Helping introverts be happy and healthy on their own terms.


Dear extroverts, here’s the best thing you can say to an introvert

I support you.

Chances are the introverts in your life are surrounded by people and things telling them what to do, from the noxious “break out of your shell” to the much less insulting advice “just do it” and “seize the day.” They are being instructed up to their eyeballs. They’re getting enough conflicting advice on how to behave and what to do from movies, TV, commercials, social media, and the people in their lives. In fact, I’m guessing “I support you” is the best thing you can say to an extrovert or ambivert too.

The extrovert bias may slowly be waining in American culture, but it is still present in our lives. We still hear the judgement. We still hear the incredulity when we decline a social engagement with kind honesty. And for some introverts it’s demoralizing.

Introverts need your support. We need someone in our lives who will tell us advice only when we ask for it. Someone who won’t judge. Who can help us feel empowered by our introversion, not ashamed of it.

Don’t you want to be that person?

How to make friends as an introvert

I'm not telling you it's going to be easy, I'm telling you it's going to be worth it.


For many of us, making friends isn’t easy. We’re content to stay at home, by ourselves. And we’re happy like that … most of the time. But there can be times when our solitude begins to feel like a cage.

Wanting friends does not mean you aren’t an authentic introvert. Wanting new friends (or a friend) just means you aren’t a misanthrope.

So if you’re out of practice or are out of ideas, here are a few things to keep in mind about making friends as an introvert:

  • Realize that you want to make friends. And not just “kind of want.” “Kind of” doesn’t make things happen.
  • Ditch a desperation mindset. Turn desperation into hope.
  • Make a list of 5 places people with your same interests go (in person or online). If you have no interests make a list of where anyone goes when they leave the house or chat online. You can find a friend at your work’s cafeteria, in line at a grocery store, at a friend’s party, volunteering at the animal shelter, on Facebook in the form of an old classmate, in chat rooms for readers of Sherlock fan fiction, etc.
  • What mindsets need to change in order to show up to that place with an open and nonjudgemental (of yourself or others) mind, and with the only expectation being that you will meet people, not that you will make a friend.
  • Make sure you factor in enough downtime before and after you get out there.
  • Realize that for most people, friendships can take a while to form. Don’t push a possible friendship. Do acknowledge and be interested in other people and they are saying. You may click with a few people the first time, you may click with no one. So start showing up places with no expectations. You don’t have to impress anyone, you don’t even have to talk to anyone. The first step is showing up.
  • It’s ok if you’re anxious about going to new places and doing new thing. It’s ok if you’re shy. Just don’t let those things control your life.
  • Learn to tolerate smalltalk. I know, it’s the bane of our existence, but conversations have to start somewhere and most of the time it’s with smalltalk.
  • Be open to others. If someone smiles, smile back. Sometimes that’s the end of the interaction. Sometimes the smile turns into a conversation. Sometimes it turns into an annoyance (like being hit on or asked for money). But you’ll never know if you don’t smile back.
  • Have a plan. What are a few ways to express an interest in the other person? Can you ask them if you can connect on Facebook? What about giving them your email and telling them that you’d love to keep in touch. If the person is likely to be in the same place the next day or the next week (like a store clerk or a fellow volunteer) you can end a conversation with “see you next week!”
  • Don’t take rejection personally. Do you want to be friends with everyone. If you’re an introvert, I’m guessing the answer is a big No. The person you’re talking to may have too many friends as it is. They may be a sociopath misanthrope. You have no way of knowing so it’s best not to guess and take it personally.
  • Realize that hard things get easier the more you practice. Don’t give up.

Having no friends is nothing to be ashamed about, and wanting a friend (or new friends) is nothing to be ashamed about either. There are friends out there for you, but you may need some patience, luck, and a whole lot of showing up until you find them. It’ll be worth it.


p.s. Did you know I’m collecting signatures to challenge dictionaries which define introvert as shy? Go here to sign:

Advice for introvert-introvert relationships

Introvert-introvert relationships might seem like a match made in energy-management heaven, but conflicts can occur.

I’ve been in a relationship with another introvert for over ten years. Here’s a few I’ve learned:

  • Be ok with the other person staying at home while you go to a party. Two people not enjoying themselves does not equal one person enjoying themselves. And going alone to a party gives the other person a chance to be home alone in the evening. Letting the other person say No to a party without the guilt trip gives them more space to say Yes when it’s really important.
  • Make leaving the house enjoyable for both people. Not every activity needs to be a together activity, but shared non-Netflix adventures are a great way to create happy memories. Whether one person wants to get out of the house more than the other, or life starts to feel “boring,” I suggest using ethical bribing – find a way to make getting out of the house interesting to both people. For instance, I maxed on museums after living in England for four years (it feels like we went to a museum at least once a week), but I will be much more likely (and happier) to go to a museum with my partner if she suggests we eat out at a good restaurant afterwards.
  • Communicate downtime needs. Just because the two of you are introverts doesn’t mean you have the same downtime needs. The other introvert will understand your frequent need for quiet time, but it may take them years to accurately guess how much downtime you need. And not just how much, what kind of downtime can also vary between introverts. One introvert might need to be completely alone in order to recharge, while the other introvert might be able to recharge with a good book while there’s several other people in the room. Instead of spending years guessing what the other person needs in order to fully relax and recharge, try asking. And if you’re asked and don’t know your own needs try keeping an energy journal.
  • Find out each other’s communication needs and don’t take their preferences personally. One person might have to process their emotions for a long time before they can discuss something. In her book Introverts in Love, Sophia Dembling talks about how she finds it easier to write down her emotions, and on a few occasions wrote down what she wanted to say then read it to her introverted husband who prefers to talk through conflicts.
  • Divide crappy activities evenly in a way that feels fair. For instance, say both people prefer not to talk on the phone or ask sales associate questions, and one person dislikes both tasks more than the other. Instead of diving tasks based on who complains the most or expresses the most dislike, divide crappy tasks evenly. It’s not fair for one person to do all of the crappy activities, leaving the other one to only do what’s comfortable.
  • Ask, trust the answer, and don’t get offended by questions. Sometimes when I sense that my partner is angry I’ll ask if it’s something I did, and I believe her if she answers No. Asking is a much simpler (and less stressful) approach than guessing and ruminating about what’s going on with the other person. Similarly, try not to get offended by questions. Chances are the other person does not have ESP.

