How Introverts and Extroverts Can Benefit from One Another

Sometimes I think that introverts and extroverts are from different planets. This is fine, until they find themselves married to one another or working in the same office. If they are not conscious of the differences, they can quickly frustrate one another—or worse.

Green Apple and Orange - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/iSailorr, Image #11794209

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/iSailorr

I am speaking from personal experience here. I have been married to my wife, Gail, for thirty-two years. She is an extrovert; I am an introvert. Early in our marriage, this was a constant source of friction. Frankly, it’s a miracle we survived it.

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Most people assume that I am an extrovert, because I am a CEO of a large company and do a lot of public speaking. But things are not always what they seem. Many leaders I know are introverts. They can “turn it on” when they need to, but are much more comfortable away from the crowds and the lights.

The real difference between introverts and extroverts is in what energizes them. Ask yourself this question, “Where do you get your energy: by being alone or by being with others?” Or conversely, “What drains you: being alone or being with others?”

Introverts—like me—are energized by being alone. People drain us. Extroverts—like Gail—are energized by others. Being alone drains them. These are not hard and fast rules but general tendencies. I also enjoy being with people and she enjoys being alone—this is just not our dominant way of recharging.

For example,

  • I am content to spend time with a small, tight-knit circle of friends. I am not really interested in meeting anyone else. I have enough friends, thank you very much. Gail, on the other hand, views strangers as “friends-she-hasn’t-yet-met.” She loves meeting new people. The more the merrier.
  • My idea of a great vacation is being somewhere alone—just the two of us. I want to spend the time reading or taking quiet walks. She, on the other hand, wants to meet the locals and go on sight-seeing adventures. The more activities, the better.
  • I want to leave immediately after church—being with all those people is exhausting! On the other hand, Gail can’t wait to get to coffee hour. And she takes the hour part seriously. If she is not the last one to leave, she feels cheated.

Which perspective is right?

Neither. The truth is that you need both. Our marriage is so much richer because we are able to draw from two perspectives. My introversion ensures that we go deep and make time to nourish our souls. Her extroversion ensures that we don’t get stuck there, focused exclusively on ourselves. We reach out to others.

The key is learning to appreciate one another—and serve one another.

If your spouse or colleague is an introvert, you need to give him the space to be alone without making him feel guilty for not being more social. If your spouse or colleague is an extrovert, you need to allow him the freedom to socialize without getting annoyed that he isn’t ready to leave when you are.

The key is appreciating your differences rather than resenting them.

Questions: What is your primary orientation? What about your spouse’s? If they are different, how do you cope with them? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • Anonymous

    Like you and your wife, my husband tends to be the introvert while I am more of an extrovert. But honestly, I’m a bit introverted myself. I love having time to myself, but since it is so rare (stay-at-home mom with two preschoolers), I never know what to do with myself.

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.com Grace Boyle

    I love this topic. I think the more information, the more testimonials and stories, the better.

    I am an extrovert and my boyfriend is an introvert. Like you, he is a public figure at his company (Community Manager) and doesn’t seem like your “typical” introvert. But exactly, he is literally drained by being social frequently and around a lot of people. He prefers his alone time. Although I need alone time too, I don’t need near as much as him.

    We always go back and forth and the biggest lesson has been learning to respect and understand the others’ needs. I don’t want someone just like me (outgoing, social, etc.) and I think a balance is nice.

    The challenges we face sometimes are when a group of friends get together and we’re out, and he doesn’t feel comfortable. He doesn’t enjoy crowds of people and he begins to withdraw. Friends automatically assume he is being rude or something is “wrong” when really, it’s just not his bag. It frustrates me, because I want to help and let him enjoy but understanding where he can be comfortable is also something I need to gauge. We are different people with different needs and I think striking a balance HELPS.

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  • http://twitter.com/bdorman264 Bill Dorman

    It can be challenging but it can be done. I’m the extrovert and attend a multitude of social functions. Because my wife doesn’t necessarily enjoy this (depending on the event and who will be there) I attend more than half of these solo. Which is good and bad, it gives me the freedom to roam and I don’t feel like I have to babysit my wife; but being solo is a drag at times. We’ve made it 27+ years, so I guess we’ve figured out what works for both of us.

