How to be friends with people who could not be more different than you

Photo by Hannah Busing on Unsplash

As I mentioned in a previous article, I am a highly sensitive person (HSP) and an ambivert. This means that I love socialising and being with people, but I have limits and if those limits are not adhered to, it is very likely I will be exhausted, grumpy and very much needing time on my own.

I have friends who are ambiverts and/or HSPs too and we seem to understand our needs and limits very well. Too tired to have a phone call? No problem. Need to leave that social function early? I get it. After work, do you need to be in your room for at least an hour to de-stress and unwind? That makes good sense to me.

But what about friends and partners who are full introverts or extroverts? It can definitely be challenging having relationships with people whose personalities differ to yours.

How to be a good friend or partner with an introvert

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My best friend and boyfriend are introverts. I love them both dearly but sometimes I don’t get their particular needs and idiosyncrasies.

My best friend can happily spend days on end at home, without craving outside adventure or the need to meet up with friends. Often I will call her and she will not answer — the phone goes straight to voicemail. Sometimes she will call me back or she will simply text me. As an introvert, she much prefers texting to calling people. At times, this has been hard for me to understand but now I do get it, as I often don’t have energy for long phone calls and prefer to text people instead.

My boyfriend is also happy to spend lots of time at home and likes to be in a tranquil, peaceful environment. He does not like loud noises, lots of talking and sudden movements. Despite being a HSP, I am a very chatty person and like to talk a lot. This does not bode well for my boyfriend who hates incessant chatting. Over time, I have learnt to talk less and listen more, which my boyfriend really appreciates. But it has also made me feel more peaceful too. I realised that sometimes I use talking to fill uncomfortable gaps and silences and that just sitting with someone and not speaking for a while can be very peaceful. Introverts are onto something.

How to manage and thrive in your relationships with extroverts

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I have a number of extroverted friends, some of whom I am quite close to. I love these friends but I also find these friendships very challenging. As a HSP, I cannot handle too much stimulation, unlike my extroverted friends.

When I moved to Melbourne over two years ago, I was in need of friends and tried to be more extroverted by getting out there and meeting new people. I really enjoyed all the socialising but the high levels of stimulation really took it out of me. I was often exhausted when I got home and needed to rest and sleep a lot.

My efforts at making new friends came to fruition and I had a few different groups of friends to meet each week. I got invited to a lot of social events and had trouble turning them down, in fear of being alone or lonely. I tried to keep up with my extroverted friends who seemed to have endless energy for meeting numerous times during the week, texting and calling. I tried to participate in as much social activity as I could, but there were times when my fatigue got the better of me and I would occasionally turn down a social invite or delay replying to friends’ messages, until I was ready.

Reaching a happy medium

Personality is a complex thing — we are all unique beings and it is hard to find people who you are completely compatible with. Often you simply have to accept people as they are, just as they have to accept you as you are. Friendships develop and endure when people appreciate each other’s unique personalities.

Luckily as an ambivert, I get to enjoy the best of both introvert and extrovert worlds, which is probably why I can be friends with introverts and extroverts.

These days, I have been feeling a lot more introverted as we are currently in a Stage 4 lockdown in Melbourne, Australia. I am grateful that I have this quieter side to me that enjoys reading, writing and being alone.

However, my extroverted side does miss the freedom and social activities of my life before the pandemic. I do dream of meeting friends one day, travelling and being able to walk out of home without a mask. But until then, my introverted side will keep me going throughout this lockdown. So bring on books, Stan, Netflix and Amazon and video calls. I think this will be my life for a while.

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I’m a writer and editor, currently living in Melbourne, Australia. I love reading books, articles and blogs. See my blog: https://myhsp.life/

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Helen van Soest

Helen van Soest

I’m a writer and editor, currently living in Melbourne, Australia. I love reading books, articles and blogs. See my blog: https://myhsp.life/

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