There is a misconception that introvert equals shy, emotionally closed off, poor communication skills and/or anti-social. Some people even speak of being an “introvert” as having some sort of mental or psychological disability.
And it’s not just “extroverts” who think this way, many introverts do as well, unfortunately.
While there are some introverts who are socially and emotionally shy, and who struggle with expressing their thoughts and feelings, there are those of us too who are charismatic, outgoing, good communicators and genuinely open and expressive (one example is President Barack Obama).
We just prefer to have very few friends, talk less, listen more, stay at home and read a good book instead of socializing. We can be emotionally open and expressive, but only with people we feel ‘safe’ around. In other words, we don’t like drama.
Unfortunately, in a culture where “extrovert” is the want-to-be personality, sometimes life feels like an “outcast” for many introverts, especially those that are shy and/or struggle with expressing their thoughts and feelings.
Many of those I talk to seem to think that their “problems” with the opposite sex (and in life in general) will be solved by them becoming more of an extrovert or as some put it “Alpha” male or female (I have a lot to say about the “alpha” obsession but that’s for another article,).
If you ask me, I think introverts who have come to terms with who they are and love their calm, measured, introspective and discerning personality are super sexy and intriguing almost to the point of being mysterious.
They may not be a lot of “fun” for the super-hyper (24/7 party-mood all year round), and may even be ‘boring” for talkers and drama-seekers, but that’s a trade-off for all the other good stuff you aren’t going to get from… the other side.
That’s just one side of an introvert personality (there is a whole spectrum on this personality trait).
Introverts can also be really annoying and a major turn off especially when they won’t let you know what they are thinking or feeling. I know this because it drives some of my “extrovert’ friends crazy when I do what I call “selective socializing”.
They try to pump me up, get me to “open up” and “share” but the more they pump me up, the less I want to share, let alone open up. And it’s not that I don’t feel ‘safe’ around them, it’s that sharing for sharing’s sake or “talking” without a goal or purpose to me is exhausting physically, emotionally and spiritually.
But like many introverts, we understand that this can be a source of frustration for the people we are in a relationship with.
Relationships are about sharing, connecting and emotionally bonding. That can be really hard with someone who isn’t ‘sharing’ his/her thoughts and feelings freely, and doesn’t seem to want to.
You feel like you are doing all the emotional chasing while they are emotionally hiding, trying to work on the relationship while they just sit there and let you. So awfully one-sided.
There is no easy way to get an introvert to open up. However, these few guidelines can help you get your introvert to open up more about what he/she thinks and feels.
1. Accept your introvert as he/she is.
Believe it or not, most introverts like who they are and don’t want you trying to make them into who they are not — and don’t want to be.
The first step to getting an introvert to opening up is acceptance. This is who they are, this is who you love. If he/she wants to change, that’s up to him/her, but trying to “change” him/her will be felt as you not accepting him/her, making you emotionally “unsafe” to open up to.
If you are dating interracially/cross-culturally, it’s important to understand that there are cultural differences in what is considered aspire-to-be person. In many African cultures, some East and South Asian, and Eastern Europe cultures, “talking less and speaking quietly” is considered a sign of emotional restraint, maturity and strength. Children from a young age are taught to “not speak unless you have something important to say” or “are spoken to”. A bubbly child is said to “talk any how”, and people get concerned that the child is not raised “properly” or may be mentally unstable.
Your introvert’s silence and emotional caution may be a result of years of self-training to be an introvert. If you have the opportunity to meet his/her family, see how they interact (voice tone, body language, gestures and facial expressions) and see if you can mirror that communication dynamic when you want your introvert to open up.
A familiar communication dynamic may just be what he/she needs to feel emotionally safe, and open up.
2) Exercise extreme patience
Patience is a commodity in short supply for most extroverts. But patience is what you absolutely need if you are ever going to get an introvert to open up.
Like most people, introverts also open up only when we feel emotionally safe to do so. Where we differ from many extroverts is that we ‘think a lot” (to put it politely) about what we want to say, how we say it, how it’s received and how it will come back to help or hurt us.
Most extroverts can say almost anything and deal with the consequences later, which is both a good and bad thing depending on the audience and the outcome one is hoping/looking for.
Most introverts won’t say anything until they have a pretty good idea what the consequences will be. This is what makes them sometimes appear emotionally closed off, makes them speak slower than most people and more cautious with their words.
They are prone to using fillers (aaah… ummm, eh-eh) and even stammer at times because even as they speak, they are thinking… am I saying this the right way, is this the best way to say it, is what I am saying being well received, am I being understood, what if I say the wrong thing, will it make things worse, can/will I be able to make it right again… so on so on.
If you try to rush him/her through his/her thought process, you’ll be seen as emotionally “unsafe” to open up to.
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