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Guest Post: Friendships between introverts and extroverts

Published: July 18, 2012 | Last Updated: February 20, 2021 By | 51 Replies Continue Reading
Like most friendships, those between introverts and extroverts require communication and compromise. 

My friend and colleague, Sophia Dembling, is a widely published author who pens a popular blog on Psychology Today called The Introvert’s Corner (which I highly recommend). Based in Texas, Sophia is the author of a forthcoming book called, The Introvert’s Way: Living a Quiet Life in a Noisy World, that will be published by Perigree Trade Books in December 2012. (The book is available for pre-order on Amazon). I was delighted that Sophia agreed to post on The Friendship Blog on the topic of friendship between introverts an extoverts.


By Sophia Dembling 

I wrote a post on my blog The Introvert’s Corner about friendship between introverts and extroverts in which I said, among other things:

“I do like having extroverts among my friends because when I want a little razzle-dazzle, it’s fun to know someone who makes things  happen. When you’re in the mood, an extrovert is a happy noise. Extroverts are game, they’re up for it, whatever it is, and that lifts my energy.”

An extrovert who commented on the post gave me a spanking for that paragraph, saying: “If that’s truly the way you perceive your relationships with extroverts, then I hope you can understand why people can get the impression of arrogance. I don’t have to be ‘in the mood’ to spend time with my friends, regardless of their intro- or extroversion. Friendship shouldn’t be conditional on your mood.”

I understand why this reader took umbrage, but I think this is a pretty good representation of one way introvert/extrovert friendships hit problems. Extroverts don’t know what it means to not be in the mood for people, so they might take it personally when an introvert says, “I think I’d rather stay home tonight.”

Let me be clear-if a friend needs me, I am there, whatever my mood. That’s my definition of friendship: Friends are there for each other. But it’s different when we’re talking about plain old let’s-get-together fun. In that case my mood most definitely matters and that is a reflection on nobody but me. This says nothing about how much or little I like the person extending the invitation. It says nothing about how much I value my friendships. It passes no judgment on what other people do.

All it means is that as an introvert, I have limited need, desire, and capacity for socializing, and especially for extrovert-style socializing, which tends to involve some fuss and bother (which is what razzle-dazzle is when I’m not in the mood for it).

Introverts face a lot of pressure from other people to behave in ways that are against our nature. We’ve been sold a bill of goods about the superiority of extroversion. We’ve been taught that the desire for solitude is peculiar and possibly even suspect. We’ve been  shamed for our ambivalence toward (in some cases, sheer loathing of) parties. We’ve been pitied because we prefer maintaining just a few close friendships rather than a gang of running buddies.

And now we’re told that not being in the mood for people all the time makes us bad friends.

Woe is us, we are so misunderstood. Bridging the introvert-extrovert friendship gap requires a little understanding on both sides. So here are three important things extroverts should keep in mind about their introverted friends:

  1. Introverts’ need for solitude has nothing to do with you. It’s just the way we are.
  2. Introverts are a lot more fun to be with when we have adequate alone-time. When they push past their capacity for interaction, we can get grumpy.
  3. Introverts’ idea of fun is different from yours. That’s why we might decline a more-the-merrier invitation and invite you to a quiet dinner instead.

And what should introverts keep in mind about their extroverted friends?

  1. Extroverts only want us to enjoy life as much as they do. They might be annoying, but they are doing it with love.
  2. Extroverts are not mind readers. If we don’t express and explain our needs, they will try to guess and will probably get it wrong.
  3. Extroverts also enjoy quiet pastimes, so we have to take the initiative and extend invitations
    for introvert fun sometimes.

Like any other relationship, introvert-extrovert friendships require communication and compromise. This means introverts need to speak up, and extroverts need to listen.

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Category: Shyness and introversion

Comments (51)

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  1. magicalstar says:

    Thank u for this post….i have been trying hard to know my introvert bestfriend who refuse to talk about her feelings leaving me frustrated …

    thanks

  2. Lisa Dawn says:

    My Extroverted “friend” send me a fb message a couple days ago asking me to drive her to the store to get some beer. She is like a 10 minute walk to the damned store. I sent her a message back saying LOL-You are funny. Well she didn’t reply and when I saw her a couple days later she tried to make a joke out of it by saying yeah I told my bf before I sent the message Look at this she typed in out and sent it. she made it sound like she was joking but her lack of a reply to the fb message and her voice and body sihnals told me otherwise…She honestly expected me to come and pick her up…lmao.

