7 Ways Extroverts Can Better Engage Introverts

I write a lot about introversion, because I’m an introvert.

Introversion is a personality preference, based on the way a person has been shaped by experiences and life.

In very broad terms, it means we are fueled more by our inner thoughts and reflections than a by social engagements and interactions with others. Alone time fuels us. Our idea of “fun” might be reading a book in a room — or field — all by ourselves. (Hence the picture with this post.)

It’s not that we don’t like people. You can read some of my other posts about that. It’s that if we had a preference of how to use our free time, many times we would spend it in quieter or more controllable environments.

Chances are you have lots of introverts on your team, in your church, your workplace, as your customers — even in your family. You’ll even find some people who appear very extroverted to be introverts. (Like many pastors I know — it seems especially in larger churches.)

I will often get requests to write about extroversion — specifically how extroverts can better understand introverts. (Extroverted people are seldom shy about asking for what they want!)Β 

This is generalized. No two introverts are the same just like no two extroverts are the same. Just like no two people — period — are the same. We are all uniquely made by our Creator! And, that’s intentional on His part!

But, this is an attempt to help you understand some of the introverts in your world. And, if you want clarification if it applies to them — simply ask. We can express ourselves — often quite eloquently.

Here are 7 ways that extroverts can better engage introverts:

Give us advance warning – Don’t put us on the spot for an answer or opinion. We have one, but often need time to formulate our thoughts. If you want our best answer, then you’re best not to demand it immediately from an introvert.

Don’t assume we don’t have an opinion – We do — and it may even be the best one — but we are less likely to share it surrounded by people who are always quick to have something to say and tend to control the conversation.

Don’t assume we are unfriendly or anti-social – We may not be talking, but that doesn’t mean we do not love people or that we don’t want to communicate with them. The opposite is probably more true. We just prefer to do it in less extroverted ways. Plus, we talk one at a time, so if there’s someone always talking, we may not get a chance — or take the opportunity.

Give us time to form the relationship – Introverts don’t usually form relationships quickly. We may appear harder to get to know, but when we do connect, we are loyal friends with deep, intimate connections. And we can actually be quite fun — even silly at times — once you get to know us.

Allow us time alone – All of us need personal time, but we require even more time alone than an extrovert usually does. We energize during these times — not just relax — and there’s a huge difference.

Don’t expect us to always love or get excited about extroverted activities – The social activities where you get to meet all the cool people you do not know — yea — that’s not always our idea of fun. It may even be a little scary. It might make us nervous at the thought of it. We’ll find excuses not to go, even if we know we need the experience or will have fun once we do them.(Cheryl helps me so much with this one. She stays by my side until I acclimate to the room. And, that’s usually what it takes for the introvert to really enjoy these type settings.)

Allow us to use written communication when available – We often prefer email or text over phone calls. We are usually more engaging when we can write out our thoughts ahead of time.

Are you an introvert? Β What would you add to my list?

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93 thoughts on “7 Ways Extroverts Can Better Engage Introverts

  1. These are so true! I am an introvert as well and I find it quite annoying that people label us as “shy”. Another thing to add to the list is for people to never interrupt us. We spend time formulating our thoughts so we want the respect from others to listen to what we have to say. Especially when most of us are not chatter boxes in the first place! πŸ™‚

  2. I would add that in small groups or bible studies, give us time to respond. We think through what we want to say, so give us some space to work that out. Few things are a bigger turn off in a group conversation that to move on too quickly from thread to thread, not allowing the internal processor to complete the train of thought.

  3. I'm an introvert although I have practiced behaving like an extrovert in order to develop relationships better. This is a great list and worth reading not only so that extroverts can understand introverts better, but so that introverts can understand themselves better. It helps to be able to prepare to deal with an extroverted world.

  4. I would add that drama and emotional outbursts make us very cautious around you and we will probably not befriend you.

