This past week, my friend sent me a blog post by Donald Miller titled “How to Get Along with an Introvert.” Being a knee-deep extrovert, I often struggle with understanding my introverted friends. The article further opened my eyes to the way introverts navigate life and relationships. I think that deeper understanding is going to be of great benefit to our introverted / extroverted communication.

I was thinking how beneficial it would be for my introverted friends to read a blog about “How to Get Along with an Extrovert.” So, I decided to write one.

It seems like there is a common misunderstanding when it comes to what it means to be an extrovert or an introvert. Many people often assume that introverts dislike being around people and extroverts dislike being alone. While both of those statements could be true, that is not what defines them.

Extroverts and introverts are defined by where they receive their energy.

Because I function as an extrovert, I am energized by being around other people. Nothing fills me up quite like good conversation and time with other humans. In contrast, introverts are energized by having time to themselves.

For all of you introverts who can’t comprehend the endless desire for interaction from the extroverts in your life, and for all of you social butterflies who feel misunderstood by your solitary-loving friends, here are some ideas that will hopefully help to deepen your understanding of one another.

When interacting with an extrovert:

  • Understand their ever-present itch to be among. Extroverts find joy and satisfaction in having a day filled with different activities and different people. Though my body may be exhausted after a long day of lunch meetings, coffee dates, and city exploring, being able to think back on the range of conversations and variation of environments, leaves me with a sense of joy and discovery. In the same way that introverts crave time to be alone, extroverts crave to be out, living life among people. Hours upon hours of solitude, for an extrovert, can often lead them to feel restless, antsy and even depressed. I have found that if I don’t have at least one (preferably more) substantial social interactions a day, the blues begin to kick in as that craving for conversation and social stimulation manifests.
  • Be available to talk. Some people assume that extroverts are satisfied with shallow conversations – that they prefer surface-level interactions over deep ones. This may be true for some, but not all. I, for one, am a lover of depth and a hater of small talk. Driving home late one night, I tried starting a theological discussion with one of my introverted friends. It was then that I realized not everyone is wired to have deep conversation past 11pm. Connection and conversation are top necessities to an extrovert. Though our timing may not always be conducive to the other half of the population, when dealing with an extrovert, it’s important to remember that we greatly benefit from being able to share thoughts and verbally processes with those around us.
  • Love them with quality time. Extroverts thrive and often feel the most joy when they are around the people they love. To an extrovert, nothing says, “I value you and appreciate you,” like seeking to spend quality time with them. Whether it’s having a cup of good coffee or exploring new places, if there is room for good conversation to take place, the extrovert will feel extremely valued. Be intentional with the extroverts in your life.
  • Ask them questions. Being comfortable in social settings, extroverts are often the ones to dig in to others in order to find out who they are and what makes them tick. Because this is our tendency, we aren’t usually on the receiving end of the questions and it is sometimes hard for us to share our own thoughts and ideas without being prompted. Next time you are conversing with an extrovert in your life, switch things up by pressing in and asking questions about what is going on in their life. They will greatly appreciate the invitation to share their story and will surely feel appreciated and loved.

Ultimately, as Don said, healthy interaction between extroverts and introverts is all about compromise. We need to be able to recognize where the disconnect is occurring and we need to give each other permission to express how we are perceiving each other’s actions. When we are willing to listen, we will be able to understand each other more fully.

I am only skimming the surface of a deep well of thoughts and ideas. Extroverts, what are some more tips that can help our introvert friends understand the way we work?