AI: Introvert or Extrovert?

I’m an extrovert.  I know this will surprise those of you who have met me in person. (Also, head’s up: grass is green, humans need air to breathe, and Stephen Hawking is one smart mofo.)

This is all well and good, but the.real.boy is an introvert.  Most of the time, we live harmoniously … he doesn’t play well with others, but this is not required for me to have fun.  We’re pretty used to me jumping in with both feet, while he, well, he stays home.

But, around the holidays there are so many invitations, so many things to do!  It always gets a touch sketchy while we try and navigate through the sea of social engagements in December.

Any advice for an extrovert who loves an introvert?  And you?  What are you?  How does that affect you?

The Afternoon Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Skepchick community. Look for it to appear daily at 3pm ET.I


A B Kovacs is the Director of Døøm at Empty Set Entertainment, a publishing company she co-founded with critical thinker and fiction author Scott Sigler. She considers herself a “Creative Adjacent” — helping creative people be more productive and prolific by managing the logistics of Making for the masses. She's a science nerd, a rabid movie geek, and an unrepentantly voracious reader. She doesn't like chocolate all that much.

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  1. You should ask that question to my husband. I’m very much an introvert and he can talk to anyone for hours. I honestly don’t know how he puts up with me at parties. I normally stand quietly or talk to a few people while he is out loudly telling jokes and chatting with everyone in the room. At home he always wants to be in the same room as me. It seriously drives me crazy. I need my alone time to recharge. If I don’t have it I get very crabby.

    The best advice I could give you is love him for who he is. If he doesn’t want to go to every single party, chose parties that are important for him to be at and that he will know people at. Let him skip the ones that are all your friends or all your co-workers. You’ll both be a lot happier.

  2. As a (male) introvert with a (female) partner who is an extrovert, I understand. It is hard always saying no to invites, especially when your partner is so excited to go, but they are so draining for us. Some advice on a system (that has worked for us for 21 years) on how to get him to go:

    1. Give him an end in sight, and stick to it. Plan to leave at a given time and DO IT. I recommend no more than 5 hours.

    2. Don’t ask him to do more than one social event every other day, That means no party for both Friday and Saturday nights. Far too hard for us.

    3. Make certain that he has AT LEAST 2 people he will be able to talk with, that he already knows, at said events.

    4. Don’t get upset with him if he wanders off and watches football or something for a while. He needs to do that to be able to recharge his social battery and go back and talk to people later.

    If you follow this advice, he still won’t love going, but he should be able to tolerate it, and he will love you for learning how to accommodate him.

  3. People think I’m an introvert when they first meet me, but they quickly change their minds as the conversation heats up. I like hearing what people have to say more than I like talking about myself. That comes off as shy sometimes.

    On the other hand, I like to write, so on the internet I’m usually a bit “wordy”. :)

  4. I’m an extrovert and tend to date introverts. It can be tough. My solution won’t apply. I stopped dating introverts and married another extrovert.

    Obviously that doesn’t solve the issue.

    That being said, try to communicate and compromise. It’s really the only way.

  5. I am an extrovert who also loves to stay home. So if I didn’t already know your adorable other half I would suggest trying to get him out more and maybe he will find he enjoys the limelight. The thing is, I get the feeling he is just not interested in all the same things/events as you but he loves YOU and that’s all that really matters. You guys are awesome at doing your own thing and then still being an awesome couple and that kicks ass. You don’t have to always go to the same parties and places to be great together. Although I do secretely wish you could drag him our more, he is quite charming!

  6. I am an introvert, I can become extroverted around people I feel comfortable with, but in most situations I am very introverted. I hate having to talk to people I don’t know very well, to me it is a fate worse than death. I don’t do small talk. I have no idea what I am supposed to say.
    I am guessing the real boy feels the same way.
    Compromise is a good idea. Let him chose the social events he will feel most comfortable attending and then go solo to the ones he does not. No use making someone miserable by forcing them to be something they are not.

  7. I think the worst way for extroverts to deal with introverts is to push them to change, or to expect that they’d have the same definition of “fun” as you do if only they’d let themselves go more. Some people just don’t enjoy extroverted pursuits like big parties, going out drinking, karaoke, etc.

