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.