What introverts want

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While introverts want and need a lot of time alone, we also want to know that we are likable and that we have friends. Some of this desire is the genuine need to connect with others with whom we share understanding or at least mutual respect and appreciation. Some of it is merely because we believe we “should” be more busy socially and have more friends and activities. Sometimes it’s because it’s a holiday and it seems that everywhere we look, people are rushing around buying food and getting ready for what sounds on the surface like perfect and fun gatherings with their family members and friends, and it makes us feel like losers if our big plans are to watch a marathon of our favorite show on TV or work on our hobby alone.

Often when we hear other people talking in general about their friends, we imagine that they’re talking about an idealized group of people who are always fun to be with, even if a couple are a little quirky. They’re always glad to hear from each other or see each other, as if their lives were one big episode of Seinfeld or How I Met Your Mother. We go home alone each day and may not recognize a prospective friend if she’s standing right in front of us.

I actually remember about six years ago one woman who would never stop talking when we’d get our sons together to play and she or I would arrive at the other’s house to pick up. It would start off like pleasant chit-chat, and before I knew it we had stood on the front steps for an hour past bedtime with no end in site. Then she started calling me, leaving me messages on the home answering machine like, “Give me a call when you can!” At one point, exasperated after hearing such a vague message, I asked my husband, “What does she WANT?” He said quietly, “She wants to be your friend.” Oh. Well duh, of course! I guess a kindergartner would have known that but all I heard was one more interruption in a weekday evening.

Scrubs fans will remember this situation, but if you’re not a Scrubs fan, go to around 7:36 on this video and see this in action. Elliot is so lonely because her friends are busy doing other things, and she doesn’t even realize that the new doctor on staff has a lot in common with her and is making an overture to start a new friendship!

Potential friends are all around us. The neighbor we avoid who always seems to want to talk just when we only want to go inside and relax or go for a run. The coworker who always asks us to go for a beer after work, just when we have somewhere else we have to be. The mother of our kid’s best friend who won’t seem to stop talking when we arrive to pick up from a playdate. The acquaintance who suddenly calls us on the phone at inconvenient times, much to our annoyance.

Each of us has to decide for ourselves – do we prefer the freedom of always doing exactly what we want without having to constantly “worry” about other people stopping us to talk or bothering us with the phone? Or do we sacrifice a lot of our alone time because we want to be sure to be receptive to others around us? We have to find an equilibrium that makes us happy, and of course it’s fine to shift that equilibrium around at different stages of our lives. It’s just good to remember that we do have lots of opportunities to make friends; we just have to remember that they come in all shapes, ages, and situations.

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61 Comments

  1. Well put. I was thinking along these lines the other day. People are so quick to see things in “black or white.” We see the options as either having NO friends or LOTS of friends. We’re only successfully outgoing when we’re social butterflies who talk to everyone in the room.

    No.

    Life isn’t black and white like that, it’s grey. There’s an infinite number of acceptable possibilities and we just have to find the balance that works for us, like you said. Maybe that’s being quiet more often than not but being zany around close friends you’ve come to trust. Maybe that means you’re outgoing in spurts but then recharge your batteries. Whatever…there’s no wrong or right way. Only what works best for you.
    Dean @ Conversation Skills Core´s last post ..Review of “Big Talk” Communication Skills Course (the Good & Bad)

    • So true, Dean! And I’m sure that drives crazy all the people who just want to put labels on everyone….”Wow, look at you laughing so much..I thought you were the QUIET one!”

    • I fully agree, life is more than black and white, and even more than scales of gray. It is full of colors.

      It’s important to understand that we all think and feel differently and respect those differences.
      Conferencista´s last post ..2×2=5

  2. I have said before that you really know someone when you can sit in a room with them and the room is silent but there is no awkwardness at all, this is the kind of company that I can handle and really appreciate as an introvert.
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  3. Oh yes, this is such a familiar paradox. To want people to be friends with and then, when they make overtures, to feel unadulterated horror. I am guilty of brushing off even people I like because I don’t have it in me to be available to them. I do have a handful of friendships that have lasted years with people (including extroverts) but the only people I really enjoy myself with are my husband and mother, both confirmed introverts. Maybe it’s more realistic to have a bunch of acquaintances we’re friendly with than to have this close circle — it does tend to close in!

    • Yes, I think it would be ideal to have a group where you know you’re genuinely welcome and can join them anytime you want, yet if you just choose to go home and do your own thing no one gets offended and no one demands an explanation. Real life’s not that neat/clean though. 🙂

      • True, that about sums up my attitude. And eqaully true that this is not how it usually works. Unless you have lots of money and fame.

