So, “we all know” introverts don’t like small talk – it’s been said enough times! But, what is it about small talk that causes the problem? Why don’t introverts like to talk (actually, they do)? This article explores a few possibilities.
Do introverts really hate small talk?
Is there evidence, or is it a myth, that introverts hate small talk? As part of my survey (please complete it yourself) I asked many introverts if they dislike small talk. 73% said “yes”, where only 25% of extroverts dislike it!
I then asked the introverts some more about small talk. What drives your small talk behaviour? What makes you hate small talk? It’s useful to know, if you need to manage it.
What is it about small talk that introverts don’t like?
If you have strong beliefs on this, I’d love to hear them. The most common answers I’ve heard are:
- Boring and no point: Introverts prefer deeper conversation, normally with a few select friends. Discussion about random irrelevant rubbish serves no point and is boring.
- It’s fake: Small talk, to some is fake. If they’re not interested in connecting with someone, why waste the energy? It’s inauthentic.
- Don’t like big egos: Small talk seem full of mind-numbing egotism, the people who appear to enjoy small talk the most are those that talk for ever, preferring to talk about themselves and their successes. Introverts value humility.
- Too shallow: Introverts prefer a deeper conversation, with a meaningful outcome, which includes relevant details.
- Fear of being caught out: If you don’t know what to say, it’s easy to feel worried about being on the spot. Introverts tend to process thoughts internally, extroverts process externally. In more basic terms, an extrovert is talking in order to process their thoughts, where an introvert needs to stop and think about things. This can lead to feeling bad if the introvert doesn’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.
- Gets in the way of real conversation: If all we do is fulfill societies expectation of trivia, small talk gets in the way of “proper conversation”. Psychologist Laurie Helgoe says introverts hate small talk because it creates a barrier between people. Superficial, polite discussion prevents openness, so people don’t learn about each other.
- Privacy: Some introverts are private people (as are many extraverts), who don’t like opening up more than they need to.
- Don’t like socialising: Actually, introverts don’t have a dislike of socialising and can socialise productively. However, it’s not their preference; is your issue with small talk about socialising?
These were the most common responses when discussing small talk. Is there “a reason”, or does it vary depending on the person and the context?
How to get better at small talk.
Firstly you need to consider why you hate small talk and want to get better at it. However, the following ideas have helped many introverts. Which of these ideas would you help your reason for disliking small talk?
- Avoid: Be honest, not possible. There are times when it’s needed. If it’s actually because you’re shy, that’s something different. Learning to manage small talk seems more practical (sometimes that is skill based, sometimes managing your exposure).
- Energy: There’s not much you can do about this, other than manage it. If you see a good reason in spending some of your people energy for a short period, you can do it (so find a reason). Why are you interested in that conversation, also perhaps build in an escape before you start – how will you escape?
- Why bother? Be clear on why you’re engaging in the discussion. If it’s part of a work thing, or you want to get to know them more (so you can decide on having further discussions/ working together etc); that’s a good reason. If you can’t find a reason, you’re likely to feel fake. Can you be bothered to fake it without reason? Find your reason, which may be as simple as deciding if you want to get to know somebody better.
- Opening up: If you’re a private person, avoiding talking can help – but you still might get asked some personal information. Decide in advance what parts of your life you’re happy to discuss in what depth. Practice some of your responses to personal questions, once you know what you’re happy to say.
- Ask questions. If you focus on asking the right questions (by listening) you don’t have to talk as much. If your thing about small talk is it’s superficiality, ask deeper questions!
- Ask the other person about themselves. This works well if you want to avoid talking much, but you’re in danger of setting off an egotistical sounding response and doesn’t fix the “what’s the point in small talk ” problem though.
- Be genuinely interested in their views: You can do this, if you have a good reason behind it (want to sell, develop relationship for specific reason etc), but the word genuinely can’t be faked! If you are really interested, it’s possible to deepen the conversation beyond small talk.
- Improv, or space statements: If you’re worried about your thought processing time, learning improv skills (reacting in the moment) may help you create space while you process your thoughts; or you could learn phrase that gives you a short space, even if it’s “let me come back to that”
So, why do you hate small talk, or what is it about small talk you don’t like? More importantly, what will you do to manage that?