  5. As a middle school teacher (and an extrovert) I appreciate your insight on communicating with introverts. So many of my students` faces come to mind as I read your blogs concerning introverts. One of my challenges is finding the balance between respecting the personality differences of my introverted students, while at the same time, inspiring them to find their voices in the sea of (often ostentatious) extroverts. One thing I do is allow “think time” before calling on ANYONE. Here`s the thing…while this may not be true in your case, many of my students lack self confidence and are intimidated by the showy extroverts. Any advice on how to give my sixth grade introverts the kind of experiences that will empower them to trump the sometimes overly eager extoverts? I used to feel that it was ok to not “make” my introverted students “present” in front of the whole class, but as I have observed my own children becoming adults, I see how much harder it is for my introverted one to engage in new environments. For example, applying for jobs and going for interviews or calling to schedule a doctor’s appointment or even ordering a pizza results in a great deal of anxiety for her. (As a mother I have coached her along. Role played. We even practice making cordial conversation while waiting in line or browsing magazines.) However, as a teacher, my role and environment are restricted. Still, I wonder if I’m doing right by my introverts. As an extrovert, I struggle with how to help my insecure, introverted students develop the skills needed to be effective communicators. (I understand not all introverts are insecure, but I know my students.)

    (Somehow I feel a little embarrassed by my lengthy response…but…an extrovert I am.)

  6. I’m an introvert and I honestly have started disliking blog posts like these. “Introverts need special treatment.” “Introverts are different.” “5 ways introverts are better than you.”

    I kid with that last one, sure, but really. I am an introvert in that I DO like alone time, but I also REALLY like being with my friends, most of which do country dancing. They are friends I met while learnin how to do said thing. I used to be scared stiff to ask girls to dance, now I’ve no problem and also don’t take rejection as “oh crap I’m the most horriblist dancer evar!” I also don’t drag myself out to go anywhere social, I actually look forward to it.

    Of course if you looked at me roughly 5-6 years ago you’d be shocked. I was nearly a recluse. I had a few friends I would do stuff with, the largest group I was comfortable being in was a small church, even better if it was a church small group in said small church. After social interactions or class (I was in college at the time), I would take naps, because they’d exhaust me. I, through Stumbleupon, would read articles like these and be “Damned straight! Why can’t extroverts understand this!” I didn like sports, I was somewhat driven to introversion from not only being laughed at but in one case one coach encouraging the other kids to laugh at me at soccer when I was a kid (I was going slow, because I had had a swimming lesson immediately before) and so the thought formed early that “sports = bad.” I met some friends who invited me to watch football with them. I liked it, this led to me driving from Knox, TN to Gainesville, FL to a Gator home game and yelling my head off. I honestly didn’t feel exhausted from being around a crowd that time.

    Soon after that I started learning that people are flexible and can learn regardless of what age they are. I started doing more and more “extraverted” activities and actually ENJOYING them.

    I still enjoy reading and writing and thinking. I’ve found a BUNCH of “Extraverted” friends who love deep discussion… They just only have it with people they know well (sound familiar?). Now most of the time I’m still the quiet one of the group, but that’s not because I hate small talk (well… I do if it’s on the phone), but because I don’t have much to add to the conversation due to me not knowing anything about the subject at hand. I also do like alone time, but have times when I’m just sick and tired of being alone. Now it’s less that “people” drain me and more certain KINDS of people.

    So… I’ve started taking a little umbridge with the whole “treat introverts this way, they need it.” Because it causes a serious entitlement complex. I know this because I’ve read te comments one many of these blogs and it seriously turns into a pool of self-affirmative, bobble-headed… Crap I can’t think of a less offensive version of the phrase “circle jerk.”

    Im not saying personality differences don’t exist, I just think it’s a whole lot more complicated than “introvert vs extravert” and that introverts can do their part to be more flexible too.

