Have you ever thought of the absolute perfect thing to say …
10 minutes too late?
Or spent an entire conversation desperately grasping an interrupted thought you didn’t get the chance to share?
If so, you’re like many introverts who struggle with verbal communication. You see, introverts need more time to think before we speak. We’re not like extroverts, who are verbal processors.
Unless we’re talking about a topic that we’re very knowledgeable and/or excited about, the words don’t come easily.
The introvert’s dilemma in conversation
Often, gathering our thoughts can feel like reaching into a pen of rambunctious bunny rabbits. There are so many of them bouncing around, it’s hard to grasp onto just one. By the time we do get a hold of the right thought to share, the conversation has already raced away from us. Not only that.
The person we’re talking with has made one of three assumptions about us:
a) We’re not so bright.
b) We’re not really interested in the conversation.
c) We don’t want to talk, so it’s ok to monopolize the conversation and interrupt us after even the slightest pause.
Usually, it’s none of the above. In fact, assumption “c” is one of the most frustrating misconceptions we introverts face. Just because we don’t talk much, doesn’t mean we have nothing to say. Au contraire!
Give us a little time and encouragement, and we can be quite the conversationalists. The confusion lies in the way that introverts approach communication. Allow me to explain.
The introverted approach to conversation
Extrovert conversations resemble a game of ping pong with back and forth dialogue delivered at a dizzying speed.
Introverts, on the other hand, prefer to take our time with each topic. We would rather dive deep into one subject, than hurriedly skim several. I equate it with the traveller who goes to Europe for a month and casually meanders through two or three countries versus the eager beaver who tries to cram in as many countries as possible.
Laurie Helgoe, author of Introvert Power: Why Your Inner Life Is Your Hidden Strength, 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.”
The introvert advantage of slow speech
We shouldn’t feel bad about our slow-talking ways – quite the opposite! Speaking slowly is a key component of effective communication. It allows others to understand, process and appreciate what we are saying. It can also make us appear more confident because speaking quickly is a sign of nervousness.
Taking time to compose your thoughts before speaking has the added advantage of making you appear more intelligent. Small pauses show that you are thinking. They also increase anticipation and tension, drawing the listener in. The introvert advantage in conversation is subtle, but very powerful.
How to avoid awkward silences
Many introverts worry that our slowness of speech creates too many awkward silences. This is a valid concern. A conversation is meant to have some back an forth. Nobody wants to be that guy who is always dropping the ball.
Here are some tips for avoiding awkward silences:
Stop overthinking and relax
As an introvert, you probably have a tendency to overthink things. You might spend so much time worrying about the awkward silence that you miss opportunities to reengage. Great conversation involves a certain amount of spontaneity, which can only occur when you get out of your head and relax into the moment.
Give yourself permission to share
Have you ever wished that someone would ask you exactly the right questions so you could open up to them? You waited for an invitation to share your successes, your worries, your dreams.
But it never came.
That’s because most people don’t know exactly the right questions to ask. So, it’s up to you to go ahead and share what you want to share anyway. Extroverts are good at this. They need no invitation to talk about themselves. Why should you?
Give yourself permission to fill those awkward silences with some revelations about yourself.
Brush up on your speaking skills
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