Warning: this post might be slightly ranty.
Introvert vs. Extrovert In Conversation
Introverts and extroverts often have very different communication styles – sometimes DRASTICALLY different. Extroverts tend to be verbal processors who flit quickly from topic to topic and interrupt each other frequently (more on that later). Introverts, on the other hand, need to think before we speak, and prefer slower paced conversations that cover fewer topics.
Author Laurie Helgoe compares introvert conversations to jazz:
“Introvert conversations are like jazz. Each player gets to solo for a nice stretch before the other player comes in and does his solo.”
So, if introvert conversations are like jazz, I’d say that extrovert conversations are more like a boy band or girl band pop song. Forget about the long solos; for many extroverts, it’s completely natural to interrupt and talk over each other.
This can be really frustrating for introverts. If you’ve been reading the blog for a while, you probably already know that being interrupted is one of my BIGGEST pet peeves. It drives me crazy! Often, it is enough to make me avoid a person altogether.
I also find the extrovert tendency to talk really quickly and jump around from topic to topic very tiring.
It’s okay to prefer the introverted way
Once upon a time, the fact that the above things annoyed me made me feel bad about myself. I thought there was something wrong with me because I was exhausted and frustrated by the typical extrovert communication style.
Later I came to realize that there is nothing wrong with my innie way of communicating. And there is nothing wrong with the extroverted way either (though I still think interrupting is really rude and disrespectful and it makes me say lots of swear words in my mind).
The thing is, there are many many kind, caring, well-intentioned extroverts out there who simply can’t help interrupting. Like I said early, it is their natural way of communicating. To them, interrupting to provide input or their own personal story is a way of moving the conversation forward.
They also might cut us off in order to summarize what we are saying (I HATE THIS SO MUCH!) and show that they are listening. Or at least I think that is why they do it. Really, I just wish they would let me finish my sentences, but I know that they have good intentions and yada yada yada, so I try to make the best of it.
Here are the three ways that I’ve learned to navigate conversations with interrupting extroverts.
How to navigate extrovert conversations
Step 1: Know that there is nothing wrong with you
There is no shame in preferring a slower paced, more focused style of conversation. It doesn’t mean that there is something wrong with you.
Don’t feel bad about yourself if someone repeatedly interrupts you. I know it can be really demoralizing when this happens. Your automatic assumption is that you must be talking too slowly, or that what you are saying is really boring. Not so! Usually, extroverts who are constantly interrupting do so with everyone. It is just their way of conversing. Do not take it personally.
Step 2: Interrupt them back
I’ve discovered that extroverts who interrupt you expect you to interrupt them back. They don’t find it rude.
To be honest, most of the time I can’t be bothered to steal the spotlight back. Sometimes out of sheer stubbornness I’ll repeatedly redirect the conversation back to what I was originally saying. This takes A LOT of energy and I don’t enjoy doing it. However, it is worth it if I feel like what I have to say is important.
Step 3: Find someone else to talk to
There are some lovely extroverts out there who I enjoy talking to despite their interrupting ways. On occasion, I’ve had to gently (or not so gently) remind said extroverts that it makes me feel bad when they interrupt me.
These people are the exceptions. For the most part, I avoid people who talk really fast and/or have a habit of interrupting.
If you are like me, and you find the extrovert style of conversation exhausting and frustrating, I recommend keeping such conversations to a minimum. In other words, don’t surround yourself with people who suck the life out of you, and DO NOT enter into a long-term relationship with someone if their conversation style exhausts you.
Some introverts don’t seem to mind their partners speaking for them or cutting them off. This would quickly reduce me to a twitching, angry little bundle of bitterness. So please, if what I’m saying resonates with you, don’t marry someone who drains you and makes you want to implode. Just find someone else – introvert or extrovert – who will slow the hell down and listen to you.
What about you? Do you find the extrovert communication style frustrating? How do you feel when someone constantly interrupts you or talks really fast? I ‘d love to hear your thoughts and experiences!