If we introverts had our way, we’d probably get rid of small talk. Small talk feels like just another social hoop to jump through. It’s not that we can’t do small talk—in fact, many of us have learned the art of chit chat and can throw the “small talk switch” when we have to. Some of us even pass for extroverts when we’re really trying.
However, just because we can successfully do small talk doesn’t mean we like it. Our attitude tends to be that if we’re going to be pulled out of our inner world (which is where we prefer to focus because it’s energizing), it had better be good. We don’t talk just to fill a silence. In fact, long conversations about the weather or what someone did over the weekend drain us.
What do introverts prefer to talk about? Ideas. Big ones. This is what Laurie Helgoe, author of Introvert Power: Why Your Inner Life Is Your Hidden Strength, calls conversation that is “mind to mind”:
But when an introvert is hanging out with a friend, sharing reflections, he is in his element. The conversation is ‘mind to mind’ rather than ‘mouth to mouth.’ Extroverts share ideas too, but the ideas are secondary to the interaction and develop between the two people as they talk. The focal point is external. For introverts, the focal point is internal, with each participant bringing the other inside and working things out there. A good conversation leaves an introvert feeling more connected, but also personally richer.
To get introverts talking, ask us questions about things we’re interested in (we tend to have very specific areas of interest and expertise). Or bring up an issue that has been in the news lately and ask us our thoughts. Lastly, try something personal—ask, “What’s something you’ve learned about yourself lately?” We feel energized whenever we get to share our inner world with someone else.
What’s your personality type? We recommend this free, quick test from our partner Personality Hacker.
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