Is there an Introvert in your life? And do you need them to stick around and listen to you?
Introverts can be quite specific about how they approach people and conversation. If you’re an Introvert yourself, you already know this and your fellow Introverts hear you loud and clear.
But you Extraverts out there? Your natural communication style may not mesh so well with an Introvert’s style, and you’ll need to make some adjustments if you want your Introvert to tune in, engage, and stick around for the conversation.
Without further ado, this is how to talk to an Introvert so they’ll actually listen to you.
Location, location, location
Where you talk to your Introvert matters. Introverts are observers, constantly taking in their surroundings. You don’t want to have a meaningful conversation at a theme park or during a basketball match because if there’s too much stimulation going on. They’ll get distracted. So, you want to cut out the competition.
Offer to meet your Introvert in a distraction-free zone, like a quiet corner in the coffeehouse or the front porch swing. Think small, intimate, and safe. Think bubble. Location can be leveraged to your advantage when you really need to be heard.
Party of one
Your distraction-free zone could include people, especially those who know you or your Introvert. But the smaller the group, the easier it is for you to be heard—and the perfect number is one. When any larger group gathers, smaller groups and couples will naturally fall into side conversations, but Introverts struggle to pull it off with anything resembling grace.
Introverts can’t tune out the larger group and if they try, they will end up vigorously defending the position and appear to be monopolizing their partner. It’s awkward. It feels like we have to choose between appearing aggressive or passive, and we’re neither.
And if someone approaches your party of one, vigorously defend your position and send them packing. A third party is almost a guarantee that your Introvert will shut down and pull back.
No sudden moves
Now that you’ve increased your odds of being heard by your Introvert, there are first steps. Unless you know each other well, give the Introvert time and space to orient themselves to you. You aren’t there to recharge your Extravert batteries, so don’t try to pull energy from them by bombarding them with chit-chat. Let your Introvert observe you and get comfortable before you flood them with enthusiastic words.
Once you’ve established peace and they’ve had the chance to check in on their energy levels, you can set sail with the conversation.
Get to the point
You won’t know where your Introvert’s current energy levels are at any given point. It’s safe to assume that they do. If your Introvert cuts you short or ghosts from the party, it’s because they’ve hit bottom and need to refuel. It isn’t personal and it isn’t pretty, but it’s necessary. Don’t be shy about circling back another time to try again.
Keep in mind that while you’re together, their energy levels are slowly going down. The clock is ticking, so say what you have to say. Don’t be vague. Introverts don’t want to spend their valuable social energy in idle chit chat or talking about the weather. In order to keep their attention, topics must go deeper and you must be interested in their participation. Don’t make it all about you.
Take your turn
Listening requires effort on everyone’s part. Be sure you take your turn if you want your Introvert’s thoughts on what you said. Get comfortable with silence and gaps in the conversation instead of jumping in to fill them. Your Introvert is thinking. They don’t take anything lightly. They ponder and turn things over and internally observe them to pieces.
They do this because they heard you.
The Introvert is making an effort to engage in the conversation. Cutting them off is disrespectful and they will be hesitant to re-engage. You can circumvent this by asking, “Was there more you wanted to say?” Patience is key.
Basic communication skills include reflecting on what you heard, making a fresh observation on it, or asking a follow up question before moving on to a new topic. Make sure your Introvert knows you heard them and they will be happy to repeat the process with you.
Once you’ve engaged your Introvert, prepare for the words to come a little easier, a little faster, a little freer. If you’ve caught your Introvert with a fully loaded energy tank, they might be delighted to spend it all on your company.
Avoid the small-talk trap
What if you want the Introvert to make the first move? Introverts aren’t going to chat you up unless you have something they want. To keep the relationship from becoming one-sided, you want an Introvert to be comfortable approaching you out of the blue. For you, it’s an ordinary Tuesday. For them, it’s a risk into the unknown. They need a genuine reason to speak up.
They are avoiding the possibility of being trapped in idle small talk. What do you have in common? Can you offer something of value? A recommendation on the latest movie with that actor they said they loved? A new way to navigate a tricky contract at work? Make sure your Introvert knows you are available if they need something from you. This opens the door for a wider conversation.
Put it in writing
In the name of energy conservation, Introverts can listen better if your communication is reduced to written bullet points, especially if it’s emotionally charged. Conversations held via email or text aren’t as personal, but they will get the point across. Whether the topic is the relationship or the stressful project crisis at work, Introverts drain faster when conversations are laced with emotion.
Introverts don’t need a summit meeting when a note will do. It’s easier for Introverts to hear you without the distractions of volume, body language, or tangents. If you really need an Introvert to hear you over the storm, put it in writing. This allows them to read on repeat, with time to process the message and respond.
If the conversation must be held in person, by all means make it private. Find an activity that can help mitigate the emotional tension, like hiking. Better yet, go for a long drive or wander a museum. Time and space are gifts to an Introvert and increase the odds they’ll actually listen to you.
Once you understand that conversations with an Introvert are all about energy management, it will pave the way for better personal and professional relationships with the Introverts in your life.