Talking can be hard for introverts. Get us in just the right setting and you might have trouble making us shut up, but in most everyday conversations we struggle to come up with anything to talk about. As I wrote about last week, many introverts struggle to talk about personal things. Beyond that, we struggle with knowing what to talk about at all.
We often assume most people don’t want to hear about the things we care about. We think it sounds boring to answer, “What did you do last weekend?” by saying “Stayed home with my cat and watched Netflix.” Or we worry that we sound uninteresting if we answer, “What do you like to do?” with “Read, contemplate life, hide in a blanket fort … you know, exciting stuff like that.”
The Kind Of Talking We Don’t Like
About 50% of the population is introverted so there’s actually a good chance of you finding other people who think what you enjoy is perfectly normal because they also enjoy similar things. But for those of us in the United States, and other cultures that tend to have more “extroverted” values, we might still feel pressure to not be “weird” and stick with “normal” topics of conversation.
As an interesting side-note, extroverts don’t always enjoy small talk either. Like us, they’d rather talk about things they care about and which build connection. Extroverts might, however, see small talk as an important part of social interactions and engage in it more easily than introverts do. And since most extroverts find social interactions energizing, they won’t resent small talk for draining their social batteries the way introverts can.
“Introverts do not hate small talk because we dislike people. We hate small talk because we hate the barrier it creates between people.” — Dr. Laurie Helgoe, Introvert Power
Contrary to popular belief, introversion is not the same thing as being anti-social. But when you’ve got a limited amount of social energy, you want to spend it doing and talking about things that make you come alive and help you connect with other people. You don’t want to waste energy on things that leave you feeling drained, anxious, or grumpy. That’s why it’s so important to learn to communicate well as an introvert.
The Need For Vulnerability
In spite of what I said last week about it being hard for introverts to share personal details, most of us do crave the types of meaningful interacts that come with being vulnerable. It’s sort of a catch-22. We’re hesitant to share personal details, but sharing personal details is what leads to the types of conversations we want to have.
I know I’ve shared Brené Brown’s work before, but I’m going to keep sharing it until everyone’s talking about vulnerability like it’s a good (or at least necessary) thing. Because that’s what this whole conversation about comfortable communication boils down to.
I could have turned this into just another article along the lines of 10 Conversation Starters For Introverts. But you’re never going to get to a point where you’re completely comfortable communicating on your own terms as your authentic self if you don’t embrace vulnerability.
Sharing Your Authentic Self
A couple months ago, I told my counselor that I was done pretending I’m someone I’m not. I just don’t have the emotional energy to be fake anymore. And so I told people who’ve known me literally my whole life that I’ve been hiding my struggle with anxiety for the past 10+ years. I went out on a date and talked about my recent breakup (it wasn’t as awkward as it sounds — he asked since he’d heard I was newly single). I started blogging about what I’ve been going through.
To me, it just felt like “I’m done.” At first I thought about it like giving up. But then I realized people responded really well to my authentic self, even though I was sharing some messy and uncomfortable stuff. It wasn’t what I’d expected, and it didn’t match the lie I told myself about people not really wanting to know the real me. That made me ask myself, if they responded so well to me when I feel like I’m falling apart how might they respond when I’m living as my best self?
I think that’s the end-goal in our quest to communicate more comfortably as introverts — finding the courage to bring our authentic selves into our conversations and relationships. That’s a lifelong journey for many of us. In the mean time, let me leave you with two great articles that offer tips for talking about things in a way that’s more comfortable for you as an introvert:
- An Introvert’s Guide To Small Talk: Eight Painless Tips
- 5 Hacks To Turn Small Talk Into Meaningful Conversation
*Featured image credit: rawpixel via Pixabay