As an introvert, how can I develop intimate relationships with friends and partners?

The loosening of restrictions for social distancing in recent few weeks in Hong Kong enable many people to enjoy large-group social gatherings. People who are enthusiastic about socialising start to publish posting of their parties in social media. However, for those with more introverted tendency, seeing these posting may trigger their self-doubts about lacking belongings to large groups. In fact, people with introversion enjoy more intimate relationships with a small group of fiends or in one-on-one relationships. There is nothing abnormal for their preference and it is totally healthy for them to only develop relationships in small groups. If you are also an introvert, how can you develop intimate relationships with your friends and partners?

It is paradoxical that if you want to develop an intimate relationship with someone, you need to cultivate your autonomy. This means that you need to be able to have your own opinions in different aspects, such as politics, finance and entertainment. For instance, it is important for two persons in an intimate relationship to know their own political stands and respect the stand of the other person. It is also important for a person to be able to react with a sense of autonomy when other parties in the group try to persuade or influence him or her, want things from him or her, attempt to control him or her, or do not respect one’s boundaries. If you come across such situations, you need to be able to assert your will and decisions without being fearful of being abandoned. You need to be able to make your own choices.

When you relate with others, it is important for you to bring your awareness back to your own experience. Sometimes, the other parties may try to pull you into them and influence you. You need to ground yourself to your own experience in order to fully experience your thoughts and feelings. As a result, you know your own opinions and your preferences.

For those who are easily being persuaded or influenced, you need to focus on the senses of your body more and reflect on your own stands. You may need to tell yourself that “I don’t have to agree with you and this is ok”, “you and I are different and we are still close”. In fact, people who have autonomy in intimate relationships obtain more respect from the other party. Thus, the other party will treat you as who you are and relate with your true self. This is a very important element in intimate relationships. If you frequently sacrificed your needs and acted submissively, the other party may not relate with you in an intimate level. He or she may only use you as someone who could satisfy his or her own needs. For instance, many introverts complain that their friends or partners only seek emotional support from them by disclosing their misfortune, but never reciprocate to listen to their suffering and provide emotional support to them.

Besides autonomy, you also need to develop empathy towards your friends and partners in intimate relationships. You need to be able to take their perspectives and tune into their feelings. It is important that you need to stay grounded when tuning into the other party’s emotions. In this way, you will not be overwhelmed by their emotions.

When you interacting with others, you need to pay attention to listen to the other party’s verbal and nonverbal language. You also need to pay attention to their emotions and thoughts. When listening to others, you need to also bring the awareness to your own bodily sensations in order to stay grounded. By seeing from the other party’s perspective and tuning into their emotions, you are able to empathise with him or her. It is also important to remind yourself that you are your own “self” and you do not have to agree with the other party in order to empathise with him or her.

When you are able to maintain your autonomy and develop empathy towards your friends and partners, you are able to enjoy intimate relationships in a deep level. This kind of connection is lacking in networking gatherings with a very large group of friends.  There is nothing abnormal for being an introvert.  Be yourself and enjoy socializing.

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