    Maybe a topic for another day, but my challenge is because I’m the social one is when I am at an event and talking to someone and see all these people I know walking by me is to make sure I give this person in front of me my undivided attention and my eyes are not looking all over the room. And if I accomplish this, then find an appropriate way to disengage. Whew, I’m working very hard at it……….so many people and so little time…….:)

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  • http://modernservantleader.com/ Benjamin Lichtenwalner

    Trina and I share your challenge – in reverse. I am more the extrovert, she the introvert, though as you say, it varies. I’ve learned a great deal from amazing wife and her introverted tendencies. The vacation example is perfect. I always used to want to meet people and network everywhere we went. However, we quickly learned to also build in an equal amount of quiet alone time. Now, many of my fondest vacation memories are of secluded beaches.

    At the office, I’ve learned to identify the different styles on the team. I am rarely worried about hearing opinions and suggestions from extroverts. The introverts, however, I try my best to pull out feedback from with pointed questions.

    A great reminder that is relevant to both public and private life. Thank you for sharing, Michael.

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  • Tinaia17

    WOW, thank you for this post….id loose my fiancee if i didnt found out shes an introvert, cause it looked like she was just being sick of me, while at the same time she says she loves me…and continues to ignore me :) lol shes bad with words too, pretty closed person, so she cant really explain this or many other things about her, well actually doesnt want to. I do believe conversation and communication is the key to a good relationship, how do i get her to open up to me and should i even try since she never ever opened up or talked about any intimate things with anyone, friends or family?

  • http://www.eileenknowles.com/ Eileen

    I’ve always had a hard time putting myself in either category.  I guess I’m a selective extrovert.  I am naturally pretty shy and yet have found myself in more extroverted type roles…like leading small groups.  I love getting to church early to say hi (and I’m also on the greeter team) .  I also enjoy spending time with my circle of friends.  However,  I NEED my quiet alone time too.  Too much “extroverting” exhausts me.   My husband, on the other hand, doesn’t understand why we have to get to church 15 minutes early every week!  

  • Vika

    I agree with you Sir. that’s really happen in my life, between me and my partner..
    ^^

  • rbodenstab

    What if you and your spouse are introverts?  We have to make a strategic effort to “go out” and connect with others!  

  • Troop1120

    Check out Susan Cain’s new book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts.  Very enlightening. 

  • http://twitter.com/jonstallings Jon Stallings

    It seems my wife and I both tend to be introverts, but it seems to work well for us (25 years in June) We have out differences in other areas.

    Since I am Pastor who preaches in front of crowds, people have a hard time believing I am an introvert. For me, I am more comfortable speaking in front of a large crowd than in one on one situations.

  • Alycia Morales

    I’m an introvert. Hubby’s an extrovert. I love to be home alone. He loves to be out and active. People drain me, but I do love to spend time with my closest friends and our family. He gets cabin fever if he’s not out doing something or interacting with other people. He walks up to a stranger and strikes up conversation. I shy away in the corner or on the sidelines until I hear something I can relate to and talk about. Both of us are strong leaders, though. At home, in ministry, and at work.

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  • A. mokh

    well.. this is the topic i’ve looking for…
    me and my fiance are facing this bid deal.. he is a pure introvert and i am a pure extrovert.. and we always have fights about that..
    can u help us to get closer.. we love many things in each other and very matching.. but we cant handle this point..
    so what do u advice us to do..

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

      Welcome to the club! My wife and I are the same way as well. She’s an introvert and I like to be an extrovert. 

      As you know, that can cause quite a few issues. Wanting to stay home and do nothing while the other wants to be with friends or keeping quiet while the other person wants to hold a conversation.

      During the first few years of our marriage, I tried to get my wife out and about to try new things and meet new people. It didn’t work too well. There was strife and resentment. But I think Michael sums it up well at the end of the post - 

      If your spouse or colleague is an introvert, you need to give him the space to be alone without making him feel guilty for not being more social. If your spouse or colleague is an extrovert, you need to allow him the freedom to
      socialize without getting annoyed that he isn’t ready to leave when you are. 

