How to Get Along with an Introvert

Donald Miller

Just started reading Susan Cain’s book Quiet, for which I am thankful. Cain is a terrific writer and her book is already gaining acclaim for explaining to about 60% of the world how the other 40% live. That is, Cain explains to extroverts what these quiet, I don’t want to go out tonight, introverts are really thinking.

I’m an introvert. I can spend a month alone in a cabin (and have, many times) and never even dream of getting lonely. In fact, I recharge by being alone. That said, being alone for long periods of time isn’t healthy for me and when I do it I get a little strange. When I reenter civilization I have trouble engaging in conversations without beginning to daydream and it takes practice to get my mind to cooperate with the unspoken rules of society.

Cain offers her own advice for interacting with introverts but I’d like to chime in, too. I hope this helps in your understanding of yourself or your interactions with the introverts in your life.

When interacting with an introvert:

  • Choose one-on one over large groups. While I love speaking in front of thousands, mingling isn’t my thing. If I’m at a party, I’ll typically speak with one or two people for a longer period of time. If you’re interacting with an introvert, just know they don’t want to “work the room.”
  • Let them recharge. Introverts don’t want to do several social events in one day. They can survive, and even thrive, on just one or two per week. If you’re dealing with an introvert and you’re lining up meeting after meeting or coffee followed by lunch followed by a “get together” then happy hour and dinner and then drinks after with yet another group, it’s going to be torture. Introverts are like that cell phone you’ve got that needs to be recharged several times per day. In their minds, they’re running a lot of applications.
  • Go deep or go home. Mostly, introverts live in their minds and they think about why things happen or they daydream or whatever. Shallow conversations about the weather, at least for me, are painful. I just don’t want to have them. It’s not that I want to talk about politics or theology, I don’t, but I don’t want to have conversations that aren’t going somewhere. I want to talk about your passions, your fears, your musings about why you think life is the way it is. The cool thing is, once I know we can go there, I can talk to that person about anything shallow, including the weather. I just have to know we can go to the deep end when we feel like it.
  • Give them some space. My old roommate, Mike, once said to me, “Don, you know I’ve figured you out a little bit. You need about ten minutes of space when you come home before you engage in a conversation.” His observation was profound. I hadn’t realized it myself, but he was dead on. Introverts don’t want to be mobbed when they get to their place of security, or for that matter, anywhere else. They want to transition and get comfortable and then engage. When an introvert comes home and is charged with some social responsibility immediately, it’s tough. Give him or her ten minutes to transition and it’ll pay you back a thousand fold.
  • Work with them to compromise. Forcing an introvert to go out all the time will backfire. They don’t want to be around people that much. But if you’re in a relationship with an introvert, you obviously can’t capitulate to every need. So strike some compromises. Usually, if you give an introvert some down time, they’re good for a few social events each week.

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And of course there is much more. But I’m curious about you introverts out there.

What are tips extroverts can use to enjoy their relationships with you even more?

Donald Miller

Donald Miller

Donald Miller is all about story. He helps people live a better story at creatingyourlifeplan.com and grow their business at storybrand.com. Follow Don on Twitter (@donaldmiller). To read more of his posts on the Storyline Blog, click here.