How to engage introverts in conversation

by Last updated Apr 27, 2021Managing Introverts

Reading Time: 2 minutes

If you’ve ever wondered how to engage in conversation with an introvert in conversation you may been stumped. Perhaps you want the introverts in your team to speak up more and wonder how to engage introverts. Maybe you’re in a meeting and know the introvert has something great to say – but are not sure how to start them talking.

What’s an introvert?

Introverted girl on beach

Introvert tend to be happy spending time on their own and are often energised by doing so. Introverts often find the ‘noise’ of random conversations (especially when there are several going on at once) draining of their energy. So they’ll often avoid the very conversations you want them to engage in!

Why don’t introverts jump straight into conversations?

Introverts tend not to join in with, what they perceive as irrelevant discussion, also they tend to process thoughts before speaking (internal processing). This internal processing “gap” can lead many to think the introvert doesn’t have anything to say, it can also lead an introvert to feel slightly ashamed. Most introverts avoid discussions where big egos are being thrown around and the subject is (effectively) egotistical “willie waving“.  If you want to engage introverts in conversation, you’re more likely to get a good response if you understand internal processing, “people energy” and introvert preferences.

How to engage introverts in conversation – 7 tips.

  1. Ask for their help, perhaps with a couple of relevant and structured questions. This will help an introvert see the purpose of their contribution.
  2. Before asking, tell the group how good they are at their subject, so the introvert understands how you want them to add value and realises the value of their contribution.
  3. Introverts tend not to like random conversations, so help to structure it some more. This will help them engage with it. You might just need to give a simple summary and then ask them what they think.
  4. Be OK with gaps in the conversation. Introverts are normally very happy with these gaps, as they tend to think things through, where extroverts are more likely to speak first and think later. Gaps are often due to the difference between internal and external processing.
  5. Make them feel heard, perhaps by summarising their point after they’ve made it.
  6. Don’t interrupt, this is likely to close down an introvert. Instead let them finish, summarise what they said and ask an open question about it.
  7. Don’t then ignore their contribution or just talk across it, that’s like saying their view is pointless.

Bonus tip: If you are prone to speaking fast, perhaps talking before thinking, try answering one of their early questions with “Let me take a moment to think about that“, then take a moment! You might say something different, more importantly this small gap will help them communicate with you.

Perhaps you’re an introvert and wondering how to talk more as an introvert, in which case click for the guide to small talk.

You may also like to read:

Or listen to: 

An interview with Helene Jewell of the International Association of Facilitators on how to improve your meetings.


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