  3. Ema says:

    I totally understand all points of view here on comments. I consider myself also a midline. There is joy and life when I am with my friends and in a group, however I feel the need to take time for myself alone and also the need for for a one-on-one moment with close friends. I have an introvert friend (who doesn’t even realise that she is an introvert) that challenges all my social skills and my sensitive heart. It was because of her that I begun to read more about introverts/extroverts in an attempt to understand what was going on in this particular new friendship (we have been friends for 2 years now). I do feel that I give too much in this relatioship. I had to make so many sacrificies in order to keep this friendship to the point that, looking back, it looks silly and stupid sometimes. I feel hindered by her and what hurts the most is not being free enough to be myself. Why do I say this? Because she has set a lot of boundaries that clashes with the way I am, feel or behave. For example, I like to hug my friends, to laugh out loud, to make jokes and to be present in my friends life. She does not like physical contact, usually is very quiet and dont like any attention to be brought to her and don’t like jokes with double meaning, she like straight forward talks. So in respect of her its like I have to be another person. I always ask myself why do I keep this friendship. But I’ve learned that although I might not see it, she also sacrifices a lot in order to have me as her friend. She doesn’t have many friends, in fact I think I am the only one who ever get really close to her. I know is easier for her to only reply to me when she is in “the mood” but many times I see she tries to go beyond her “self” because she knows is important to me. So, I’m learning to respect her boundaries and she is learning to respect my lack of boundaries. We do have some awkward moments when both needs are in conflict. I am still learning and I believe she is too. So, if both sides are really interested in establishing a friendship there must be sacrifices, respect and most of all, love from each side, as love conquers all.

    • June says:

      Ema, I believe you are an extravert. You think you are midline but you are clearly more on the EX-side. I am saying this nicely, I’m not trying to be nasty. Only an extravert would go to such lenghts to preserve a friendship when the other person doesn’t even seem to be interested. Anyway I hope you and her are still friends. Kudos for making the effort, you must be a great friend! 🙂

      • Ema says:

        Hi June, Yes we are still friends and our friendship is growing more and more, thanks God. The more I get to know her the more is easy for me to understand many things in order to respect her and also to respect myself. I believe I am an ambivert because despite being a people-person and enjoying a nice conversation with friends I do crave for quiet moments and to have some time to myself, especially after a very busy day with too much noise and information around.

  4. Fayth says:

    This is the crappiest thing I’ve read in a while. I’m neither full intro nor extro. I like a balance. I need my quiet me time and lots of down time. I also don’t mind a large party as long as I know some people there. Life is what you make it and this poster seems to think hard and fast labeling herself elevates her words to some kind of universal truth. Disgusting justification imo.

    • MJB says:

      spoken like a true extro… lol

      • marie says:

        I think this introvert stuff is a bunch of bs. Everyone enjoys some time to themselves. Some more then others but to always need things to be one way and never do things that your friend enjoys is selfish. If you have anxiety about going out therapy is your anwer.

    • Lisa Dawn says:

      Sorry to burst your bubble…But YOU are more EX them IN 😀

  5. Anonymous says:

    Just let introverts stay solitude, and extroverts mix with their kind. After all, if you feel free and comfortable with your friends, then the friendship can last. however, most friendship are contaminated by abuse, disrespect and self-righteouness. Trustworthy friends are rare.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Yesss!!! The extrovert thinks they are giving something by calling up their introvert friend and yapping at the introvert so in the extroverts mind they have given their time by chattering on and on – and the introvert feels drained by all the noise. It seems, from my own experiences, that an introvert is a good source of emotional energy for the extrovert – but does not always work the other way around. My extrovert friend would want to spend “time” with me and had a lot of it to “give” yet would spend that time blabbing, complaining, filling it with chatter and would not listen anyways since her teacup was so full.

  7. Anonymous says:

    That comment about how extroverts give more of themselves just knocked me on my behind. Honestly, how could you conclude such a thing? Extroverts are just louder and more engaged with people. Which could or could not lead to gtiving more or themselves. Often NOT.

