Perhaps the most essential key to connecting with an introvert is to just be honest about what’s on your mind.
When I lived in Los Angeles, I had a hair stylist that I loved, and she was an extrovert. Most introverts understand the horror of sitting in the chair at the salon and having to make small talk with a chatty stylist, but this wasn’t like that. My stylist knew how to make a connection with me, and some of the methods below are pulled from things she did that were effective.
Connecting with an introvert can be difficult at times. I say this as an introvert myself with empathy toward extroverts who are trying — whether it is to get to know us or if you are an extrovert with a beloved introvert in your life and you want to spend some quality time with them. Introverts can also find it challenging to connect with fellow introverts, not only because most of us prefer to be at home in our quiet bubbles, but because we worry about saying the wrong thing.
Making that connection with an introvert who is important to you does not have to be impossible. While we have to make an effort with small talk, a conversation can be meaningful for us even if we are not talking about the deeper mysteries of the universe or digging into one another’s trauma. Perhaps the most essential key to success with an introvert is just being honest about what is on your mind. That brings us to our first point on how to genuinely connect with an introvert.
5 Ways to Genuinely Connect With an Introvert
1. Don’t be afraid to go beneath the surface.
To get to know someone, you have to start with small talk, but you don’t have to stay there. To make a connection, you both want to ask questions and reveal things about yourself that help the other person relate to you.
My stylist — let’s call her Kay — was good about not filtering herself, but also not making me feel as though I were on the spot. She was observant, always noticing if I’d brought a book with me, and made a point to ask me about what I was reading. From there, the conversation would flow anywhere. I read a lot of self-help back then, especially related to career, so we talked about our jobs. She told me funny stories about clients or things that were happening in her life. It all felt extremely natural, and what was more, the fact that she could reveal things about herself made me feel more comfortable with her.
After a couple of appointments with Kay, I felt like we were friends. And we were.
2. Look for what you have in common.
Once you get past the difference in personality, you might be surprised by how much you have in common with an introvert. You might enjoy the same foods or watch the same shows on Netflix. You might have a similar, quirky sense of humor. Kay and I joked with each other a lot during my hair appointments. We loved it when random things happened — for instance, there was a guy that would come dig through the salon’s trash every day, and when he was finished, he would stand at the door with a huge grin on his face and wave at Kay until she waved back.
The first time I saw this happen, Kay was deeply focused on putting color on my hair, and I had to say, “Umm… Kay? Who’s that man? He’s been there for a long time now, just waving.” Without missing a beat, Kay asked me, “Well, aren’t you going to wave back?” Then she paused and waved at him. I loved how nonchalant she was about it, and it became a longstanding joke with us. In fact, I still remember it and chuckle on occasion.
When we get too focused on our differences, we tend to forget the things that make us all human. Most humans I know love to laugh or use humor to either break monotony or reduce the severity of unfortunate moments in life. By understanding that and pausing to remember that from time to time, we can find it much easier to connect with anyone.
3. Don’t be afraid of your differences.
I loved it when Kay noticed what book I was reading. What kept this from just being a surface conversation between us was that, beyond noticing the cover of the book and asking what it was about, she would ask other questions that I could tell were her trying to understand what interested me in the book. It made me feel like she was trying to get to know me.
She never put down anything I seemed interested in, but she wasn’t afraid to express her own opinions either. She did it in a way that was not overbearing or confrontational. When I was reading self-help about finding my passion in life (I really wanted out of IT), she commented that she didn’t know if doing hair was truly her passion, but she enjoyed it and could live with that as her job. I realized that maybe I was putting too much pressure on my job to fulfill me, and I could put some of that energy into enjoying things more fully during my off time, like writing. So I did.
She probably didn’t realize she was even saying anything insightful. She was just being herself, and she was doing so in a respectful manner that did not make me feel put down or strange, something we introverts feel all too often.
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4. It’s okay to keep it light; not every conversation needs to be serious or intellectual.
It is true that introverts enjoy deeper conversations that give us a sense we are truly getting to know someone. However, that doesn’t mean we are only open to serious or intellectual conversations. Many of us love to laugh or talk about things like video games or fandoms we enjoy. We like topics that provide a good distraction from the seriousness of life.
Another topic that is almost always safe is pets. If you have a beloved pet in your life or notice that your introvert has one, that is a great subject to bring up that won’t be too shallow or too serious. Pets are cute, and they are usually doing things that are funny or adorable and fun to talk about.
If you don’t yet know what your introvert likes and need some good icebreaker topics, just try to be observant whenever you are with them. If you go to their house, what kind of décor do they have? What kinds of books line their shelves? Is there a subject they frequently talk about, or do you know what their hobby is?
As you can tell from my example of Kay, I love it when people notice things that matter to me. It is a simple gesture that can go far in showing an introvert you care and notice them. Sometimes, just knowing that will help us open up to you and feel more curious about you, opening the door to better two-way conversations.
5. Extend invitations, but don’t take it personally if they say no.
I dread being invited out, and worse, actually having to go out, but I have agreed to a lot of invitations for social events based on how they were delivered. Yes, it takes a bit of finesse, but you can occasionally coax an introvert away from the quiet of their home. When you phrase an invite, let the introvert know there’s no pressure, but you’d love to see them at bowling night or fill-in-the-blank event here. It also gives us a sense that if we go, we’ll have a buddy to talk to, so we won’t be standing alone awkwardly. (If you give that impression, make sure you fulfill it later.)
Generally, I enjoy being invited to coffee or out to eat. Both are excellent motivators for introverts, because these activities are usually done one-on-one or in small groups. I generally dislike gatherings where there will be more than five people. It feels easier to connect individually with people when there are fewer of them. If I go into a room filled with more than five and am told all their names, you can bet I will be forgetting them all within two seconds and wondering when it will be appropriate to take a break for “fresh air.”
Think about the type of event you are inviting an introvert to, and mentally prepare for the occasion that they turn you down. In most cases, it truly is going to be nothing personal. People might feel put off when I don’t show up to watch football Sunday, but they don’t take into account that I would rather watch my toenails grow than watch football. It has nothing to do with the people present, and yes, I know nobody actually sits around and watches the game the whole time, but it still is not my cup of tea… especially when I could be home having a literal cup of tea and writing.
There is nothing wrong with extending an invitation, and we introverts appreciate that you want to include us. Because of how we’re wired, being social is draining for us, so we tend to be selective about the kinds of events we will attend. Small, intimate gatherings or invites to coffee really are your best bet when you want to hang out with an introvert. Or, if you know each other well enough, hanging out at home is always good, too.
And there you have it. These are all tried and true ways that have worked with this introvert. If you try them out, I would love to hear how it went in the comments! Or share tips you have for connecting with an introvert!