  4. Well expressed. I struggle with these types of choices every day. The prospect of a more active social life seems ideal but I’m more often than not likely to turn down the offer of a night out – even with close friends (i would certainly struggle to keep up with multiple nights out during theweek). outside of work, my personal time and space is so important to me… sometimes at the expense of friendships

    • Thanks Trish! I know what you mean. If we were independently wealthy and had loads of free time, we’d have more to spend on doing things with friends. But we have to budget what we do have, making sure we have that personal time and space.

  5. Is there a term for being introverted and extroverted? I’m quite outgoing but many is the day where I enjoy my alone time and I can really relate to your story about the “friend” who wouldn’t stop! Of course having four children may contribute to this great need to be alone which by the way doesn’t happen enough!

  6. Nice read!.. This article really spoke to me. I have people that call and text me and have neighbors who I do a “chat-by” with on a daily basis. Its good to have that interaction even if its just a 2 min. convo. I kind of shy away from social invites and getting to close to people. Before you know it they want to show up to your house uninvited, call your phone back to back which results in the questioning “what do they want?” LOL Reminds me of Larry David on Curb Your Enthusiasm when he explains how he thinks the human voice is annoying. It’s a part where this little girl sings and he just cuts her off and starts clapping in the middle of her song to wrap it up. Don’t know why but I seem to do that when talking to people. I tend to wrap up a conversation right when it starts then later I’m the one who says I don’t have any friends… Just need to remind myself that friends are there, I just need to be more open socially if I really do want to have that friend network.

    • We want well-wishers who care for us but we don’t want friends, in the social sense of the word. When one really thinks about it, we introverts have a rather cat-like and not very nice way of looking at other people.

    • Thanks so much B! Yes, maybe sometimes we get so worried about how “you just can’t be nice to some people” (without them trying to intrude too much into your life) that we may cut some people off without even giving them a chance.

  7. This is really the thing that people who think normally should understand about those who are introverted. We should adjust to them but then adjusting with a bit of educating them or helping them with their being introvert.

    • Think NORMALLY? Come on Tina, we introverts think better than normally – our thinking can be extraordinary. 😉 We’re trying to educate people who don’t understand what the quieter segment of the population is all about.

  8. It is very important to maintain contact with different people. I know this is hard for shy people but I think it is important to try to gradually strengthen ties with different people

  9. It can be important to stay alone and and give time to myself but it is still more important to mingle with different people…It might be hard at first but you will get used to it after…
    Charrmagn´s last post ..oasis elias

  10. I tis really hard to understand how introverted people’s mind works. I think it only can be understood by the people who live with them. I am married to an introvert for about 15 years and now I can say that I can handle him, I know all his things and sometimes I can help him as well. I know when I need to leave him alone.
    Julie@wisdom teeth´s last post ..wisdom teeth

  11. I love this article. That “what does she want!” is so easy for me to relate to. I have called people “stalkers” before and “annoying” and I suppose they just wanted to be friends but I have found it irritating. I have my own friends, I don’t need anymore is kind of my attitude. I always feel like people are being push or invasive. I get easily annoyed at their, what i guess is “common normal behavior” like “popping over”. What is that anyway? you can’t call or text you just come barging over to my house? getting off track. Loved the article and of course the Scrubs clip, always a classic. Honestly, being an introvert I get annoyed with myself and try as hard as I can to be “energetic” and “social” for the sake of my marriage but I’m having a very difficult time with it. It’s really putting a strain on me mentally and emotionally.

  12. It’s the real friends that truly understand us, the ones that know that I need a significant amount of ‘Kirk time’ to recharge the emotional batteries. These are the ones that you may not see for years and can continue right back into the same conversation you last had with them. My problem is I end up accepting all these new invitations, making new acquaintances, and then feel like I can’t give enough time to everyone. Trying to makes me feel really exhausted, both emotionally, physically and spiritually. I think the best thing to do is keep a small group of supportive friends that understand that just because you want to be alone it doesn’t mean you don’t want to spend anytime with them.

