Introvert-Extrovert Friendships: Hows, Whys, and Why Nots

Are you drawn to extroverts? Some possible reasons why.

Posted Feb 24, 2011

A self-identified extrovert recently asked me why introverts are drawn to extroverts, especially when extroverts might make them do horrible things like go to parties.

I didn't have an answer for her right away. I had to take the question back to my cave and poke it with a stick for a while. And even now, my answer is that there is no easy answer. Relationships are a complicated stew, each one different.

I'm not particularly drawn to extreme extroverts. It's nothing personal, but I find the ruckus that tends to surround them overwhelming. I'm unhappy when intimate dinner plans turn into more the merrier, and if every get-together involves a crowd, I lose interest.

I do like having extroverts among my friends because when I want a little razzle-dazzle, it's fun to know someone who makes things happen. When you're in the mood, an extrovert is a happy noise. Extroverts are game, they're up for it, whatever it is, and that lifts my energy.

Of course, the best extrovert friends are the ones who bring me to the party but don't make me dance, and who understand that "real" friendship with me also requires one-on-one time. (For more on introvert-extrovert relations, see Introverts and Extroverts in Love.) And I understand that friendship with extroverts means happyfungoodtimes with lots of people sometimes. That's cool.

What of introverts who persistently surround themselves with extroverts? These introverts might want to search their souls to make sure that they are not confusing introversion with shyness. Are you drawn to extroverts because you actually love being around lots of people but find it hard to do? If that's the case, I see nothing wrong with letting other people do the heavy lifting while you hang out and enjoy the scene. As long as everyone is happy, why not?

If it doesn't make you happy and you find yourself feeling trapped in a noisy crowd too often, perhaps you are not drawn into relationships with extroverts as much as you drift into them. Advice columnist Carolyn Hax recently had a compelling column responding to a woman who kept finding herself in relationships with charming cads because, she said, they sought her out.

"You are, I'm guessing, an introvert, hanging back and letting people choose you," Hax responded. "Charm and charisma are a lot of fun, and they're like a tonic for introverts - they draw you out, engage you, spare you from having to start or sustain conversations...."

Making friends isn't always easy for introverts, but it's not really something you should outsource. If you suspect you're hanging with extroverts by default, just because they chose you, perhaps you should look around the next party you go to for the person perusing the bookshelves, talking to the dog, or just quietly watching the action. Is that a kindred spirit? Strike up a conversation and see. Maybe walk up and say, "Hi. Are you an introvert?" That will cut to the chase.


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