Have you ever tried chatting with somebody who doesn’t answer back very much, if at all? Maybe they seem to pause and listen, but not say a lot? It can be frustrating when you want quick answers and they seem to be doing nothing. Introvert friendly communication is a way of communicating with introverts, more effectively.
How do introverts and extroverts communicate differently?
Understanding four key points about introverts will help you communicate more effectively with them.
- Internal v external processing: Introverts process things internally (think inside their head). They’ll try to create the best, most accurate answer for you. According to “The Introvert Advantage” by Marti Olsen Laney, introverts have a longer neural pathway for processing stimuli. Information runs through a pathway that is associated with long term memory and planning,” As introverts process information, they’re dealing with internal thoughts and feelings at the same time.
- Small talk: Introverts prefer weightier conversations, about things. Extroverts can do these conversations, but also enjoy small talk and will probably break up detailed conversation with lighter moments.
- Breaking in: Introverts are less likely to break into a conversation, unless there’s a gap. Leave pauses when you’re chatting with introverts, which allow them to join in.
- Non verbal cues: Most introverts are conscious of non verbal cues, as part of the detail they’re taking in when they listen to you. Not having verbal cues can make it harder, phone calls or discussions in noisy environments reduce non verbal cues.
Introverts think to talk, extroverts talk to think
Preparing for the conversation
You can’t always set things up in advance, but understanding the communication differences and setting things up in advance will help. When you’re chatting with an introvert in your team, how can you help them to…
- use their introvert strengths, rather than “act like an extrovert”.
- take the time for thoughtful and calmer discussions,
- work one to one. Most introverts are better in one to one conversations. You’ll get more feedback than if expect “off the cuff responses” in team meetings.
- take a break have time to think in discussions. It can help introverts gather their thoughts and refresh. Maybe you can take a bathroom break.
- have a diplomatic exit. Allow meetings to end, rather than drag on until everything is sorted. When they’re low on people energy and need to process what you’ve told them, you’ll get less response.
“There’s zero correlation between being the best talker and having the best ideas.” Susan Cain, author of Quiet
How to improve a conversation with an introvert.
- Advance notice: It’s not always possible, but where you can let the other person know, in advance, the subject/ agenda. This allows the other person to prepare their thoughts, you’ll have a better discussion. #Giftoftime
- State the end time: If it’s a planned meeting, let the other person know when it ends, this will help them manage their energy.
- Select a suitable physical environment. Noisy locations will make it harder to introverts to open up and concentrate.
- Give introverts time to respond: This allows for internal processing. Introverts use this time to make meaning from what you said and think of a the most complete answer for you.
- Try to think before speaking. It means your words are clearer and that will be appreciated by your introverted colleague. #ZipIt
- Encourage the introvert to talk. If you don’t get an immediate response, wait a second or so more. Having given time, ask again and perhaps again in a different way. It’s quite probable that you’ve trained them over the years that you’re not interested in their answer, so they don’t plan on giving one! #ZipIt
- Don’t be afraid of silence in the conversation: Silence is OK for most introverts, it’s extroverts who struggle with it. That allows for for internal processing, we all think differently. #ZipIt
- Practice active listening: Active listening such as nodding your head, “uh huh”, leaning in or taking notes (when relevant) show you’re listening. Introverts tend to want your interest and know they’ve been understood, active listening (especially when you play back a summary of what they said), demonstrate this.. Extroverts tend to want your attention more than introverts.
- Acknowledge their strengths and accomplishments: The same as you would any member of staff!
- Ditch the ego (not that you have one of course). Most introverts don’t like strong egotistical behaviour, but then many others don’t either!