Throw away any notions you may have about introverts hating people or being stuck up or judgmental- introverts can be some of the greatest friends you ever have. However, their relationships are different from those you may have with others; they are deep, they are meaningful…as Amy Poehler would say, they’re “crunchy.” What should you be keeping in mind as you develop and nurture these crunch friendships?

Listen.

Introverts are internal processors. A great deal of their thinking takes place in their minds alone, and when they share a thought or idea, it means something to them. And when they are building friendships, the things they share are the important ones. Honor these revelations as important to them- they will likely respond in kind.

Enjoy the silence.


To the last point, there are times when talking may not be the best way to communicate, or an introvert may not feel like talking. Just as you’d seek to honor what an introvert does say, seek to be equally understanding when they don’t want to say anything. I find that even introverts, who are accustomed to this inclination in themselves, struggle with a wish to fill silences when with other introverts. But have faith in the importance of what will come when the silence ends, and sit tight in the meantime.

Look inward.


Introverts are largely indifferent to small talk, preferring instead to have meaningful conversations that may challenge what you were prepared to converse about. When asked your opinion about something, strive for honesty and candor in your responses. This may sometimes seem as though there isn’t a possibility for lighthearted talk with introverts; I don’t think that’s true. Rather, they want to have conversations that leave them closer to the people they choose to share their energy with; they want there to be a return on what is, in a very real sense, an investment.

Support their interests.


Because introverts have a propensity to “dive deep” into things that they’re interested in, their decision to share those interests with friends is a significant investment. By supporting their interests by asking questions or coming to milestone events, you’ll be able to energize them in moments of need while also strengthening their confidence by showing them others care about their happiness and well-being.

Don’t pigeonhole or assume.

Both introverts and extroverts alike have their own notions of what introversion looks like. But there are as many people in the world, as there are expressions of temperament. Calm your urge to assume, “he won’t want to do this, he’s an introvert” or “we should just stay in, she can’t handle this.” Remember: no ability, act, or activity is outside the bounds of either temperament; it’s a matter of what each temperament finds easy to do. And while the idea in question may not be easy, give your friend the opportunity to decide how their energy is spent.

Honor their energy, and help them honor their energy.

As i mentioned, it’s unfair to assume that an introvert won’t want to do something, based on your assumption of how they’ll respond. However, most introverts know their limits. When they tell you they’re wiped out, or can’t attend, or even simply say no- respect the decision. I often teach introverts that I work with, “No is a complete sentence.” When you do get a no, respect their understanding of their own energy and capacity.

A follow-up to this: there are times when introverts feel compelled to push themselves beyond their comfort zone. A desire to be polite, or an understanding of societal and environmental expectations, may drive them to push past their energy capacity and into the “red zone.” Many situations in life will call for this. If you see that a friend is flagging in the energy department, and needs to be removed, step in and encourage them to take a moment for themselves. The extra push from a friend will not only prompt them to take the time they need, but will acknowledge the validity of their feelings- an important need for an introvert.

Be you.

All of these guidelines can make it seem difficult to be friends with an introvert. But I think most will find that introversion, as with most traits, is only one part of a multifaceted personality. Be attentive to your friend’s needs, but don’t let it come at the expense of being who you are or allowing your friends to be who they are. Friendship is based in caring about one another, building a foundation of trust, and enjoying life. All of this can happen regardless of the makeup of your temperaments, if you’re committed to listening, communicating, and respect. Respect for personality is one piece of the puzzle, but an incredibly important one for building and sustaining a relationship that spans the years.

Written by Amma Marfo.