Here is a list of 10 things that every introvert should keep in mind when dealing with their extroverted friends. I realize that it’s impossible to write this article without a bias. Therefore what follows are simply my own thoughts on being an extroverted extrovert and what I have noticed about other extroverts. It’s not to say that it’s the same thing for everyone.
It happened again. I, the extroverted extrovert, was in a room full of introverts. It feels like wherever I go, I am surrounded by them. All of my roomates except one have been introverts (most of them extreme introverts), almost all of my friends are introverts, almost everyone I bump into in the academic world is an introvert, and almost everyone that I hang out with at church conferences is an introvert. Although statistically about half of all people are introverts and the other half extroverts, from my own experience it seems like there is an abundance of introverts… I’m sure introverts also feel the same way about there being an abundance of extroverts. While our culture thrives on popularity and really getting your name out there, it seems like extroverts tend to be a bit more flighty. They like people more than they like books (generally speaking). They’d rather work with people than simply with ideas. While some extroverts do go on to get their PhD and teach at Princeton or Yale, many of them have long retreated before they even get to that place. Seminary can be a lonely time for an extrovert who wants to hang out while at the same time being with introverts who are majorly engrossed in Karl Barth and find him to be more exciting than playing a game of touch football.
I’ve sometimes wished that I could become more of an introvert. It’s funny because some of my friends wish that they could become more of an extrovert. On the Myer’s Brigg’s I scored 21 for extroversion and 0 for introversion. I don’t know how that’s even possible, but if you ask my friends they would say, “I don’t know, Deborah. Have you met yourself?”. I’m so extroverted that I will go to every single event even if I’m not genuinely interested just because I want to be with people. It’s taken some time, but gradually I am learning to have alone time and sometimes I even look forward to it.
My friend asked me once how I felt when I was by myself. The answer is, it depends on why I am by myself. If I am working frantically on a paper that is due in 2 hours then I actually want to be alone because being with people distracts me. About once a year I go on a silent retreat and want to be alone just with God and my own thoughts. I love to go on bike rides in nature by myself and be silent as I listen to birds and other animals and the wind rustling through the trees. The rest of the time, being alone makes me feel lonely.
I think Jesus was an introvert – He always retreated to silent places by Himself to pray after a long day with people. He needed His alone time. I was taught growing up that if I want to be like Jesus then I should emulate His quiet times in the morning and after long days. Unfortunately, that didn’t really work well.
Extroverts no doubt at times can be frustrating to their introverted friends. And from what I know talking to my extroverted friends and knowing myself, extroverts tend to get on introvert’s nerves a whole lot faster than the other way around. That’s probably why there is so much out there about taking care of the introvert, but hardly anything about taking care of the extrovert. Nevertheless, I feel like introverts could actually spare themselves a lot of frustration by simply keeping these 10 things in mind about extroverts:
1) Having human contact and being with others is an essential need for an extrovert. You know how we all need food and water and a place to lay our head at night? Well, extroverts also need their daily dose of people. An introvert can go long hours working on a project by themselves and only be slightly exhausted by the end of it. To an extrovert, going long hours solo is a source of loneliness and for some even depression. Extroverts need to schedule social activities into their daily regime and that does not just include going to class – that includes things like hanging out with their friends. Extroverts also need to learn how to have quiet time, though. When I was in university, I started a practice of going on a date with myself once a week. I loved those times, but it took a while to get used to it.
2) Extroverts are easily distracted by others. As much as extroverts need others, they are easily distracted by them. An introvert can spend countless hours in the student lounge with their ear phones in and in their own little world. Not so the extrovert who sees a friend and immediately wants to launch into a conversation about the person’s day and their own. With time, extroverts like myself get better at learning how to be in a room full of people without striking up a conversation, but it’s pretty hard. Any reaction such as laughing because of something one sees on Facebook or sighing in frustration over a paper that just won’t write itself can cause the extrovert to become intensely curious and unfocussed. That’s why I recommend that extroverts limit the amount of time they spend studying in public places unless you’re in a coffee shop or something by yourself.
