1. Don’t Maintain Your Introvert (See what I did there?)
We don’t like to be told what to do. Plain and simple.
You may be struggling with the truth of this statement. As you should. Because more often than not, we end up asking you to tell us what to do.
In fact, we frequently defer to you for seemingly simple choices. Why?
Believe it or not, we do care about where we’ll go to eat. This becomes painfully obvious after you’ve spent 5 minutes making suggestions before we reject them all and settle on our own eatery.
You’re thinking to yourself, what was the point then?
Trust me, you’ve been more helpful than you realize.
As internal processors we are sifting through copious amounts of information and are weighing all of the potential outcomes. The noise in our heads can be overwhelming making it hard to settle on one choice.
It’s like circling the airport trying to decide which runway is best to land on. We might be taking into account the weather, the anxiousness of the passengers, how badly we need to use the restroom, other planes in the vicinity and the timing. Meanwhile, our co-pilot is screaming in our ear to land the flipping plane already! We benefit greatly when we hear from ground control. Help guide us down from the clouds.
Still don’t believe me? Here is a real life confession for you;
When asked, “Do you want Taco Bell?”, I go through the menu and pause on my go-to selections. Once I’ve done that, I mentally taste that food to see if I’m in the mood for it. If I get passed that stage, I consider the portion and the amount of time until the next meal, because I don’t want to fill up and miss out on dinner. Then I’m considering whether or not I should get a fountain drink, or just save the extra few bucks and drink a pop at home. But wait…do I want caffeine free? Bedtime is coming up soon. I’ve not had enough water today anyway. This is no joke, people. It is a form of mental torture that we’ve mostly grown used to.
Please be patient with us. We don’t mean to make things complicated. We need help narrowing it down, otherwise we become paralyzed with indecision.
2. Give them Space! Let Them Recharge
It may seem counter-intuitive, but giving your introvert alone time will bring them closer to you. We respect those that understand our need for isolation and solitude. Give me a few hours without the kids, just to go have coffee or meander through a thrift store, and I will return rejuvenated.
I’m not sure if this next thought applies to all introverts, but I find myself to be easily over stimulated. With four kids and a physically affectionate husband, sometimes I can become touched-out. Along with mental space, I often need physical space. It might benefit you to ask permission from your introvert before you move in for that bear hug. Make sure they are in the mood to receive touch. Otherwise, you may be pushing them away.
3. Don’t Force them to Talk
Have you ever noticed it can take forever to get a response from an introvert? It could be waiting hours for a text response. Or, if they are right there in front of you, you may have to wait a few moments for an answer while watching several expressions of thought pass over their face.
Why is that?
Once again, let me remind you that introverts are processors. Unlike our Extroverted brothers and sisters, we do not vocalize our thoughts as we go. We aren’t fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants communicators. We need time to analyze all of the external information being received, along with the internal cacophony of existing data. This may include, but is not limited to, micro facial expressions, tone of voice, body language, self conscience thoughts, several response possibilities, potential in-between-the-lines messages, the emotional state of the communicator and this could go on for a while, so I’ll spare you.
It is because of this mental exercise that we may put off responding to a text or voicemail. The heavier the topic, the longer the wait can be. Try not to take it personally.
*Pro Tip: If you are an impatient person, learn to present smaller bits of information at a time to ensure a faster response.
What it comes down to is that we like to be certain of what we are going to say.
You may think it’s cute to taunt the perpetually silent one by saying something like, “Quiet down over there!” or “Penny for your thoughts?” Hahaha.
By the time you’re done laughing we’ve plotted half a dozen ways to silence YOU.
In other words, it is considerably unpleasant for an introvert to be called attention to. This is why we generally like your pets better than we like you. They don’t make us talk.
BTW, April Ludgate is my spirit animal.
4. When they do speak- listen
We’ve tortured ourselves by thinking, re-thinking, over-thinking and played and replayed a situation 5,000 times (at least) in our heads. If something is being articulated, trust that we mean it and felt it needed to be said.
