How to Live With an Introvert Roommate

To comfortably share an abode with a Subtle sort of person, one must extend but one basic principle to all dealings:

-Reduce social obligation and friction of association.

I must begin by explaining the difference of one’s room to the introvert and the extrovert.

For an extrovert, a room is a place to crash in between episodes of social activity.  It’s just a tool required for basic rest and shelter.

For the introvert, one’s room is home, sanctuary, and all important private kingdom.  One who is Subtle deals with a world that neither accepts nor understands their ways.  The room is often the one place in the world where they can really feel safe and relaxed.

An extroverted roommate is one of the introverted person’s greatest fears:  The fear that one who is grounded in the orthodox society brings that society with them into the room, effectively eliminating the last haven.

For an introvert, being forced to immerse in the hostile society even in their home is one of the greatest imaginable violations.  I imagine that many an extrovert has found themself with an introverted roommate who was constantly surly, closed, and hostile, seemingly without reason.

Some intial steps:
-Keep your movies and music on headphones unless you’re both explicitly watching or listening to it.
-Don’t snap fingers, tap, clap, or slap your knees while listening to music/movies.  These noisy antics are worse than second hand smoke.
-For phone calls, take the cell phone out in the hallway, and don’t talk loudly, especially to someone who’s not actually in the room. Extremely rude!
-Don’t make your room an entertaining center for groups of friends, especially not late at night or while all of you are drunk.  If you wish for peace with an introvert, just bring in one or two friends at a time and don’t pursue any particularly loud or obtrusive activities.   Asking permission, negotiating first will get you far.  Actually, just showing respect by giving some form of advance notice is usually good enough.

This might seem like a lot to ask, but consider what all these situations have in common.  By doing any of these things in the room, you are imposing your values and lifestyle on your roommate.  You are deciding what your roommate will listen to, who they have to live with, and exactly when they have to do these things.  You have decided that you are vested with the natural authority to make life decisions for your roommate!   As far as an introvert is concerned, you might as well jump across the room, ransack their belongings, and piss all over their mattress.

If you persist with typical extrovert habits when you have an introverted roommate, you will needlessly make an enemy!  An enemy who perceives that you have given up all rights to your personal living preferences and belongings.  You will be accorded no respect because you never gave any.  Your roommate will be watching for any weakness or means of forcing you out.

Your introverted roommate’s essential needs are very simple:  one half of one room as their respected and safe domain.  From the Subtle perspective, this is not only a reasonable demand, it seems cruel and miserly that someone who has the entire outside world on their side cannot be bothered to spare one 5×12 foot rectangle.

Other than that,
-Do not always give/expect greetings and farewells when leaving or arriving.
-Don’t impose your social expectations on your roommate.
-If in doubt whether it needs to be said, don’t say it.
-If you leave your roommate alone, your introverted roommate will happily reciprocate.
-IMPORTANT!  DON’T disturb your introverted roommate if they are clearly concentrating on something unless it is very important.

Once you’ve shown basic respect, chances are, your Subtle roommate will grow comfortable and eventually actually approach you.
The key is that you cannot make control of the room into a social power struggle as extroverts naturally do.  You have to respect your introvert roommate as an equal or no deal.  Introverts operate according to tacit understandings and unseen contracts.  What is most important does not need to be said because it is self evident from the nature of the situation.

Only when friction of association and social obligation are reduced to mutually acceptable levels are there grounds for friendly and harmonious co-existence.

Zygmunt blogs at Kingdom of Introversion (and elsewhere).

How to Live With an Introvert Roommate appears here by permission.

[image via Flickr/Creative Commons]

on 05/23/11 in featured, Politics | No Comments | Read More

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