Wednesday, January 14, 2015

How to be a Friend to an Introvert

First off, let's blast some misconceived notions ignorantly floating out there: introverts do like people. To say that all introverts are shy is like saying that all extroverts are obnoxious. Yes, introverts really do have friends. In fact, introverts appreciate deeper, long-lasting relationships more fully than some extroverts can or want to. For most, it looks more like this picture than a snapshot of a large dinner party.

Yes, overall, introverts need less time with people than extroverts, but it's not because they are reclusive, arrogant, or socially awkward--they may be all those things but it's not a prerequisite for introversion.

Think of it this way: people are like sponges, constantly taking in what is around them. Introverts are double-absorbent sponges. They soak up twice as much, twice as fast. So, sooner than later, they have to go home and squeeze themselves out if they are going to make room for any more.
For a little further science on the matter, check out Eysenck's thoughts.

Introverts often shun dull, superficial conversation and would prefer to get to "what really matters" quickly, as they don't have the time or energy for numerous shallow relationship burdened with unessential dialogue. Introverts would prefer to swim deep or not swim at all. Therefore, things like philosophy intrigues an introvert.
"Introverts like to jump into the deep end," says Dembling

Don't know if you are an introvert? Wonder about that new friend or relative? Read through this list to see if they match the signs.

I've often been accused of being too intense, passionate, or out-spoken and even too reserved. Confusing to some, I prefer to speak in front of people than try to mix-and-mingle with strangers. Going to a big party can make me feel more alone than if I'd stayed home alone. I often feel like I was born in the wrong time period or that my age is waiting to catch up with my ponderings.

Most of my close friends understand my temperament, but for every introvert out there, an extrovert will label and ridicule their choices. To clear up a few misunderstandings, please consider the following:

1. Introverts love people--really, they do--but they have to pick and choose what they will do in any given week. Unlike extroverts, their motto isn't "the more the merrier" in company or activity. Just because they have a "free" night doesn't mean it's up for grabs.

2. Introverts won't waste their time on relationships that carry no depth. They just don't have the emotional capacity to sit and talk about the frivolous and listen to more details about the unimportant. Now, please note: although introverts are often great listeners, they don't want to become your counselor and hear all the gory details of your abusive past or the awkward, personal particulars of your husband's habits. They want a mutually-edifying relationship where vulnerability is purposeful and exhorting.

3. Introverts often take more time to process.  So, don't over-analyze their silence or contemplative mood. They are thinking and are far less prone to impulsive responses. In all fairness, if your spouse or friend has tossed a ball, let them know that you've at least caught it (even if it takes you a moment to throw it back).

4. Introverts want to say "no" more than they do.  Give them the freedom to be honest and decline. Don't label them hermits. Respect their boundaries.
 Balance is a good word here – an introvert desires to find a way to go to some things when she doesn’t want to, but mostly honor her initial gut reactions about invitations.
5. Introverts are not an anomaly of what's normal. Please don't treat an introvert like they are afflicted. It's not a disease.

And for the standard "be-a-good-friend" general list, consider these ideas:

  • Initiate time together and be dependable to keep it.
  • Don't just dump your problems, failing to ask questions of the other person and their needs.
  • Be quick to apologize. 
  • Don't abandon them when they are in a dark place. 
  • Be authentic and helpful--speaking truth in love.
  • Laugh with them (rejoice in their success) and cry with them (mourn their losses)
  • When all else fails to stick, think "Golden Rule" 

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