Extroverts are people people. They are at their most energised when they have others around them. A cosy night in for them would probably involve about half a dozen friends or family as well as yourself. They love people. Some will love them with compassion and a genuine interest, others because they offer the opportunity to have an audience.
Extroverts can be warm, funny, energetic, the life and soul of any party. They can also be very demanding, liking centre stage, and prepared to do almost anything to keep the spotlight on them. For many this is no problem because they can be charming and good company. They find it easy to establish contact with new people, the kind who walk straight into a party and start chatting to whoever is in the kitchen. By the end of the evening they’ve probably met at least three ‘really nice people’ who have been invited to dinner, but have been too busy to say more than three sentences to their partner.
Extroverts need stimulation or they become bored quite quickly. Repetitive tasks will be a turn off unless they are fun or have some kind of payoff – like attention. Their concentration span, particularly in solitary pursuits, tends to be shorter than introverts.
They are happy to share their thoughts, even if they have not been thought through fully. Bouncing around an idea is part of their thought process so sometimes they shoot from the hip – “Honey, how about us moving to Orkney?” doesn’t mean their mind is made up, only that it is an option, so often it is easier to change their minds than an introvert, who will have polished the idea to (their version) of shining perfection before they let you know it.
Extroverts tend to have a wide circle of friends, and will put a lot of energy into those friendships which are ‘current’.
Introverts love some people. Some introverts will love only a very few people, and then only in measured doses which they need to control – so the in-laws dropping in unannounced will be stressful, even if they aren’t interrupting anything.
Generally introverts don’t like attention from a crowd unless they are very familiar with everyone. They can be content in a bar with a group, but will mainly be the ones quietly listening, the ones who usually don’t say very much but when they do often deliver the killer line. Just because their participation is low does not mean they are not having a good time, or even that they are shy.
Shyness is usually the result of a fear connected to social intercourse which originated from a negative emotional event when they were young. Shyness can be found in extroverts as often as introverts, it is just that the behaviour of an introvert is often similar to someone who is shy. A shy extrovert can be the one who is silently longing to get up and sing ‘My Way’ on the karaoke but doesn’t dare, until they are very drunk or have been dragged on stage. A real introvert may not want to sing no matter how many drinks they’ve had and nothing will drag them up.
Introverts are mainly focused on their own internal world and can be quite oblivious to what is going on around them. “How can you sit down and read a book when the kids are making so much noise?” is a question an exasperated E might ask their partner. It is because they often have an astounding knack for shutting the world out, and be happy in this self imposed isolation. It is perfectly possible for an introvert to be more lonely in a crowded room, than on their own. It can be a real drain to have to pay attention to other people for any length of time, but they can concentrate on ‘things’ that interest them for ages. They tend to pursue solitary hobbies and pastimes rather than seek to be involved in groups or team games.
Because of their circumspection Introverts can be slow to develop relationships. When they do the relationship will be a strong one that often endures for the rest of their lives. They will have a small circle of close and trusted friends that they would do anything for, even if they don’t see them from one year to the next.
Introverts like to keep their ideas to themselves until they have thought them through. They can be very uncomfortable being made to speak about something they are not sure about. ‘Knocking an idea about’ is not there way of figuring something out, in fact it will distract and even confuse them.
In relationships they may not be forthcoming with their feelings, particularly verbally. Often they communicate better in letters and cards, or in gestures. I have heard on many occasions partners saying something like “He writes the loveliest things when he sends me cards, but he can’t mean them because he never says them to my face.” Oh yes he does, but on the wrong side of his face (the in-side.)
Misunderstandings between Extroverts and Introverts
Extroverts often describe introverts as boring ‘stick in the mud’s’, while they are themselves described as superficial and loud. These perceptions can have a big effect in any kind of relationship;
Here is how it often works; extroverts get lonely when they are not with people, and often need a variety of people to maintain their interest. Introverts can get lonely when they are surrounded by people- especially if they don’t know them.
It is wrong to think of introverts as being antisocial. They can be as gregarious in their way as an extrovert. It is just that their way will be different. Socialising for them will usually involve people known to them, with conversation occurring in small groups, often with the opportunity available for them to be observers rather than participants.
Extroverts in a relationship with an introvert need to realise the importance of privacy. For them keeping open house might hold the possibility of stimulating friends dropping by, for their partner it might feel like an invasion – even if they are stimulating friends.
So while the extrovert is sociable the introvert is territorial. Introverts need space; private places both in their environment and in their mind which they will defend strongly.
Introverts in a relationship with an extrovert need to realise the importance of stimulation. Their partner’s focus is on the world outside of them, and as you have read already, sameness becomes invisible. An unchanging environment to an extrovert quickly becomes boring because of its lack of stimulation. It does not mean they are bored of you, only that there is not enough going on. Some variation is needed, even some spontaneity in the social calendar.
Extroverts are much more of an open book who believe a trouble shared is a trouble halved. Introverts probably think that a trouble shared is just causing another problem. You can probably see how silence on the part of the introvert can be misinterpreted by the extrovert partner:
As with all opposites, there is the potential for each partner to balance the other and for the relationship to be mutually fulfilling. It depends on each person respecting the other and not burdening each other with labels about behaviour which only really describe your values about that behaviour, not any intrinsic goodness or badness it may have.
While extroverts will often be happy to talk about themselves – in fact try stopping them – including their problems. To extroverts an introvert will appear private, even secretive. They will not usually talk about their problems until they have had the chance to ‘work things out in their heads’. This will be the time when they appear the most withdrawn. You will often find these two types in relationships, and they often complement each other: One brings the other ‘out of their shell’ – but remember they won’t always want to come out and play – while the introvert can ‘settle them down’. But don’t restrict them too much or they will get bored. 75% of the population is extrovert, while 25% is introvert. It explains a lot about our culture, and everything about gameshows.