  7. . Also, women's church conferences are geared toward the extrovert. The focus is on large group activities, fun and so on. Why, why, can't they sometimes break up into smaller groups of say 3 women for prayer ? I know this also poses the problem of extroverts taking over even this small group! This has happened, in different settings, to me. So at this stage of my life, I have pretty much become an observer again….rather than to keep trying to "swim upstream" I too suffer from being misunderstood by an extrovert friend as being "dense" because I was not quicker at something. I don't even try to explain anymore. It isn't worth it, and they don't hear me anyway, because they are forming their next sentence. ( not down on extroverts, by the way…this is just how it is) I am not isolated or hiding, but I do choose where I go and how I spend my time with people more wisely now.

  8. I would add that an extrovert should get to know introverts one on one. I am happy to go to coffee or lunch and such with one or two people, but not so much in a group. I feel as though I disappear and am insignificant, even if I occasionally add to the conversation in the group. I quickly have thoughts of not wanting to be there. This is because we are stuck at a large table and everyone is talking non-stop about "nothing". I find it very difficult these days to enjoy women's conferences, Bible studies and some church services. I would like a quieter church service rather than the ones geared toward the younger generation. Forty-five minutes of standing up singing the same two verses (or the 7/11 version of worship) is usually exhausting to me. Don't get me wrong, I worship, but it's difficult.

  9. I am an extrovert and I love having introverts in my life to balance things out. I have learned a few things about those relationships that help make them work. I call them at the same time everyday so they are prepared for my engagement and then they can "pre-decide" if they want to talk to me or not and what they would like to talk about. This sorta empowers them in the conversation since I engage with so much energy. I realize that I often flood introverts so I will tell them ahead of time the two things I want to tell them so if they want to tune out and tolerate me in between important information that is fine. I also discipline myself to become "actively quiet" which is really difficult for me but then that is when the real conversation starts and I am always glad I did. I even sometimes gauge people's breathing, which I know may sound really stupid, but it lets me know when they have something to say (or when they are wanting to yell ENOUGH ALREADY). I love my introverted friends and they have often saved my hide by sharing with me things I failed to notice because I was talking or they have thought out things farther than me because I get bored with a subject and switch before I think it as far as an introvert would. I tell my quite friends "You be the brain and I will be the mouth" and that is often the case. We will discuss things and then I will have the courage to give the ideas (or complaint) a voice and don't mind taking the blame if it blows up and giving my friends the credit if it helps. Go introverts! …..Just call me back if you think about me sometimes.

    • Wow. That’s awesome, Tamara. I appreciate what you shared. It’s great that you appreciate and engage your introverted friend. On behalf of the introverted folks, I salute your efforts. I have friends who do that, too, for me and your post reminded me of it.

  10. I am an extroverts extrovert with a husband and family of introverts. I love social activities, I talk to everyone about everything. I hv sometimes tried to be the quiet person, and it doesn’t work. I could talk to the wall. I get excited about most things and struggle when those around me show no emotion and don’t get excited. I sometimes wish my husband was more outgoing, but then I realize how annoying we would be!! As an extrovert I get lonely bc I am always looking for interactions, I am a Sahm of two two year olds. I think I scare people bc I am so excited to talk to them and I treat everyone as a friend. I do like quiet reflection occasionally but prefer lots of friends laughter and excitement! It’s not an easy job being exciting, talkative, and friendly… But bits me:).

  11. Wow Ron thank you for posting this! I am also an introvert and I feel at times that my friends and family don't understand me at all. It is extremely frustrating at times for me to try and explain why I am the way I am or feel the way I do. Knowing that there are so many that feel the same way I do is a relief. Please continue to post info on introverts. It really helps.

  12. Yes, it’s really helpful, though I’m not sure about the last one, I know introverts that like to always talk in person, rather than anything else…

  13. Thanks for the post! This is really insightful for me!

    Right now i am having some friend trouble, i am a extrovert, and my friend is an introvert, we carpool to my youth group every week, and sometimes she gets really silent if i have to bring another friend on the short five minute drive.

    that i s all fine, except then i get emails saying that she will carpool with me if i don't have my friend again. She also get really upset if we don't leave YG at exactly nine o'clock at night, and she doesn't like it when i talk to other people.
    Me being social i have many friends and try to include her, but she doesn't want to be friends with the people i like to hang out with at YG.

