Introverts can seem shy, standoffish, or rude in social situations. In my experience, and trust me, I have a lot of experience here, that’s not often the case. Maybe it’s because I was homeschooled, but I straight up do not know how to behave like a normal human in large groups.
I want to have meaningful conversations. I want to connect with people on a deeper level and get past all the superficial bullshit.
How do you do that in groups of more than 3 or 4 people? I don’t know.
But I do know how to talk to introverts because I am one.
How to talk to an introvert
- Ask questions to better understand their interests
- Be an active listener
- Find a good setting: small groups or 1-on-1 is preferable
- Make the first move, they likely won’t start the conversation
- Learn when you need to carry the conversation vs giving them space to talk
- Read their body language. Are they engaging or does it look like they’d rather do anything else?
I read another guide that mentions acknowleding someone’s introvertedess but not awkwardly. Please don’t do that.
Nothing is worse than having someone try to clumsily bring up your introversion in a conversation. The times it’s happened to me have all been negative.
The best advice I can give people is to ask introverts questions. We’re pretty bad at unprompted sharing. We all have interests, hobbies, and goals.
Just ask us about them and we’ll tell you.
Learn to listen
Most introverts are great listeners because they spend the majority of their time in conversations listening. They have to be good at listening because they don’t like talking, don’t know how to talk about themselves, or they’re just shy.
I’m a great listener. I’ll listen to all your problems and complaints, ask questions, and generally be a good conversationalist. But it’s draining to do that. With a good group of friends, I do 25 to 50% of the talking and 50 to 75% of the listening. In most social settings I do about 80% listening and 20% talking. At parties, I’ll often gravitate to one person and just talk to them all night because I can actually get to know them.
Around people, even my closest friends, I feel this pressure to be talkative, funny, and interesting. Don’t take this the wrong way, I don’t pretend to be anything I’m not, but it’s a pressure I feel. I want everyone to have a good time, and I want to continue to be invited to events, even if I don’t go to every one.
Extroverts are used to doing a lot of talking, and they get energy from being social, but they’re often not great listeners. I’m speaking from my experience, but I have a ton of extroverted friends who love talking about themselves. I don’t judge them for it, I don’t really care honestly, it’s just who they are at this point. Some of these people have been my friends for over 10 years. They’re in their mid 30’s now and are unlikely to change.
Show interest in their interests
If you find yourself talking for long stretches of time when socially engaged with an introvert, and they’re just listening and nodding their head, try asking them questions. But ask them pointed questions, not meaningless bullshit. How are you doing? is going to get the same response every time. “I’m good! how are you?”. Come on, ask me something else. I can talk your ear off about Skrillex, Tesla, why koala’s aren’t bears but are in fact marsupials.
Ok, maybe those topics aren’t interesting to you. My point is I’m happy to talk about things but you generally have to ask me first. I’m not going to volunteer information freely.
Everyone is interested in something. Introverts can have super interesting hobbies. You just have to ask them, and not make fun of them for sharing. The fastest way to get an introvert to clam up is to laugh or make fun at something they shared with you.
I’d wager that my introverted friends are more interesting than my extroverted ones. They have amazing hobbies because they don’t waste a lot of time going out and drinking with the same group of people they’ve been drinking with since college every weekend. They spend time on what is exciting and fun to them.
Some of my introverted friends stay home and play video games all the time. That’s fine too, who am I to judge? You’d be amazed how different an introverted person is in real life compared to over voice chat playing video games. Some of my friends are completely different people when I play games with them online. The same quiet and reserved introvert can be hyper-competitive, aggressive, and loud when playing games.
Engage them in smaller groups
I’m great in groups of 2-3 people. I’d even wager to say I’m downright extroverted with the right group of two other people. But any more than that and I completely fall apart because extroverts take over the entire conversation.
I’m able to hold a conversation when it’s not being dominated. Do you know that person who can talk for hours? Yeah, I avoid them at all costs. I avoid social situations where I know they’re going to be there, because I’ve been there, done that. I don’t want to sit and listen to them talk for hours.
I want to engage my friends in more intimate social situations. I want to have meaningful conversations. I want to know about how their new job is going, how they ran a marathon last weekend, or what their next upcoming vacation is.
I dread attending big company events because it’s just big groups of people standing around talking. I see these people all day every day at work, I don’t want to sit around gabbing with them about bullshit.
If I’ve been at the company long enough I almost always skip out. I don’t need to socialize there, and there’s very little professional in-networking to be done either. I do that at more casual after-work events like happy hours
Maybe this came off kind of complainy. That’s ok. There’s plenty of better articles on the internet about how to talk to introverts and why they are the way they are. Probably with more funny memes and gifs too.
Just try and put yourselves in the introvert’s shoes. Ask yourself what it’s like to be a naturally reserved and quiet person in a world of extroverts. Maybe that will help.