This past weekend I met another introvert at one of the last places you would expect to meet an introvert — a hostel-sponsored pub crawl. We were both traveling solo and decided to fight the urge to stay in and binge watch Netflix on a Friday night and instead go out and socialize with other travelers. We ended up spending a good part of the weekend hanging out together, and bonding over the many things we had in common as two 24-year-old female introverts. One topic we discussed at length was the issue of living with extroverted roommates. Although we both live alone, we spent most of our college and early post-grad years living with extroverts, and had plenty of horror stories to share.
Which made me wonder — is it really that hard for introverts and extroverts to coexist in a shared living space? Of course it’s not impossible, people do it all the time. But there are a few things that my new friend and I both agreed would have made things a lot easier if our extroverted ex-roommates would have understood about living with an introvert.
1. The most obvious — introverts need alone time. Everyone knows that introverts aren’t the most likely to be up for a party every night of the week, but sometimes even tame extroverted activities, like going out to dinner or having people over for a wine and movie night, can occasionally be too much for an introvert whose social batteries are completely drained. Sometimes what we really need is just to hibernate in our rooms with the doors closed and our headphones in, drowning out the rest of the world for a while. And all we want is for other people to understand and accept that about us.
2. Many introverts are also highly sensitive. What that means is that things like loud music, crowded spaces or the sound of our roommate fighting with their significant other right outside our bedroom door, is all enough to heighten our senses and make our anxieties go haywire. I used to live with two extroverts who often invited friends over and would stay up late blaring loud music, drinking and socializing. Believe me, I’m all for a good time. But what I didn’t appreciate was that this often happened with no prior notice, and for a highly sensitive introvert, not knowing when to expect that type of environment (that I normally need to mentally prepare for) caused a lot of stress and anxiety. There’s nothing wrong with having people over, as long as you let us know in advance.
3. Personal space is sacred to introverts. We tend to be private, reserved people. If our door is closed, it’s probably because we don’t want anyone to come in without knocking. Our bedroom is typically where we go to recharge and get away from the world, and we prefer to keep it that way. We are the same way about our personal belongings. If there is a closed notebook or computer laying on our bed and we found out someone came in our rooms and opened or used it, we’ll probably freak out. We’re not anti-sharing, we just prefer you ask first.
4. It’s ok to compromise. Most introverts probably grew up in households with at least one extrovert, so we understand that we can’t always have everything exactly as we want it and are happy to compromise. If you want to have a party on Friday night, great, just let your introverted roommate know. And if the introvert needs to have a quiet night in, they should let you know. Open communication about each of your needs and a willingness to compromise are two of the most important things when it comes to introverts and extroverts living together.
Introverts and extroverts can definitely live together happily as long as a mutual understanding of each others personalities and living preferences exists between them, and as long as both parties are willing to accept and occasionally make compromises on behalf of the other. What is your experience living with introverts or extroverts? Do you have any other tips for how to happily live with an introvert?