If you’re looking to bond with an introvert or someone who leans that way—or if you’re already involved with one—check out these tips for what works, what doesn’t, and how to get what you need from the relationship.
Ask if they’re up for conversation.
Just because someone is standing alone at a party doesn’t automatically mean he’s too shy to mingle; he may be, but he may also be enjoying a pocket of peace in a crowd. “You can’t tell anything from across the room,” she says, so get his buy-in: Ask if he wants company or feels like chatting, she suggests, and if he says no thanks, don’t take it personally.
Try not to mindread.
Things were amazing when you met two weeks ago, but then she says she doesn’t want to hang out again for a few days. “Some people will go right to, ‘she’s mad at me, she doesn’t like to spend time with me, she’s about to break up with me,’” says Zar. Especially in a new relationship, we tend to catastrophize. But just because asking for solo space might be your way of saying “see ya,” introverts really do need lots of alone time. Instead of assuming, just ask. Something like, “This is the second night you’ve wanted to be by yourself—please just let me know if it’s anything more than wanting time by yourself so I don’t wonder if it’s me.”
Stash the spotlight.
Exactly no one likes to have their social performance judged, says Zar. “I hate hearing, ‘You’re so quiet,’” says Noah, 22. “Half the time I’m trying to think of stuff to say and the other half, I don’t think I’m being that quiet,” he says. Instead of commenting on the other person, just do your own thing and see how it goes.
Build in transition time.
Betsey, 53, who calls herself a “chatty introvert,” says she loves to entertain. “But I need about an hour alone in my room to be quiet and get mentally psyched in order to centre my head before going out and greeting others,” says Betsey. “Conversation is really intense for me—I love it, but I am super drained by it at the same time.”
Extroverted people sometimes become embarrassed if their partner doesn’t join in a group conversation, or feel they have to talk more to make up for it. “The more you care about someone, the more you care what others think of them—it’s like, you know that your partner has this great, funny personality and you want to show them off,” says Zar. But an introvert might be more comfortable revealing herself to one person at a time, and you’ll both have a better time if you let your partner be herself. “Other people are not monitoring our partners as closely as we are,” she says.
Have a party code word
An introvert’s capacity to stick around once he’s through with other humans is almost nonexistent, so an agreed-upon phrase (“I forgot to set the DVR”) or gesture to signal that he needs to go in, say, 10 minutes, is a wise idea.
“There’s no rule that says just because you went to an event together that you have to leave together,” Zar points out. “Couples are allowed to burn out at different times.” If your date is done and you’re still having fun, it’s okay to meet back at the ranch.
Call out rudeness.
He may feel the need to disappear into his phone if talking gets to be too much, but he needs to use his words, and not just vanish. “His intention may not be to be rude, but his actions still have impact,” says Zar. For any relationship to work, you need to be able to say what you feel.