One of the most rewarding aspects of co-living is having the opportunity to live with a diverse group of people. And while that requires some level of compromise and patience, it will ultimately benefit your self-growth. So if you find yourself living with an introvert (and you’re quite the opposite), don’t worry — you can still have a great roommate relationship. We talked to a few experts on how you can get off on the right foot and live happily with your introvert roommate.
1. Understand Introversion
People often hear “introvert” and think of a loner or homebody, but it actually describes someone who is receptive to energy, says Nancy Tavares-Jones, registered psychotherapist and identity expert at Life Pathways Psychotherapy in Toronto.
“Extroverts prefer to surround themselves with lots of people and obtain their energy from them,” Tavares-Jones says. “Introverts, on the other hand, prefer to obtain their energy from within. So, after a very long work week, an extrovert would prefer to go out and decompress with lots of people whereas an introvert would prefer to recharge solo or with a partner or two, very low-key.”
What’s more is introversion isn’t black and white, and there’s no such thing as being a pure introvert.
“There are more introverted people, and those people will be more within themselves and will not necessarily enjoy spending a lot of time externally, and it’s the same on the flip side as well,” Tavares-Jones says. “You can have very social introverts and very shy extroverts,” Tavarez-Jones says.
2. Don’t Think Introverts Are ‘Anti-Social’ or ‘Shy’
Just because introverts don’t exude energy does not mean they don’t enjoy company. Rather, introverts prefer having deep, meaningful relationships with only a few people. So if your roommate goes straight to their room at the end of the day, it’s not necessarily indicative of how they feel about you.
Dr. Laurel Clark, resident emeritus of the School of Metaphysics describes herself as an introvert, and she agrees that introverts do like social interaction, but their preference for intimate relationships can be misconstrued as being stand-offish.
“Just because someone is an introvert, it doesn’t mean that they want to be alone all the time,” Clark says. “They usually are very good with one-on-one communication and can be good conversationalists. They just oftentimes have a hard time making small talk.”
In an age when people are often encouraged to go out, socialize and make new friends, it can be difficult for introverts to be themselves, Tavares-Jones says. Being with other people is simply taxing for them, she stresses.
“It’s really important to understand that they’re not being antisocial,” Tavares-Jones says. “It’s how they regain energy.”
3. Respect How They’re Different From You
Whether your roommate tells you they’re an introvert, or you make an educated assumption based on their everyday behavior, the first step to maintaining a healthy relationship is simply accepting the differences in your personalities
“We don’t need to feel sorry for them,” Tavares-Jones advises. “We don’t have to feel upset for them. That’s just how they prefer to spend their energy.”
Introversion isn’t a good or bad thing; it’s just a set of preferences that need to be respected. This respect, Tavares-Jones stresses, is one of the key things to a happy home.
Part of respect is keeping in mind how your behavior affects your roommate. Having lived with both extroverts and introverts, Clark says she’s noticed that extroverts sometimes don’t realize how loud they are.
“Living with an extrovert who’s not sensitive to the fact that they talk out loud might interfere with an introvert’s think space, and that can be a challenge,” Clark says.
If you live with an introvert roommate, Clark suggests getting to know their habits and when their preferred quiet times are. Excessive noise or late-night parties at home could be upsetting. You may have a large social network, but inviting over people your roommate doesn’t know without getting a clear OK could very easily seem disrespectful.
Just like with any healthy relationship, communication is key when living with an introvert. Make sure you take the time to hear your roommate’s concerns. Introverts may not speak much, but they still have something to say, even if they’re not the best at expressing it.
“Introverts often keep their energy to themselves, so because they don’t share what their thoughts are, you really have to keep in mind that just because they’re not sharing, it doesn’t mean they don’t have their opinion on how the house is run,” Tavares-Jones says.
Clark says that it took her time to practice communicating her needs to her roommates, but doing so created greater awareness of each other’s needs and encouraged sensitivity.
“What I learned in the process is that, oftentimes, I was expecting the extrovert to know what I was thinking and they didn’t, and that’s why it’s important for me to say what my thoughts are and not just expect somebody to read my mind,” Clark says.
Tavares-Jones also suggests asking the introvert roommate to offer their own input on how to create a healthy, happy environment. And remember, patience is key!
“If they don’t have an answer, let them think about it and process it and let them come back to you. Introverts oftentimes need some time to mull things over whereas extroverts think out loud on the spot and that can sometimes throw introverts off as well.”