Many introverts tend to speak slowly. We need time to process our thoughts before we speak. We pause. We think. Perhaps we pause again. Sometimes we can’t find the right words until after the conversation has ended. Then we kick ourselves, and wish we always knew what to say like fast-talking extroverts.
The most frustrating aspect of our slow response time is the assumption that we are actually “slow” – as in stupid. It never feels good to know that someone is underestimating your intelligence. I’ve been there. It sucks. I know I’m not a dummy just because I can’t come up with long-winded answers to random questions off the top of my head. But it still bugs me that others don’t recognize that.
Fortunately, like most introverts, I can talk at length about topics that I care deeply about. It’s easy to think of what to say next when the subject is a passion that is always fresh in your mind. Otherwise, the hamster just likes to take his sweet time. “This conversation is going nowhere, anyway,” he says,”might as well take our time.”
But sometimes we really, desperately do want to keep up with the conversation, even if the hamster in our head is taking a coffee break. We want to be able to fire off a quick and convincing answer on the spot. We think it would be just peachy if we could know exactly what to say at exactly the right time. Instead –
Nothing. So, what should you do when you sense that others assume you are stupid because of your slow speaking ways?
First of all, DON’T do this
Don’t try to prove yourself. You’re above that. If you constantly feel the need to prove yourself – whether at work, in a relationship, or with friends – it’s a bad sign. As Susan Cain says: “Everyone shines, given the right lighting. For some, it’s a Broadway spotlight, for others, a lamplit desk.”
If you feel like you’re struggling to convince others of your worthiness, perhaps it’s time to find some more flattering lighting.
Try this trick
People assume that outgoing individuals are smarter than they are, simply because they speak with confidence. You can reap the benefits of this knowledge without actually being outgoing. The trick is to speak decisively even if you’re not really saying anything.
If you don’t know what to say, there are a few concise responses that you can provide:
“I don’t know the answer to that question. I’d have to think about it.”
“So, what your saying is [insert summary of what they said].”
“That’s interesting. You make a great point.”
Whichever generic response you choose, as long as you say it with a lot of confidence, people will accept that you are intelligent, but you are choosing not to elaborate at this time. The third response is also great because everyone wants to feel validated. Seriously, everyone.
If it’s really important that you think and talk fast during an interaction, it’s a good idea to prepare ahead of time. Preparation could involve:
- role play exercises with a friend (this works well when getting ready for an interview)
- reading up on current events
- creeping people’s Facebook profiles to find out their interests (oh, come on, we all do it)
- exercising and getting enough sleep so your brain is fresh
Most importantly, don’t feel bad about your need to slow down and think before you speak. As Abraham Lincoln put it, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt”.