Group conversations are, and always have been, a pain in the ass for me. They make me feel awkward, inhibited, and totally out of my element.
As a fellow introvert, maybe you can relate? You know what it’s like to wonder what to say and when to say it. You wait for a pause so you can share your thoughts, but it never comes. So, you stay quiet. Then comes the worst part …
“Why are you so quiet?” they ask, as if it weren’t the most annoying question in the history of annoying questions. You already felt weird for not knowing what to say. Now, you’re also embarrassed that others have noticed.
If you’ve ever experienced the above scenario, you are all too familiar with the PAIN of group conversations for introverts. You’ll also probably relate to my disdain for work lunchrooms, and small talk.
So, how can little ol’ introverted me become an ace at group conversations? How can I be that person who always knows what to say, and when to say it. The one who tells long hilarious stories, and commands the conversation like a boss.
To be honest, I probably can’t — at least not on a consistent basis. Now, before you get all “you can do anything you put your mind to” on me, hear me out.
Why it’s so hard
Group conversations work against, rather than with, an introvert’s strengths. They overwhelm us, and don’t give us enough time to think about what we want to say. Asking an introvert to command a group conversation (in a social setting, not a meeting) is like putting Angelina Jolie in a rom-com. We can do it, but it just won’t feel right.
HOWEVER, we can get better at talking in groups. We can be engaged, and tell a few cool stories. We can also take a quality over quantity approach to what we share. With this in mind, here are three tips for conquering group conversations in your own introverted way.
3 Ways introverts can improve at group conversations
Use facial expressions to show that you are engaged. Raising your eyebrows, smiling, and making eye contact when appropriate can make all the difference!
React to what others share. Show that you are listening by laughing at another person’s joke, or nodding your head in agreement. You can also make short ’n’ sweet comments like, “great story”, or “that’s hilarious”. This shows that you’re engaged even though you’re not saying very much.
Develop authentic introvert charisma that shines through silence. Introverts can be quietly charismatic, and deliciously intriguing. It all begins with developing confidence and connection skills in a way that feels natural to you. I show you how with my free Introvert Charisma Blueprint (access it here).
What do you think? Am I the only one who feels this way about group conversations? Or do you understand my pain? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Share away in the comments below! 😉
Lots of love,
Good tips, have developed these on my own but great to hear I’m doing the right things! I dislike group chats because I can only focus on one conversation at a time, so group chats quickly wear me out.
I’m not too good in groups.. talking somewhere quiet and one on one I think I could talk to anyone.despite my shyness and anxiety,but groups…nope,not gonna happen!:)I’ll just be quiet and awkward and freeze and get in my own head.The longer I’m quiet the harder it is to join in and i’ll just close up.I wonder if this is an introvert thing or just me,but is it the competitive nature that holds us back in groups?I struggle in night clubs and busy bars but wouldn’t feel anywhere near as anxious if it was less busy and loud…I sometimes think its the idea of how competitive a situation is that holds me back from joining in sometimes?For example,lots of men trying to get the attention of a women on a Saturday night… I tend to shy away from competing for someone’s attention.Is it the idea of having to compete that we don’t like?Just thinking out loud!Thanks for sharing this today Michaela 🙂
Great article as always! You are most certainly not the only one who feels this way Michaela. 🙂 I dare saying that I can relate with everything written here. 🙂 Somehow in the past, I was able to manage (to a degree) in group conversations due to the nature of some of my past jobs, but as time passed by that ability decreased. But even back then, I felt, well, as if that was not me, that it’s simply wasn’t t my real nature. So I’m happy that one on one conversations are the primary ones for me. 🙂
I can really relate to this. I took a strategic approach to it, I forced myself to hangout with extroverted females and took on the John F. Kennedy way of dealing with extroverts. He’d let people talk then ask others how they felt about what was being said and saved his commentary for last and give an insightful response and point out how many people all were saying the same thing just in different ways, this gave him more clout and more control over conversations where he didn’t have to say much of anything, he was viewed as more charismatic and intelligent due to his reserved nature and his opinion by default was considered better then everyone else’s just by being quiet. It certainly worked for me, just being able to see patterns and comment in an assertive way made me looked up to and be respected for my calm demeanor. I’ve managed to keep friendships long term too, just by using these tips Michaela has provided here and it makes it easier to stand out in the right way and be noticed for my good qualities. Being the strong silent type has it’s advantages 🙂
James, what you wrote is amazing. When I try to participate in a conversation with my coworkers, I’m cut off, talked over and largely ignored. It hurts my feelings and I shut down so I don’t really hear anything else that’s being said because now I’m in my own head. It reads wrong to the group. I’m going to try the JFK approach, it sounds like exactly the right balance of listening and participating that can work for me. I hope it will help me avoid the awkwardness I feel when domineering types are unable to hear anything but the sound of their own voices! Sorry if that sounds cruel, but in my case it’s quite true.
