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