You’re the one at the party quietly sipping a drink and just observing. In the classroom, you sit in the back and rarely raise your hand. On weekends, you hang out with your significant other or your two closest friends, but you don’t like scheduling too many things — you want plenty of time to yourself. At work, you, well, get down to work rather than standing around chatting.
Well, you might be an introvert. You’re not unsociable, you’re differently social. If only other people understood that.
Here are 8 ways introverts socialize differently than extroverts. Although I can’t speak for every introvert, I believe that these are generally true:
1. We prefer hanging out with just one or two people rather than with a big group. Big groups can become overwhelming to us. They’re noisy and overstimulating and there is just too much going on. We usually don’t say much. When we do have thoughts to add to the conversation, it’s tricky because we must: 1. Interrupt, which we don’t like doing because we hate when others do it to us, and 2. Feel the eyes of everyone in the group on us as we speak, which is more attention than we’d like. Also, we often find that by the time we’ve collected our thoughts and are ready to say something, the group has moved on to another topic. Our comments would be out of place then, so we just stay quiet.
2. We’d rather talk about big ideas than make small talk. Very few people actually enjoy small talk, but introverts loathe it. It feels inauthentic and forced. However, we understand that small talk has a purpose — it greases the social wheel and can be the gateway to a more interesting conversation — so we suffer through it when we have to. But if you really want to get us talking, skip the chitchat and talk about ideas. Ask for our opinion on an issue that has been in the news or try something personal like, “What is something you’ve learned about yourself lately?” We’re most interested in sharing our inner world — not just what we did today or who we saw — and we want to glimpse your inner world, too. Interestingly, once an introvert makes a connection and feels comfortable with someone, the small talk flows more freely.
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3. We’d rather have a few close friendships than a lot of surface level ones. We don’t chase popularity or need everybody to know our name. What we do want are solid connections — people who really know us, inside and out. They know our quirks and they hang out with us anyway. We feel safe venting to them, even our innermost thoughts, because we know they won’t judge. Most importantly, they are okay with the occasional awkward silence.
4. High-energy people drain us. They’re fun to be around because they push us to do things we wouldn’t normally do, like sing karaoke in a crowded bar or meet people we wouldn’t otherwise interact with. But after a while, their energy becomes too much. We just can’t keep up with them. After hanging out with high-energy people, we feel like taking a nap in a sensory deprivation chamber.
5. We pause as we’re speaking to gather our thoughts. Give us time to collect them and don’t fill the silence with small talk. We appreciate having space to develop our ideas. Silence doesn’t have to be awkward if we both just decide to be comfortable with it. In the silence, our mind is processing something that was said, connecting the present to a memory of the past, reflecting on our feelings, or searching for the next topic of conversation.
6. We have niche interests and we like talking about them. Maybe our thing is Myers-Briggs personality types. Or gaming, Irish lore, organic farming, or whatever. Whatever our specific interest is, when it comes up in conversation, we almost become extroverts. We actually have a lot to say and we feel energized as we talk. Bringing up our interests is a good way to get us to open up.
7. Online friends? The more the merrier. Introverts welcome the opportunity to communicate digitally. Research shows we spend more time in certain online discussions and feel comfortable revealing our “real self” online. So it’s not unusual for us to have online friends. Even if we never meet these friends IRL, they give us very real support. These are the members of our favorite Facebook group or our followers on Twitter or Tumblr. They check in with us regularly and know what’s going on in our life, maybe better than the people we know offline. We’re drawn to this type of socializing because it plays to our strengths: We can carry on a conversation from the quiet privacy of our own homes; we can write our thoughts instead of speaking them (introverts typically express themselves better in writing); and we can turn off our device when we’ve had enough.
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8. We need to recharge after socializing, even if we’ve had fun. We can’t hang out forever. We only have so much “people” energy to give, and when it’s out, we need to be alone. Socializing pulls us out of our inner world (our favorite place and most natural habitat) and forces us into the outer one. We can deal with the outer world just fine for a while, but when our energy runs out, we become tired, cranky, and tongue-tied. We daydream or simply glaze over and tune out. When we leave the party early or skip the after-work happy hour, please don’t take it personally. We’re not upset. And we still like you. We’re simply responding to our body’s needs. You would probably do the same if you felt the exhaustion we feel. When we get the downtime we need, we’re better not only for ourselves, but for all the other people in our lives, too.
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Read this: 21 Undeniable Signs That You’re an Introvert