    I understand her position, but silently it is driving me up a wall. i cannot be her only friend. i need more of a social life. i feel like i need to give my undivided attention to her when she is around, but i also have a life too…

    I dont want to ruin our friendship, but i am starting to say things and i am coming off as a little pushy.

    Thanks for your help!

      • Thanks, I am trying to be less pushy, but its hard work.
        I bet this is another test in my walk of faith. I hope we will solve our qualms soon. I really want to keep this friendship.

        -Margret

  14. I am definitely introverted and I think you worded well one of the things that I find to be a source of great frustration to me. When you say we speak in turn, we do this because we desire that everyone have an opportunity to let there thoughts be known. It is extremely frustrating when you say you want to hear what we have to say then cut us off as we say it-extroverts don't have the same issue because they can drop it and continue with whatever change has occurred in the conversation. I cannot tell you the number of times I had a valid point or an important thought and have been cut off. This keeps me from not only withholding further participation, but I can't even enjoy the remainder of the conversation taking place.

    Thank you so much for sharing this!

  15. Yes, I have a few.

    First, don't tell us to do more of anything that extroverts like to do. Don't tell us to talk more, smile more, or whatever else comes to mind.

    Second, don't take our introversion as an invitation to jump to conclusions and play them off as fact. You wouldn't believe the bizarre stuff I've heard. . . when I was young the stuff I was supposedly thinking was so complicated and wacko that it went over my own head!

    Third, if we didn't like doing stuff alone or keeping our mouths shut we wouldn't do it, so don't go up to us and strike up a conversation with us unless you're genuinely interested in us. We're not lonely by nature and we don't need people who want to use us to make them feel that they've done their good deed for the day. We're not your good turn of the day; we're people who enjoy sitting back and taking it in.

    Fourth, don't assume we can't handle real life. That one ticks me off. Introverted doesn't mean having sensory issues or being sensitive or naive. Besides, don't you think we've learned a few things by remaining quiet and taking everything in all these years?

  16. BOY OH BOY YOU HIT ME ON THE NAILHEAD,I USUALL KEEP MY THOUGHTS TO MY SELF OR THINK ABOUT WHAT I SHOULD HAVE SAID LATER,I AM AN INTROVERT AND WOULD RATHER TALK ONE ON ONE OR ONLINE,I HATE TRYING TO TALK IN CROWDS,BUT IT DOESN'T MEAN I'M NOT THINKING WHEN I'M QUIET.I JUST DON'T WANT TO SAY SOMETHING WRONG.THANKYOU SO MUCH.

  17. I just never understood why it appears that the extrovert's main mission in life is to make all introverted people extroverts. Especially the hyperactive, pushy, gung-ho types. Depending on my mood they either end up burning me out and I have to withdraw and rest or they wind me up to where i have to either go out for a nice long drive or go walk the treadmill at the gym to wind down and normalize. Either way, I feel very awkward.

    It seems to me that the Christian hyper extroverts profile introverts as being snobbish, anti-social, in gross sin, or viewed as a potential predator/terrorist and feel as if they need to change/save us to view and act the way they would act.

    I wish they would just leave introverts alone and accept us for who we are. In many cases, we end up being more real and truthful than the show presented by the extrovert, all in a church setting where everyone is trying to be authentic.

  18. Extroverted Introverts are a tough study. They're real introverts, but they've grown an external persona as a public image. This persona is specifically adapted to the career environment. They're so good, in some cases, that you may not even meet the real person, because there's no opportunity to see through the public image.

      • I am married to one of those. I have known him since we were teenagers, and the "real" him in introverted in every way. Yet, he has created a persona to adapt to his business environment; if he didn't, he would have no clients. It is very effective, yet I almost feel like he is living two different lives.

