The Survival Guide for Introverts Who Live With Extraverts (and Vice Versa)

My freshman roommate and I barely spoke to each other during our first semester of college. It was fantastic. Since then, I’ve always made sure to live with at least one extravert—sometimes even two. The funny thing is that I’ve actually liked all of my extraverted roommates.

What I've learned is that there's difference between liking someone and wanting to spend every second of the day interacting with them. At least, there is for an introvert like me. Sophomore year, I memorized one of my roommate’s schedules so that I could coordinate my leavings with her comings. (I should mention that this particular extravert ended up being one of my best friends). If I was in the room when she got back from class, she would walk into my little corner of the room, kick off her four-inch heels, plop down on my bed, and start talking.

These interactions became less stressful for me once I just learned to accept that whatever chemistry-studying, essay-writing, or Netflix-watching I was doing would have to wait for at least two hours. My only extraverted roommate that I’ve actively disliked was my perfect foil in every way. Me, an INTJ, and her, an ESFP, could not have been less alike. She could barely pour a bowl of cereal by herself, she woke me up in the middle of the night when she wanted to talk about her feelings, and she sang at inappropriate times. By the time finals week rolled around that semester, I wouldn’t go into the room if she was in there and awake.

As an introvert, my energy needs to be at a certain threshold before I can interact with other people, and the stress and studying of finals week zapped my energy to the point that I could only manage about five sentences to another human per day. Maybe seven, if they didn’t have to be nice sentences. Even when I’ve been paired with an extraverted roommate that I truly love and enjoy, the weekends prove to be a potential stress-fest. What I see as a time for rest, relaxation, and reruns, they see as a time for parties, socializing, and adventures. “I might come out later,” became my mantra whenever an extraverted roommate wouldn’t take no for an answer.

However, i've also found that they just don't want to go alone sometimes, which is confusing since I know that they will make at least four new friends before they even get their first drink. So, then I feel guilty or lazy for not wanting to go and so I go anyway. And therein lays the best part of having an extraverted roommate—he or she forces you out of your comfort zone, which isn’t always as painful as you might imagine it to be.

As a result, I’ve developed a new mantra: “I’ll go, but I might leave early.” Giving myself the option of having an out makes it easier to do something in the first place, and it makes me feel like I’m acting on my own terms. Even if I end up having fun and decide to stay for the duration of the event, just knowing that I don’t have to makes all the difference. Basically, living with someone who is your opposite in any way requires balance and an ability to look at things from the other person’s perspective. But this is easier said than done, so here are some tips on how to accomplish harmony and bliss in your co-habitation situation, be it a platonic or romantic relationship.

Tips For Introverts Living With Extraverts:

  • Know your roommates’ schedules. That way you’ll know when you’re guaranteed some quiet, alone time in the room.
  • If a roommate interrupts you while you’re in the middle of doing something important, ask them if you can talk later—maybe at dinner or when you need a coffee break.
  • Explain to them why you might need to leave the party/bar/music festival/ritual sacrifice early. If you don’t think they’ll understand why you find all the people and noise over-stimulating, just say that you’ve had a rough week and need to catch up on sleep or that you have a lot of work to do for the next day.
  • And if you really can’t handle talking to your roommate at a particular time, put headphones on, whether or not you’re actually listening to anything. In my experience, even an extrovert is unlikely to try to interrupt you if it looks like you’re supremely engrossed in something.

Tips For Extraverts Living With Introverts:

  • Never pressure your roommate to go out to a party or the bar with you. Ask once, but don’t make them feel like a loner or a social reject if they decline.
  • Rather than just plopping down next to them and diving into a potential three-hour-long conversation, set aside special time to talk with them. Plan to get a meal together, or make pre-bedtime debriefings a routine. If your introvert is able to mentally prepare him or herself for the conversation, then they are much more likely to participate and to not get annoyed with you.
  • Let them have some time when it’s just them in the room/apartment. Tell them in advance if you plan on bringing friends over.
  • Never host a surprise party for them without gathering some serious intel first.
Rachel Suppok

Rachel holds a B.S. in Neuroscience and usually a cup of coffee. She is an INTJ, but she is not a super-villain. Yet.

Folow Rachel on Twitter @rsuppok.

Comments

The Truth (not verified) says...

