When I tell people that I am currently writing a book about friendship, one of the most common questions I get asked in response is, "What about me? I’m an introvert." To which I always share that I am absolutely convinced that we all need great friends, no matter where we sit on the scale between introversion and extraversion. And, we need to appreciate the nuances and niceties within us and among us, to better understand one another and be the best friend we can be.

World Introvert Day falls on 2 January. I love two things about this, firstly, that there is an international day for introverts. Secondly, that it takes place immediately after New Year, in an under-the-radar and subtle way that would be deeply appreciated by those it is celebrating. 

In recent years, I have learnt a lot about friendship for introverts and how we can all learn from each other.

Extraverts need to learn from introverts about investing in deep friendships.

One of the findings of my book, is the limit of our relational capacity and the consequent encouragement to spend our time investing in a few relationships more than others. Don’t spread your relational energy too thinly. Leading research tells us that extraverts have more friends, but often lack depth. Introverts are better at not overly dividing their emotional capital. For those of us with a large network we need to observe how well our introverted friends invest in their inner circles.

Introverts sometimes need encouragement to operate outside of their comfort zone.

Most people don’t believe me when I tell them I am a closet introvert. It’s true. I need time on my own, often on a train and regular periods alone to decompress and recharge when tired. I think I get this side of my character from my dad who would disliked going to large gatherings of people and was the guy in the corner’ rather than the life and soul’ of the party, commanding centre stage. But he taught me that relationship was a sacrifice and we often don’t get our own way. He made the most effort when helping people in their walk with Jesus, was phenomenal at discipling people one to one, but also showed up to the big church gatherings, which he found emotionally exhausting, to help people hear the gospel and build community.

Sometimes, loving our neighbour as we love ourselves means we need to withdraw from the crowd and be renewed by sitting in solitude at the feet of Jesus. Sometimes laying down our lives for our friends means going to parties and sticking around for coffee when all we want to do is retreat.

Here are some tips that my introverted friends want to share with the extroverted world’:

  1. We value strong bonds over large networks. But this doesn’t mean we don’t love people.
  2. We need time to think.
  3. We are not ignoring you if we don’t text back immediately.
  4. We often want to spend time with you one to one.
  5. Being in the company of even those we love the most can be exhausting.
  6. We like activities with others that don’t require constant communication.
  7. In group conversation we are sometimes happy just listening.

Jesus was unquestionably the most complete human who ever lived. And I love that he embodies facets of both introversion and extraversion. In solitude or as a socialiser, He modelled the ultimate self-sacrifice as a friend. So with that in mind, may we learn from Him and consider the needs of others. Happy World Introvert Day – I’m off to sit in the corner with a good book!