Introverts often feel unfairly judged by the Extravert world. They complain of being dismissed as weird or antisocial. Often introverts feel this unfair (and untrue) characterization for the sole reason of feeling comfortable in (and even preferring) our own company. Moreover, introverts don’t ram ourselves down other people’s throats or go on a never-ending search for a party. Rather introverts go on a never-ending search for time alone to read a good book or just spend time with our own thoughts. There is a big difference between introverts and extraverts!
It’s easy for introverts to feel bitter towards extraverts, but the truth is there are some things that introverts can learn from extraverts. These “lessons” can make introverts more balanced and growth-oriented. It’s easy for introverts to complain about being judged, but it is more problematic to risk missing the lessons and learning the skills and lessons that Extraverts can teach.
In the interest of personal growth and development–as well as building bridges rather than widening divides—I am opening a 5-part series on lessons or skills that introverts can learn from extraverts.
I’ll take it one small step at a time. I don’t want to offend or scare anyone away. Most importantly, I definitely want each lesson to be learned and used!
Also, please remember that this is not a series about how to become an extravert. These are lessons about how to become a better and more balanced introvert. Let’s get started!
Lesson #1: Small talk is important and useful.
The first lesson is that small talk is very important on many levels. We use it socially, personally and professionally. Relationships are started and finished using small talk. Jobs can be won or lost because of small talk. How we interact with others and (sometimes) ourselves is measured by small talk.
Introverts despise small talk! Extraverts thrive on it.
Introverts shudder at the thought of small talk for two reasons. First, introverts find it tedious and boring. For this reason, many introverts simply don’t put the effort into talking about the weather, the traffic or the latest sports event. And we don’t want to put effort into discussing these topics with simple acquaintances or even strangers. Introverts often discuss topics that require more thought, analysis, knowledge and even expertise. Often Introverts want to be informed, challenged or intrigued by a discussion. Small talk rarely intrigues or challenges anyone (according to the average introvert).
A second reason that introverts don’t like small talk is more personal: We often think that we are no good at it. It can be a struggle to look interested in a conversation about a Kardashian much less to contribute to it. Introverts can’t think of anything to say or add to a superficial conversation with strangers and this can give rise to anxiety. So introverts avoid small talk like the latest plague.
Moreover, Introverts are so busy and content with their solitude that they fail to put any attention into the business of small talk itself.
This is a mistake. A big mistake.
Introverts can learn a lot from extraverts about the fine art of small talk.
Extraverts don’t experience (most of) these feelings or problems. They are not concerned with appearing boring or bored. They don’t have high demands for every conversation. They simply . . .talk.
“How are you? How is the family? Are you enjoying your job/school? Have you been to or going anywhere nice on vacation this year?” (Actually, Extraverts are more likely to give you information about them first then they’ll ask you, if time permits.)
There really isn’t an art or a secret to it. Introverts simply need to embrace the Extravert ease of conversation without judging themselves or others. Focus on the conversation, not your performance. Nor how intriguing or informative the conversation is. Do like Extraverts: just talk. Enjoy the moment. Relax and engage in a simple and non-committal (non-political, non-scientific, non-literary, non-anything-intellectual) conversation. Give it a chance!
“Small Talk” Lesson
Communication connects people. It opens doors and opens us to new experiences, ideas and feelings. Small talk paves the way to deeper communication or simply to connect to another human on a relaxing, non-competitive level. We can’t always discuss Plato or politics!
How to Begin: Start by talking (or asking) about a basic topic. (Click here for ideas.) Keep it simple. Keep it short, 10 minutes maximum. Then make up an excuse for a quick departure. (Actually, you should already have this exit strategy decided before opening the conversation. Take this advice seriously!) Repeat every day. Yes, every day! Think of it as your elevator talk of the day. And have fun!
Introverts can be great at small talk and remain true to one’s introversion. However, learning how to engage in small talk will introduce you to other ideas and opportunities. It will also help to build self-confidence and reduce social anxiety often experienced by Introverts.
Got the lesson? Share some of your experiences with me. Do you have a fear of small talk? Or do you just feel that it wastes your time? I would love to hear from both Introverts and Extraverts. All comments are welcome. We can learn from and help each other!
Come back tomorrow for the next lesson; it’s will move you to greater heights and experiences! See you tomorrow.
~ Robin Lofton, The power of One!