    • Lisa Dawn says:

      I simply can not have an intelligent conversation with an EXtro. Believe me I have tried. But they seem to have a block of some kind in their heads.

      • marie says:

        I’m an extrovert and I have conversations about politics and children or family stuff …since these are familiar to me….I enjoy learning about different world issues and cultures…I do like listing to others. I usually text friends as I’m pretty busy and not every can talk on the phone. I’ll go for dinner with a friend or couples dinner …I’ll spend time at their place and chill and have coffee or wine….low key….why is it when an I ask for one or too more social things where there will be people we don’t really know involved I always get this same of no for this lame excuse…sounds social. Suck it up and try something new or just do it with a smile because thr extrovert gave weeks of notice and didn’t ask you to do anything for a month …introverts seem selfish as they don’t seem to care how their actions make who they call friends feel.

  8. Anonymous says:

    “extroverts give more of themselves and make better friends.”

    Being willing to spend more time with people does not make one a better friend or mean that one gives more of oneself. If extroverts yabber on about themselves–and many of them do–then how is that giving more?

  9. Anonymous says:

    It’s self-absorption!

    I really like your comments.

  10. Anonymous says:

    As a card carrying introvert the way I would reciprocate with my extrovert friends was, even though I don’t go into big groups, would be the one they would call in the evenings to talk about their issues – so I gave them a lot of my time and energy via phone. And when we were out together in public it would be them talking and me listening to their dramas issues you name it. They did not listen in turn – if I would start to talk they would have to go to the washroom, have to run, have to do laundry, or they would turn the conversation right back to themselves.

    When my mother died they couldn’t take time away from their busy lives to be there and one even asked me to pretend that we never talked on the phone when attending a function with work friends (who I used to work with as well) And when in groups one extrovert lady would ignore me for the other one in the group and this happened so many times. So though they liked to go out and chat a lot my extrovert friends I feel were not reciprocal in these relationships. Being an introvert, it would be interesting to know how the introverts in your life were not reciprocal to you as an extrovert in order to improve my relationships with extroverts.

  11. Anonymous says:

    What do you mean when you say introverts don’t reciprocate?

  12. Anonymous says:

    I have had my feelings hurt so many times by introverts who just don’t reciprocate. I understand needing alone time–I am an extrovert who needs it too–but when it happens over and over, I am out of there. I do not put up with this!

    • LonelyExtrovert says:

      Even though this post is ages old, I found it by googling “introverts reciprocity”.

      As an extravert with mostly introvert friends, I have a lot of practice at being sensitive to their needs: I ask for time in a gentle, open fashion, making it clear that they can say no; I suggest activities that are more quiet, stay-at-home, or in line with their interests; only rarely do I organize a group event, and even then it is usually to a movie or show where no social interaction is required. For the rest of the time, I go out by myself to get my social fix, or with my few other extraverted friends.

      Because I understand that introverts require a lot of down-time, however, I feel like it isn’t right for me to ask to spend time with them as often as I like, although I find them to be good listeners, problem-solvers, and people I would like to know better. I try to keep in touch with them with texts and facebook, so they know I’m thinking about them, without making demands on their emotional resources. Still, a lot of the time, I wish I could spend time with my introverted friends and I wait for them to contact me, but they don’t. Right now, it has been almost two months since I’ve heard from any of my introvert friends.

      So my definition of friendship includes a little reciprocity: I make modifications to my expectations and the ways I would like to interact because I don’t want to make my friends uncomfortable. But so often, I don’t get the same consideration back. How about compromising with some quiet one-on-one time, even if you don’t entirely “feel like dealing with people” just to nurture the relationship? How about compromising by reaching out via email, or text if you can’t take our “yapping”?

      I find your opening quote to be emblematic of the problems I’ve seen with so much introvert-rhetoric: if you basically just keep your extroverts around for when you want them, but don’t nurture the relationship, then how, exactly, is it that you are friends? It sounds more like you are using your extroverts for your own needs and not really considering theirs.

      Believe me, it’s a lonely, empty, and hurtful feeling to know that I am “entertainment” for my introvert friends, and not someone that can be trusted, opened up to, or depended upon. Apparently, I am a minstrel, not a person. I don’t want friends, I just want an audience. That is the farthest thing from MY truth.

