The Art of Getting Along With Our Opposites

Simple tips for living with an introvert or extrovert when your personality traits are opposites.

Image Credit: Cassie / Veda House

We know how tough it can be to get along with someone whose personality doesn't quite match our own. We've all been through relationships, roommate situations and family drama that brought to light our deep-seated differences, right? In the wildly popular book, "Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking," author Susan Cain notes that 30-50% of Americans are introverts, and, though that may be the case, we tend to see the world through what she calls the Extrovert Ideal. The book takes a deep and fascinating look at the differences between the two ends of the spectrum and, naturally, that set our wheels in motion as we reflect on our own circumstances.

While we have no intention of  summarizing the book (can you tell we highly recommend a thorough read?), we wanted to offer up a few notes we've learned along the way as we navigate relationships with our polar opposites. Here goes, Clementines!:

  • Knowledge is key. Knowing that your loved one has different socializing preferences and values different activities than you do is half the battle. We can't even begin to tell you how many lightbulbs went on while reading the book. For example, does your significant other, family member or roommate seem to need quiet time when he or she gets home, whereas you tend to chat endlessly about your day or launch into a conversation about plans for your next date/outing/party? You may be dealing with someone who is more introverted than yourself! It seems obvious, but just realizing that their preferences for social interaction may differ from your own will help you co-exist more harmoniously.

  • Set a few boundaries. This is where acting on your knowledge comes into play. If you find yourself needing to chat or plan, but your partner, friend or family member isn't interested at the moment, shelve the conversation for another time. On the other hand, if you feel the need to decompress and engage in more quiet time than others, let them know. We are big advocates for active communication when it comes to setting boundaries. Letting others know what you need is an important step in co-habitation.

  • Find the right people for the right activities. Calling all extroverts: this one is for you. If you're someone who loves the dim spotlight of the karaoke stage, while your introverted partner cannot stand crowded bars; it's time to find a group of friends suited for such things. Not everyone is game for every experience. At the same time, introverts who would rather read all weekend than go on a group wine tasting trip may just be onto something. We know extroverts can agree that there's nothing wrong with pulling up a chair and taking it easy every now and then.

  • Never judge. This is tough, we know. We've been on both sides of this one and we really hate how it makes us feel, regardless of whether we're the judge or the judged. It can be so easy to fall into the pattern of wanting our significant other, friend or family member to be just like us. Wouldn't that just make life easier? In a word: perhaps. But it would make for an incredibly boring existence. We would rather opt for embracing the differences between us. Who knows? If we take the time to learn about those closest to us, maybe we'll learn a thing or two about how to better interact with everyone else!

p.s. Have the whole "living with introverts and extroverts" thing down? Maybe it's time to treat yourself a little better.