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  • T.T

    I need advice because my marriage is falling apart. I’ve always been a very social person. I love being out and about around people, listening to other peoples problems, giving advice, and things like that. But my husband on the other hand hates being around other people and always wants it to just be us or us in the kids. He gets mad when other kids come over or I invite friends to go out. I like to hang around after church and talk because most of them I only see there. I’ve always been like that though way before we ever even got married and he knew that when we was dating but never seemed to have much of a problem with it till recently. But we have been married just over 2 years and together for almost 6. I think he is pretty depressed because he has been out of work for a long time so it makes things even worse because he don’t like me to pay for anything especially his way going out to eat and things like that so now he really never wants to go anywhere But I don’t have a problem with it. I try to stay home when I’m not working but sitting in the house drives me nuts! We are falling apart can anyone give me some advice. I don’t want my marriage to fail but at the same time I don’t want to lose my mind sitting in the house. Plus he gets mad at the smallest thing like if we are going the park and one of my friends kids want to come he has a fit! I don’t understand what the big deal is! Someone please help!

  • Smcash33

    Me and my fiance are VERY different.  Im the introvent and he’s the extrovent. Sadly, this different has caused so many problems that the wedding has been postoned forever. It is too hard for me to entertain and he love it.   

  • Jeremieskanu

    The discussion has been great thank you

  • http://toomanymeds.com/ Alex Barker

    Reading good to great by Collins makes me want to be an introvert! I wish I had the humbleness of my wife (introvert). I’m an obviousness high I (DISC) extrovert. I love being the center of attention and accepting praise.
    I believe I’m becoming a great man, but I struggle with the idea that ill take all the glory for myself and not give it back to God. I hope to learn more from my wife’s introverted side

  • Jihoon

    I as introvert remind of where I should get the energy. 
    Truly, I become energetic when alone. This explanation is great stuff to me.
    Thanks. 

  • Ken

    Great article Michael, thanks a lot for this read! Like many I find myself in the same position and it feels very good to read something that sums it up so well. 
    I’m not completely new to this realisation but eager to start handling things even better. Do you have any recommended reading or tips of your own on how to actually appreciate each others differences more? I know realisation is one thing, putting it into reality is another. Personally I can switch very easily and often to my extroverted side so me and my girl go out a lot and do many fun and social activities. But on her part it’s always very hard to stay home, even if it’s just on a sunday after a socially packed weekend. On weekdays she’s home for 1 or 2 evenings, so I’m not completely desperate but I’m looking for points to improve either way. Kind regards.

  • Lakishah1

    I’m an E, my boyfriend I. It’s hard for me, when we first met he was outgoing and fun, texted and called frequently. But about a month in things changed. That is when I started looking up what could be wrong. I found out about our different personalities and I shared it with him, he was offended. After 3 months we broke up. He began to read the info, started contacting me more but ultimately we didn’t get back together although I still loved him. I just felt SO alone, I tried to adjust myself when I learned about his Introvert needs but he was not as flexible.

    Now, 11 months later he is back…wanting to try again. I decided we should try nourishing a friendship where we get to understand each other. But it feels just like before and as much as I still carry a torch for him I see it would wrong and painful to date him again. But he just doesn’t see it. He doesn’t understand why I want his attention, texts or phone calls. I hate that I have to call, text or make plans first. I know logically he cares about my wellbeing but I feel like no more special than that to him.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1318834879 Dennis Preston

    I am an introvert, my wife is an extrovert. She used to work in cosmetics at a mall & loved & thrived on the interaction. I work in sales, after her prodding me that I could do. The main thing for us in getting along…okay, for me..is that I’m with myself 24/7, so it would really be bad to be married to someone exactly like me. I love my wife’s approach to life, her being free to speak up when it’s needed. She has learned from me as well. It’s a great combo.

  • http://seekoutwisdom.blogspot.com Joseph Iliff of SeekOutWisdom

    Introverts have a number of qualities that can serve them well as leaders. In Quiet, author Susan Cain describes introverts as people who think before they act, which can be a very beneficial quality in a leader. Two other books I can recommend about leadership and introversion are Quiet Influence and The Introverted Leader by Jennifer Kahnweiler.