    There’s nothing wrong with a bit of compromise. An introvert CAN find fun in going out every now and again, but to expect much more out of them is probably unfair. Compromises can come in the form of, say, doing things in small groups or doing things (like going to movies, plays, etc) that get them out of the house but can still be somewhat solitary pursuits.

    As an introvert, myself, I’ve been feeling lately that my distaste for outgoing activities has caused strain between me and my more extroverted friends. Can’t imagine how hard it must be in a relationship…

    It can be a tough balance to strike, but what’s never right is to make either side feel like they are less valuable as friends/lovers/whatever for living the way they feel most comfortable. Or, even worse, making them feel like they have to be someone they aren’t.

  8. What my ex and I wound up having to do was plan things. I tend to hate going out, and get bored at parties… I can only talk so long (I do better on line, where I can tweak my arguments and quips before posting them), and I’m self-centered enough that I have trouble maintaining interest in others banalities.

    So, we planned things. If she spontaneously had people over, I was free to grump in the study. If it was planned, I had to go along.

  9. I am a mild extrovert and husband is a total introvert. HATES parties. We’ve been married for 10 years. Here’s how we do it. I, for one, do not expect him to go to every party or dinner invite I want to attend (which isn’t all that many). There are 2 certain parties that I do want him to attend for the entire year.

    For many years, he would bitch and moan when these events came up. I would get very upset. Every year. Because, while I didn’t need him at every party, these 2 were important for me. Ultimately, we had the only blow out fight of our marriage during which he conceded that he doesn’t hate the parties once he attends but he always hates thinking about going and all of that crap. I asked if, please, just for these two events a year, if he would compromise with me and go. He finally agreed that he hated fighting about this every year, he didn’t particularly enjoy feeling bad about his behavior after he went to the parties and enjoyed himself. He promised he wouldn’t do it again.

    This year was the first year that no fuss was made. He wrote them into his calendar, didn’t do the pre-moaning ritual, went, had a lovely time and fun was had by all.

    That all being said — I think a compromise needs to be struck. I don’t expect him to join me at dinners, parties, events for most of the year and he doesn’t complain about the two parties a year I really want him to attend. Done and done.

  10. I’m an introvert, but I can be extroverted at times.

    Sorry, I’ll put down my horoscope.

    Around people I know, I’m an extrovert, around strangers, I’m an introvert. If I have an anchor, (someone I know there), I can be be quite extroverted, but I kinda stay close to my friend. (that’s why I call them an anchor)

  11. Why are we catering to the needs of one kind of partner over another? Introverted adults, as far as I’m concerned can get our asses up and present a good face when we need to. I am quite capable of watching out for my energy level (not in the woo way) in public and disappearing into a corner, or next to my partner or in the kitchen, where the really good stuff usually happens.

    I hate to see passive aggressive win. Grow up!

  12. the key is knowing when to leave the introvert alone and when to grab them by the collar and pull them out into the world kicking and screaming. i am a mad, MAD introvert (IRL) and all the people i have successful relationships with (platonic, family, or otherwise) have learned to walk this fine line with me. i think communication is key. let him know it’s ok for him to tell you that you are pushing too hard, but always keep pushing, because he will never tell you that you aren’t pushing hard enough lol!

  13. I’m an extrovert (I guess) but i can be shy, and I have HORRIBLE social anxiety. I will often spend hours agonizing over what an idiot I sounded like. I am currently going through my nightmare at a new job where everyone is really cliquey and I can’t remember anyone’s name. So not only do I hardly talk to anyone, when I do talk, I say stupid shit, and make people think I am weird. (which I am.)

    This means that I am functionally an introvert. The emotional cost to trying to make new friends and find people to hang out is so high, that I pretty much just want to stay home and play with my dog.

  14. A, just know that once carr2d2 and I arrive….we will help you out with the.real.boy, and we can all smile lovingly at him from across the room once he starts the ‘back up slightly while nodding in a conversation with someone when he really doesn’t find the conversation all that interesting’. :)

    Being an introvert myself (at least around people i don’t know very well), it can be frustrating for my closest friends when i get super-quiet in a large group. but slowly, thanks to the skepchicks i am breaking out of that shell. :)

  15. @infinitemonkey: Wow, you and I must be reading the same horoscope. ;-)

    Definitely more introverted around strangers – particularly those of the female persuasion – than friends, tho with age that has diminished somewhat.

