How to Explain Your Introversion to an Extrovert Who Doesn’t Get It

An introvert talks to an extrovert

Since introversion comes so naturally to you, it can be difficult to explain it to someone who’s your opposite — but communication is key.

In my first semester of college, I had an extroverted roommate, and she couldn’t seem to understand my aversion to hanging out with friends or going out in public and socializing during my downtime. I often felt exhausted from my 8 a.m. class, so I would take naps and prioritize going to bed early. She couldn’t understand this, which led to her believing I might be depressed or behaving weirdly.

After talking to some of her friends and family, she learned that I may be an introvert, and so she asked me about it. She admitted to not understanding why I didn’t want to go out with her and her friends, and she felt she had a deeper understanding of me from learning that one fact, that I’m an introvert and, thus, operate differently than she does.

Introversion can be an isolating experience when we’re not surrounded by other introverts or people who “get” us. Research highly varies, but introverts are thought to make up 30-50 percent of the population, so we’re still in the minority.

Keeping this in mind, it makes sense that introverts would generally find themselves surrounded by extroverts more so than introverts. And if this is the case — and if there are more extroverts in the world than introverts — extroverts may not have a lot of experience when it comes to relating to us “quiet ones.” So they may not get how we gain energy after being alone whereas they do when they’re not alone.

In my personal experience, I’ve found it’s difficult to share space with an extrovert who doesn’t understand introverts and what makes us who we are. I commend that college roommate for taking the initiative to ask more about my introversion in order to better understand me. (If only everyone did that!) 

Since introversion and extroversion come so naturally to people, it can sometimes be difficult to explain it to someone who’s the opposite of us. Here are some ways you can explain your introversion to the extroverts in your life in a way that makes sense to them.

4 Ways to Explain Your Introversion to an Extrovert Who Doesn’t Get It

1. Tell them that introverts gain energy in a different way than extroverts.

Extroverts definitely understand energy, as they seem to have a lot of it. Their ability to work all day and then still have the energy for socializing with people afterwards is amazing. I’m sure I’m not the only introvert who envies them for this capability (even though I so value my alone time after work to decompress and recharge).. 

When an extrovert spends too much time without stimulation from others, they can become antsy and restless, needing to get out and share space with people, whether they’re friends or strangers.

Introverts can relate to the desire to go out and be with people, but it’s not at the same level as extroverts… at all. An introvert would rather spend quality time with a close friend or family member than go out and explore the world on their own. Talking to strangers isn’t usually a safe situation for introverts, because it takes a lot of energy for them to navigate social situations, especially among extroverts. So socializing often makes them feel tired or foggy. 

After understanding these differences of how introverts and extroverts gain energy, it’s easier to explain to someone who doesn’t get it. For introverts, it’s not that we hate people — we just hate shallow socializing and would often prefer to be home or at a low-key place with a friend or two. We’re not trying to be rude, extroverts — we’re just tired or overstimulated and need some (or a lot of) time to ourselves.

2. Explain how alone time is vital for everyone — but especially for introverts.

Extroverts cannot deny that they sometimes do need time to sit with themselves — albeit, probably not as long as we introverts do, but still. Sometimes an introvert may need an entire day alone to recharge while extroverts would only need a couple of hours… or minutes. (I’m kidding — sort of!) Afterwards, I feel they get antsy and need stimulation again to center themselves and regain their energy.

And I know this from experience: My husband is an extrovert, and this can be the case for him most days. He’s a barber, so his day job involves talking to all kinds of people throughout the day. Once he arrives home, he’ll usually need just 30 minutes to himself to shower or decompress, and then he wants to do something together, like play games or watch TV. We also have a roommate, so that helps take some of the pressure off me since they can hang out when I’m in the mood to just rest and read.

As an introvert, I’ll never feel rested or like myself if I’m always surrounded by people, so I can only take so much in a single day. A great guideline for comparison between the two disparate personality types would be that the amount of time introverts need for socialization is probably equal to the amount of time extroverts need to be alone. I find this is an easy way to let introverts know how our need for alone time varies from theirs, and they usually get it.

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3. Let them know your limitations and boundaries around recharging.

If you’re an introvert and need to share your personal space with an extrovert, then it’s important to not only explain your personality to them, but also your boundaries. It’s best to lay down clear guidelines for what your needs will be when it comes to socializing and alone time. For instance, maybe you’ll create an “introvert zen zone” somewhere in the house so you can be alone (uninterrupted) when you need to recharge. Give them the space to create their own boundaries, as well, so you can both come to an agreement or compromise.

For an introvert, it’s important to express your need for space in relation to any required activities, like work, school, or other obligations. These activities take time and energy, so then you’ll need time to prepare and recover. Many introverts know that this time is sacred, so it’s important to verbalize that and make the boundary clear.

Extroverts (like my husband) may feel guilty when they set boundaries, since stimulation is incredibly important to them. They would rather be in an awkward social situation than have no stimulation at all when they need it. As an introvert, it can help to create a mutual understanding when you explain to your extroverted partner, friend, or family member that it’s okay for them to say no to social events and spend some time alone when necessary. Establishing this mutual understanding can help both of you understand each other better, which is key.

4. Include them in your plans when you do want to socialize.

Another important factor to remember is that spending time with extroverts can be really fun for introverts. You might say yes to certain activities that you’d never consider exploring on your own. Similarly, some extroverts love the experience of planning an activity their introvert friend or partner enjoyed, so they will be eager to create an experience that’s fun for both of you. 

So make sure to express when you’re free to socialize and what activities would be fun for you. Drawing specific limitations can be helpful, as well, so neither of you gets stuck in an awkward situation. For instance, you may want to drive separately so you can leave when you’re feeling drained and they can stay out longer.

At the end of the day, respect is the most important aspect of any relationship. Whether you’re an introvert sharing space with an extrovert, or vice-versa, it’s important to recognize they might think differently than you do and that you might not enjoy experiencing every activity together. After all, the introvert-friendly activities you may want to do may not be their first choice, just like the extrovert-friendly things they’d like to do may not be yours. 

And there will probably be nights when the extrovert goes out with friends while the introvert stays home to recharge, and that’s okay. Communication and mutual respect for one another’s needs can — and will — make this dynamic work. 

Introverts, are there any tips you’d add to the list? I’d love to hear in the comments below!

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.

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