  13. I really love the personality of our introvert person, because on their silent way of living they are able and conscious with the proper things to do without hurting someone else…
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  14. No one can say how good and productive this certain person, in a silent way of brother introverts, they proven huge impossible things can be possible with their own personality…
    Jones24´s last post ..How To Find Love

  15. You have a point here. 🙂 It’s really hard being an introvert because there is always a possibility that you’ll be misjudge and misunderstand by others..
    Nicole´s last post ..missold ppi

  16. I was myself an introvert a few years ago, it was painful… I’m glad that I’m not an introvert anymore, it’s really good. If you really want to do something, i.e. to stop being an introvert, you can, but you need to want that and do something about you, try harder, try new things, meet new people, start talking with as many as possible persons, be sociable.

  17. Most of my immediate family and I are unquestionably introverts. An introvert is introspective and self-reliant. We are not dependent on others for stimulation and motivation. An introvert is more reflective and tends to focus on inner thoughts, perceptions and ponder information rather than external input. An introvert tends to think first then acts, while many extroverts act and then think.
    Samantha´s last post ..3D TV Reviews

  18. I think what introverts want is balance in their lives, or what you call is the equilibrium which you can shift to the other side if you want to. Some people do not know that they are already bothering you especially if they are not aware that you are an introvert. But I think, if you want your own alone time but you also want others to consider you as a friend, you should be able to balance it. 🙂

  19. Pingback: 25+ Artikel über Introversion – Weltenkreuzer

  20. Silky @math software on

    Thank you for this informative article. I never quite understood introverts and this gave me some knowledge towards them. I think most people come across a kind of introvert day, hour etc. – most people need some alone time – even the most outgoing ones!

  21. There is a great variety in introverts. Some really love to be lost in their own world, whereas some just don’t know how to make friends or relate with people so they find it easier to be alone. I am a little bit of bothg to confess. Great post!
    Cheryl@ex boyfriend back´s last post ..Get your ex back

  22. Introverts want to live alone and have some space in their personal matters, sometimes people think that they are selfish but actually it is a part of their nature that sometimes they dont want to share time, thing or thoughts with others.
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  23. Wow… I am incredibly happy that i found this website..

    lately I’ve been feeling so weird just because i thought nobody was like me :s
    I have been gradually degrading my social life the last year, and I feel a lot better with each step i take towards my true self. I am very introverted, but I’ve always been hanging out with extroverted friends, going out every weekend (sometimes more) and I NEVER had the satisfaction they had from it. Started studying psychology and discovered that I was an introvert.

    Good to see I’m not the only one 🙂

    • While typing that last message, I got a call from my 2 best friends.
      They were in need of help, and it felt great to go & help them 🙂

      I’d like to add that i really enjoy their company as an extreme introvert, just not to much :p

  24. I am very happy to have discovered this site and the fact that I am an introvert! I found out through my GFs therapist becase she had her read a book called “Please Understand me.” We also found out that she is an extrovert which is why we struggle as we do. After reading the book and googling introversion, it has been an amazing wake up call for me. I have been at odds with people all of my life, and simply didn’t fit in. I have tried desperately to do so, but always ended up feeling even more akward. My mom had me held back in the 1st grade becasue the teachers thought I was “slow” and my mother agreed. She would always try to speed me up, and tell me I had a terrible attitude becasue I acted like I didn’t care! UGH

    I am so happy to learn that there is nothing wrong with me. I have always been considered a loner or antisocial. I only have one friend in the whole world and that has always been Ok with me. I do man y things alone and most people I know just didn’t get it. For example I saw all 3 Lord of the Ring movies by my self. I didn’t mind it at all. I played alone as a child and I am most content when I am alone. I do go out at times, but not often. I now have a live GF and I am slowly realizing that I may have mad a mistake by moving in with her. It has only been 6 months since I moved in, but she is a very needy extrovert that sucks the very life out of me.

    This site has opened my eyes to the fact that I must now take care of my need to be alone. I am seldom alone since moving in and that has caused me to be moody and irritable. I had no idea why until now. I am an introvert and I need my space. I am glad to have found this site and I do appreciate this post. Thanks for sharing!

  25. There is a great variety in introverts. Some really love to be lost in their own world, whereas some just don’t know how to make friends or relate with people so they find it easier to be alone. I am a little bit of bothg to confess. Great post!

  26. Is there a term for being introverted and extroverted? I’m quite outgoing but many is the day where I enjoy my alone time and I can really relate to your story about the “friend” who wouldn’t stop! Of course having four children may contribute to this great need to be alone which by the way doesn’t happen enough!
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  27. I fully agree, life is more than black and white, and even more than scales of gray. It is full of colors.

    It’s important to understand that we all think and feel differently and respect those differences.

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