By Vivian Bricker, Crosswalk.com
Communicating with introverts can be difficult at times. As an introvert myself, many things frighten me about the communication process and can lead me to choose not to communicate. For many of us introverts, communication can be scary and draining. While all people are different, including introverts, it is important to know how to communicate with us.
If you are an extrovert or an ambivert, here are five tips for communicating with an introvert:
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1. Talk About Something They Are Interested In
The first tip for communicating with an introvert is to talk about something they are interested in. For most of us introverts, a great way to communicate with us is if you are talking about a hobby, sport, or topic we enjoy. This is because we often have a hard time starting and keeping a conversation going at random, so if you’re talking about something we already have a background with, we will be more prone to feel comfortable with the conversation. Personally, I love talking about theology, books, and music. If someone would talk about theology, my favorite book, or my favorite artist, I would be more comfortable joining the conversation and feel more open to contributing.
Maybe you know a few things that your introverted friend enjoys. Try to talk about these things, and it will help your introverted friend feel more at ease and ready to talk with you. If you notice they start to get a bit uncomfortable, give them time to answer or allow them the option to talk to someone else or spend some time alone. As an introvert, it can be too much at times to talk with others, even if they are a close friend and are talking about something I am interested in. It is important you don’t take this personally if the introvert decides to end the conversation or if they tell you they need to leave. They are not being insulting, but rather, they simply need some time to recharge.
2. Practice Listening
A second tip for communicating with an introvert is to practice listening. Listening is key in communication, and this is true with introverts too. Introverts often feel the other person is uninterested in what they are talking about, which over time, could lead the introvert to not talk to specific people because they feel as though they are not interesting. In order to avoid this miscommunication, it is important to practice listening. By taking the time to listen to your introverted friend, it will help them know that you value what they are saying. This small act of kindness can go a long way and help your introverted friend communicate better with you.
If you choose to check your phone, check your watch for the time, or act disinterested, your introverted friend will automatically pick up on this and feel as though they are wasting your time. This will lead them to stop talking and they most likely will go home with the feeling that they are boring or have nothing important to say. It is important to practice listening in order for your introverted friend to not feel this way. Listening doesn’t cost anything to you. It just requires time, patience, and energy.
3. Avoid Small Talk
The third tip for communicating with an introvert is to avoid small talk. Introverts prefer to have deep, meaningful talks. Small talk about the weather or the news is not interesting to introverts. It’s hard for us to communicate with others with small talk. It is better to carry on meaningful conversations with us in order to communicate with us. Talk to us about your passions or your desires and that will help keep us engaged.
Many of us, myself included, can be awkward when we are having to carry on a conversation focused on small talk. I don’t know how many times someone has said, “Hi, how are you?” And my reply will be “how are you, good.” As you can see, my reply is rushed and it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. It’s always a very awkward encounter when us introverts try to participate in small talk. Rather than engaging in small talk with us, engage us in deep, meaningful conversations. Maybe you are interested in theology, human rights, or activism. Let’s talk about those things, and then we will have a conversation that can truly last.
Introverts have something important to say, but on the flip side, introverts won't waste their words on petty, meaningless conversations.
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4. Choose a Quiet, Calm Setting
The fourth tip for communicating with an introvert is to choose a quiet, calm setting. Quiet and calm settings help us out in many ways. Loud noises and fast-paced surroundings can quickly overwhelm us. It can be extremely difficult to hear what you are saying or pay attention if we are in a crowded mall or a busy restaurant. Instead of choosing a loud, fast-paced setting, choose a quiet coffee shop, a bookstore, or a park. These locations can help us feel more at ease and more relaxed.
Since we tend to stay away from loud, crowded, fast-paced places, we won't meet in one of those places if you want to talk. These types of places are overwhelming, and it’s best to stick with a quiet, calm setting, preferably without a great number of people. It can be hard for us to focus at times when we are feeling overwhelmed, therefore, make sure to choose a quiet, calm setting. These settings let us feel more comfortable with communication.
5. Give Them Space
A fifth tip for communicating with an introvert is to give them space. This might sound strange for a tip on communicating with an introvert; however, it is crucial. It is important to not place unrealistic expectations on introverts, such as expecting them to come to every event, reply to every phone call, or text back as soon as you send a message. Make sure to give us some space and time. If we don’t message you right back, it doesn’t mean we hate you. Rather, it means we need time to recharge. For each introvert, the recharging time could last for a few hours, a few days, or a few weeks.
It is important to give introverts space until they are ready to communicate. By respecting their time and space, it shows you truly care. This will go a long way in our hearts, and you may become one of the people who understands us better than others. If a person chooses to be pushy or doesn’t respect the introvert’s space, it will make the introvert more likely to shut down or feel guilty over being introverted. It is important that nobody makes someone else feel guilty if they are not up to going out to a party, having a video call, or automatically texting back.
Even though the world has transitioned to an instant communication platform, it doesn’t mean that introverts are ready for it. We need time to recharge and process everything. For each introvert, this can look different. It is important for you to respect this boundary and this need for the well-being of your friend. Choose to give them space, and respect their need to recharge. This will make the world of difference to your introverted friend and help you communicate better with them in the future.