Are you an introvert who finds it tough to make conversation? Maybe small talk is your worst nightmare. The thought of endless chit chat gives you a nauseous feeling reminiscent of that infamous barfing scene in Bridesmaids. Luckily for introverts, conversational skills are just that—skills which can be learned and mastered.
As an introvert myself who grew up being known as “the quiet girl”, I know being a great conversationalist is easier said than done—especially when you feel self-conscious talking about yourself.
I’ll be honest, the conversational skills I’ll share today didn’t come naturally to me at first. And that’s ok!
I only knew a few natural smooth talkers growing up and in high school. They are probably now either in jail or sales people for a shady pyramid scheme. At least that’s what I tell myself when I feel bad that I actually had to work at this stuff.
Anyway, the point is that even if you feel more self-conscious in conversation than a 13-year-old at a pool party, there is hope.
Conversational skills for introverts who don’t say much
Here are some conversational skills that any introvert learn, even if small talk is your kryptonite and talking to strangers turns your stomach into a swarm of fluttering moths.
1. Simple tweaks to be more approachable
If you’re an introvert who’s been told you seem intimidating or aloof, join the club. Coming off as cold or unapproachable is a common introvert problem.
Perhaps, you’re a loving Labrador on the inside, but you give off angry Rottweiler vibes at parties. I get it. It’s hard to ‘just smile’ and ‘loosen up’ when you feel awkward and uncomfortable.
The good news is that a few small, easy tweaks can make you more approachable in an instant.
A quick eyebrow flash – Studies have shown that a quick milliseconds-long eyebrow raise signifies that you’re open and friendly.
Open facial expressions – A forced smile can backfire, but a generally open facial expression is a surefire way to draw people in. Look up, relax your facial muscles, and “smize” (rock those supermodel smiling eyes).
Release body tension – We all have places in our bodies where we hold tension when we’re nervous, such as our shoulders or stomach. The thing is that others can SEE this tension in our body.
Case in point: One time my friend and I visited a crowded tourist attraction and I got totally overwhelmed. “I can tell you’re stressed because your shoulders are up to your ears,” said my friend.
Oh, right, people can see me, like, all the time.
Luckily it’s easy to release the tension. Simply consciously relax the parts of your body that have tensed up, so that your conversational skills can shine.
2. Use simple conversation starters
We introverts are known for preferring deep conversations. But it’s rare that a conversation will be deep from the beginning. People need warming up in conversation.
We need some small talk lubrication to slide into more meaningful topics (there I finally made small talk sound sexy!).
The easiest thing is to memorize some simple conversation starters that you can use in most situations:
- How has your day been?
- How do you know the host?
- What do you think of [this venue, this activity, this music]
- What do you do for fun outside of work?
3. Focus on inner motivations
Now that you’ve gotten the conversation going, you can go a bit deeper. A great type of follow-up question to take conversations to the next level are motivation questions.
Get curious about why they made certain choices and have certain opinions. Ask questions like:
- What made you decide to that?
- What do you like about it?
- What was your thought process?
- What makes you say/think that?
Try to avoid saying “why”, as this word can come off as judgmental.
4. Give yourself permission to share
No matter how great our conversation skills are, introverts often feel like we need permission to share our thoughts. It’s as if we’re kids raising our hands in class, instead of grownups who can speak up when we choose.
Rather than waiting for an invitation to share your thoughts and opinions (because, let’s face it, some chatty extroverts will never ask), give yourself permission to talk about yourself.
Share your thoughts on a particular topic, even if the person didn’t overtly ask.
Share you opinions, even if they differ from your conversation partner.
Share small vulnerabilities, even your instinct is to pretend you’re perfect and infallible.
Some examples of small vulnerabilities include:
- I felt self-conscious because this is my first time at that kind of event.
- I tend to doubt myself before giving a presentation.
- I felt nervous about being the new person at work/class.
Just be sure the vulnerability you share is appropriate for the situation.
5. Find common ground
Finding common ground with someone will give you those “same here” moments that bond you quickly in conversation.
Luckily, common ground can be something as broad as being from the same generation: “You played Duck Hunt growing up? Me too!”
The truth is, we like people who are similar to us in some way. It creates a sense of familiarity and trust.
To find common ground, listen for things that you share in common. Also, be sure to share your interests and background, so that the other person has opportunities to say “same here”.
Here are some general areas of common ground:
- Same age/generation
- Same hometown
- Same love of animals
- Same hobbies
- Same favorite sports and teams
- Same cultural background
- Same high school
- Same relationship status (single, married, divorced)
- Same mutual friends
6. Make observations
Making observations in conversation is a great way to keep the conversation going in a direction that’s relevant and relatable to both of you.
To understand what I mean, let’s talk about three key types of observations you can make in conversation: you, them, the environment.
- something that you’re excited about
- a relevant recent experience in your life
- something fun you’ve been doing
- how you feel in that moment
- compliment their clothes/jewelry/appearance
- notice something about their personality (creative, adventurous, leader)
- what you like about their vibe
- the food/drinks
- the music
- other people you notice
- atmosphere of the room or outside
7. Create warmth in conversations
Have you ever noticed that boring conversations have a certain feeling to them? If you were to describe them as a color it would likely be grey. If you were to describe them in feeling terms, you mights use words like, cold, detached, or lifeless.
On the flip side, meaningful and fun conversations feel warm, like sunshine or candlelight.
You can create this warm feeling in conversation by sharing something that made you smile. It could be something funny that someone did or said, a scene from a movie you saw, or an anecdote from your day.
Free Conversation Guide
For more introvert-specific conversation tips and scripts, grab my free Introvert Conversation Cheat Sheet.
Alright, I’ll pass the torch to you now, innie friend. Feel free to share your thoughts and experiences related to making conversation as an introvert in the comments below.
P.S. If you’re new to the blog, allow me to introduce myself. I’m Michaela Chung, author of The Irresistible Introvert and The Year of The Introvert, and creator of this amazing innie community we have here. For several years, I’ve been building up a labyrinth of introvert resources that will take you on a magical journey toward more confidence, connection, and self-love. Start with this free Introvert Connection Guide.