How to Befriend an Introvert

How to Befriend an Introvert

This essay, by Ashley Zhang, 14, of West Vancouver, British Columbia, is one of the Top 11 winners of The Learning Network’s new “How To” Informational Writing Contest for Teenagers.

We are publishing the work of all the winners over the next several days, and you can find them here as they post.

“Us introverts can be wild — even more than extroverts sometimes. But we hide that side from most and show it to the ones we care about,” says Cyki Kamei, a young introvert suffering from misunderstanding in Canada. In schools, teachers see introverts as problems, but what teachers don’t know is that when introverts are with people they love, they tend to act like extroverts.

One of the first and easiest steps to understanding an introvert is to know why they are different from most people. “Although it’s a well-known stereotype, introversion is not shyness. Where shyness is like social anxiety, introversion is more like a lower need for external stimulation,” Cyki says. Due to this stereotype, people think that someone sulking in the corner at a party or someone quiet is an introvert. Once you understand that introversion is just a preference for solitude rather than a fear of social interaction, you have already figured out introverts better than most of the population.

“Schools are the most draining places for introverts since they often force students to interact with each other, which drains an introvert’s social battery faster,” Cyki states. Unlike extroverts, who find people energizing, introverts find “people time” draining. Long days of socializing in school can exhaust introverts, who then need alone time.

So how can you know when to talk to your introvert? Try to observe where on the social battery scale they are at. If they seem to be low, as if they are actively avoiding people, leave them be. They have had enough of social interaction and would love to recharge with some alone time.

But what if your introvert isn’t feeling low? Go and strike up a conversation! “Most introverts have something called ‘small-talk-o-phobia,’” Cyki reveals. Examples of small talk might be going up to them and saying, “Nice weather.” You will scare most of them half to death. Instead, try to get to know them more. Though introverts hate small talk, they do enjoy deep conversations about things they love. By having these conversations, even if you hit a roadblock, you could still find the “wild” part of your introvert.

“Don’t be scared of silence with an introvert,” Cyki says. “Introverts like to think before they speak.” Embrace the way introverts are. “Introversion is not a ‘mark of a devil,’” Cyki declares. “Embracing it is what we must do as a society.”