She wants karaoke with friends.
You’d rather cook gnocchi for two.
She wants to jabber.
You want to ponder.
Karaoke. Gnocchi. Jabber. Ponder.
Let’s call the whole thing off?
(Apologies to Gershwin.)
Not so fast. Despite their differences introverts and extroverts can create a great relationship. Here are 15 ways how:
1) Cheer up. It can do wonders for the extrovert if you express enthusiasm and gratitude. Hiding feelings or going silent doesn’t make sense to an extrovert. An extrovert may interpret silence as disapproval or lack of enthusiasm.
2) Go with the flow. Many extroverts identify what they are feeling or thinking through talking it out. They may start out with one set of thoughts or feelings but that may not be where they end up. Extroverts often process things out loud, as opposed to an introverted style of processing thoughts and feelings in solitude.
3) Have grace in supporting the extrovert in his or her need for activity and socializing. An extrovert’s desire to be around many others in addition to you doesn’t mean you are insufficient in the extrovert’s eyes. No one person can be enough for extroverts who thrive on meeting new people and interacting with many others and activities. Don’t take it personally.
4) Ask, don’t tell. Many introverts do better when asked questions rather than being expected to volunteer thoughts and feelings. Let introverts express themselves in their own way, at their own pace.
5) Cultivate patience. Introverts may need time to think about an important conversation before they can tell you their feelings and views. This is not designed to frustrate you. If you allow an introvert time to process, you are more likely to get his or her authentic thoughts and feelings than if you rush or push.
6) Have grace in supporting the introvert in his or her need for quiet time. When your introverted partner wants alone time, it doesn’t mean you have done anything wrong or that her or his feelings about you have changed. Introverts often simply need to recharge before they can come back and fully engage.
7) Speak up. If you are the introvert, tell your partner when you are over-stimulated by input. If you are the extrovert, tell your partner when the stimulation is not enough.
8) Don’t judge. Each style is legitimate. There is no right or wrong amount of quiet time or social time. Don’t try to change or “help” the other person to be more introspective or outgoing. While we are not entirely sure how much of introversion and extroversion stems from nature vs. nurture, your partner is unlikely to change their basic style. Over time people can move toward the middle of the introversion-extroversion continuum. But they are more likely to do so when they feel accepted, not pushed.
9) Walk the walk and talk the talk – but maybe not at the same time. Many extroverts may like to combine activity with conversation. Introverts may prefer periods of silence during activities such as a walk or hike, as it allows them to take in nature or the scenery.
10) Make time for two. It’s okay for the extrovert to do social things on his or her own and for the introvert to take alone time. Either way, for the health of your relationship be sure to schedule adequate couples time where the introvert can get away from a crowd with his or her partner and the extrovert can have access to the introvert’s undivided attention.
11) Compromise. It’s okay to take two cars to a social gathering if it makes an introvert feel better to know he or she can leave early. Make room for group time, couples time and quiet, solitary time. Balance high-stimulation activities or settings with calmer times. Relationships flourish through give and take.
12) Count your blessings. Introverts can soothe extroverts. Extroverts can excite introverts. If you’re an introvert, being with an extrovert can introduce you to new people and experiences you might never have touched. If you’re an extrovert, being with an introvert can open new worlds within you might never have visited. Be willing to let your partner entice you outside your comfort zone. For the introvert, this may mean engaging more with the external world. For the extrovert, it may mean spending more time reflecting and listening to the quieter voices within.
13) Monitor your emotional fuel gauge. Introverts are recharged by quiet and alone times. Extroverts are recharged by active time with others. For extroverts, too much quiet or alone time is draining. For introverts, too much people time can be exhausting. All couples have differences. If sports nuts can make it work with opera aficionados and liberals can co-exist with conservative mates, introverts and extroverts can certainly get along.
14) There is more than one path. Extroverts may need to talk about problems first, then reflect on it later. Introverts may need to think about problems first, then talk later. Neither approach is wrong. Make room for both.
15) Be careful not to view your partner through your own lens. If an introvert asks for alone time, an extrovert might think something is wrong since an extrovert rarely needs alone time unless there is a problem. But for the introvert, it is a way of taking care of his or herself and, thus, taking care of the relationship.
By the same token, if an extrovert wants to go out on the town for the third night in a row – something most introverts cannot fathom doing unless they are avoiding something – it doesn’t mean he or she is running from deeper issues. This is what feeds an extrovert. It can allow the extrovert to come home more fulfilled, which allows them to bring more to the relationship.
Ultimately, appreciating and accepting your differences can allow each of you to blossom.
This is the second part of a two-part blog on introvert-extrovert relationships. Read Part One here
Copyright © Dan Neuharth PhD MFT