How to engage introverts in conversation

by Dec 10, 2020Managing Introverts

Reading Time: 2 minutes

If you’ve ever wanted to engage an introvert in conversation you may have found it hard. Perhaps you want the introvert in your team to speak up more, so you 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 often don’t like joining in with what they perceive as irrelevant discussion and they tend to process thoughts before speaking. 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’re aware of their preferences.

How to engage an introvert 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.
  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.

What would you add to the list?

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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