. Don’t expect constant contact.
Unlike extroverts, we introverts probably won’t text you multiple times a day — or even every day. Our quietness 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. However, as friends, we know we’ll 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 with your introverted friends.
12. Understand that even though we had fun hanging out yesterday, we probably don’t want to hang out again today.
Introverts feel tired after socializing, even when we enjoy ourselves. Our brain is wired differently than the brains of extroverts — we don’t get “high” off socializing like they do. Give us time to recharge, and we’ll want to see you again soon.
13. Seriously, we’ll be at home.
If you’re friends with an introvert, you’ll have to accept that there will be some nights and weekends when we’re just too drained to go out — or even to text you. A quality introverted friend will communicate to you about their need for alone time (rather than leaving you on read) and will assure you that their absence is nothing personal. Remember, if we consider you a friend, we consider you a treasure. Most people will never see our goofy side or our melancholy side, or hear the midnight ramblings of our wild introverted minds — but we have chosen you to partake. That means we feel comfortable with you. And connected to you. In other words, you’re pretty damn special to us.
To better understand your awesome introverted self (or the introverts in your life), check out my book, The Secret Lives of Introverts. And, if you consider yourself to be a highly sensitive person, you can learn how to harness your superpower and thrive in life by reading my new book, Sensitive.
You might like:
- Introverts Don’t Hate People, They Hate Shallow Socializing
- 12 Things Introverts Absolutely Need to Be Happy
- 27 ‘Strange’ Things You Do Because You’re a Highly Sensitive Person
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