  • Diana Smiley Bartkowiak

    Love this article.. to the point for me! I love being Alone, yet god uses us Introverts to speak- God is good! :)

  • Christine Faour

    I have only recently realized that what was “wrong” with me by other peoples’ standards, is that I am an introvert. My husband is very much the extrovert and this had caused friction between us until we both came to understand our differences. Last week was my 60th birthday and for the first time in my life I wanted a party…half way through it, I was in the kitchen, serving. My sis told me that it was my party and ‘just get out there with your guests’. I had to tell her that I was so tired of talking to people that I just needed a break. And then I spent the three days following the party in the house, not really talking to anyone, just basking in the silence. I used to think I was nuts for feeling this way; now I realize that I am just ‘recharging’. My husband realizes this as well and accommodates me. Peace at last! I no longer have to fight for my solitude.
    Also, once a year I go away alone for three days, to be alone to write, read, knit, take walks and not talking to anyone, just enjoying being alone. Hubby understands this as well.

  • slufi

    Michael,

    You mention “it’s a miracle we survived it” regarding learning to live with an introvert and extrovert. Can you recommend specific practices, disciplines, or texts that helped you guys grow through the friction generated by introvert and extrovert marriages?

  • http://www.velocityministrymanagement.com/ Deborah Wipf

    Great point about neither being right – that it’s about leveraging the unique strengths of each personality type. As an introvert and a business owner, I’ve learned from my extroverted friends and have learned to adapt as needed for public speaking and working with my clients. I just make sure to carve-out time alone to recharge so I don’t wear out.

  • skye lite

    The hardest part of being an extrovert with vision & leadership qualities for a women in the Christian world is……she isn’t suppose to be that way! It took me years to realize that God made me just that way and then the Indwelling Holy Spirit continues to balance His work in me. My hubby is the introvert with teaching as his gift ……I go get the people who need to hear him. After 53 yrs of marriage and 40 of them as Christians with 10 in Christian ministry, we can find some balance.

  • davebaldwin

    I have heard the stat that 70% marry opposites. That’s true in our case. Louise is an introvert and I’m an extrovert. We do complement one another well.

    Perhaps it’s because of my perspective, but I do believe extroverts lead better — sorry Michael — even introverts talk about having to be “up” when with people. We extroverts do it better, and people realize that. At least that’s the feedback I’ve gotten from people. What do you think? What has been your experience?

    I love reading and talking about these kinds of things.

    Thank you for the post. There’s a lot to think about.

    Blessings,

    Dave

  • DeborahSPC

    Introvert. That is me. Paul Steinbrueck’s comment describes me perfectly. I love “deep” conversation, in a developed relationship. To get past the small talk, that sucks the life out of me, I really have to put on my game face to make through the small talk on the way to relationship. I really must discern whether this one is worth what it will costs me energy wise. My husband extends much grace for me to be quiet, he definitely sees the value, even though he is an extrovert. I think it’s his super power! Learning these major differences in our personalities has had benefits untold for us.

  • Pamela Slim

    I am a huge extrovert and my husband is a huge introvert. We have learned to really appreciate our differences, and it is a point of strength in our marriage. My whole family are introverts (Mom, Dad, brother, sister), so having a deep relationship with an introvert feels very comfortable to me. :)

  • Nicky

    I think I am an introvert and extrovert at the same time.Is this could be possible?
    Like everything depend on my mood.Like sometimes I need recharging by being me alone just reading book , on my laptop, on my own dancing away,or singing alone. At this point I don’t wanna engage myself to any strangers or even to my family.And sometimes I also wanna go out and meet new people , I enjoy the company of new people and enjoy the limelight.So can I call myself kinda balance between introvert and extrovert?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Google the word “ambivert.” There really is such a thing!

  • LalalaSinging

    Do you know your Myers Briggs types? :) I’m an ENFJ.
    From reading your posts, I get the vibe that you are ISTP and your wife is ENFJ, yes?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      No. ;-)

      I am an INFJ. She is an ESTP.