Four Things That Introverts Want Extroverts to Understand About Being With Us
There are life situations that can be difficult when introverts and extroverts are together. Learning about them, can increase the ease with which the two groups can co-exist and benefit from the characteristics of each personality type.
There’s been a lot written about the differences between people who are introverted and those who are extroverted. In recent years, there has been a shift from valuing extroversion over introversion to understanding that both of these personality types have strengths and challenges and that each can benefit the other.
At the same time, it can be hard for these types to interact in a way that is mutually satisfying. This is in part, because a lot of what has been published about these personalities is stereotypical and repeated as gospel whenever there’s a discussion about the topic. Four areas that aren’t often written about which introverts want extroverts to be aware of are performance situations, work environments, riding together in a car and shopping excursions. For extroverts these situations hold some elements that may seem counter intuitive, based on their own preferences and viewpoints as well as from their understanding of the nature of introverts.
I absolutely abhor shopping. This was a problem growing up as my mother shopped for a living. No, I don’t mean she was a personal shopper, I mean she got up every day five or six days a week and went off the the mall to shop.
She continues to love talking to all the salespeople and getting the best deals on everything. She has at least a dozen items she is watching at any one time for them to be reduced and know the exact time when they will be sent back for the season. She buys and holds, then returns and buys again when something might be marked down further, returning the first one. Every salesperson knows her sizes and preferences and will pull things and put them aside for her.
She is very detailed and descriptive when she doesn’t like something and will use her social interactions as a way of gaining information about sales or when a new shipment of new clothes will be coming in.
I was someone who has always known what I want and I have never understood the need for all that talking. Everything is right there on the racks so you just go through them, pull what interests you that’s in your price range, try it on and if something works, buy it.
I hate having sales people constantly ask me what I’m looking for, make suggestions when I didn’t ask for advice or tell me what they think about something I’ve tried on. I can see what I look like and if I’m in doubt that’s a sure sign not to buy it and no amount of praise from a salesperson is going to change that.
This is also why I hate shopping with others unless we split up when we get there. But even then, I don’t like getting into conversations about what I’ve bought or not bought afterwards as this borders on the dreaded area of small talk, something extroverts hate. After being bombarded with all of the unwanted attention and conversation from the salespeople and two car rides with someone, I just want to go home to some peace and quiet.
Extroverts may take offense to this, wanting someone to bounce things off of and to give them feedback along with the salespeople. They often want to recount which stores they went to and what they saw in a play by play. Introverts will think, “You went, you saw, you bought, end of story,” but that is not case for extroverts. The social aspect of things is a large part of their shopping enjoyment. Introverts just want to be left to our own designs.
Performance Situations — After Parties and Book Readings
Introverts are an interesting group as many of us have performing backgrounds. This can give extroverts the idea that we are also extroverts, assuming only an extrovert would get up on stage and act, dance, sing or otherwise perform. What extroverts may not be aware of is that the difference lies in what comes afterwards.
Whereas extroverts love after parties and feel exhilarated after a performance, introverts need some down time and being unable to get it leaves us exhausted. Introverts can definitely muster what it takes to be a successful performer but we have the need to recharge our batteries afterwards.
This is an important distinction for writers as it applies to book readings and signings. Once a book reading is over and we have taken questions, it is difficult for us to immediately do a book signing. Being faced with person after person who wants to talk to us can be draining.
If you are an extrovert who goes to a lot of books signings remember that many writers are introverted. It’s definitely fine to meet them, give a positive comment about the book or ask a question. Just try to keep your interaction with the author short and to the point. This will help them in a situation where they are forced to interact with a lot of people successively over a relatively long period of time.
Silence is Not Bad — Especially on a Long Car Trip
If you are friends with an introvert you’ll need to get used to the quiet. For extroverts, noise and constant interaction is a good thing and they often don’t do well with silence. One of the hardest things for extroverts is taking long car trips with introverts.
There is something a touch intimate about car rides. You are in a small enclosed space with someone, where no one else can find you. This intimacy typically makes extroverts feel the need for conversation to fill the quiet. They will engage in small talk or talk about work or anything that comes to mind to cover the silence.
Sometimes their conversation during long, quiet car trips can resemble their externalized thinking out loud (link). They may go from topic to topic or follow a line of association which can make introverts very uncomfortable.
Trying to keep track of the conversation if it switches rapidly can be difficult for introverts because once we are involved in talking about one topic that is where our internalized focus is. Switching topics or even following a logical progression of topics through association leaves us struggling to catch up.
Bombarding us with conversation when we are somewhere where we can’t even make an excuse to leave for a while, will wear us down completely. And if we are driving then it’s even worse as that’s one more thing we are processing in our minds.
As we become quieter, extroverts may step things up, trying to engage us with boisterous talk. They may also take our lack of sustained conversation or lengthy reply as a slight. This can result in them either confronting us or going silent themselves which just makes matters worse.
While the silence would seem to be welcome to the introvert, we are very sensitive to the emotional responses of others and will be aware of the fact that the extrovert has stopped talking because of annoyance. This will further overwhelm us as we now are trying to process the other person’s emotions and determine how to fix the situation.
If you are taking a long car ride with an introvert, try to moderate your conversation and build in quiet times when you both are just listening to music or there is silence in the car. If the introvert requests to take more breaks that you normally would, understand this may be a way for them to get a few minutes to themselves to be able to keep up their end of the conversation. Stick to one topic then take a break before speaking about something else.
It can also help for the extrovert to bring a tablet or phone with podcasts, games, or music so they can stay charged up while the introvert can enjoy the silence and their own thoughts for periods of time.
While extroverts enjoy collaborating and working together in groups, introverts prefer to work along. Where work is concerned, we are straightforward and simply want to get whatever we have to do completed without the need for social interactions to be a part of it. We will be social before or after work or when we take breaks. But working in a group can be difficult for us because it means we are not just analyzing what we need to in order to do our job but we are also having to process all the social stimuli from the different members and incorporate that into the way we approach the task.
We can and do operate adequately in group work situations. However, it is trying for us and tires us out, leading to the need for some significant alone time to recharge and power back up.
If you are an extrovert with introverted employees that you manage, to the extent that it is feasible, try not to require introverts to work on a team. If there is a need for them to do so, keep the groups as small as possible. Also try holding meetings for group work projects at the end of the day. This will enable any introverts present to leave right afterwards and go home to decompress and restore their energy level.
We are learning more about the nature of introverts and extrovert and as a result, we are developing a greater appreciation for aspects of both personality types. As we increasingly come into contact with each other and share our lives together, it is important to be aware of some differences that aren’t talked about as often and which introverts may not feel comfortable mentioning.
By gaining a better understanding of these areas, extroverts can enhance their relationships with introverts and the two groups can better enjoy and benefit from each other.
All of the areas discussed here have something in common which is the need for the introvert to be able to take time away from tiring social situations such as those experienced at work, while driving, following a performance and after shopping. Keep in mind that introverts also prefer to limit social interactions during task related situations such as work or shopping to limit the amount of information they need to process along with the need to present their social selves at the same time.
Natalie Frank has a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology. She specializes in Pediatrics and Behavioral Medicine.
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