        • I understand. I call it adapting though. I always tell couples in counseling though that we can't allow our personalities to keep the marriage from working. My wife needs to hear from my deepest thoughts, in spite of my introversion.
          Twitter: Ronedmondson

  19. @Shiny_Ideas and I were just discussing this post on Twitter. We both thought the 7 suggestions were spot-on but bristled a bit at the presentation. Yes, it would be helpful to me if the extroverts in my life put these ideas into practice, but it would also be helpful to them. Introverts have a number of strengths that don't always get applied. As I told Shiny_Ideas, I mentally edited and filed this under "help for extroverts" (to better understand and interact w/ the awesome introverts around them). πŸ™‚

  20. My only quibble would be with the intro to this post. I don't consider this a "personality preference" except insofar as I enjoy being who I inherently am. And we don't need "help" in the way I've found most introverts to define it — as in, help us get "fixed" somehow. I would only add that they can't regard us as an "obstacle," but to let us take ideas deeper as they go wider. Strengths complementing each other.

    • Thanks so much for your good comment. No fixing needed but the term preference is a Myers Briggs term. I did not make it up.
      Twitter: Ronedmondson

      • Yes, it is a Myers-Briggs term. It is one of the four categories of personality type that, in that system, make us individuals. I find your advice in this article to be better than most. Relationships are often a challenge, and we all benefit from some outside counsel.

        Debating whether it’s nature or nurture can be insightful, but it’s probably a mix. Untangling fully that mix of predisposition and life experiences might take an eternity. I don’t think we really need to do that. Sometimes we are best served to just appreciate each of our unique selves for the value God attributes to us. I think that your article really helps in that regard, more so than I find many articles to do. So, thanks.

        I am predominantly an introvert, and I have & still do “fake” being otherwise to survive. It often helps me to think of it as just part of the process of navigating reality, rather than thinking of it as ‘being an introvert is bad’. I’ve thought both ways. πŸ˜‰

  21. Wow, that's a great observation, and one I haven't put much thinking into, but I see the connection. Thanks
    Twitter: Ronedmondson

  22. After retiring from pastoral ministry recently I have reflected on how much of my feeling of burnout was related to my introversion. Introverts in ministry have to learn how to manage their gift of introversion, and do as you have done–educate others about the diversity of temperaments. Clarifying expectations between introverted pastors and congregations could be very helpful. Thanks for your insights.

  23. As a strong extrovert, I want to be able to affirm and love my introverted brothers and sisters in ways that are relevant to them. Some of these I've learned through my husband (especially not putting introverts on the spot to voice decisions or opinions). Introverts have such wonderful things to contribute that I, as an extrovert, want to benefit from (especially as some of those things might not naturally occur to me). Thanks for this helpful post!

  24. I would add: don't always look for outward or obvious signs of excitement. Very seldom will you see me showing outwards signs of excitement. In fact, most things to me are okay. When they're good, I'm seldom effusive. When I am, you know that the particulr topic, idea or thing in question is something that has REALLY got me stoked. Otherwise, know that I'm probably okay. If I'm not, I'll voice it.

    • Yes! Very true. Some people say it’s a sign of something wrong that I am not jumping up and down. I am excited internally. Sometimes I do act out my excitement so that I fit in. Ironically, this may elicit a response from others to calm down. Sometimes the others are the ones who have expressed dislike for my previous mellow state.

  25. Loved the article and I basically agree with all of your points. I have never seen/heard it being described that way and couldn't have done it myself. So thank you Ron for pinning it down. πŸ™‚

  26. all of these points are me to a "T". I never understood until the last point why I preferred writing to speaking. I can be quite witty (at least in my own mind) but usually under my breath so only the one or two people sitting next to me can hear.

    I heard a vice president in a company worked for say that anyone who doesn't have an immediate answer when asked would be better off finding employment elsewhere, that he wouldn't tolerate people who didn't know their own mind. That's fun and not intimidating at all. At least my boss understood I had my own mind and kept me from any interactions with that man. But, I didn't stay there very long anyway as it didn't provide very much challenge for me.

