If you're having a conversation with several friends or co-workers, and you’re the only INFP in the room, then you probably do more listening than talking. INFPs are really good at listening, and prefer to keep a low profile in a group setting.
But then you find yourself one-on-one with someone, talking about a subject that’s important to you, with an important person in your life. Now, you really need to have your voice heard. So why is that not happening for you?
The sad fact is, INFPs really struggle to get people to listen to them. It’s easy to see why. We aren’t particularly assertive, and tend to be soft-spoken, so it’s easy to get drowned out or ignored. We also think differently than many types, so others might just not ‘get’ what we’re trying to say.
But even though it takes extra effort to speak up, and especially to get others to really listen, it’s important — for your relationships, career and self-esteem.
Ready to have your voice heard? Try these eight tips.
1. Play to your strengths
According to an article in Forbes, two ways to get people to listen to you are to first listen to them, and to “read the room.” That’s good news for INFPs.
We are naturally good listeners. By using that strength, we’ll earn the trust and respect of those we want to be heard by. Then when it’s our turn to speak, they’ll be more ready to listen. We can also use our active listening skills to help others listen to us. Make eye contact, summarize your main points, ask if they need clarification.
Secondly, we can use our intuition and empathy to our advantage to “read the room” and figure out when and how to speak to get the other person’s attention, and to help them understand what we are saying.
2. Wait for the right time and place
If the other person is busy or distracted, they won’t be attentive to what you say — and you are less likely to be at your best if there are too many people around. In this situation, you need to wait for, or create, the right moment of focus, so you can get the person’s undivided attention.
Also put some thought into the place. Is there too much noise? Will you be competing with distractions? Pick a quieter place where you and your listener are comfortable and it will be easier to speak and to listen.
3. Choose your audience
If you’re like me, you’d rather speak with one or two people than in a group. So rather than trying to speak up in front of everyone around, think of who you most need to be heard by, and get them alone.
For example, if you are with several friends, but there are one or two that you’re closer to, or who especially need to hear what you have to say, single them out for a private conversation when others aren’t around.
If you’re working on a group project at work and struggle to have your voice heard, you might want to first have a private conversation with one coworker you communicate well with. Most INFPs find it easier to get their ideas and feelings across privately. Then that person can help you communicate to the others, once they understand what you need from them.
4. Ask for the floor
You may feel like you’re competing with louder voices and stronger personalities to the point that your voice literally gets drowned out. So if it’s important to you to be heard, let the others in the room know.
You could simply say: “I have something I’d like to say.” Or, “Do you have a minute for me to share some thoughts with you?” Help people prepare to listen by letting them know that’s what you want.
You may want to arrange it ahead of time. Say you have some important input to share with coworkers, but you’re not sure if you’ll be heard. Talk with your boss or the team leader and ask that she make sure you have an opportunity to address the group. You might even send her an email briefly summarizing your points.
If you need a friend to listen to you about something important, you might ask them to go for coffee (virtually), and tell them there’s something you want to talk with them about and you’d like their full attention. (Assure them you’re not going to announce any bad news — you just want to express yourself!) That way they’ll come prepared to listen.
5. Address likely objections or obstacles up front
Say a co-worker generally finds your ideas impractical, and tends to dismiss your contributions. You might say something like: “I know you think I’m a dreamer, but I think we should consider this option, and I’ve given some thought to the logistics. Would you please hear me out?”
Or if your extraverted friends get impatient when you pause a moment to find the right word, or even try to finish your sentence for you, you could say something like: “It may take me a moment to gather my thoughts, but please bear with me. I want to get this right.”
6. Try to speak their language
Whether your audience is reluctant to listen, or they want to hear you but have trouble understanding your communication style, try to “translate” your thoughts into their language.
Ask yourself, “what does the other person need in order to be able to hear me?” What would put me in the frame of mind to listen? Read your listener to increase your chance of being heard.
Do they want you to get straight to the point? Do you need to cut down on the metaphors and speak more simply? And if the other person is most comfortable with data, then prepare a statistic or research point to help make your case.
If you’re accustomed to speaking very softly, you may need to literally make what you say more loud and clear. Of course you shouldn’t have to shout, but you do want to be audible. And avoid trailing off into silence while you complete the thought in your head, thinking what you mean is as obvious to them as it is to you.
If you speak in a way the other person can relate to, they’ll be more likely to make the effort to listen, and to understand what you’ve said.
7. Put it in writing
As an Introvert, you’re probably good at writing, so use this to your advantage. By writing down what you want to say, you have more time to articulate your thoughts; you can’t be talked over by other voices; and the recipient can re-read your words.
No one can then say they didn’t hear you or you weren’t clear. Save this option for special times when expressing your thoughts well is especially important to you.
This can work if you’ve already talked with that person about something that’s important to you, but they just didn’t ‘get’ it. By writing it down, you can make your point more clearly, and show that it’s important.
8. Seize the moment
Sometimes there will suddenly be an opening for you to speak, so try to take advantage of it, even if you don’t have your words perfectly planned out.
INFPs tend to be modest and let other people do most of the talking. But, though letting others speak is a kind of generosity, so is contributing to the conversation. Remember that your friends do want to hear from you.
If you plan ahead what you want to say and how you’ll say it, then you’ll be ready for when the opportunity arises.