      • Irene says:

        Never too late to make a wise and thoughtful comment!
        Thanks. Irene

      • Ema says:

        Dear LonelyExtrovert, I totally agree with you as I have been struggling with the same considerations lately. I have been reading a lot about introversion because I want to understand more my introvert friend in order to respect her more, respect her “time-alone” moments and not to take it personal (which from a non-introvert point of view is something always hard to do). But, as you said from your own experience, I too feel that I am the only one making an effort to build and keep this friendhsip. I am the one who always need to make the first move or most contacts and if I don’t… it will take months to get a single (and usually quick) message saying “where have you been?”
        I find it hard to know if it is the right moment to contact. Its hard to want to call to share something important of my life and then remember that my friend freaks out with unschedule phone calls. Its hard to hold a hug when you want to share your affection. Its hard to wait, and wait, and wait, wand wait. Its hard to know that you are appreciated only in certain moments… But I don’t know why I still wait, and wait, and wait and wait.

    • Lisa Dawn says:

      I’ll tell you one thing. Intro’s make a lot better friends.I mean to say when you REALLY need a friend they are usually there for you. Unless you have turned them off and then they may not bother much with you. In my opinion EXtro’s are selfish.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for your observations and excellent comments – I’ve been dealing with a family of extroverts and the drama around wedding. My sisters want me to spend time in a group however I am extremely uncomfortable in groups and have told them so – and have asked them if we can have some time to get together one on one.
    I went to the wedding and my sisters basically snubbed me for not doing the group thing their way. Yet when I am in groups with them they don’t talk to me or will talk very little and I feel so ashamed and this has happened at many gatherings that I haven’t attended as many in the years; I love my sisters but feel drained after dealing with them at times and they only want to hang out in groups but not so easy have one on one conversations and they are mad at me because they feel, because I don’t hang out in groups, that I am not making enough effort. So I leave the gatherings feeling inadequate that I haven’t done enough and don’t know what kind of effort to put in to show my love for them better.

  14. Anonymous says:

    This statemetn about introverts sucking extroverts dry and never givin back what theyreceive. What exactly is it that these introverts are “receiving”?????

  15. Anonymous says:

    You’re still saying “extroverts don’t mind this stuff.” Don’t you mean to say “In my experience, extroverts don’t mind this stuff?” Otherwise you are implying that it’s a bald fact that all extroverts do this or feel that or think this.

  16. Anonymous says:

    I meant to say “extroverts don’t mind this stuff”

  17. Anonymous says:

    because they are more in sync with other extroverts than introverts.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Yes, I have seen some people not really think bickering on an outing is all that bad. Not enough to retreat and refuse an outing like that again. I have not seen introverts who like the bickering. I guess you have. You keep stating things as if they are facts “introverts don’t mind this sfuff”) and I wonder if that’s a slip of the typing and if you really mean to say that *in your experience* introvers dont’ mind this stuff. I mean, there is no way you or I or anyone can make a blanket statement that “introverts like this or don’t like that” and vice versa. I do agree with you that introverts don’t get extroverts just as extroverts don’t get introverts. I guess that could go without saying, that the two don’t get each other. But if an introvert drags an extrovert to a one-one-one lunch, is the extrovert all that uncomfortable with it? As uncomfortable as an introvert would be while dragged to a surprise party and put in the center of attention? Maybe, maybe not?

  19. Anonymous says:

    I have not seen at all these extroverts in their “communal world” expressing joy and sorrow in sync with what I or others feel. I just see them expressing their emotions and not necessarily listening or paying close attention to others. It’s all surface-y. These are my observations. I assume what you are talking about are your observations. Neither is “right” or “wrong.” But I think of all these extroverts I know and honestly the last thing I’d attribute to them is giving emotionally of themselves. Many of them seem actually quite caught up all in themselves. The persons I’ve seen who have given a party did actually know the person well, and actually were somewhat good friends. They weren’t “bad” friends. But they simply could not accept or believe that someone else would not truly want a party like they would like it.

