Extraverts + introverts attract
October 24, 2011 2:14 PM   Subscribe

What do extroverts find specifically attractive in introverts, for either romantic relationships and/ or friendships? Anecdotes from extraverts especially welcomed.

Disclaimer: Yes, I know that there is more to a person than the personality trait of extraversion/ introversion. But for the sake of this question, if you're an extravert, what do you specifically like about your introverted partner/ friend that won't be found in someone who's extraverted?

Background: I'm a very introverted person, in the Myers-Briggs definition. The world I live in is almost 90% internal. To give you specific examples of what I mean: I have been described as dreamy and spaced-out and not bothered about external stimuli at all. I would be the proverbial person with nose in her book. I have been hit by a car once and nearly hit countless of times because I never pay any attention to where I am walking or the traffic around me. I have been lost in over 4 continents because I was lost in my thoughts and missed stops/ took the wrong train or bus. It takes me a very long time to do anything (like getting out of bed or doing housework) because I spend a lot of time thinking about life, unless I have a specific goal to accomplish. At almost every spare moment I have, I will be thinking about my feelings and how I feel about things and how things are impacting me. I examine every single strand of my feelings through and through, holding each up to the sunlight and looking at them from every angle.

Please don't get me wrong, my personality is not something I am looking to change. I have been (strangely) ultra-successful in my academic work and career thus far, and I have gotten to where I need to be.

Also, introversion is not a synonym for dislike of people. I love people and I love talking to people, making friends and building significant relationships with others, platonic or romantic. I host many potluck gatherings, and I love a good party and I can spend hours dancing at a club.

The thing is, I'm not very good at being extraverted. It's a foreign language for me. I may be pretty skilled for an introvert, but at the end of the day, I live in my own world and it gets pretty tiring being in the outside world.

I love my extraverted boyfriend and best friends, as they make my life a lot easier in that one respect. Please note that I'm not saying that I love them because they are extraverted, I am saying that in this one small aspect, they have made my life a lot better by compensating for one of my "weaknesses". My boyfriend has made a lot of social interaction at parties much more fun, as he just ... talks a lot and to everyone, where I will be more guarded and less likely to share my life with a stranger. My friends have been known to drag a very reluctant me to parties... and three hours later, I would be having a lot of fun that I didn't think I would have. I also love my introverted friends, but in other ways.

Anyway, I know how I feel about extraverted people. But what do extraverted people feel about introverts? How have they made your life better and in what way, with regards specifically to their introversion? Yes, I know that they are overall great people but what is it specifically about their introversion that makes you like them?

(The other answer which I can see coming is that introversion is a negative personality trait and people love introverts despite their introversion -- not the answer I'm looking for and not my question).
posted by moiraine to Human Relations (26 answers total) 43 users marked this as a favorite
You know that um, thing about some people using "all the air in the room?" Or that thing that some people walk lightly on the planet? Seems to me that extroverts are the ones using all the air (read: resources: read: grasping for attention) in the room while introverts are the ones who "walk lightly on the planet," thus giving space/air/room to the extroverts. Thus, a natural attraction by extroverts, who rush in to fill the space/air/room left to them by introverts. Or, that's how it seems to me, anyway.
posted by Lynsey at 2:22 PM on October 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

I think my extrovert likes the exclusive focus. And possibly just the chance to power down.
posted by Ys at 2:23 PM on October 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

I am an extrovert, and a quality I appreciate in introverts is that it seems like they often have hidden layers of interesting experiences, interests, and qualities to discover, and discovering them somehow seems more rewarding than discovering the same thing in fellow extroverts.
posted by wuzandfuzz at 2:23 PM on October 24, 2011 [17 favorites]

My parents are one intense energetic extrovert and one very private, "need my alone time" introvert. I think my dad (the extrovert) likes the fact that my mom keeps things pretty mellow, and he feels protective of her, in what he perceives as her vulnerability in social situations requiring extroversion. Sometimes, she needs to close the door to have some quiet time, as my dad is like a very enthusiastic and sociable Lab retriever with few boundaries. They seem to have worked out a pretty good coexistence, though I do believe, based on observing my parents all my life, that an extrovert-introvert match has built-in tension that pairings of the same type do not.
posted by Atrahasis at 2:28 PM on October 24, 2011 [3 favorites]

wuzandfuzz put it well. My introvert husband is a great balance to my extroverted self. He reminds me to shut my mouth and listen once in a while, the same way I get him to open up or be more social. Because he's so quiet and observant, after we come home from being out with friends, he'll reveal a really interesting observation that I was too busy running my fool mouth off to notice.