    I like what @hotphysicsboy: said. Whenever I’ve been with a partner who is more extroverted, if she pushes me a little I often enjoy going to parties and meeting new people, but there has to be a balance.

    @JamieF: There is a difference between passive-aggressive behavior and introversion. I definitely do not see the former in the description given in the OP. What makes you think this is what’s going on?

  16. I am an introvert (yes, really) and my wife just pays close attention to my likes and dislikes. I too looked for areas of common interest, but I confess over the years she’s done more work than me. I agree that pushing introverts does not work. Modifying variables does. If 30 people at a party is too many, try to find one with fewer. He doesn’t like loud rock concerts, how about quiet jazz? Over the years we’ve developed quite the repertoire of things we enjoy doing together.

    Living with an introvert can have advantages. She has a built-in excuse to get out of many obnoxious social events. “I’m sorry, but no force on earth will get my husband to a wedding.” If she really wants to go she just goes solo.

  17. I’m an introvert. The list by dafair was really good but the one thing no one mentioned that I saw was don’t spring it. Oh honey lets go out to XYZ party tonight is not ok. I can work myself up for a party and if I know how long it is going to be and have an exit strategy I am good, I can be pleasant and cheerful, I may even have a good time. But when I get home I’m going to be exhausted. For a while. Don’t push. And just because you had a good time doesn’t mean your partner will. Unless your partner is demanding you stay home all the time and never go out and say you are having a fabulous time doing so why would you expect the same from them.

    I’m currently trying to work myself up to a New Year’s party. Family wears me out but I know what to expect it’s at least the same crazy over and over. But this year I’m alone for New Year’s and planning to go to a friend’s party. I’m terrified. I will only know 2 or 3 people 1 of which will be the host and the others I don’t know well. This is about the most painful situation I can think of. Why am I going to do this again? Dammit I think I just talked myself out of it again.

  18. @JamieF:

    Why are we catering to the needs of one kind of partner over another?

    Yes, because that’s what a.real.girl and all other commenters have said … oh, wait, except not.

    Notice the word “compromise” anywhere? Yeah, that word is important and has appeared more than once in this thread.

    The needs of an extrovert are not more important than the needs of an introvert, and vice versa. And not just needs — desires, wants, expectations. Everyone has them. Compromise is how most relationships work, and an introvert-extrovert relationship is no different.

    No one is being passive-aggressive, but you sure are being aggressive for no reason.

  19. I am an extrovert with introvert tendencies. Anyone on my facebook can probably tell that I’m a social butterfly.

    That said, I also need a lot of alone time, which is why I prefer to live alone. That way I can go out when the mood strikes, or stay home when I want to. I tend to do both pretty evenly.

    I did date a VERY introverted person once, and it did NOT work. He couldn’t even go to a restaurant with me or to a small gathering at a friend’s house. I don’t need a whole lot of attention, and I am REALLY independent, but he would act like I was being clingy when all I wanted was to go to freakin’ Outback Steakhouse for my birthday. Then he’d go and mope the whole time. Clearly he had other issues than just being an introvert, but man, the difference was just too great.

  20. @infinitemonkey: “Around people I know, I’m an extrovert, around strangers, I’m an introvert. If I have an anchor, (someone I know there), I can be be quite extroverted, but I kinda stay close to my friend. (that’s why I call them an anchor)”

    Yes, exactly.

  21. Pool boy is very respectful of my social needs. He usually happily pats me on the head and says “see you when you get back!”. I’ve attended TAMs by myself and am going on my third TA cruise without him (he was in the Navy and said he only goes on a boat if he get paid to go). He gets to travel a lot for business, and he also has to do a lot of social stuff for work. So when he’s not working, he wants to be home and alone. It works well for us, as sometimes we go places together and are in agreement about the kind of travel and what we like to do when it’s just us. I like to visit my skeptic friends and give them my full attention. He likes the time alone to putter around the house.