  20. Anonymous says:

    They really enjoy these things even when stuff goes wrong. I’m borderline introvert/extravert and I personal hate “outings” with more than 3 people because I always feel that if we argue for 20 minutes over, say, what restaurant to go to it’s a bad outing. But introverts don’t mind this stuff and still have a good time. That introverts don’t “get” this I think is no different from extraverts not “getting” introversion.

  21. Anonymous says:

    I just wrote something above or below you about how in my experience being extroverted or introverted hasn’t been an indicator of how good a friend a person is. I’ve had introverted friends who give and who don’t give. Extroverted friends who give and who don’t give. Some people I know who will not or cannot give, share my joy and pain, have nothing to do with how extroverted or introverted they are. In fact, I would say that the extroverts I know who enjoy being with others aren’t always joyfully paying attention to others. They just can’t stand to be alone. Or, they tend to forget the bad times. They build up some outing or party or something in their head as something that will be fantastic, even if the last time the same group of people partied together there was friction and bickering. They tend to have social amnesia, or some kind of cockeyed optimism that “this time” the bickering won’t occur. I would guess that their need to be around other humans–even if they aren’t really “giving” much to those other humans–overrides everything else. I will go out on a limb and say, too, that I’ve observed a big whallop of impatience in extroverts when you don’t jump in the part or group or activity the way they do. They can be rather nasty about that. Pick on you for not joining in. They just don’t get it, they don’t get introversion. And they aren’t nice about it, either. Again, my observations only.

  22. Anonymous says:

    We can all agree on one thing: There is no “right” or “wrong” answer as to who is the better friend, the extrovert or the introvert. There is no data, studies, statistics, hard “proof” of one or the other. You say, for example, that “extroverts are famous for throwing open their doors and having houses guests right and left.” Well, that’s not realy my experience, though I would agree that the extroverts I’ve known are more comfortable having parties than introverts. That doesn’t make them a better friend at all, in my experience. It just means they are comfortable around others, being the center of attention oftentimes. I have observed many such party-hearty extroverts as not being comfortable giving of themselves. I haven’t found them to be good listeners. I’m not saying introbverts are always better friends in that regard. I guess what I’m saying is that I have not seen where being introverted or extroverted has anything at all to do with how nice a person treats you as a friend. It just means some friends are more comfortable in social settings where others are not. That’s all.Again, my observation. Not rock hard science or fact based. Just anecdotal observations.

  23. Anonymous says:

    …that those are all vitally important parts of being a good friend, but are they particular to the introvert? Extroverts are pretty famous for throwing open their doors and having house guests right and left.

  24. Anonymous says:

    Judgemental much?
    I am a card carrying introvert and my personal experience is that I’m the one who has been there for my extrovert friends when life gets difficult. I’ve had the patience to listen for hours on end, the one who they call to take them to the emergency room at 3:00 AM, the one friends stay with when the roof falls in.
    My personal preference is to be friends with caring, kind, non-judgrmental people. Those people exist as both introverts and extroverts.

  25. Anonymous says:

    Just better friends for other extroverts. In general I think it’s easiest for people to befriend people with similar levels or introversion/extraversion. I think though that when introverts and extroverts try to be friends, even if both respect each other fully, there are still going to be issues. And in that ideal case where people are as understanding of one another as they can be, I think the extrovert will suffer a bit more because its not possible for someone more introverted to give of themselves the way a more extraverted person expects.

  26. Anonymous says:

    I take issue with the assumption that extroverts make better friends. As an introvert myself, I find that sometimes the opposite is true. I often find myself lost in the shuffle with some of my extroverted friends with some of them barely giving me any attention as they can always find other people to hang with. I don’t often have to fight with introverted friends for attention.

    • Lisa Dawn says:

      I have a “friend” that is SO loud and I’m sorry but quite dumb. When I say something it seems to go in one ear and the other. ugh. As you can guess I am an introvert and she is an extrovert.

  27. Anonymous says:

    Introvert or extrovert, someone who "gives" you a party you don’t want is just a bad friend who doesn’t know you very well.
    I posted what I mean by "give" on another comment but don’t see it yet. What I mean by "give" is to give emotionally of oneself. I mean to let go and express joy and sorrow in sync with the emotions of another person. This is much more common to extroverts who live in a world of more communal thought and emotion. Holding this back can be very painful to someone who expects it. The more introverted person in a relationship usually doesn’t see what is going on because they "get" everything they need (assuming it is a true friendship).