Sorry Rachel, but I really don't agree with you. I'm an INTP and a have been passed all my live living with extroverted people and i really don't like to stay close with them. Of course that is good to stay close of extroverted people in some aspects, but, stay close to an extrovert lot of the time is tiring and stressful.
For an extroverted person, if you aren't like them so you are a weird person; if you don't do the same things that they do it's because you don't fit in the society and, consequently, it's you who is wrong and it's you who needs to change.
I read your whole post and, in my understanding, what you're saying it's something like: "That's OK to be an introverted person, but if you want to live with an extroverted person you needs to be more like her". And a really don't agree with this idea.

Enviroartiste (not verified) says...

i think Rachel is saying that living with extroverts opens you up to other possibilities you didn't necessarily see before. I'm an INFJ and i tend to pick up on other people's cues, i normally don't like to acknowledge them, most of the time i actually play pretty dumb, mechanism i guess. What i'm saying is that when you are around other people, it brings out different facets of yourself. As introverts, sometimes we forget we need to socialize a little or we will be too far wrapped in our own cocoon. we don't need to change no, more like evolving, growing. yes we can stay in and do the same thing everyday, but if you break out of your comfort zone, you can be pretty amazed by the world, and even yourself. <3

Jennifer Dietz (not verified) says...

well put!

TheRealTruthBitch (not verified) says...

She's not telling you to change yourself. I think Rachel is saying that you should get your roommate to make compromises and then make some yourself. Sorry if that's so hard for you to grasp. It's obvious that your not a thinker.

THE TRUTH (not verified) says...

First - this article name is "THE SURVIVAL GUIDE FOR INTROVERTS WHO LIVE WITH EXTROVERTS (AND VICE VERSA)" and not "HOW TO GET ALONG WITH YOUR ROOMMATE" SO, I believe the roommates story it's only illustrate and the tips are general, not necessarily focused in roommates, that's why I disagree with this article;

Second - I don't have a roommate, so I can exclude this idea of make "compromises" to each other;

Third - All people have different contexts, don't try to force your ideas on others, you should rather an intellectual discussion. For me it's you that aren't a thinker;

Fourth - The language you used to write an "answer" tells me that you are not an INTP, you looks like more an emotional person.

ameliaruby says...

I think it would be great if we all stopped talking about E's like they're aliens. I'm an INTJ, so I can agree with a lot of the stuff in this article. I've noticed that a lot of people in the comments are being a bit snobby and saying stuff like "i just don't ever spend time with extraverts." That's a bit weird, because you can't just avoid E's. They're everywhere. I'm sure that they want to avoid I's, but they just don't say it. And btw, E doesn't mean F. A lot of people think just because people are chatty, it makes them feeling too, but it doesn't.

ameliaruby says...

I think it would be great if we all stopped talking about E's like there aliens. I'm an INTJ, so I can agree with a lot of the stuff in this article. I've noticed that a lot of people in the comments are being a bit snobby and saying stuff like "i just don't ever spend time with extraverts." That's a bit weird, because you can't just avoid E's. There everywhere. I'm sure that they want to avoid I's, but they just don't say it. And btw, E doesn't mean F. A lot of people think just because people are chatty, it makes them feeling too, but it doesn't.

Jennifer Dietz (not verified) says...

I didn't percieve that the author was saying that introverts need to be like extroverts. Can you provide a sentence from her essay that proves that? In regards to your statement about introverts being viewed as weird, I often feel judged by introverts and criticized and viewed as the weird one. I live with 3 introverts and feel like I am unable to get my cup filled because of their distance and constantly have to bow to when they are ready to be social. This day in age it seems like people have a hard time even being polite. Give this a little thought-it can actually be really stressful for an extrovert to live with introverts who don't even try to stretch a little bit by talking to their roommate(s) or trying to get to know them. Introverts are often seen as moody people in my opinion and they control situations by passive aggression. I've been so hurt by introverts who just come off in such a way that their focus is completely on themselves and who they want to talk with and who they don't. It is plain hard to know when they want to be interacted with or not. I often see introverts in cliques and they leave others out. I have a big problem with this, I don't think it promotes peace or harmony. If you can kindly shed light on or even justify some of these actions for me, it would be helpful. I just don't understand some of the introverts behaviors and view many of the aforementioned behaviors as unkind and self-protection, even selfish. I understand that extroverts can improve in certain areas of knowing boundaries but in my experience, introverts have percieved fears or one bad experience and then continue to see the extroverted person under that same light, never really giving them a chance. 

