Being raised by a lawyer helped me learn the difference between open- and close-ended questions — and one is much better as a conversation hack.
If you’re an introvert like me, you would rather text someone than call them up and definitely avoid the face-to-face part. Right? I mean, we often don’t want to touch conversations with a 10-foot pole — unless they are deep and meaningful.
However, the world being what it is, verbal communication is inevitable in personal and professional circles. So, today, let me share five things you can do instantly that will help you communicate in a much better way.
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5 Conversation Hacks for Introverts
1. Be open-ended and avoid leading questions.
My father is a trained lawyer and he would always tell me to refrain from asking leading questions. At the time, I wasn’t sure what he meant, but much later in life, I learned the difference between close- and open-ended questions. (Hint: The ones that can be answered with a simple “yes” or “no” are close-ended, and the ones that can’t are open-ended.)
When you ask someone “How are you doing?” the answer is usually a short one. But an open-ended one can lead to a wide-ranging answer. What’s more, as an introvert, I bet you have the power to answer even an open-ended question in a closed-question manner — while extroverts have developed a way to do exactly the opposite. For instance, if you ask them if they’re alright, they’ll probably say, “Yep. Did I tell you about how I went to that cool new bookstore the other day…?”
You get the drift — the answer could fill a page! The open-endedness promotes more communication, so try it out and see what happens (and how much your conversations change).
2. Be more accepting of small talk, which can lead to deep talk.
As introverts, most of our conversations take place in our minds before they take place with anyone else. This is exactly why we find ourselves (over)thinking every word before we answer an email or speak up in a work meeting. So just imagine us with small talk. Thinking on the spot? The worst!
Like most introverts, I’ve always hated small talk, and that’s probably why you’ll find me sitting in a corner alone at a social event, enjoying my food and drinks. Just thinking about having a shallow conversation about the weather makes me feel a little under the weather. But talk to me about something deeper, like philosophy, or a topic I’m passionate about, and I won’t even look for the nearest exit! Because, despite what some people may think, we introverts don’t hate people — we just hate shallow socializing!
And here’s the catch: I would love to have deep and meaningful conversations with people, but it’s not easy for us introverts to do this with just anybody. Usually, we need to know someone on a deeper level before we can have a deep conversation with them. It’s a conversational Catch-22.
So let’s start to look at small talk a little differently. When you look at it as a means to an end — chit-chat leading to bigger, deeper topics — it no longer seems as bad.
3. Begin interestingly with a fun icebreaker (of sorts).
While small talk may be the tool needed to get to more intense topics, the question for most of us is where to begin. After all, I think the beginning of a conversation is the most crucial part of a long and engaging one. And, since we live in an ever-distracting world, I’d say that how you begin a talk with someone will make or break it.
Let me give you some tried-and-true ways to start a conversation. Let’s say you’re at a bus stop and someone else is waiting, too. How would you start the conversation? Instead of just talking about the weather and what a nice day it is, you can ask them where they’re going or if they’ve taken this bus route before, and to where. Starting with an open-ended question is a great way to elicit a response and ignite a conversation (thank you, Dad).
You can also start out with an opinion or interesting fact, whether it’s about the bus (how it is always 15 minutes late) or something going on in the new (that can lead to a conversation, of course, not just a statement that goes nowhere).
Do you ever struggle to know what to say?
As an introvert, you actually have the ability to be an amazing conversationalist — even if you’re quiet and hate small talk. To learn how, we recommend this online course from our partner Michaela Chung. Click here to check out the Introvert Conversation Genius course.
4. Use your introvert superpower of being comfortable with silence.
Sometimes, when I notice two extroverts speaking, it is difficult to figure out if it’s a conversation or a game of who speaks the most. This is because both of them can not bear silence and want to fill it with words, but not us. Introverts don’t like talking just for the sake of talking; listening is where we differ from extroverts.
You see, this is our superpower: We are comfortable with silence. Think about it; it is a match made in heaven, and no matter who you are speaking with, introverts or extroverts, this ability makes things much easier.
If we meet an introvert, we are both comfortable with silence and will move to deeper conversations; if an extrovert comes along, all we need to do is ask open-ended questions and listen — and the extrovert will gladly do the rest!
This is also why introverts make good therapists and excel in careers where listening is the focus. Mind you, I am not talking about just listening; I am asking you to drop everything else (including that phone) and truly listen to the person speaking — so well that you could summarize what they’re saying, if needed. That is active listening, and we introverts are pros at it.
5. Stretch yourself slowly — take small steps to talk to more people before diving right in.
The first four tricks are useful when you are stuck in a conversation, and I say this because, most of the time, it feels to us that we are stuck in situations beyond our control that need us to talk. So this last hack is to bring some control to the chaos that we introverts often feel in this extroverted world.
So instead of getting stuck in situations, you create the situations in which to talk. For example, a student of mine started having weekly meetings and phone calls with acquaintances. The conversations would not be long, and since they were one-to-one, they felt safe enough for him to try. This is exactly what I mean by stretching yourself slowly and taking small steps to talk to more people. Continue this stretching for a few months and you will feel much more confident when in social situations, whether it’s parties or at work.
These five tips have helped me overcome some of the anxiety that I feel as an introvert in an extroverted world, and I hope they do the same for you.
Fellow introverts, what are your favorite conversation hacks? I’d love to know in the comments below!
You might like:
- There’s an Important Reason Why Introverts Should Be Having More Meaningful Conversations
- All the Conversation Tricks I Use to Be (Somewhat) Less Awkward
- Introverts Don’t Hate People, They Hate Shallow Socializing
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