Do you ever feel overwhelmed during conversations? This can be a common challenge for introverts for several reasons.
When conversations drag on for too long introverts may feel overstimulated and want to zone out.
People who talk too loudly, too quickly or just too much can also be very overwhelming for introverts.
Of course, any conversation where there is conflict or emotional triggers involved is a lot to process for anyone—especially thoughtful introverts who tend to listen more than we speak.
Why you get overwhelmed
When conversations become overwhelming, it can activate our fight, flight or freeze response.
To put it simply, the part of our brain that’s responsible for logic and reason gets overridden by the part of our brain that’s survival focused.
Instead of being like, “cool, we can talk for another 10 minutes about your work drama”—your brain puts the breaks on.
It says, “WE ARE NOT SAFE IN THIS CONVERSATION!”. That’s when the fight, flight or freeze response kicks in.
Can you guess which ones introverts favor?
Usually, introverts will choose flight (leaving abruptly), or freeze (going blank and mentally checking out).
It’s frustrating because it’s not like we’re being held hostage in the conversation.
Why can’t we just laugh it off and change the topic like a ‘normal’ person?
The truth is that feeling overwhelmed in conversation is totally normal!
Conversations are highly stimulating, especially if you’re someone who reads between the lines and thinks about things deeply.
Sometimes, you just need to press pause to take it all in. There’s nothing wrong with that.
That said, here are 3 steps to deal with overwhelming conversations:
1. Give yourself grace
There’s no need to panic and go into shame. Tell yourself that you’re human and it’s ok to feel overwhelmed sometimes. It doesn’t mean you’re weird or broken.
2. Take a timeout
If the overwhelm has triggered flight or flight, it means your brain is telling your body it’s in danger.
For introverts, often the only way to feel safe is to be alone for a little while.
Take a stroll, look at the plants, go to the bathroom and then come back in a calmer state.
3. Trigger relaxation
Many people spend good portions of their life in a stress response: anxious, fearful, on edge.
If your body is already stressed, you’re more likely to be overwhelmed in conversation.
Luckily, you can switch off your fight or flight response by using relaxation techniques such as deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation.
It also helps to recognize the aspects of your daily life that are making you feel powerless and anxious.
Ask yourself this question:
How am I giving away my power?
When I asked myself that question the other day, the answer was sitting right next to me: my phone.
Our electronics are great tools but they can also be weapons, destroying our sense of focus and even our self-esteem.
Other ways we give our power away and trigger a stress response include:
- Not knowing and expressing our boundaries.
- Spending time with draining and/or toxic people.
- Overfunctioning in relationships by doing and giving too much.
- Pretending, performing, and trying to impress instead being ourselves.
If you struggle with any or all of the above, welcome to the club.
It’s hard being a human—especially when you’re introverted and prone to a lot of guilt.
So, don’t be too hard on yourself. Now you have everything you need to deal with conversation overwhelm in healthy ways—without the guilt. 🙂
By the way, if you’re new here, allow me to introduce myself.
I’m Michaela Chung, introvert coach and author of The Irresistible Introvert and The Year of The Introvert. I help introverts build confidence and connections. You can get started with this free Introvert Connection Guide.
And while you’re here, please do share your thoughts in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you!