Monday, September 29, 2014

When Your Extroverted Friends Just Don't Get It

I've been poking around a few introversion-related online forums lately, and one question that seems to come up all the time is, "What do I do when the extroverts in my life just don't understand that I need to be alone?"

An introverted man was told by his extroverted wife (whenever she wanted to go out and he didn't), "We don't just get to do what we want all the time." A college introvert found they kept losing friends because their social group got tired of the introvert only going out with them about half the times they asked. An introvert living at home offended his mom when he tried to explain that he needed time alone and went to his room whenever they had company.

This kind of thing happens a lot.

It's starting to change, I think, as introversion has made its way to the forefront and people are starting to realize not everyone needs to be excited to be with people all the time. But this still happens.

So I thought I'd share a few of the things that have helped me make peace with my extroverted friends.
Just sitting from Flickr via Wylio
© 2013 Tiago, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

1. Explain to them up front that you're an introvert.

One of the reasons it was easier for me to get out of socializing in college when I was overwhelmed was that I was pretty straightforward with all my friends that I needed time alone. This way, when everyone went out to lunch and then wanted to go bowling or something after, it wasn't a sudden surprise when I said, "No, thanks, I'm just going to head back to my room and chill." Sometimes there's an assumption that if you're friends, you'll do everything together all the time, and letting them know right from the start that I wasn't going to do that meant fewer unmet expectations.

2. Be generous with your time when you can.

Whenever introverts and extroverts are friends, then there's going to have to be some give and take on both sides. The introvert will sometimes feel like they'd rather be alone, and the extrovert will sometimes feel like the introvert is abandoning them. If your extroverted friend is willing to give you alone time, then make sure you show that appreciation by being willing to go out with them sometimes when you don't really feel like it. Not all the time -- don't burn yourself out trying to prove you're a good friend -- but sometimes introverts get weirdly militant and start proclaiming that they're never going to do anything social again if they don't want to. And that's just kind of silly.

3. Stick to your boundaries.

One of the ideas that I've found to be common in extroverts who don't get it is that we're all just shy and want to be coaxed out of our shells, that we all secretly want to hang out all the time. If you say no to your extroverted friends but then give in when they pressure you, you're just reinforcing that. If you decide you're not going out and you really don't want to, stick with that. Of course, if you realize as they talk that you kind of want to go out after all, then you can do that. But if you'd really rather be alone, then don't give in. It may puzzle them for awhile when you genuinely choose to be by yourself instead of with other people, but they'll get used to it eventually.

LOVE YOU more each day... from Flickr via Wylio
© 2008 Thai Jasmine (, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio
4. Enjoy being introverted.

This is connected to the above thought. Most of the extroverts who push me to hang out with them are doing so out of concern for me. (Not all of them, but that's another story.) They genuinely don't think I'm having fun on my own. But I've found that introverts really love being alone -- definitely including me! There's something so beautiful about sitting by myself in absolute silence reading a book, or going to see a movie and being the only one in my row, or taking a solitary walk with just my iPod and good earbuds. That's why I write blogs like this one that talk about how much I really adore being by myself. Sometimes introverts don't talk about these things because they think it'll make them seem weird, and maybe it will, but it'll also help people see that you're not sad and lonely every time you're by yourself... so they won't feel quite as strong a need to combat it.

These are just a few of the things I've tried. What else has worked for you guys? Extroverted friends, do you have any "aha" moments to share? Chime in in the comments, and share if you liked the blog!


  1. Excellent, excellent post! I love that you bring in the balance of realizing that there IS a militant introvert viewpoint (as there is the militant extrovert idea).

    I have found that I really love the quiet times alone - but I think that is only because there is so much noise and hub-bub here all the time!

    1. I think *anyone* would eventually need some alone time at our house! :-) Thanks for the comment -- and for sharing.