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Dear extroverts: Why some questions about our personality make us angry, and the right way to ask.

The questions “why are you so shy” and “why are you so quiet” make me angry. They feel like criticism.

This is what I hear when a person asks “why are you so shy”:
I don’t understand the difference between introversion and shyness.
Instead of trying to find out about you, I’m going to label you.
You’re that label I’ve chosen for you until proven otherwise.
You shouldn’t be shy.
It’s bad to be shy.
I’ve put you in the spotlight, and now you have to explain yourself.

“Why are you so shy” and “why are you so quiet” aren’t the only questions that put me on edge. It wasn’t until I started taking coaching classes that I realized it’s hard to ask any Why questions about behavior without sounding a bit critical.

When we were kids we used to love asking Why questions. And our lack of knowledge about the world meant we were able to ask them innocently, even though they weren’t always interpreted as innocent.

But at some point, during the course of growing up, we started to see connections and make assumptions. We started asking fewer and fewer innocent questions about people’s appearance or behavior. We also realized that our questions might be taken the wrong way. For instance, a child might ask “Why is your belly so big?” but very few adults would. But even though there are very few adults who would ask a direct question about body weight there are plenty of adults who ask Why questions about behavior, like “Why don’t you want to go to the party?”

This isn’t to say us grownups aren’t curious or don’t want to understand, but very often the main purpose of a Why question is to figure out how the other person fits in with our preconceived notions. And most of the time when someone asks a question with the purpose of passing judgement, we can hear it. By the way, I don’t want it to sound like this is only something extroverts do, introverts also ask Why questions from a judgemental frame of mind.

But let’s say you ask “Why don’t you want to go to the party” without any preconceived notions or judgemental tone of voice, does that mean the other person will know you’re asking an innocent question? Nope. Introverts are tired of hearing judgement-laced Why questions about our temperament, and it’s very possible we will jump to conclusions, get defensive, and hear judgement when none exists.

Does this mean introverts always get defensive when asked a question about their personality? No, not necessarily. If there’s no trace of judgement in your voice, and if the other person trusts you and sees you as a nonjudgemental person, they may not get defensive.

But just because a person might not get defensive about a question doesn’t mean they would appreciate being asked. Some people need to know a person very well before they’re ok with being asked personal questions. This applies to both introverts and extroverts.

So, assuming all signs point to YES – you don’t have preconceived notions about the other person’s behavior, they trust you, and they don’t mind sharing person information, then sure, go for it. See what happens. They may be happy you asked. But please, if they seem taken aback or defensive then don’t push the subject.

Alternatives to asking Why, if the other other person seems up to discussing themselves:
Would you say you’re an introvert?
What’s an introvert?
How has being an introvert affected you?
What are your thoughts about personality and behavior?
What do you like about being an introvert?
Do you prefer other kinds of communication over talking?
What do you love to do?

What if you really want to understand introversion but aren’t in a position to ask without making the other person angry? READ ABOUT IT. I’ve listed several resources here.

Most people want to genuinely be understood, but it’s not always appropriate to ask a question, and some ways of asking are better than others.

Jobs for introverts who aren’t very social

Dear introverts: we can flourish in any job. Seriously.

However, some jobs are more draining than others. I’ve spent several years in retail, and several other years as a receptionist/secretary. Both of these positions were draining, but I was able to fit in enough downtime to make the job work out.

When deciding on a career think about how the job will affect your energy levels, and if you expect to have enough downtime afterwards to recuperate. Also, think about whether you need a job that’s aligned with your passions, or whether you can fulfill your passions and interests outside of work. Does the job work with your strengths, like math, writing, or working with your hands? Or, would you be spending a lot of time compensating for your weaknesses?

If you’ve decided that you’d like a job that requires little social interaction, I have a list of ideas for you:

    • Driver (delivery, long-haul, etc.)
    • Mail Carrier
    • Animal Care (dog walker, pet sitter, etc.)
    • Paralegal
    • Accountant/Bookkeeper/Auditor
    • Computers (software developer, web developer, programmer, etc.)
    • Data Entry
    • Transcription (legal, medical, etc.)
    • Technician (medical, lab, etc.)
    • Repairs (auto, electrical, industrial machine, etc.)
    • Conservator/Archivist
    • Social Media Manager
    • Blogger
    • Film editor
    • Artist
    • Actor
    • Musician
    • Graphic Design
    • Writer (freelance, proofreader, technical, etc.)
    • Air Traffic Controller
    • 911 Dispatcher

If you have any other career ideas, please share them in the comments section.

Copyright © 2014. Introvertology.