On the other hand, be prepared to let what we say slide. We live more in our heads than in the real world. This means we are riddled with social awkwardness. Sometimes we take social risks (like saying human words out loud) and things don’t go as planned.
Please let it go when that happens, otherwise we might retreat back into our silent cave to lick our wounds.
5. Be a Safe Person
Becoming the trusted friend of an introvert is about as common as spotting a unicorn drinking from a stream of rainbows.
To be invited into the bubble of an introvert is no feeble task. If you manage to penetrate their armor, you will be forever loved with a deep well of intensity immeasurable by any instrument science has or can discover.
On the contrary, betray that sacred confidence and you will be banned from their comforting arms forevermore. I assure you, the bitter cold of their gaping absence will leave frostbite on your soul.
So, how then do we keep our precious introvert feeling safe and treasured? You’ll be relieved to know, there are several ways.
A.) Be Consistent and Straight Forward
Sure, we appreciate complexity in the minds of others. This, however, does not include the complexities of DRAMA.
If you are easily offended, have a tragedy in your life every other day (using the word tragedy loosely), play hot and cold with our friendship, are generally passive aggressive (constantly sending mixed signals), or have a line out the door of people waiting to slap you, a friendship may not be in the cards for us.
Why? We simply do not have that kind of energy to expend. Introverts are all about peace. Confrontation can make us feel physically ill. Remember how difficult it can be to land on dinner plans? Can you imagine the internal turmoil that we would have to wade through wondering what you’re upset about now. This is where straight forwardness is your friend. I can see right through that tight lipped smile that doesn’t reach your eyes. If there is a problem, talk to me. It will put me at ease knowing I can trust your being honest with me.
B.) Never Ever Ever Just Show Up
If you show up at my door randomly, without any prior notice, I will seethe internally. Introverts are generally private people. Surprises can be mildly traumatic, believe it or not. (That is, unless the surprise is a gift. Even then, it’s best to leave it on the porch and text them to retrieve it.) I need time to prepare mentally for interacting with other humans. Also, physically. Most of the time I’m in my sweats with makeup smeared and hair askew. That’s just embarrassing. Help a sister out! Twenty minute warning at least.
C.) Don’t Call Me
I won’t answer my phone.
Unless you’re watching my kids or something.
I don’t like talking on the phone. That requires fast thinking and talking without throughly running it through my filter. Scary scary thing. Text or message me. If you don’t like texting, leave a voicemail and wait for me to text you back. It’s nothing personal.
D.) Keep My Secrets
If I feel the need to constantly tell you, “This information stays between you and me”, because you like to repeat it to our mutual friends, thinking it’s no big thing, my trust meter will run out. Your friendship car will be towed and the fine to retrieve it will be steep. Loyalty is at the top of my list of qualities I look for in a friend. Be someone I can trust to confide in.
E.) Protect Them From Meany-Heads
Because of the whole non-confrontational thing, when issues do arise, we need to know that you have our back. Because of our quiet and kind nature, we are often targeted by narcissistic predators who like to take advantage of our patience and grace. Don’t be afraid to speak up if your introvert is having a hard time shaking a jerk-face.
When it comes to people mistreating their friends, they are quick to defend. You don’t hurt what is mine. But when they are being hurt, it’s easier to just take it and move on.
F.) Let Them Be Shamelessly Weird (Bonus Material)
Is it just me, or do a decent percentage of introverts laugh at the strangest things? I may be reaching here, but I suspect some of us have a tenacity for dark humor. Fluffy, sweet and demure on the outside, outrageously sadistic on the inside. Time reveals the sweet nature to be a grand facade. So after the shock wears off when they first show their dark side, embrace it. Twisted as it may be, that’s way more fun than a two dimensional straight laced gal pal. Count yourself lucky.
The more your introvert grows to trust you, the more often you’ll see the shy, reserved demeanor dissolve into unadulterated silliness.
We hold back and censor ourselves so often, it’s exhilarating to find a person who won’t look at us cross-eyed when we let loose. So enjoy your unicorn and encourage their unique sense of humor.
Here’s hoping I’ve shed some light on having a successful relationship with an introvert.