Why Introverts Hate Small Talk (It’s Not Because We Suck At It)

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You may have seen an article making the rounds on social media about how introverts suck at small talk, and that is the only reason we actually have for hating it.

While the author, Paul Ingraham, does make some good points about small talk as a valuable social skill, I would argue that most of his article is really quite off the mark. Unlike Ingraham’s hypothesis, there is no correlation between being an introvert and being bad at small talk.

Are some people bad at small talk? Sure. Do some people lack emotional intelligence and assume every person should be able to immediately dig into profound conversations? Yeah, probably. Do these qualities have anything to do with being an introvert? Nope.

Introverts dislike small talk, but we don’t suck at it.

I’ve worked several customer-service jobs, engaged in countless “surface level” conversations, and even been described as bubbly, engaging, and outgoing. While there are plenty of times that I feel like the most awkward person in the room, I doubt anyone would call me socially inept. Because when it comes to conversation, I can small talk with the best of them.

But that doesn’t mean I like it.

So why do introverts actually dislike small talk?

1. We spend a lot of time in our heads, and it requires a lot to pull us out.

The very definition of introvert is “to turn inward.” Unless I’m deeply meditating or dead, my brain has about 543,043 thoughts floating around at once. To engage with others, I have to actively flip the switch in my mind and focus on the external conversation. The more the conversation allows us to think, i.e., turn inward, the more rewarding it is. The more it focuses on external topics, the more draining it is.

2. We are comfortable with silence.

It’s not that we are anti-social, we don’t feel it necessary to start a conversation about the weather just to fill a conversation void. There are few things introverts appreciate more than someone who they can sit in comfortable silence with. We do enjoy engaging with and learning about other people, but sometimes after too much of it, we need some quiet time.

3. We are active listeners.

Small talk is not constructed for active listening. Because of this, introverts often spend much of a small talk conversation attempting to dig deeper to get to the point where they can use their active listening skills. We aren’t trying to open up a profound discussion, but rather trying to get our conversation partner to share more about herself, her situation, or an idea, which allows the conversation to flow more naturally.

4. We like to think before we speak.

Because introverts process internally, we like to think before speaking. It’s our mind’s natural way of doing things. Small talk is often fast-paced and doesn’t allow us to internally process our thoughts. Any time we have to act in a way that goes against our natural preference, it is going to feel forced and fake.

It’s not just introverts who hate small talk. In fact, plenty of extroverts would prefer to dig deeper in conversations as well. However, since extroverts are dominant external processors, small talk and conversations of all kinds tend to come more naturally to them.

Do you agree with Ingraham’s view on introverts and small talk? What are you personal opinions about small talk?

Let’s clear one thing up: Introverts do not hate small talk because we dislike people. We hate small talk because we hate the barrier it creates between people. Laurie A. Helgoe

Image Credit: Deviant Art


16 Comments

  • Great post. Yesterday I was actually thankful for a back injury that forced me to stay home rather than go out to an event and have to make boring small talk about jobs / where I live / blah blah blah.

  • Andy Mort says:

    Fantastic article. Yes. Totally agree, I’m not bad at small talk but I don’t like it. I know many extroverted people who are terrible at it. How good you are at it bears little relation to your temperament – I think many introverts can believe they are worse at it than they actually are. It’s an encouraging message to tell us that it’s not because we’re bad that we don’t like it, thank you! 🙂

  • THIS says:

    “Introverts do not hate small talk because we dislike people. We hate small talk because we hate the barrier it creates between people.” THIS.

  • Micah says:

    Great quote at the end. And I absolutely agree. I’ve not come across the piece that this article is in response to but I think it’s strange how common a thing it is for people to form reductive opinions about the personalities and experiences of others without really allowing themselves to step beyond their own perspective and prejudices to inhabit that ‘other’s’ experience. I’m an INFJ, I’m not a misanthrope, quite the opposite actually. I like people, I like conversation. I’m not a fan of small talk because it often seems generic and superficial, filled with remarks and platitudes that can be applied to any and everyone. I like to get to know the person, as opposed to people I guess, if that makes sense (first time stumbling across this site by the way and loving the content so far (although would love more male perspectives too))

  • Micah says:

    How silly am I. Clearly hadn’t done enough reading and have now found a ton of male perspectives. Great (and well balanced) site. 😉

  • Lizzie says:

    In response to THIS’s quote: perhaps it is not so much small talk itself which acts as a barrier between people’s relationships. Rather, in some cases, it may be the attitudes which individuals hold against small talk which can hinder the development of the relationship, or the level of communication between individuals.