  22. I’m extroverted when I arrive but a bit introverted when deciding to go. My wife is more social than I am but I recall being equally social when we got married.

  23. I’m an introverted extrovert. I can come across as a loud mouth broad sometimes, but most of the time I’d rather be alone. People wear me out really fast and I can only take being in a crowd for a very short period of time. I’ve never enjoyed parties and don’t like to be in a group of more than 4 or 5 people.

    I believe a lot of that comes from living in very close quarters with a large family while growing up. Also, getting burned really badly many times by people I looked up to has left me with very little trust of others.

  24. @bgclo: Glad you linked to that article in The Atlantic. I was either going to figure out how to do that or paste the whole thing. I have that on my computer and send that out to people every once in a while. Perfect description.

  25. It appears from the comments that a significant number of us don’t really understand the definition of “introvert.”
    From the Atlantic article:
    “… introverts are people who find other people tiring. Extroverts are energized by people, and wilt or fade when alone. They often seem bored by themselves, in both senses of the expression.”
    Introvert is not a synonym for shy or quiet or unsocial. It is not situational ; it is a facet of one’s personality. (Though it appears that a given person may fall at any point on the spectrum.)
    As an introvert, I think of social functions as being like a really great bender. I have fun at the time, but I have a helluva hangover the morning after.

  26. I am an introvert, married to an extrovert.

    It can be difficult sometimes, but I feel like we mesh pretty well together–her strengths are my weaknesses and vice-versa. Communication is key. My wife is always complaining that I don’t talk to her enough. It’s something I have to constantly work at.

    I would recommend that you pick up a copy of the book “The Introvert Advantage”. It helped me a great deal in understanding myself and how to deal with both extroverts and introverts. You and your partner will both benefit from it.

  27. I used to be strictly introverted, but now my job has forced me to learn about small talk and how to energize from other people. At least, from certain kinds of people. Cashiering sucks, but it’s helped drain some excess social nervousness.

    On the other hand, I don’t like small talk with people I know as much as I used to, because I spend enough time getting paid to do it. And common phrases lose their luster when you say them 50+ times a day.

    I still can’t take parties without large quantities of alcohol, though. I just don’t like large groups of people, no matter what I do.

  28. @infinitemonkey: Another person who is very much the same way. I also need some time to sit back and observe new people for a bit to figure out what is appropriate and what is not.

    I tend to fare best if my “anchor” says something outlandish that I can respond to (but without directly referencing me). As such, a good anchor is either extroverted, or extroverted around some of these new people.

  29. I’m very introverted. Much to a point where I don’t have many friends. At least, outside of cyberspace. In fact, there’s only two that I’ve kept in touch with.
    Biggest effect that this also has had on me is that my love life is nonexistent. I think it’s also partially due to how my mother has treated me over the years.

  30. Wow. Bless you for asking. :-)

    Along with others, I’m posting along with the follow-up .

    Read. Understand. Believe.

    IMHO the two most important points:

    “you are probably driving this person nuts. “ — More exactly, it’s not “you” specifically, but “people (unfortunately often including you) are definitely driving this person nuts.” Being an introvert is extremely stressful, all the time.

    “As often as I have tried to explain the matter to extroverts, I have never sensed that any of them really understood. “ — In my own experience, no matter how much I implore non-introverts to understand, they simply dismiss, ignore, or forget everything I’ve said within an hour or so. There apparently is really some important cognitive divide operating here.

    Also remember: these 2 articles are like the four-page “Guide to caring for your Lithuanian Water Spaniel”. Just because it says “they love water and hate thunderstorms” doesn’t mean that you didn’t get one that’s the other way around. So check with yours.

    Again, thanks much for trying!

  31. I’m really shy, but I like going to parties. I used to hate parties because it seemed like I was somehow the only person there who didn’t know what to talk about. Especially with people you really WANT to talk to (i.e. girls you’re interested in).
    I still haven’t figured that out, BTW.

    Although the “anchor” thing seems to work. At least now I have figured out how to hit on girls my friends also know. Friends of a friend. (And I take “hitting on girls” in the broadest sense of the word possible, as it’s pretty much limited to casual flirting, rather than obnoxiously trying to get into someone’s pants or something).

