These conversation starters may seem harmless to others but can leave introverts feeling anxious or exhausted.
As an introvert, it can be challenging to engage in small talk or casual conversations, especially with people you don’t know well. While extroverts are often comfortable with idle chit-chat and jump right into a conversation, introverts may feel uncomfortable or drained by these types of interactions. In fact, some conversation starters that may seem harmless — or even pleasant to an extrovert — can leave introverts feeling anxious or exhausted.
Believe me, as an introvert, I know first-hand how difficult it can be to navigate these conversations. So I’ve compiled a list of the five most painful conversation starters for introverts. If you’re an introvert, perhaps you’ll relate. If you’re an extrovert, please avoid asking us these questions.
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5 Painful Conversation Starters for Introverts
1. “Why are you so quiet?”
Variations of “Why are you so quiet?” include “Are you okay?” and “Why are you not having fun?” All of these questions make introverts feel judged and self-conscious.
I totally get where you’re coming from! When you spot an introverted colleague or acquaintance hanging out in a corner alone, your first instinct is to be inclusive and make them feel comfortable. But here’s the thing: Asking them why they’re so quiet does the opposite.
You see, it feels like we’re being put on the spot and makes us question whether we belong. What we introverts really want is to be accepted for who we are, quiet and all. We have our own unique way of socializing, and it might not always involve being the life of the party.
Instead of going for the “Why so quiet?” approach, try something more neutral and open-ended. Ask us if we enjoy events like the one we’re at, or what we like (or dislike) about these kinds of gatherings. That way, we can share our genuine feelings without feeling judged or blamed.
2. “Did you check the weather forecast? Looks like it’s going to rain all week.”
If you don’t ask us about the weather, maybe you’ll say, “The traffic was horrible today” (or some other such clichéd small talk).
It’s important to understand that introverts typically don’t enjoy small talk. The clichéd chit-chat topics, like traffic and weather, often feel empty and draining for us. We would much rather invest our energy in something more substantial and meaningful.
So if you want to spark a conversation with us introverts, try steering clear of the clichés! Instead, go for questions that can lead to deeper and more interesting discussions. You know, stuff that really matters to us and gets us excited to chat!
For example, you could ask us about our hobbies or passions. Like, “Working on anything exciting these days?” or “Tell me about that book you’re reading! I’m curious!” Such questions incite the spark in us and make us feel seen and valued. Soon, we may even talk so much, you’ll be surprised!
3. “What do you think about [controversial topic]?”
When you broach a controversial topic and ask us about it out of the blue, we introverts can find such questions intimidating, especially if they’re coming from someone we barely know. Discussing controversial topics can be meaningful and eye-opening, but timing is key. We might need some time to warm up to you and feel comfortable sharing our thoughts on sensitive subjects. It’s always safer to build a solid foundation of trust and understanding before diving into the deep end of the conversational pool.
Instead of starting with a potentially divisive question, explore lighter topics first. Ask us about our hobbies, favorite movies or books, or our dream travel destinations. As the conversation flows and we get to know each other better, we’ll naturally feel more at ease and be more open to sharing our perspectives on those dicier issues.
Just like anyone else, introverts need to ease into meaningful or highly personal conversation topics, like dipping our toes in a pool before taking the plunge. So let’s build that rapport, and who knows — we might end up having some of the most thought-provoking discussions together!
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. “What’s up?”
“What’s up” is another variation of “Tell me about yourself”… or other such extremely open-ended questions that may make introverts go blank.
This seemingly harmless question can be difficult for introverts to answer. When you hit us with a question that’s as open-ended as a vast ocean, our minds might go into a temporary shutdown mode. We need a moment to process the enormity of these questions and come up with a response that does justice to who we really are.
Introverts often need time to think before they can articulate their thoughts and feelings. Instead of asking such a broad question like, “What’s up?”, ask more targeted questions, such as, “Have you read any good books lately?” or “What are some hobbies or interests that you are passionate about?” With a specific direction to focus on, these questions make it easier for us to respond.
As for “Tell me about yourself,” let’s break it down into bite-sized pieces. Ask about our hobbies, our favorite activities, or what we enjoy doing in our free time. We’ll feel more comfortable sharing our passions and interests rather than feeling like we’re giving a presidential speech about our entire life story.
We introverts love deep conversations, but we prefer a gentle, gradual approach to revealing our inner worlds.
5. “Are you seeing anyone?”
When you ask us personal questions about our love lives, or something like, “Are you planning to have kids?”, once again, these types of questions put us on the spot.
This is especially true if we’re not ready to discuss such personal information with someone we just met. As introverts, we value our personal space and tend to open up slowly as we build trust. We may reveal a lot about ourselves in long, relaxed conversations that are going with the flow… but we might feel uncomfortable if you ask such personal questions right out of the gate.
As introverts, we value depth and authenticity in our relationships. So let’s take our time to build those connections and allow the conversations to flow organically. When we feel comfortable enough, after some trust is established, we’ll naturally share more personal aspects of our lives. In fact, once you get us started, we may not be able to stop.
Tips for Striking up a Conversation With an Introvert
If you’re an extrovert eager to strike up a conversation with an introvert, it’s important to be mindful of the types of questions you ask. Introverts appreciate a considerate approach that allows us to feel comfortable. Here are some tips:
- Give us time — be prepared to wait for answers. An important thing to keep in mind when talking to introverts is that they often need time to process their thoughts and feelings before sharing them with others. So if you ask us a question, be prepared to give us a moment (or two… or three…) to think before answering. Don’t rush or interrupt us, as this can make us feel uncomfortable and may cause us to leave the conversation altogether.
- Speak calmly and in a non-threatening way. If an introvert feels pressured or threatened, they might want to remove themselves from the conversation. So talking louder and pushing for answers may give you the opposite result than you’re looking for. We want our conversations to be like a gentle dance, not a high-octane race!
- Bring a friendly face along to help make us more comfortable. If you’re not sure how to approach us, try starting the conversation in the company of someone we already know and feel comfortable with. Having a familiar face around can ease our nerves and help us open up more naturally. It’s like inviting us to join the party with a friendly plus-one!
- Set context for your questions. Some questions you ask us can feel random and out of the blue, so acknowledge that before asking them. Preface them with something like, “Someone asked me this question the other day, and I thought it was interesting. I wanted to ask you, too…” or “I watched a thought-provoking documentary last week. Have you seen any recently?” It’s like laying the groundwork for a comfortable and engaging conversation.
Remember, we introverts love meaningful conversations, but we appreciate a gentle, considerate, approach. We have a lot to offer, and if you can create an environment that makes us feel comfortable and valued, we will be more likely to open up and share our thoughts and feelings with you sooner than you think.
You might like:
- All the Conversation Tricks I Use to Be (Somewhat) Less Awkward
- 5 Conversation Tips for Introverts
- How Introverts Can Set Boundaries With Overly Chatty Coworkers
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