When an introvert lets you in, it makes you feel really special. That you made the cut to be exposed to their hidden and often fascinating internal world. It has taught me patience, too, because being let in doesn't always happen on my schedule. We have long, deep conversations about all nature of things that I rarely have with other extroverts.

I think the introvert/extrovert pairing (platonic or romantic) can be really rewarding to both if they are aware of each others tendencies and can accommodate them.
posted by misskaz at 2:34 PM on October 24, 2011 [19 favorites]

I never have to wait for my turn to talk, as I do about 80% of the talking. When I want to spend the night in, eating take-out chinese on the couch and watching tv, he never sighs in disappointment because he'd rather go out. He's more introspective than my past extroverted partners, which makes conversation more interesting. It's flattering that I'm the only person he can stand being around for significant lengths of time.

There's always something new to discover. I have to poke and prod and sometimes force information out of him, which is usually fun and challenging (but can get annoying at times). He doesn't wear his heart on his sleeve; his life story, and deep thoughts, and well-developed opinions aren't being shouted from roof-tops for anyone to hear.

I'm fascinated by the Myers-Brigg personality theory, although it does get a bad rap sometimes. We're both N-types, which probably makes us more compatible than the average I-E pairing.
posted by krakenattack at 2:39 PM on October 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

What the extrovert gets from the introvert is an audience. I could not live with an extrovert but have never had to as my family and husband are pretty much all introverts like me. Yes, we all live in our own worlds a lot, and are not great on communication, but we do not exhaust , embarrass, or over-stress each other like extroverts tend to do.

If it is working for you being the audience for you extrovert boyfriend and friends, just accept that it works for you, but be aware that it can also cause difficulties at some point.
posted by mermayd at 2:54 PM on October 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

I'm an introvert-turned-extrovert. Sometimes I now find myself talking just for the sake of talking, whereas before I would only speak if I felt like I had something interesting to say. I like that quality. My husband is like that--he doesn't talk much, but when he does, it's usually something interesting or funny.
posted by sugarbomb at 3:04 PM on October 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

Extravert here with an introvert fiance. My fiance's introversion tends to have a calming affect on me, which I appreciate, and because he spends so much time in his head, his general communication style has a measured thoughtfulness to it that I deeply admire. I strongly suspect his introversion also aids him in his academic career, which also indirectly benefits me. While it's probably true that our opposite interaction styles are a source of mild tension at times, I don't think it's ever been a big deal for either of us.

Many of my friends are also introverts, and I often enjoy hanging out with introverts because they tend to really invest in their friendships, only choosing to spend time with people they genuinely like. And with my fiance and introverted friends, it can be reassuring and sometimes liberating to know that I'm not responsible for constantly entertaining them.

However, I really don't buy into the belief that introverts are somehow deeper, smarter, or more interesting than extraverts. I find people are much more willing to project certain attributes onto introverts because they are quiet, but interaction styles aren't a magical insight into their full personality. I've met plenty of deep and thoughtful extraverts as well as stupid and shallow introverts.

That said, I find that many extraverts, myself included, have an occasional tendency to get caught up in a mild sense of social competition where everyone is trying to one-up each other to be the funniest, most charming, most interesting, etc., in a conversation, and having introverts in the mix helps to balance the conversation. But that's really true of life in general; things often go more smoothly when you have both types around.
posted by Diagonalize at 3:05 PM on October 24, 2011 [10 favorites]

Nthing wuzandfuzz's comment. I am a mild extrovert and my introverted boyfriend offers me opportunities to quiet down that I would not take if I were left to my own devices. Being with him has offered an extremely welcome balance to my social/daily life.

I will, however, respectfully disagree with Lynsey: some of my most out-going and extroverted friends breathe life into any event they attend, and are a pleasure to be near as they make their rounds. An introvert's lack of enthusiasm about social events, on the other hand, can sometimes be very deflating for someone who looks forward to them (just to mention a potential drawback of an extrovert-introvert match-up).
posted by swingbraid at 3:06 PM on October 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

I have to take issue with your definition of introverted. Introverted ≠ dreamy or spacey. Introverted = people who are enervated by socializing, whereas extraverted = people who are energized by socializing. So the answer to what extraverts find appealing about introverts in general may not be the same answer to what extraverts find appealing about you specifically.

