How to engage an introvert in conversation

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If you’ve ever wanted to encourage introverts to join into conversations you may have found it hard. Perhaps you want the introvert in your team to speak up more; perhaps 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

An introvert is somebody that is happy to spend time on their own and is 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 contribute to.

Why don’t introverts jump straight into conversations?

Introverts often don’t like joining in with what they perceive as irrelevant discussion, they will also process their thoughts before speaking. Most avoid discussions where big egos are being thrown around, and the subject is (effectively) egotistical “willie waving”.  If you want an introvert to join in the conversation, you’re more likely to get a good response if you’re aware of their preferences.

7 ways of getting an introvert to join in with the conversation.

  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 and 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, but you are certainly helping them to communicate with you.

What would you add to the list?

Please help.

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