Introverts value privacy, love solitude, and resent intrusions. Extroverts see the world very differently, and may not understand this. They want to drag us out of our shell, or they tell us you need get out more, let your walls down, and get a life. These are frequent refrains directed at introverts from family and friends who just don’t get us. Friendships, intimate relationships, and family and work relationships can all be strained when extraverts pull and push us and introverts dig in their heels. It can create frustration for all parties involved. It can damage your career, or end a friendship. Here are some ways to assert yourself and establish boundaries to keep your relationships healthy.

1. Be direct and honest.

Communicate- be transparent, as the latest trendy word is used. A quick side note- introverts dislike trends- that does not mean all trends should be dismissed, but rather critically evaluated for worth, and either discarded, modified, or utilized. Be direct and honest about who you are, which you should be doing all the time anyway, and state your preferences. The best rule in a relationship of any kind is to communicate. The only time to stop communicating is when you want the relationship to end. Don’t let people guess at where you are coming from- spell it out. Introverts can lose friends by constantly turning down social invitations. Extras may take this personally, and think you don’t want their company, they may feel slighted, insulted, or offended.

In the workplace, the dynamic can be very different. You will get invitations to happy hour, banquets, the dreaded retreat s and staff picnics, and other activities which you be expected to attend by varying degrees of intensity. This can be hard for an introvert, but sometimes you have to do things you don’t want to. This is an inescapable fact of adulthood, and especially being a career oriented professional. I have a friend who had a great answer t when I asked him if he attends work related functions, as he is in middle management . He said “I go to all of them, but I leave the car running”. I love this. This is a good middle ground for an introvert. Show up, put in the proverbial appearance, shake a few hands, pass out some business cards, help yourself to the free food, and excuse yourself as you have other business to attend to, mainly a single malt scotch a good book to recover after dealing with so many people.


2. Bend a little, step outside your comfort zone sometimes, and be flexible and open to new experiences.

The above suggestion is an example of testing your comfort zone. In most workplaces, a certain amount of this is required, or you may be labels and sanctioned: he is not a team player. These days, not being a team player is akin to showing up at work in a clown suit. It can tank your career; you get passed over for promotions, and get a rep as that creepy guy/weird chick. In your relationships, you have a little more room to maneuver, but here is an opportunity for personal growth, which introverts New experiences are enriching, expanding, and can be fulfilling. There is a difference between a preference for solitude and quiet, and a fear of new experiences, or lack of confidence. Is there something you would love to try, but are hesitant and tentative about. Never been to a dance club? A concert? A mosh pit? A wedding? Try it. Few people are extreme introverts, just as few are extreme extraverts. Most people are somewhere along a scale of introversion/Extraversion on the continuum of personality types. You may find that sometimes, you like some noise and crowds. Now is your chance to try it, with an extravert as your sponsor, so to speak. Whether a friend or romantic partner, arrange a trade. If you are going to dance club with an Extra this week, next week they try a subdued, mellow jazz club together.

3. Know when to cut your losses and move on.

Some people are just not going to get it, or more specifically, they will not get you. You will be incompatible with some people you meet. Friendships, companions, and romantic partners are not supposed to be a constant exercise in frustration. When the relationship is more work than fun in my opinion it is time to move on. This can include a job. IF you are getting grief about not spending enough time at the company picnic, or not participating enthusiastically enough at the latest team building seminar, you may want to start looking for a workplace with more substance.

Introverts and extraverts can have détente– peaceful coexistence. Part of that is learning to respect each other’s differences. This is not just playing lip service, but more about stepping into the others shoes.


Written by David A. Porter, MA, LADC
Private Practice, Otter Creek Associates
Adjunct Faculty in Psychology and Criminology, Community College of Vermont & Burlington College
Freelance Behavioral Science writer