As an introvert, I often feel like a bit of a contradiction. I find socializing draining, but I also desire deep connection with others. I enjoy my quiet alone time; however, I also need meaningful relationships. I struggle to start conversations, yet I want to discuss the inner workings of the mind, the meaning of life, and other big ideas.
Personally, I think these conflicting feelings are exacerbated by the fact that I’m an INFJ personality type. My Extroverted Feeling (Fe) function makes me especially attentive to others. However, I believe this is a common tug of war that introverts of all personality types experience. After all, we as humans are wired for connection. Our core desires are to experience love and belonging—no matter what.
Introverts Can Make Excellent Conversationalists
I’m sure it doesn’t come as a surprise to you that introverts have a deep desire to connect meaningfully with others. It’s a typical assertion that we don’t like small talk. It feels awkward, superficial, and unnecessary for us to chit chat about the weather or latest sporting event (unless we’re actually passionate about those topics).
However, even with our distaste for small talk, introverts can make excellent conversationalists. We have particular strengths that come to us naturally.
First, we tend to be excellent listeners. Some extroverts interrupt or jump in too quickly with their own ideas, but introverts are used to taking in as much information as possible and reflecting on it before responding. Because of this, our contribution to the conversation is often relevant and thoughtful.
Also, we tend to read people well. Intuitive people are often introverted, and our intuition allows us to gain a sense of what another person is feeling through our own gut instincts. We tend to readily notice nonverbal cues like facial expressions and body language as well.
Finally, many introverts have a rich inner world. We spend a great deal of time taking in information, processing it, and forming our own opinions. This results in us having a lot of interesting thoughts and big ideas to share—when we’re provided a safe environment.
Want to flex those conversationalist muscles? Here are four ways to connect with others as an introvert:
1. Listen and Follow Up
When starting a conversation with someone new, I often worried that I would quickly run out of things to say and we would fall into an uncomfortable silence. However, when I changed my perspective on this problem, I realized it was actually an opportunity.
When you first meet someone, you have nearly unlimited topics to talk about because they’re entirely new to you. The key to keeping the conversation going is to listen and then follow up.
If you receive a simple or even one-word answer to a question, follow it up with a more open-ended question. For example, you can ask the person where they’re from. Simple question, simple answer. Then, after they respond, you can follow up with a question about what they miss about their hometown or how it’s different from where they live now.
2. Give the Gift of Going First
In order to move the conversation from superficial to something deeper, I encourage you to give the gift of going first. You can choose to share something a little vulnerable, which will move the conversation in the direction of more meaningful connection. In my experience, people usually respond in kind, and this creates a fulfilling bonding experience.
Remember that vulnerability doesn’t have to mean exposing your darkest secrets. Bringing up new topics, asking about needs, trying new activities, and sharing success stories also involve vulnerability. Adjust accordingly depending on who you’re with.
3. Celebrate Successes
Many people avoid sharing victory stories out of fear of how people will react. We worry about coming off as arrogant or making others feel bad.
However, in a world where there seems to be so much bad news, I’m happy to hear about other people’s successes. This is also another way to deepen a conversation.
You can start the trend by opening up about personal victories you’ve experienced and allow others to be excited for you. Turn it outward as well by asking others about the things that’re going well in their life or what they’ve accomplished recently. Encourage them to share the good and celebrate joyfully with them.
Related: 5 Hacks to Turn Small Talk Into More Meaningful Conversation
4. Ask Engaging Questions
Aside from offering your own stories, you can also encourage the other person to share by asking them engaging questions. Don’t settle for comments about the weather. Ask people what you wish they would ask you. Or, ask them about something you know they’re talented at. This allows them to shine and feel good.
When the pressure is on and an awkward silence is pounding in your ears, it can be hard to think of things to ask. This is why I like to prepare a few questions to keep in mind before I go out with people. If you’re looking for some fun topics to talk about, check out my free Dynamic Dialogue conversation starters pack to create engaging connections with others.
If you’re anything like me, even though you’re an introvert, you still crave connection with others. Utilize these four strategies to connect with others in introvert-friendly ways. You really can choose to create the meaningful conversations and relationships you want to have.
This article was originally published on Introvert, Dear. It has been republished here with permission.