Although introverts find empty socializing to be draining, they desire deep connections with others.
As an introvert, I often feel like a living contradiction. I find socializing draining, but I also desire deep connections with others. I enjoy my quiet alone time; however, I also need meaningful relationships. I struggle to start conversations, yet I want to discuss the inner workings of the mind, the meaning of life, and other big ideas.
Personally, I think these conflicting feelings are exacerbated by the fact that I’m also a highly sensitive person (HSP). The sensitive side of me makes me especially attentive to others, even when the introvert side of me wants to escape to my bedroom with a good book. With that said, I believe this is a common tug of war that many introverts experience, regardless of whether they are HSPs or not. After all, we humans beings are wired for connection. Our core desires are to experience love and belonging — even if we then need to recharge our energy by being alone.
(Are you an HSP? Here are 21 signs that you’re a highly sensitive person.)
Introverts Can Make Excellent Conversationalists
I’m sure it does not come as a surprise to you that introverts have a strong desire to connect meaningfully with others. It’s a typical assertion that introverts do not like small talk. It feels awkward, superficial, and unnecessary for us to chitchat about the weather or the latest sporting event (unless we are actually passionate about, say, the Chicago Bulls).
However, even with our distaste for small talk, introverts can make excellent conversationalists. We have particular strengths that come to us naturally, such as being excellent listeners. Some extroverts interrupt or jump in too quickly with their own ideas, commandeering the conversation, but introverts are used to taking in as much information as possible and then reflecting on it before responding. Because of this quality, our contributions to conversations are often relevant and thoughtful.
Also, we tend to read people well, especially those of us introverts who are also HSPs. Sensitive people tend to have high levels of empathy and notice small details about others, such as fleeting micro-expressions; these superpowers allow us to gain a good sense of what other people are feeling. We tend to readily notice nonverbal cues like body language as well.
Finally, many introverts have a rich inner world. We spend a great deal of time taking in information, processing it, and forming our own opinions. This results in us having a lot of interesting thoughts and big ideas to share — when we are provided with a safe social environment.
How to Connect Meaningfully When You’re an Introvert
Want to flex those conversationalist muscles? Here are four tips to help you connect meaningfully with others when you’re an introvert.
1. Listen and follow up with open-ended questions.
When starting a conversation with someone I didn’t know well, such as a new coworker or a friend of a friend, I often worried that I would run out of things to say and we’d fall into an uncomfortable silence. However, when I changed my perspective on this problem, I realized it was actually an opportunity.
When you first meet someone, you have nearly unlimited topics to talk about because this person is entirely new to you. The key to keeping the conversation going is to listen and then follow up. If you receive a simple or one-word answer to a question, follow it up with a more open-ended question.
For example, you could begin by asking the other person where they are from. Simple question, simple answer (small talk). Then, after they respond, follow up with a question that will spur more meaningful conversation. For example, you could ask about what they miss about their hometown or how it’s different from where they live now. This invites them to open up and talk to you on a more personal (and ultimately more meaningful) level.
2. When it comes to vulnerability, give the gift of going first.
In order to move the conversation from superficial to something deeper, I encourage you to give the gift of going first. When talking with someone, you can choose to share something a little vulnerable, which will move the conversation in the direction of more meaningful connection. In my experience, people usually respond in kind, and this creates a fulfilling bonding experience.
Remember that vulnerability does not have to mean exposing your darkest secrets. Bringing up new topics, asking about needs, trying new activities, and sharing success stories all involve vulnerability. Adjust accordingly depending on who you’re with.
For example, you might say:
- “To be honest, I’m feeling kind of awkward right now, because I don’t know anyone at this party.”
- “I’ve never enjoyed camping.”
- “I’m proud of that.”
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3. Celebrate successes: Share your personal victories.
Many people avoid sharing victory stories out of fear of how people will react. We may worry about coming off as arrogant or making others feel bad. However, in a world where there is so much bad news, I’m happy to hear about other people’s successes. This is another way to deepen a conversation.
You can start the trend by opening up about personal victories you have experienced and allow others to be excited for you. Turn it outward as well by asking others about the things that are going well in their life or what they have accomplished recently. Encourage them to share the good and celebrate joyfully with them.
4. Ask engaging questions.
Aside from offering your own stories (as suggested in #3), you can also encourage the other person to share by asking them engaging questions. Do not settle for comments about the weather. Ask people the questions you wish they would ask you. Or ask them about something you know they are talented at. This allows them to shine and feel good.
When the pressure is on and an awkward silence is pounding in your ears, it can be hard to think of things to ask. This is why I like to prepare a few questions to keep in mind before I go out with people. Here are some ideas:
- What’s something you’re obsessed with lately?
- How do you relax and get rid of stress?
- What’s something popular that annoys you?
- What’s the best (or worst) thing about your workplace/neighborhood/school?
- What’s the most beautiful place you’ve ever visited?
- What are you most proud of in your life right now?
If you’re anything like me, even though you’re an introvert, you still crave connection with others. Utilize these four strategies to connect with others in introvert-friendly ways. You really can choose to create the meaningful relationships you want to have.