Almost everyone has introverted friends. An introvert has several behaviors that are considered antisocial:
- Introverts are shy instead of gregarious.
- Introverts are very comfortable saying nothing.
- Introverts dislike larger groups.
- Introverts happily say no to going out.
However, I don’t think any of that is antisocial. Being social does not mean being willing to go to a big group to a bar. Being social does not mean accepting an invite to every party. Being social does not mean mixers.
The rest of this is probably wrong but it’s what I’ve felt about introverts.
To me, being social means willing to have a conversation, even about things that aren’t very interesting. If someone is willing to talk to me about my fantasy football league even though they know nothing about football, they’re being social to me. If someone spills their guts on their latest obsession with nail polish, then I shouldn’t consider them antisocial just because I think nail polish is boring.
I think an introvert is most social when talking to a listener who is very good at being passive. Passive listening means always having that Midwest pause before responding in a conversation, as opposed to the Southern haste to respond to what you just heard. Passive listening also means being a willing partner in deep dives. An introvert will not necessarily indicate that they are interested, but if an introvert is talking, they are interested.
It’s true that introverts dislike large groups; I’m always aware of this and try to keep group sizes low when I want my introverted friends to join. It helps that I dislike clubs, which are basically hell for introverts. I’m also more and more comfortable with 1:1 time with introverts, where it’s just us eating or sipping drinks and exploring what happened. That also means not inviting them to parties that you’re invited to, because that’s a significant crowd of people who the introvert doesn’t really want to talk to.
I find that an introvert’s social nature comes out best when they are lost in questions and answers. For example, if the conversation topic is cooking, and they start reminiscing about home dishes or great solo dining experiences, that’s them being social. At that point, you should not try to bring other people into the discussion. That’s a strong way to shut an introvert up, is to include a stranger or somebody else. Conversations are in the moment, and for introverts the best conversations are 1:1 moments.
I also try to find an appropriate place to hang out with introverts. Especially here in New York City, I avoid modern loud restaurants. New York City restaurants love to play loud music, and introverts can often shut down in the face of such loud noises. I also ensure that I’m not constantly engaging in eye contact because I think eye contact is unnecessary pressure for introverts in particular. I also try to stay on a subject until it is exhausted. Extrovert-only conversations can bounce between topics, but such shuffling for introverts increases the barrier to being in the moment, which leads introverts to shut down.