Understand Your Introvert

In our outgoing Western society nothing baffles bosses, parents, friends and lovers as much as an introvert. There’s little in our training and experience to help us understand and relate successfully to the introverts in our lives, that small population of people (less than 25%) who are energized by solitude and alone time, rather than drawing balance from the company of others.

And yet, because they can be charismatic speakers, gregarious, and sometimes rather popular people, as well as outspoken, opinionated and loving, their need for solitude and solitary pastimes, can make them confusing to live with, work with, or love. Think Elizabeth in the book Pride and Prejudice, and those long solitary walks. And, be forewarned, that when an introvert sits down with the crossword puzzle on Sunday morning, unlike in the movies, it’s not an invitation for cozy togetherness. Their true desire is for uninterrupted quiet time. The phrase, “I need my space,” is a familiar refrain for those who are close to an introvert.

So let’s take a look at some insight that will help you understand and relate to your introverted lover, friend, child or employee.

Enough with the guilt
Most introverts already feel guilty about wanting space and solitude, about not getting together for drinks after work, feeling too depleted to spend quality time with family immediately after a grueling day at work. Also, they do not have the same good time at a party as an extrovert.

According to the authors of Please Understand Me, Kiersey and Bates claim that introverts feel like ugly ducklings who can never be swans because they have lived their lives believing that they ought to be more sociable. Because of this guilt, introverts usually don’t allow themselves the kind of breathing room they desperately need to thrive.

Space and understanding
If you can, accept your introvert’s desire to leave a party after half an hour, or not answer your call immediately, or cancel that movie date at the last minute. Often, they won’t be able to provide a “good” reason, so learn not to take their disappearance personally. You will be giving them two gifts more precious than water: the gift of space, and the even rarer — the gift of understanding. Acknowledge that their need to hike solo, kayak, play computer games or take up other solitary pursuits and pastimes, actually refreshes them for social appearances and their time alone with others.

Build trust
For an introvert, the cry of “I need space!” is not code for “I don’t love you.” With the introvert/extrovert combination, something as simple as one partner leaving a party early can be a potential minefield. (Are they leaving to meet someone else? Don’t they enjoy being with me any more?).

2 to Tango
There are two people in every relationship, and even if you’re dating an introvert, you deserve to be treated with respect, too. There’s no excuse for rudeness, so if you find yourself – with no word of warning – left without a promised ride home, or dateless for an event the two of you had planned to attend together, normal rules of dating apply and the offender should be taken to task. However, maybe your introvert leaves the party early and you are hurt and dismayed… how do you approach your next conversation with them? Or maybe there’s sudden silence after a couple of really close and intense encounters, or they have called at the last minute more than once to cancel plans.

True communication
The first thing to do is not take it personally, because it’s probably not about you! And then keep in mind that humor and kindness will probably help you open your introvert’s clam shell more efficiently. If you can find your sense of humor, you might say something like, “I’ve always admired really talented magicians! Next time you decide to do a vanishing act, maybe you can let me in on it… do you do a puff of smoke as well?”

Or, something direct and sincere, like this: “I’ve really enjoyed feeling so close to you but I miss you when I don’t hear from you for awhile. I’ve thought about it, and I’m pretty sure I haven’t done anything to offend you… so if you’re the kind of person who needs more time to yourself, just be honest with me.”

Or, “I’ve learned that not everyone thrives on having people around all the time, and, if that’s true for you, I hope you’ll just let me know whenever you need a break. If I can count on you to tell me when you need time out, and when you’re ready to come out and play again, I promise to respect your need for solitude.”

The best solution to true understanding between an introvert and an extrovert is the kind of regular, authentic, deep communication that creates trust. That way, when an introvert needs to crawl into a handy cave – now! – to avoid imploding from overwhelm, the extrovert understands that they’re not being left out, it’s just the way introverts operate.

2 thoughts on “Understand Your Introvert

  1. virgo

    YES, I am an INTROVERT because I enjoy my time out a hell of a lot as it gives me greater clarity of thought so therefore I can concentrate on the far bigger picture and yes even though when I am around crowds or around a lot of people, I get called a boring person or something along those lines and I can’t help that because I have a very, very POWERFUL PEACE OF MIND, and I very much enjoy a hell of a lot of time just by myself as I just simply just enjoy my very own company and further more YOU LEARN A HELL OF A LOT MORE BY LISTENING THAN WHAT YOU DO BY TALKING AND MIXING IN, as what I like to do is just observe others for there very own antic situations, so therefore I make a hell of a lot less mistakes within my personal life compared to others and so I much very well love just being around at home as I could not care less on what the world thinks of me, as I have very little time for pessimism or to care about on what other think of me, even though that I am married with two wonderful children as I am a Virgo and m darling wife a Capricorn and our two boys are Taureans and my immediate family understands that I am an INTROVERT, AND BELIEVE YOU ME I LOVE MY GIVEN SPACE, because without my given space to live in peace and harmony with myself, I would go around the twist and my dear immediate family understands this thank the universe at will or god so to speak, as I am a home body and just love it, as it is very good just to have our peace of mind every single day and just be able to do the things that you just want to do without the headache of trying to please others around this world, an there is another three people that I adore very much within my life besides my loving and caring wife and my two sons and that is. ME, MYSELF AND I, as I care not for the much of company and friends, even though that my wife and two sons go out a lot as they are EXTROVERTS, but that does not even bother me in the slightest, because I just simply just enjoy my time alone, bye for now and god bless and the best of British to ALL.

  2. Pingback: Nourish Your Introvert | jonathancliff.com

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