As a leader you want your team to get on, and probably want to get on with your team. The problem is when some of them don’t seem interested in general conversations which might improve the team’s “togetherness”. How can you go about getting your introverted team members talking?
The chances are (and I’ve had a similar conversation with many business owners) that those who chat less readily are introverts and you’re hoping to get them to join with some small talk. Introverts do like to talk, make it meaningful and safe so they’ll join in.
Why don’t introverts like small talk?
73% of introverts I’ve surveyed said they don’t like small talk, where only 25% of extroverts dislike it! That resonates with many other reports.
I asked for more detail, about why they don’t like small talk. If you want introverts to join in with the small talk, it’s good to start understanding why they don’t like it. It wasn’t a dislike of socialising, the most common answers were:
- Boring and no point: Discussion about random irrelevant rubbish serves no point and is boring. Introverts prefer deeper conversation, normally with a few select friends.
- Don’t like big egos: Small talk is often full of ego and those who appear to enjoy it prefer to talk about themselves and their successes. That’s a big turn off for most introverts, who value humility.
- Fear of being caught out: Most introverts process their thoughts internally, where extroverts process externally, add that to an introverted desire to provide a more correct and detailed answer and it can appear that you’re answering more slowly. This can lead to the introvert feeling bad if they don’t have an “instant answer”.
- Energy: Introverts lose energy spending time with people and would rather spend their precious “people energy” doing something more useful.
- Privacy: Some introverts are private people (as are many extraverts), who don’t like opening up more than they need to.
Small talk – the conversational lubricant
If you think about small talk, it oils the way to “big talk”. It’s a social way into talking, rather than just diving straight into business. If you’re wanting a bit more team glue in your business then small talk can (to an extent help).
Getting your introverted team members talking
Dealing with the common reasons for people not joining in and being sensitive to their communication preferences and personality will help. Making a thing of it, making people feel outcast because of it, won’t help.
- Accept: Make it easy for everybody to join in when they’re ready.
- Prime the discussion: If a conversation is to move beyond the weather, you probably need to give something of yourself away. Introverts are more likely to open up if you do first.
- Patiently and gently ask for views: Asking for views on something specific can be better than general conversation.
- Make it meaningful: One of the things introverts hate about small talk is that it has no meaning. Introverts love to dissect big ideas, learn something new, and even talk about the meaning of life.
- Search for stories: Questions that can be answered in one or two words don’t help the conversation. Be more open ended and search for stories, “How are you?”, “OK” could instead start as “What was the most interesting thing about…..”
- Ditch the egos: Your office might not have any, but most people with big egos don’t think they have one! But this is a common reason for introverts not joining in with small talk
- Energy: Typically introverts lose energy when with lots of people, specially if it’s chatty and noisy. Can you create quieter places to work, so some tasks can be done in another area – that can help introverts retain ‘people energy’
- It’s not the goal, it’s a journey: Don’t get hung up on it, you’re trying to engage your introverts to make the team more effective, not because you want them engaged in small talk all day. Better conversation means more engagement in the big talk. Easing conversations with conversational lubricant is only part of your team effectiveness strategy.