I never know what he’s thinking. Why can’t he just talk to me? His idea of a fun Friday night is playing guitar for three hours by himself. He’s at home, and I’m out at a dinner party. I feel like I’m pulling teeth trying to get him to open up. We’ve been together over 5 years, so why is it so hard for him to share with me? Over green tea and a chocolate cookie, my friend vented her frustrations and confusion. Being an introvert myself, I thought I could shed some light on the art of connecting with an introvert.
1. Be Patient. We’re not open books.
I told my friend this and she looked at me as if I were crazy. Yes, after 5 years you still need to be patient. Introverts don’t openly divulge information or talk about their feelings. We need to be gently coaxed out of our shells. And even once we feel comfortable with you, we often don’t see the need in sharing with you. Sometimes we assume that you should just know what’s going on in our head. Other times, verbally articulating our feelings is nearly impossible. We do want to connect, but it just takes us a little longer to overcome our inner dialogue that worries about being judged and misunderstood.
Be patient, learn to be okay with silence, peel back the layers, and read between the lines.
2. Don’t take it personally when we don’t want to go out with you.
Please don’t make us feel guilty when we don’t want to go to that party with you. When we think of a party, we think of awkward conversations with strangers. If you drag us there against our will, we’re going to be miserable and so are you. Attending large social gatherings can be extremely exhausting — it’s like spending the whole day at an amusement park. Sometimes it’s a great adrenaline rush, but when it’s all over we need time to recharge.
When you give us guilt-free time on our own, you’ll get the best of us when we do connect.
3. Take an interest in our solo hobbies.
The stereotype is true. Introverts are somewhat nerdy; they like to read, write, crochet, go on solo runs, play musical instruments alone, and watch movies. I’m not suggesting you take up these hobbies and do them together. Most introverts would be annoyed if you did.
Ask us to recommend a book or movie, take a peek at our blog, and just let us know that you appreciate the beautiful nerd in us.
4. Give us acknowledgement and show us you care in subtle ways.
Grand displays of affection and acknowledgement make us want to curl up into a little ball. Most of the time, introverts don’t like being in the spotlight. Never call an introvert up on stage without warning her first – she’ll never forgive you. Never kiss an introvert in public – he’ll quietly hold it against you. What introverts do like are letters and thank you cards. They’ll treasure these and read them until they’re memorized, so don’t say generic things. As for the special introvert in your life, love notes, home-cooked dinners, playing footsies under the table, and mixed CDs will let them know that you care.
When introverts feel cared about they’re more likely to open up and share with you.
5. Ask questions, but not too many.
Introverts like questions. We’re usually the ones asking them to avoid talking about ourselves. We hate the ‘tell me about yourself’ interlude on dates — it’s not even a question. However, we like to be heard and we’ll answer your questions — just don’t make us feel like we’re being interrogated. The more we feel interrogated, the shorter our answers will become. When you have a conversation with an introvert, it will often feel one-sided. However, if you get into a debate about an issue we are passionate about, watch out. We’ll talk the issue to death until you see it from our perspective.
Don’t overload an introvert with trivial questions, if you want to get them talking.
The art of connecting with an introvert isn’t easy. I won’t lie; you’re in for quite a ride. Headaches, confusion, and mixed signals are par for the course, but I promise you that you’re in for a whole lot of surprises, too. It takes patience to really get to know an introvert, but it is worth it for so many reasons. Check back soon to find out what those reasons are. (Sorry, that’s the introvert coming out in me.)