I’m an introvert.
That doesn’t mean that I don’t like people or that I’m shy or that I’m afraid of crowds. Rather, it means that being with people takes energy from me, while being alone restores my energy. Extroverts are the opposite, they get energy from being with people and are drained by being alone. Because of that, it’s usually easier for extroverts to make friends, while it takes some effort for an introvert.
Think of it in terms of sleeping and waking; both are necessary for a proper, healthy life. Some people naturally need less sleep, they wake up chipper and excited at 5am. Other people crawl out of bed at a quarter to noon stumbling after the first cup of coffee. Neither one is wrong or bad. Both need sleep and both need to be awake.
The important thing is finding your balance and learning how you function best. Think of alone time as sleep and time with people as being awake. You can’t sleep forever and still be healthy, that’s called a coma and they put you in the hospital for it. You can’t stay awake forever and still be healthy, that’s called insomnia and they give you medicine to deal with it. You can’t stay alone forever and you can’t be with people forever. We need both to be healthy.
Introverts need to learn how to be with people and extroverts need to learn how to be alone.
As an introvert, I sometimes need a boost to get out with people. It’s not that I don’t like it, I just need some help getting started. It’s the relational equivalent of a cup of coffee in the morning. When I’m spending time with people I need to be aware of the energy I’m expending. The more people there are and the more people I’ve never met, the more energy I expend. I can spend a long time with a few close friends, but after a couple hours with a crowd of strangers, I’m exhausted.
When I’m tired, I need to rest and recuperate. Just like someone who’s sleepy needs to go and take a nap, spending time alone is important for health. If I need to, I can stay up for a couple days or go for a week on just a few hours of sleep, but it’s not a long-term situation. If I were to try and live that way, I’d get sick, be grouchy and generally just not be a happy person. The same is true for spending time with people. If I need to, I can do a lot of it, as long as it’s for a short amount of time. Then I need to catch up on my alone time.
Introverts do a good job at being close friends with a few people. They need help meeting new people and making new acquaintances.
My wife is an extrovert. She loves to be with people and enjoys crowds. Sometimes she needs help to stay in and relax, even when there’s a party going on somewhere. In the same way as me being enticed to go out, I need to encourage her to stay in sometimes. Once she does relax, she’s happy about it and it’s a helpful thing, but it’s not her natural state of being.
Extroverts can’t last a long time being alone. They can do it for a short time, if necessary, but they’ll start to go a little stir-crazy after a while.
Extroverts do a good job of making new friends and meeting people. They need help creating deep friendships and slowing down.