Introverts have plenty of interesting things to say. With a few simple strategies, we can speak up and join the conversation.
In improv shows, there’s something called a backline. A scene will be taking place at the front of the stage, and everybody in the cast who’s not in the scene will stand at the back of the stage. The players wait for a moment when they can join the scene in progress… or end the scene and begin a new one. The feeling of wanting to join in at an appropriate moment — without spoiling things — is how I feel as an introvert when I want to participate in any type of group conversation.
As introverts, it can feel challenging to make our voices heard and have our words make an impact. There can be many reasons for this: We’re polite and don’t want to interrupt someone while they’re speaking; we feel as if our words don’t matter; the thought of interjecting ourselves into a conversation causes us anxiety… and there are many more!
It’s not that we don’t have anything interesting to say; quite the opposite actually, as introverts tend to be thoughtful and creative people who add value to any conversation. Only, sometimes it’s easier for us introverts to express our thoughts in writing, but that communication style isn’t always suitable, especially at work.
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How Quietness Is Often Misinterpreted
When we don’t use our voices, people may assume that we are rude, don’t care, aren’t interested, or have nothing to say. We may get a reputation as being shy, dull, or someone who adds nothing with our presence. It can get to the point where no one asks us what we think because they don’t want to put us on the spot.
Unfortunately, in both the work world and our personal lives, people who don’t speak up can be overlooked and underappreciated. Oftentimes, it’s the flashier or louder people who steal the credit for your ideas, and they’re the ones who get your promotion or are invited to the next social gathering.
So, how do we as introverts join the conversation and make our voices heard?
7 Tips to Make Your Voice Heard as an Introvert
1. Get in the right headspace.
If you know there will be an important meeting at work where you will be judged on your participation, or there’s a party where your goal is to chat with acquaintances, prepare for it.
When you’re feeling less anxious, make a concentrated effort to focus on what can go right. Do relaxation techniques, such as breathing exercises or meditation, or do something you enjoy that centers you and makes you feel good.
Then imagine yourself telling anecdotes or jokes and people laughing or shaking their heads in agreement. Don’t listen to the negative voice in your head telling you that you’re going to fail. Replace it with the optimistic, positive voice that reminds you that speaking up and having your voice heard is well within your wheelhouse. Practice does make perfect.
2. Get your ideas out early and try to lead the conversation.
Conversations can be like boulders gaining speed as they tumble down a mountain. The best strategy for a challenging conversation is to get ahead of it. It’s easier to have your voice heard if you take control of the topic of conversation early on and set the agenda.
Since planning is an introvert’s strong suit, before the meeting or party, write down topics, points you want to make, and even fun, relevant stories. Don’t memorize every detail, just know the general meaning. That way, if the conversation veers in another direction, you won’t be completely thrown off guard. You want to be able to go with the flow and add information, not be completely silenced when things don’t go exactly as planned.
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.
3. Remind yourself that what you say has value.
You can feel confident and brilliant and still worry that others don’t appreciate you or want to hear what you have to say. There’s a reason that introverts are often thought of as quiet geniuses — we prefer to get our thoughts out in writing or in one-on-one conversations. This is because sometimes our thoughts, ideas, and contributions are overlooked by the actions of someone louder and more outgoing.
When you reinforce the belief that you as a person, and what you have to say, has merit, it will give you that little extra confidence boost to put yourself out there.
4. Learn how to interrupt without alienating other people.
You don’t want to be completely shut out of the conversation or be an obnoxious jerk constantly interrupting the people speaking. Learn the balance and listen carefully for an opening where you have something useful to add — don’t just be listening for a pause where you can jump in and monopolize the conversation. Instead, use those fantastic listening skills of yours.
The key to joining a conversation without talking over someone is patience and trust. Don’t get nervous there won’t be any chance for you to add your thoughts. Trust that there will be, and when the time comes, you’ll be able to gently interject yourself into the conversation.
5. Asking questions is a great way to get into a conversation without annoying everyone.
Introverts are amazing at processing information, and one of the ways they do this is by not taking things at face value — they question to get further information. You may think of something that would never occur to anyone else, and if you don’t bring it up, then there could be a major problem somewhere down the line.
Introverts also have a talent as synthesizers of ideas. They’re the ones who can see solutions and connections that other people may miss. They like doing deep work; learning is one of their favorite things. (Just be careful to ensure you’re not so engrossed in what other people are saying that you miss your chance to add information to the conversation.)
6. Technology can help get your voice heard in a non-threatening way.
Video conferencing is a great way to speak up without feeling like you have the spotlight on you. If you don’t feel comfortable being on camera, you don’t have to be. If speaking off-camera is too much, put your thoughts in the chat. However, if the chat is blowing up, feel free to comment again until your thoughts get addressed.
7. Get used to the sound of your own voice by doing something out of character.
Most people don’t feel comfortable listening to themselves speak, especially since there’s no way for us to hear ourselves as others do. Try reading to yourself aloud, practicing things you might say at a party or meeting. When you start feeling better about your voice, channel a little of your inner extrovert and try talking to people you don’t know.
I’m not suggesting you suddenly become super friendly and chat up everybody you come into contact with. No, it’s not about changing your whole demeanor. Simply try engaging a little more with people — even just one person. It’s an exercise that will help you get into the habit of talking to people without it feeling overwhelmingly awkward.
For example, say hello to your mail carrier or compliment your neighbor on their flowers — anything that loosens you up. The more you talk, the easier it becomes, and the closer you’ll get to feeling comfortable expressing yourself in those dreaded group meetings and networking events.
The more you use your voice, the easier it will get to speak up, make your points, and even carry a conversation. No one wants to remain on the (improv) backline forever, especially when you have a lot to say.
You might like:
- Why Group Conversations Can Be a Nightmare for Introverts
- How to Be Quiet and Fierce at the Same Time
- 4 Meditation Tips for Introverts Who Struggle to Focus
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