    So nowadays, I can actually enjoy parties, I like dancing, but I still can’t bring up the courage to talk to anyone I am not already connected to either directly or indirectly through a friend. But I don’t dread going out, unless there’s nobody there that I know, which makes me slink away into a corner, or latch onto the one person I DO know and ruin their evening as well.

    I suppose this is why an event like TAM is the highlight of my year: I know so many people I get to feel like an extrovert for a week. Even though I’m really not.

  32. I’m definately in the introvert catagory until that third shot of Quervo 1800. Then the pants come down, the lampshade goes on and I start looking for some likely lass to spank me with a ping pong paddle. At this point I usually end up in a heap on the lawn, on the wrong side of a locked door. As you can imagine, now that I am older and wiser, I’ve learned to turn down that 3rd helping of my favorite beverage.

    I read somewhere that extroverts are energized by interaction with other people and introverts are energized (recharged) by quiet alone time. All the posts here seem to reinforce that notion and my own experience does too. I find alone time, and lots of it, an absolute necessity for maintaining my sanity. In fact, I am expected to go to my sister’s place for Xmas this year and even though I know I will enjoy it, part of me is dreading it too. I usually force myself to go to events like this and then afterward realize it wasn’t so bad. The real mystery to me is why I go through that every…single…time…

  33. After having read that Atlantic article, I’m actually wondering if introvert is really what I am.

    I don’t dislike company. Even for long stretches of time. It’s just that sometimes my own private thoughts become more interesting than the content-free (or repeated the same thing slightly different for the umpteenth time) small talk of some people. I can endure company without problem, and in fact sometimes even feel a bit lonely after I get home from a particularly good party.

    It’s just that I’m shy and morbidly afraid of (socially) slipping up. Which leads to me observing rather than partaking in the socialising.

    It might just be an unfortunate combination of extroversion and shy-ness? I don’t know …

  34. I’m very introverted, luckily, so is my partner. We’re both pretty strong introverts, and I don’t think either of us would cope with someone who needed contact all the time.

    I function particularly poorly in social settings and large groups, as I find it really difficult to track a conversation when there are allot of people talking, and a high level of background noise. Small talk is like torture to me, if I can find someone who wants to have a conversation of substance, then I’m delighted, but unfortunately that’s not the norm in most social settings. TAM London was a whole new world of fun, because everyone there had something interesting to say, and for once, I wasn’t the most shy person in the room!

  35. From reading all the responses here, it’s got me wondering how useful the intro/ extro concept is. In various contexts, I am both energized and drained by interacting with others. I also find exercise tiring but energizing. Generally I think it’s a good idea to get at least some exercise, even though my *natural tendencies* may be to hang around the house in my underwear, reading comics, watching movies and playing guitar. I feel the same about interacting with others. Does that make me an introvert or extrovert?

  36. The Atlantic article linked above cites both Carl Jung and the Myers-Briggs test, neither of which pass skeptic muster as any better than woo.

  37. @Kerry Maxwell: Whoa, whoa! The Myers-Briggs test is a highly reliable and valid test for what it is intended to measure – personality type – and is helpful in a therapeutic or psychiatric setting. The problem comes when it’s *interpretation* is used as an excuse to label people and use that label to stereotype and pigeonhole, particularly in organizational settings and Cosmo. ;-)

    I’ll agree, tho, that Jung’s later theories are full of woo, but Myers and Briggs are two of the most respected names in psychology.

  38. I dated another introvert and we never left his basement it seemed, and I was much more extroverted in comparison to him.

    I’m a fairly healthy middle ground but definitely more aligned with introverts as I feel a lot of stress before heading out to a social event. I’m getting a bit worse right now, which is strange because I should realistically becoming more introverted as an actor slowly gaining success in my city.

    I’ve dated an extreme extrovert and it’s like he had less competition for the attention whenever we’d go out. As an actor, I like my own fair share of attention and don’t like to have my stories and quips ignored especially when it takes quite a bit to get them out of me in the first place.

    Strangest thing is that I’m an introvert doing stand-up comedy. It’s the most terrifying experience ever.

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