    Certainly, small talk can be the predicator to the desired, big, and deeper topics. Yet if an individual dislikes engaging in small talk, and chooses to detach themselves from the conversation, evidently the relationship will not be as fluid and conversations will not be sustained, and deeper topics will not be reached. This is because once someone has ‘decided’ not to engage with the other person, it becomes a one sided conversation. with one person asking the questions and the other not really responding because they do not see the point in small talk, or they dislike small talk, or because small talk is tiring for them. This reveals how individual attitudes towards small talk may hinder relationship development.

    Moreover, when the initiator perceives that their attempts at conversation aren’t working, they will naturally ensue the constant shift to new topics to discuss. which can result in awkwardness for both sides, creating relatively shallow and pointless conversations. henceforth, in some cases, it is individual attitudes when communicating with each-other, which may in fact create barriers between people, and not so much small talk in and of itself. 🙂

    I am not saying that it is wrong to dislike small talk, but this is just another way to look at the world 🙂
    This is only my opinion, and I am not criticising anyone or taking an introverted or extroverted side.

    Lizzie

  • jorisdls says:

    I love how this post proves introverts actually can have people skills. Well put 🙂

  • John Lewis says:

    Great article, hit what I’m experience and went to Google search for in first attempt. Great ending quote as well. ….I think as introverts we have to look @ what Lizzie stated in her previous comment because I have experience the in interactions she described… I believe the solution is we need to take the time to prepare ourselves mentally for social interactions.

  • I enjoyed the article and I also the comment that Lizzie made. Multiple perspectives help a lot.

  • SotiCoto says:

    I’m still working on trying to get rid of small talk as a standard… at least for myself. Gotta start small scale too, I guess. Can’t debug the whole of human society overnight.

    It isn’t enough to just hate it and endure it because it is the social norm. It isn’t acceptable to just let the extroverts dictate the terms of interaction.

    So I’ve got into the habit of immediately shutting down anyone who tries to small talk me and telling them in no uncertain terms that I consider it rude and unwelcome. If they can’t accept that then I don’t want anything to do with them anyway.

  • There’s no such things as introvert/extrovert.

  • June says:

    I honestly can’t understand how anyone can talk to anyone else at all if they refuse to use small talk. Please explain, please! When I catch up with my friends I ask them how their week or day has been. Should I he asking them if they have found the meaning of life yet? I truely don’t know how to start a conversation without first using small talk? Please teach me. What about a stranger you are introduced to? If I can’t ask about their background or hobbies etc how can we get to know each other? Am I supposed to launch straight off with what their thoughts on child sex slavery are at the pub on a Friday night when I have had s hard week at work and want to have fun and dance to the band? Truely am not understanding

    • Guest says:

      First, calm down.
      Second, who said anything about refusing to engage in small talk? Just be cause we dislike it doesn’t mean we don’t understand it’s a necessity. It’s just a pain to get through – like sitting through commercials or completing a tutorial before you start a game.

      Also, having more substantial conversations doesn’t mean debating politics or philosophy. For me personally, something that at lest graspso my interest is enough for me. So long as it isn’t boring and trivial

  • Karma Lee says:

    Do you prefer meaningful conversation over small talk?
    BigTalk is the card game for you. It’s time to end small talk, make real connection and have fun.
    Check it out! → https://igg.me/at/bigtalkcard/

  • Sometimes I like to chat if I feel like I am interested in talking. Other times I’m in the middle of doing something or thinking deeply about something and I am busy. At those times I just say hello and move on. Small talk makes me feel trapped because I have a million important things going on in my life and in my head. For me, chit chat is something I might do if I have nothing else going on which is rare.

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