That said, I (hardcore introvert) have been told on many occasions that being around me is calming, grounding, chill, etc. and that I'm a good confidante because I'm not prone to gossip, etc.
posted by headnsouth at 3:09 PM on October 24, 2011 [9 favorites]

I'm rather introverted, and have been told by an extroverted boyfriend that he really loves how comfortable I am with silence.
posted by hopeless romantique at 3:23 PM on October 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

i really like introverts such as my roommate K because she's an active listener, she thinks before speaking, many things that she says seem to have more meaning rather than meaningless conversation (which i tend to bring to the table), i love bringing out my roommate's louder side, i like how the energy seems to balance itself out because we are both relaxed when with each other and express ourselves both in silly and heartfelt ways.

yes, she is one of my very good friends and a great listener. in terms of introversion, she has made me realize the importance of listening to others, but also the importance of being open with my feelings but not to the point where others will take advantage of me. sometimes i wish she would be more open with her opinions, but i think she's just reserved and prefers keeping those opinions to herself. she is very introspective and that has inspired me to think much more, especially before speaking.
posted by sincerely-s at 3:55 PM on October 24, 2011

Response by poster: Introverted ≠ dreamy or spacey. Introverted = people who are enervated by socializing, whereas extraverted = people who are energized by socializing.

Just to clarify: I did state, right at the beginning of my post, that my definition of introversion is what the Myers-Briggs definition of introversion is - how someone relates to the world, by looking inwards or outwards. In some ways, it is linked to the general view of introvertedness (enervated by socialising, etc), as someone who looks inwards would be likely to be tired by too much socializing, but not precisely similar, as you have pointed out.

From Wikipedia:
Myers-Briggs literature uses the terms extraversion and introversion as Jung first used them. Extraversion means "outward-turning" and introversion means "inward-turning."[20] These specific definitions vary somewhat from the popular usage of the words. Note that extraversion is the spelling used in MBTI publications.

This thread is not to discuss Myers-Briggs personality traits, but I thought I would point it out just in case it comes up again. And now I'll stop thread sitting....
posted by moiraine at 3:57 PM on October 24, 2011

I'm considered an extrovert..although the older I get, the more I think it's a spectrum and that I'm not as far to the extroversion end as I once was.

MrTaff is profoundly introverted. He is absolutely a skilled socialiser and charming conversationalist...but his default feelings tend to misanthropy.

Where's the love? I find the quiet and solitude around him to be comforting. And if I had to spend all day every day with someone like me, I'd punch them in the face.

He teaches me to shut up and be in the moment... I've learned to enjoy not talking and to potter about the house.

He relies on me to form and maintain all family, friendship and semi-professional relationships. I'm happy to oblige.
posted by taff at 4:01 PM on October 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

Oh. Bossiness. My introvert friends are not pushovers (I can't deal with people who have no backbone) but you know, if you're gathering 3 or more people to do a thing, or planning a project for work, or picking where to have dinner, well... only one person gets to be the cruise director AND THAT GETS TO BE ME!

Also I am nosey. Very very nosey. So I can pin you to a wall and make you tell me all about you and I'll find it very very interesting, and that's so much more interesting than talking about me. I already know me. Bored now.

Not all extroverts are like this. I speak only for myself and my insufferable brethren. (Thankfully not all days are like this. We'd all die of exhaustion.)
posted by DarlingBri at 4:02 PM on October 24, 2011 [4 favorites]

I'm an extrovert, my partner most assuredly isn't. If left to his own devices he would probably be happy never leaving the house or speaking to anyone ever again. Except me of course! Like others have said, if an introvert loves you and enjoys your company its much more...flattering is the the closest I can come to it though thats not it really. Honest? My best friend is an extrovert and though I know she loves me, she loves everyone. And she needs to be loved back. Whereas my partner doesn't need validation from others at all. And he is much more honest about his feelings and opinions for it. I have a large, close group of friends that he has very little to do with, mostly for lack of interest, but they are all fascinated by him. Quite a few people have told me that meeting my boyfriend was really stressful for them because they had been warned that he wouldn't like them by other friends. And quite a few people don't like him. Everyone, however, respects him. He doesn't play any of the social games extroverts tend to because he doesn't care. He doesn't sugar coat what he thinks because if you don't like him for it, again he doesn't care. I find this self possession and lack of neediness very, very attractive.
posted by Wantok at 4:06 PM on October 24, 2011 [3 favorites]

I'm an extrovert turning more introverted as I get older and my boyfriend is more of an introvert. In him personally I like that he is calm and I like that he is thoughtful and I like that we can just hang out together without doing anything, or maybe just being together doing something very low key. He does not need to invite other people out with us, he is ready to retire at the end of the day, he never has a million other things going on so I have his full attention. At the same time, I feel like I get to introduce him to new things and new people and new experiences that he would enjoy and yet might not do or see on his own because he wouldn't reach out in that way. I am also an anxious type, so I like having someone who is low key to balance my wild energy. He helps me find the calm within myself and I think I help him stretch his sphere of what he knows about other people and the world.

