I can’t go back and talk to my younger introverted self — but I can take these phrases and assert myself as an introverted adult.
Introverts, raise your hand if you’ve replayed a conversation in your head that didn’t go the way you’d wanted it to. And raise your hand if you’ve thought, I wish I’d said…, coming up with the perfect question, phrase, or comeback hours later.
Yeah, same here. I get it.
I was a reserved kid. I didn’t always say what was on my mind. Looking back, there were times when I didn’t feel heard, and even felt invisible. Sometimes, I feared I came across as hesitant or not assertive.
That’s not to say it was always that way — I did have my moments of asserting myself as a kid. But I’ve also recognized that my introverted personality wasn’t compatible with many of the extrovert-centric situations I found myself in, and I didn’t know what to say or do in those situations.
In retrospect, the phrases below are ones I wish I’d thought to use more when I was younger. I can’t go back and change things. But I can take these phrases and ensure that I continue, as an adult, to assert myself as an introvert. Over the years, I’ve definitely gotten better at using these phrases.
Introverts, I hope there is a word or phrase here that helps you to be heard, set boundaries, and give yourself a dose of self-confidence!
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7 Phrases I Wish My Younger Introverted Self Had Used More
A powerful word in any language, “no” can extend to so many areas of our lives, including situations that are incompatible with introversion. Don’t feel like going out on a Friday night? “No, thanks — I need some time to recharge this evening after the long week.” Working on a group project, and you’re not big on public speaking? “No, I don’t think I’d be the best fit as the presenter, but I’d be happy to help put together the slides and talking points.”
Learning to say “no” is important for anyone, introvert or extrovert. And yes, like many kids, I definitely knew what the word “no” was, and used it. But I wished I’d used it more to take care of myself as an introvert.
For introverts, this word can help us set our boundaries. “No” ensures we can carve out much-needed time for ourselves, take moments to recharge, and choose to say “yes” to the things that do energize us and bring us joy (unless, of course, it’s something mandatory, like attending the dreaded “this could have been an email” office meeting). And on that note of only saying “yes” to certain things…
2. “Sure, why not?”
On the flip side, saying “yes” is something I wish I’d been better at while growing up. Introverts tend to be a bit more trepidatious, which can sometimes come across as indecisive. But really, we’re just thinking things through to make the best decision for ourselves (and anyone else who’s involved).
I now know myself pretty well, so after assembling all the information I need to make a decision, I tend to have my mind made up. When I was younger, I wish I’d trusted that gut instinct even more to just go for it. The times I did say “yes” to something out of my comfort zone led to some amazing, adventurous opportunities, like accepting the lead in the school play, or hopping on a plane and moving halfway around the world.
As I’ve gotten to know myself better as an adult, I’ve learned how to better balance all the “yes”es with the “no”s. Not just the things within my comfort zone, but the things my instincts whisper “Sure, why not?” about.
3. “I don’t know, but I can find out.”
As an overachieving kid, I had a hard time learning the following lesson: It’s okay not to know! While it may be scary to acknowledge, it’s very important to be aware of our limitations when we don’t have all of the information we need to answer someone. “I don’t know, but I can find out — could I get back to you about that?”
Introverts and extroverts can get caught up in that moment, either freezing up or saying something vague because we don’t know the answer. Introverts tend to need time to collect our thoughts before speaking anyway, so remembering to give ourselves an extra second to realize we don’t know something can help us seem more confident. I actually feel more confident saying “I don’t know” than stumbling through sharing what limited information I do know at the time. And confidence is something introverts can certainly use whenever we feel less significant because we’re one of the quieter people in the room.
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. “Could I finish that thought?”
Ah, interruptions. Introverts know them well, both in-person and over the phone, and it’s incredibly frustrating. (Also, it’s just rude.) Whenever I’ve been talked over or I don’t have the chance to finish what I’m saying, I try not to give up. Part of that is me making up for all of the times when I was the shyest one in the room who didn’t have a chance to share her ideas.
When I encounter these situations now, I’ve held up my hand and tried to ask some variation of “Could I finish that thought?” Or, if I feel especially cheeky or annoyed, I just repeat calmly — and verbatim — what I’d just said before being interrupted. (And if the person has an ounce of social awareness, they’ll usually pick up on the fact that they interrupted me, usually — and hopefully — unintentionally.) And if I’m comfortable enough, I’ll go so far as to say, “Please don’t interrupt me.”
Asserting ourselves in these situations is a part of ensuring we’re being heard. Introverts can be terribly creative — we should have a chance to finish saying whatever it is we have to say!
5. “Here’s what I think.”
In group discussions, whether with friends or in a classroom, sometimes I felt like I was just going along with the group because everything had already been said. Other times, I was too shy to share my opinion. Whatever the situation, I wish I’d spoken up about my opinion more!
As the quiet one in the group, I’d sometimes be looked to as the tiebreaker. “Do you think we should do this?” Or, “What do you think about this?” And being put on the spot can be stressful for introverts, so I didn’t always have an answer. (See “I don’t know, but I can find out” above.)
Introverts have opinions, but sometimes we struggle to articulate them. Give me 10 minutes with my journal and I can spell it out perfectly. But under the pressure of a conversation, it can be a challenge.
6. “I don’t agree.”
As a kid and teenage introvert, I was often afraid to rock the boat, afraid of confrontation. This is something I’m still working on, personally and professionally, as an adult. Even though I’m a person who hasn’t really liked instigating anything negative among people I encounter in my day-to-day life, it is still important to assert myself and make sure that I am advocating for whatever I think needs to change. “I don’t agree” is also a variation of “Here’s what I think.”
It’s also important to speak up if we hear something that upsets us, such as someone being unkind. Just because we’re introverted doesn’t give us an excuse to sit on the sidelines. Variations on “I don’t agree” come in handy here, whether a simple statement like, “That’s not nice,” or “That’s unnecessary,” or something more strongly-worded, depending on the situation. Introverts can be quite sensitive and empathetic, so our personalities can definitely handle standing up for someone or something if the need arises.
7. “Could I have a minute?”
Similar to “I don’t know, but I can find out,” this phrase can give introverts the much-needed time to sort through their thoughts, or to de-stress after too much time in a crowd, or to get settled after arriving at work in the morning or back home in the evening. And the people in our lives — whether family, friends, coworkers, or roommates — sometimes won’t know we need that space unless we ask for it.
Maybe we need five minutes to meditate or stretch upon arriving at work to get ready for the 9-to-5 grind, or we need quiet time to catch up on a few tasks from the day before. And maybe when we get home, we need to go for a walk, take a shower, or read before really interacting with anyone.
“Could I have a minute?” can also come in handy in situations above (“Here’s what I think” or “I don’t agree”), where we may need time to gather our thoughts and formulate how to share our opinions.
Use the Phrases That Work Best for You
All that said about those seven words and phrases, introverts, it’s totally okay not to have the right words all the time! If you need a moment to think or aren’t sure what to say, ask for it. (See “Could I have a minute?” or “I don’t know, but I can find out” above.)
Whatever variation works for you or is appropriate in that moment, go for it. And if someone does not respect that, it is far more their problem for lacking empathy and understanding than it is yours. This is you asserting yourself and staying true to your personality, your nature, and a core piece of who you are as a human.
Introverts, what are some of the other phrases you wish you’d used more that have come in handy as an adult or in recent years? I’d love to hear in the comments below!
You might like:
- How to Survive High School, According to a Teenage Introvert
- A Letter to My Teenage Self: You’re Not Weird, You’re Just an Introvert
- 9 Things That Are Hard for Me as an Introvert
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