It may take some time for introverts to open up and share their thoughts with you, but we will if you follow this advice.
“You don’t talk that much do you?” and “Why are you so quiet?” are common questions (along with many more) that introverts will hear in their lifetime on more than one occasion. I’m always resisting the urge to sigh loudly, roll my eyes, or respond with “Why don’t you talk less?”
A common, unfair misconception about introverts is that we don’t talk. Yes we do. We can be very chatty under the right circumstances. But you have to know what they are. And once you get us going, then you may wonder where our “off” button is! So if there is an introvert in your life and you want to know what’s going on behind their quiet demeanor, here are seven ways to help make that happen.
7 Ways to Get an Introvert to Talk to You
1. Give them time to get comfortable around you; they need to know you a bit first.
Giving me time to get comfortable around you will require some patience on your part. Since introverts tend to be private people, they don’t open up to new people immediately. I’m always fascinated by people who can start sharing their life with complete strangers: I don’t know how, within just five minutes, someone is able to start telling me so many personal things, like about their relationship problems. I’m thinking “I don’t even know your last name yet. Why are you telling me this?”
If that’s how you do it, more power to you, but I’m not wired that way. It takes some time for me to open up and share. It’s like putting a baby into a bath: You can’t just drop them in, you gotta ease them into it. So give me time to see that you are someone worth sharing with and then I will.
2. Get them in a comfortable environment (hint: probably not a crowded bar or club).
As much as the people, the surroundings also play a major part in whether I’m going to speak up or not. It’s unlikely that you are going to find me in a loud, crowded place, like a bar or a club. But if I am there (who knows why; maybe I fell into peer pressure), then know that I’m probably too overstimulated to speak much. Loud noises, no personal space, and screaming make up the worst kind of environment for an introvert, particularly a highly sensitive introvert like me.
We prefer calm, minimally stimulating environments, such as a peaceful park or bookstore. If I’m at one of those, I’m much more centered and able to speak meaningfully with you.
3. Wait until they have the energy to open up; ideally, not right after work.
Timing can make a huge difference in when an introvert will open up. We get “peopled out” easily, whether it’s from work or a social event. For example, I work with preschool children, and it’s exhausting. I have to take the time to recover because I am mentally and physically drained after a lot of interaction. And, as an introvert, I am more easily drained than others and need time to recuperate.
When a day has been particularly long and stressful, I need complete peace and quiet to recover. That is why I need my introvert “zen zone.” If I’m really tired, I can’t even form a sentence in my brain, so there is no way that I’m going to be in a mood to socialize. I have to decompress from previous social interactions in order to start new ones. So make sure the timing is right if you want an introvert to talk to you.
4. Bring up an introspective topic vs. a surface-level one.
Introverts don’t hate talking; we hate small talk. Since that is what most conversations consist of, then we are incorrectly characterized as people who don’t like to speak. And that’s not true.
Introverts tend to think more deeply and we want our conversations to reflect that. We like to talk about things that are introspective and important, subjects that have weight and meaning. To me, small talk has no substance. It’s just fluff. If that is what the conversation is going to consist of, then you aren’t going to hear much from the introverts in the group. But bring up something interesting or relevant to the introvert, like good books or a favorite hobby of theirs, and you won’t hear the end of it (in a good way).
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5. One-on-one interactions are better-suited for introverts.
I don’t thrive in large group situations. There’s a lot going on (too many people, too much to keep up with), and it’s a lot to process. Group conversations require me to continually shift my focus between multiple people within the group. It’s like asking me to juggle. I just can’t do it. Additionally, there are plenty of people who want to hold the floor, and by all means, they can have it. I have no desire to be the center of attention.
I’m much better in small groups because it’s easier for me to follow and contribute to the flow of the conversation. It doesn’t require so much mental energy to engage and participate. It’s less stressful, which makes me feel relaxed; that way, I’ll be more likely to contribute.
So if you want to talk to get me or another introvert to open up, then pull us aside and talk to us one-on-one. That way, we can have a real, meaningful conversation where we get to know one another better.
6. Keep your critiques to yourself, like “Are you always this quiet?”
“Are you always this quiet?” and “Don’t you have anything to say?” are just two of the annoying questions I get that never seem to stop. Asking me pointed questions about my personality is not going to make me open up; they feel like criticism. In fact, if you ask me one of these questions, then I’ll be even more likely to keep to myself.
It’s really hurtful for us introverts to continually be on the receiving end of questions like these as though there’s something wrong with us. We don’t deserve to be treated that way just because we aren’t the extrovert ideal. In her book Quiet: The Power of Introvert in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, Susan Cain wrote about how society is geared more toward energetic, gregarious personalities. And because introverts don’t fit that mold, I don’t think we’re valued as we ought to be. We often feel as though we aren’t enough because we don’t fit the societal standards that are often praised.
Introverts don’t need to be critiqued because we’re different. There’s nothing wrong with us, and we’d appreciate it if you would recognize that.
7. You may need to talk less (especially if we’re not responding).
I hate to say it, but sometimes, you might be the problem. A good, meaningful conversation is reciprocal. It happens when both parties know how to participate in conversational turn-taking. It shouldn’t be one person giving a monologue while the other person just stands there.
If there isn’t a way for me to contribute to the conversation, then I’m not going to. If I’m only a warm body that is there to say “yeah” or “mm-hmm” while you go on and on, then I’m not going to look forward to speaking with you again. So be sure to ask me what I think regarding current events or a new policy at work, and then genuinely care about what I have to say.
This isn’t an exhaustive list by any means. But if you are looking to get to know an introvert better, these suggestions are more likely to help. You’ll be amazed at what you’ll discover when we open up. And, like I said before, you may then wonder where our “off” button is!
You might like:
- 5 Reasons an Introvert Isn’t Talking
- I’ll Always Be Quiet, and There’s Nothing Wrong With That
- These Are the Ideal Careers for Each Introverted Myers-Briggs Type
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