In people in general, not romantic partners, I like a balance. If introverted people are happy being quiet and extroverted people are happy being loud, a table of both sorts of people seems to work out better than a table that is one or the other [and I've thought about this in terms of MeFi meetups -- all introverts and no one talks, all extroverts and everyone's hollering]. Going home at the end of a busy day and having someone there who has just been chilling out and is all "hi how was your day" is basically simlar to the battery recharging I need on my own anyhow, but a little more companionable and a little less lonely.
posted by jessamyn at 4:12 PM on October 24, 2011 [3 favorites]

According to my husband (the extrovert in the marriage) it's nice that if he does want to spend a night in, sittin' on the couch, he knows I'll be up for it.

Will I!
posted by freshwater at 5:48 PM on October 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

I like introverts because I feel like there is something to discover and it seems pretty special when an introvert lets you in. It's also special when introverts want to spend time with you (and only you).

That being said, I have never done well with super introverted people. There is a certain degree of introversion that I find uncomfortable just because I can't understand how/why anyone could be so detached from others.
posted by superfille at 8:51 PM on October 24, 2011

Seconding sugarbomb and a couple others:
I'm an introvert, and several more extroverted friends and coworkers have (independently) told me that they like that I don't speak up a whole lot, because when I do they know it's going to be something that matters.
posted by hippugeek at 9:47 PM on October 24, 2011

i am an extravert. introverts make me feel calm, or 'slowed down' (in a good way), or bring balance. But mostly it's the calm.
posted by Kololo at 9:48 PM on October 24, 2011

For me, introverts have always been desirable because my ego has room to expand around them.
posted by brownrd at 5:27 AM on October 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

My introvert gives me support, stability, and a safe space from the chaos of the world that can sometimes topple this extrovert-of-centre over.

My introvert loves me, and I love him.

hilariously when we both have a bit too much alcohol we become complete opposites - I slink off to a corner to snooze while he suddenly becomes mr friendly. one time he tried to offer to teach me how to talk to people. I was all "dude, you're drunk, that's usually my job".
posted by divabat at 7:23 AM on October 25, 2011 [2 favorites]

Another introvert-turned-extrovert here; married to my awesome introvert.

What I adore and admire about him is how observant and calm he is.

I also am inside my own head quite a bit, I think a LOT. But, my brain works really fast, and I can multi-task pretty well, so it seems as if I'm fluttery...with him, he thinks a lot, but he thinks more slowly, and with less emphasis on anything social.

He doesn't really care for most people, and this has helped me to understand the difference between acquaintances and friends, and I agree with others, it is flattering to be loved by an introvert. You made the grade. You didn't annoy them with your outgoing-ness.

I also love bringing him out a bit, since he claims he enjoys that part of me (in the right contexts).
posted by Grlnxtdr at 7:29 AM on October 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm an extrovert - I love talking to lots of people, all the time, and collecting a vast number of relationships with people in my community and extended networks. I've noticed though that by way of doing this I end up talking about the same things over and over and over again. It can be exhausting.

My best friend is an introvert and she's amazing because I can kind of "turn it off" in a way. I don't have to launch into "delightful conversation". Maybe it's because we know each other so well but I suspect it might also be because, being an introvert, she doesn't respond all that well to loads of "delightful conversation".

Another thing that's great about a tight extro-intro bond is that we support each other in ways the other is lacking. I'm really good at getting excited about things and doing a little *ahem* light bragging about what's going on in my life, current projects & hobbies I'm super excited about. On the flipside, I'm really bad at getting my head around the mindset and thought process of others. My best friend sees others' motivations and subsequent actions so clearly that I love talking to her about friends, and friends of friends, and relationships, and family stuff and all that. She helps me better understand the people around me. And I (hopefully) help her out by doing some major bragging about all the truly amazing stuff she's got going on, and getting people excited about pursuing a friendship with her. I think that helps take the pressure off about feeling like "I'm an introvert so there's no way I can actively make friends" because, and here's the great part, they'll come to you!

We joke - she's my rock and I'm her welcome wagon. And it's been working out fabulously for 8 years (and counting!).
posted by jay.eye.elle.elle. at 10:11 AM on October 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

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