    • haha jack. I had to laugh at your remark about muttering stuff under my breath and only 1-2 people next to me hear. that happens to me all the time.

      sometimes its so freeing to be next to an extreme extrovert who appreciates humor bc as soon as they hear the muttering joke or remark I make, they laugh, then tell everyone on the spot.. thus it gets shared, just thru someone else haha.

  27. I'm an introvert. I agree about the needing time alone, I'm around people way too much and it gets to me. I think it's also easier for introverts to spend time online chatting with people or being social then it is physically.
    Twitter: tijuanabecky

  28. Great stuff, Ron. When I describe intraverts in my classes, I see students light up. Some even get teary-eyed because they've been misunderstood for so long… and very few people affirm them just as they are. I've read that 75% of Americans test as extraverts… so that makes it super important for extraverted parents to understand how to bless and affirm their intraverted children.

    God uses both, and when we work together, and affirm one another's passions, strengths, and preferences, it's a beautiful outcome.

    Thanks for talking about a minority that often gets overlooked.

    Bill

  29. A couple of thoughts: I think introversion/extroversion are actually more genetic. It may be possible to modify the tendency or preference as you call it, but people will usually revert back to home base. Also, some of us are sort of like hybrids. In small social situations I'm very outgoing and openly share strong opinions, in larger social situations not so much. I actually tend to clam up a bit. I also value my space and require alone time for thinking/being. So I think I'm a little of both!

  30. I am an introvert and this sums up exactly what I wish more people would understand. Especially giving me the time to form my thoughts. I’m not always going to share them with just anyone either. Great thoughts here.

  31. Love this insight! I’m a huge extrovert. The more people the better. It requires a conscious effort to be by myself. I can see some good butting head points from your list. Extraverts are external thinkers. There perception always draws from the outside. Introverts are internal processors.

    As a counselor, I really enjoy teaching people about personality. Knowing our personality, as well as others, can improve community and communication immensely.

  32. Thanks Ron for this post. I believe some introverts use it to not interact when they might benefit or others would benefit from the interaction – you know, like a 'cop-out'. I say that being an introvert and happy that God made me that way. I concur completely with Tony A – some of us have learned to exhibit extroverted behavior while still treasuring our introverted needs. The energy-building, restoring alone time IS critical.
    Perhaps your next post can be 'Ways Introverts Can Help Extroverts".

  33. Wow Ron, you nailed it. I'm a bit of an anomaly because I'm an extroverted introvert so people can completely misjudge me but this list is spot on for me. At times I can display extroverted tendencies, especially when I teach and in small group settings so people naturally assume I'm an extrovert. However, I definitely get my energy from alone time. That is critical.

    Thanks for sharing this. Hopefully more people will understand us because of it.

    • There’s a term “ambivert” that gets used for people without a preference for intro- or extroversion. You seem to have a preference though (introversion), but you are energized by something in teaching or small groups. Actually, introverts are more comfortable around fewer people at a time. As for teaching, you might be stimulated by the preparation and organized presentation, which is why we introverts tend to prefer written vs spoken interactions. It could also be the subject you teach that moves you. Our personalities aren’t uni-dimensional, so the intro/extroversion spectrum isn’t all that makes us who we are. If you’ve ever taken the Myers-Briggs test, which is long — and it’s written — you know the other facets of your personality tendencies. The other facets are important, but I think that extro/introversion must be easier to identify and associate with ourselves.

      Or maybe teaching is a gift. Anyway, those are my thoughts, and I felt compelled to share.

  34. I, too, am an introvert — probably to an extreme level. This post definitely resonates with me. This statement you made is absolutely true for me: "Plus, we talk one at a time, so if there’s someone always talking, we may not get a chance." I regularly get criticized for not speaking up more, but I am just not going to interrupt when someone else is speaking. And I agree with MichaelDPerkins, I am listening even if I don't immediately respond. Great post and thanks for sharing!

  35. I'm definitely an introvert and my wife just said, "Wow, he just described you."

    I would add that we are listening. I think sometimes a lack of immediate response is mistaken for a lack of care or even ignoring them.