3) Extroverts process things by talking about them. This is something that introverts really do not understand about extroverts. When an extrovert is facing a problem or crisis which can be anything from their dog dying or what they should do their thesis on to what they should wear that morning they feel the need to talk about it with whoever happens to be around at the time. Introverts do not understand this. They think, “You’ve got to be kidding me” especially when the problem seems to be persistent and the extrovert has already tried to reason it out once before. The introvert thinks “I’ve already told you what I thought, I don’t understand why you need to keep processing this over and over.” Introverts also get frustrated when an extrovert appears to be asking them for advice and then does not follow through with that advice or goes and asks a bunch of other people for their opinion. To an introvert it can seem like the extrovert does not value their opinion and that’s why they have to find justification elsewhere. The truth is that what appears to be asking for advice to an extrovert really isn’t asking advice. Extroverts process things by trying to talk their way through it, so by asking your advice they are really just trying to put themselves in a position where they can reason it out. When they ask others for advice it is not that they don’t care about what you said, but that they want to hear broad and various opinions and want others to push them to talk about things in other ways before they make their final decision.
4) Extroverts like to have a wide network of friends. Whereas an introvert prefers to have a close circle of a few friends, extroverts essentially want everyone to be their friend. They are generally invested into their friendships and for the most part will drop anything in order to spend time with the person if they ask. Extroverts have a different definition of friendship. Instead of a friend being your closest confidant, they have tied to the hip friends, friends, and then friendly acquaintances. Generally, if you don’t tick an extrovert off you will at least be considered a friendly acquaintance.
5) Just because someone is an extrovert does not mean that they want to do every last thing with people. Yes, extroverts do need others to get them through their day, but it doesn’t mean that they always want to be acting in every single play, playing every single team sport, or serving on every single committee. Extroverts do get energy from being with others, but they also do not want to overexert themselves. For me, my pet peeve is group projects. Whenever a teacher or professor announces that we will be doing a group project I roll my eyes. I would much rather do the work alone. Part of the reason for that is because I am so easily distracted by others and know I could get more done without that distraction.
6) Extroverts need some structure. Face it, if left to our own devices we would talk all day and get very little done. Therefore, when leading something like a prayer group, it’s important to have a good sense of structure so that we actually pray and don’t spend the entire time just talking, especially about non-related topics. Things like talking sticks (where an object is passed around and whoever has it gets to do the talking) does wonders for extroverts.
7) Believe it or not, extroverts actually do not set out to annoy their introvert colleagues. In fact, most extroverts don’t even realize when they are doing it. Then, when the person no longer wants to talk to them, the extrovert is confused. Therefore, INTROVERTS need to set clear boundaries and be firm about them. It’s not solely the introvert’s responsibility, but when an introvert overtly lets an extrovert know what they need things go a whole lot better. I’ve heard of some wonderful ideas from friends such as having their roomate put a string on the door when they want to be left alone, having the roomate inform the extrovert that when they are in “Place A” it is their quiet time and they don’t want to be bothered, and the like. It seems harsh to say, but for an extrovert who just really doesn’t get it (as most young extroverts have difficulty determining when their introverted friends are getting frustrated) being blunt and assertive is the way to go. Sure, telling an extrovert off might hurt their feelings for a few seconds, but they’ll get over it and then they will remember for future reference. Many extroverts, including myself, actually like people to exercise these boundaries – we’d rather have someone tell us to shut up then have them be angry with us for days after and not know why.
8) Okay, so you know how introverts hate to be embarrassed in public? Well, so do most extroverts. Extroverts generally pride themselves in how they are seen by others. Chastising them in front of their peers or in front of “important people” will make them cringe. Whenever possible, save your critiques for when you are alone with the extrovert.
9) Extroverts occasionally need public acknowledgement. While introverts shudder at the attention, most extroverts love having happy birthday sung to them or having their name mentioned. Of course, this can’t be something that happens all the time. Extroverts, like introverts, do need humility and should never do things just for applause and acclaim. At the same time, extroverts like to know they are doing a good job, and the best way to let them know is to verbally say so or to write them a note. Extroverts like to be known by others and they want to be remembered. Many of them can’t imagine not having their presence where they currently are. Therefore, it is important to occasionally show your appreciation, otherwise an extrovert might feel under valued and as if their contribution really didn’t matter.
10) Finally, introverts and extroverts need each other. I used to pray to be more introverted and many of my friends pray to be more extroverted, but the truth is that we are what we are. God made us this way for a reason and we should be proud of who God created us to be. Extroverts need introverts to teach them to be okay with silence, to not be so flighty, and the importance of having deep and intimate conversations. Introverts need extroverts to bring the fun side out of them and to get them more involved in community life. Both are equally important and necessary to the other.
I hope that these thoughts provided you with some needed information on the inside life of the extrovert. Next time your extroverted friend drives you crazy, it may just help you to establish boundaries with them and to understand where they are coming from.