  28. Anonymous says:

    When I say “give” I mean the presence of a person who genuinely cares about and is interested in both being with and knowing about their friend. Extroverts live in a communal world – they get joy from the joy of others almost as if it were themselves. When I am friends with people a lot more extroverted than myself I cannot live up to that. Conversely, when friends with those more introverted, I find they cannot live up to what I expect. If you don’t feel that someone feels your joy and pain the way you feel theirs, it’s unbalanced. I find it is much better to be friends with people who “give” of themselves at the same level.

  29. Anonymous says:

    I’m curious to know what you’ve received from your extroverted friends, what is it they have given you?

  30. Anonymous says:

    Before you can say extroverts “give” more of themselves to a friend, I have to define “give” and if what an extrovert wants to give is what I want to receive. If I (more introvert than extrovert) want a nice, quiet lunch with my extrovert friend to celebrate my birthday but she refuses and instead “gives” me what she wants to give–which is a big, loud surprise party where I am clearly uncomfortable at center stage, having to wear a big sillly hat and make a speech and dance in front of everyone–well, I’m sorry, but I don’t believe that the extrovert is more of a giver than an introverted friend.

  31. Anonymous says:

    I actually would like to reword this title as:

    Usually only the MORE INTROVERTED benefits from a mixed friendship. The thing people tend to forget is that this is a scale. Even if we just look at introverts or just extroverts there are those that are more or less introverted or extroverted. The problem is that deep introverts want to live in denial. The fact is that the more extroverted a person is the more interested they are in other people BY DEFINITION. And extroverts aren’t idiots, they know introverts don’t want to spend that much time with them and are faking interest most of the time.

    Again, I’m midline, so I’ve experienced both sides of this. But the reason that the introverts annoy me so much more is that they spend so much time whining about it. Why? Because they keep trying to be friend with extroverts. Really, just give it up. The problem, though, is that introverts mostly do need people to care about them, just like extroverts. But they don’t give back as much in return, sucking a relationship dry.

    Have I had to give up friendships with more extroverted people. Definitely. It took me a long time to see what was going on. It’s just cruel to be in a relationship (of any kind) with someone who gives so much more than you ever can.

    My experience leads me to believe this is very hard for deep introverts to grasp. They continuously say things like “Introverts are centered on the self, not self-centered.” Do you even realize how absurd this sounds? They are the same exact thing, and every extrovert knows it. But in order to feel better about themselves introverts just pretend that people are talking about active selfishness (something akin to stealing) and march on speaking their own feel-good language.

    Introverts had thousands of these posts and blogs online going on and on about friendships with extroverts. If you look hard you find a smattering of the opposite. Why? Because no one really wants to be friends with someone more introverted. Even if you’re introverted you don’t want that.

  32. Anonymous says:

    "And now we’re told that not being in the mood for people all the time makes us bad friends. "
    Only bad friends to extroverts. If other introverts expect equally little from friends they may do just fine. But when an extrovert has multiple friends, some of whom are always or usually ready to give, and others of whom seem only interested in them when the mood strikes, but an extroverts definition one set is definitely "better". I see many introverts who say they like other introverts yet constantly pick extroverts for friends and dating, sucking them emotionally dry as they can never give back as much as they receive.
    I’m midline myself, exactly between introverted and extroverted. I can see both sides, but as far as friendships go, extroverts give more of themselves and make better friends. That’s the harsh reality, and just saying otherwise doesn’t make it so.

  33. Anonymous says:

    Well said – everyone has their own idea of what fun is – with some fun is going out into a crowd and dancing, or going to a concert with a bunch of friends ; with others fun is a home made dinner, bottle of wine, hanging out with the cat and conversation.

  34. Anonymous says:

    THANKYOU for stating so elequently exactly how I feel. I have been able to explain to my friends what’s happening and for the most part they get me. Glad to know others feel what I feel.

  35. Anonymous says:

    Wait, so introverts don’t enjoy life? I disagree. It’s just that our idea of fun is different. This is something many can’t understand. Just because you find certain things fun or enjoyable it doesn’t mean everyone else does, too.

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