Flutist (not verified) says...

Extroverts rarely intend to annoy introverts. We just need to interact to recharge.

ames (not verified) says...

Can you please do one for "How can extraverts live with introverts" please. My roomie is an ISTJ and I'm a ESTP and it's a bit of a challenge because she always wants order and I'm more go with the flow. Please help!

thelondons2012 says...

Hey Ames,
It sounds like the difference between you and your roommate is less based in the introvert/extravert part and more to do with the J/P preference. I'm an INFJ and have a very good male ISTJ friend, whose wife is an ENTP. She loves to go with the flow and he needs order! The key is in communication, and that's where the E/I preference can cause a problem, as your ISTJ friend may seem like she doesn't want to chat about it.
However, ISTJs are typically responsible types of people and that includes feeling responsibility towards those around them. If you can find words to explain your preference for spontaneity, that will really help your friend, who will probably be fine with letting you do your thing. ISTJs are typically also quite individualistic about making plans and choosing what to do, so if you want to do different things spontaneously, as long as that doesn't derail her plans, she probably won't mind you doing your thing as long as she can do hers.
If you want to give more details about the specifics of your situation, I'd be interested to hear! For example, do you mean, she likes order in the physical space, or order in terms of planning? And do you two like to do things together, or are you more acquaintances than friends?

ames (not verified) says...

the thing that bugs me is when ever were on a trip whenever I want to go do something she always gets mad because 'it wasn't in the plan'

thelondons2012 says...

I have been thinking a bit about this, and I can't be certain for your friend. But for me as an I--J, when there is a certain plan, especially for leisure time, I get a good proportion of my enjoyment out looking forward to the things in the plan, and I make more of my own mental plans around the discussed plan. So if somebody were to suddenly say, 'Let's do such and such instead!', I would need a bit of processing time both for adjusting my logistics and for adjusting emotionally. Remember that when you introduce a new activity, you are probably getting rid of something else.

So my advice would be, when you say, 'Hey look, we could...' and your roommate gets upset, could you ask her, 'What are the things we had planned that you especially wanted to do?' Or particularly as she's an ISTJ, 'Do you think if we did this it would mean something goes wrong later?' Because the ISTJ will probably be thinking, 'So if we go on this spontaneous ferry ride, we won't get back til an hour later than I had thought, and we were going to go for dinner at X, and I know it gets busier later on and I hate it when it's busy...' and so on. If you can take a couple more minutes to try and discuss the plan (even though you as an ESTP probably don't enjoy planning so much!), she might be more open to your new idea.

Does any of that sound like it fits?

ames (not verified) says...

Thats not always the problem. A lot of the time, I know she doesn't want to come, so I try to go by myself and she won't let me because we have plans to go out in an hour and 'I would get tired' if I went out.

JoeyJoy (not verified) says...

Ok, if your roommate wakes you up in the middle of the night to talk about their feelings that doesn't make them an extrovert. That just makes them a super annoying extravert.

IntrovertPlus (not verified) says...

I can see why some of the readers of this article have disagreements as well as agreements. I think depending on your personality trait (there are various types of introverts and extroverts), you will still have different experiences. I am one of those introverts who gets really anxious when there are a lot of people in my apartment whom I don't know. Even living with roommates that I didn't click with right away, it was difficult. I would spend most of my time in my room because I didn't want to interact. Unfortunately most of my roommates at the time were extroverted, and it was not only exhausting, but quite honestly, annoying. So, I do believe people have their own preferences regardless of their personality types. I much rather be alone or with one or two people I truly connect with.

Guest (not verified) says...

whoever is living together in a room or house, whether intro or extro have to understand one single thing. Living with anyone is an adjustment and those who don't understand that, no matter with whatever guide that is out there, won't be able to keep it going for long. Just understand that people who need space, will show it by behaving in certain ways. If you keep your eyes open, you will get to know it. If you are considerate, you will do the needful. If you are not, well, you will search for other rooms to move into than your current room.

Harry James (not verified) says...

Those who live with extroverts who actually adjust with their introvert roommates are actually very lucky.I am an INTJ and I live with such a roommate who remains in the room all the time and takes creepy photos of what he was doing all the day sitting in the room,post it as Whatsapp status.I am choking here without my quiet time.He even brings all his friends to the room in an attempt to drive me out.I told him about it but he refuses to do anything.My creativity is on the attack here. 

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