Well now, I really really love you ..
Getting together in group conversations is something I very much hate and have no tolerance for. I find that much of what the extroverts are saying is wrong or quite embarassing actually. It would be to me anyway. Not sure why they say half of what they do. But I find that most people don’t think before they say something and it just comes out, regardless. I, on the other hand, think WAY too much before I speak, but by then, the meeting is over. Group conversations are for the misinformed, self-absorbed, attention seeking, and reactionary type individuals to partake in, not me.
Unfortunetly I still think being introverted in groups is looked on as somthing that needs to be overcome or even treated as a personality disorder. If I feel not in my element and very uncomfortable I avoid the situation if possible and dont feel a person needs to feel bad or apolgise about this. It is likely the loud story telling person who rudely asks you why you are so quiet is incable of real intimate thoughtfull conversation without a audience. My daughters sports team holds group pizza partys and other parent gatherings where the kids all sit together and the adults all at one big table. I would rather have my eyes gouged out with a spoon than subject myself to this. I explain to my daughter that these things are for her team, text me when it’s done… adults probably think I’m a snob when I won’t hang with group, but I’ll take that risk.. to many years of being uncomfortable for no reason…good to hear others like me
I can relate to this, very strongly. Group discussion is the bane of the workplace and studies reported elsewhere suggest that the primary idea – to achieve a consensus to help solve problems and improve the way we work – is fallacious and the method ineffective.
The problem is, too often participation in group discussion is seen as a positive behavioural indicator. Competency frameworks tend to emphasise this, and as performance against competencies affects the result of end-of-year reviews, displaying behaviours which are viewed as being negative inevitably harms the overall perception of your performance. In this way, organisations are genuinely and actively discriminating against introverted individuals, and it’s a problem which I feel needs to be addressed.
To be honest, if the number of people in the conversation exceeds 2 or 3 I’ll normally walk away
For the longest of time I felt like I was the only one who felt like this. Id often be in a situation where groups of people would be talking back and fourth. I wondered why it was that I couldnt concentrate for too long. Id get distracted or just zone out as I would become tired from having to try and keep up with the flow.
I do enjoy having conversations with people but now know thanks to your blog that it is perfectly fine to take it in small doses and seek solitude when needed in order to energise myself again, so thank you Michaela for your wonderful advise.
Im know embracing my introvert traits whilst learning and loving the journey of life!!
Just the way I feel, all the time, great piece Michaela
I can totally relate on this. it happens everytime, even in our group chat . Though i have a lot of things to say, i can’t and just remain quiet.
Thank you so much. You’re helping me a lot ma’am. (I don’t know how am i gonna address you, i’m just 21 and it feels awkward to call you ‘michaela.
Being a little older than a lot of you, ok maybe a lot older (almost 60), I have become comfortable in my skin and view these gatherings as more of a game and an experiment. I watch the flow of the conversation. I have noticed that people don’t want the deep dive on any topic; they want sound bites so they can take their conversational turn. Or hog the conversation. So I challenged myself to speak what I was thinking in the moment to see how it was received, just as a way of flexing my conversational skills. Interesting observation…it can turn the conversation away from the banal and toward something better. For example, people spend so much time talking about inane tv shows. On and on. When they ask if I have seen XYZ show, I smile politely and say, “I don’t watch tv.” You should hear the responses! It changes the convo. “Really?! So, what do you do?” I reply that I read, write, play piano. Then the conversation moves to those topics. “What do you read?” “Non-fiction.” “What topics?” “Psychology. It’s in my background.” “How long have you played piano?” etc. Sound bites all the way around, but sound bites of a bit more substance. And springboards for them to say, “me too” or “my non-fiction choice is…” “I’m a musician too”. My advice? Use these opportunities in groups to challenge yourself to “come out”, even for a little bit, and test the waters so you can go deeper. It can change the topic in ways that are very interesting and you get to know your group better. I never have a loss of people wanting to speak to me. It also gives you confidence in groups, because that is an important life skill we all must learn eventually in order to be successful. Oh, and make sure you have built quiet time in afterwards 🙂 Carol
Great Advice.. I work on shift teams with 8 men…Somtimes Im unable to leave the room as the group conversation can go on for hours about gas milage, lawn mower blade configuration, or whatever else is on the babbling alpha males mind. Sound bites…. Ill give a try
Well I’m also nearly 60 and I always get very anxious about certain group conversations – but bizarrely, not all. It seems to depend on how extrovert the others are. Even if I’m just one of three, there have been times when the other two just endlessly chit and chat like a ping pong game, making me feel completely useless. On other occasions, if I sense that others around me are as introvert, or even more so, I find I quite enjoy group talks as I feel like no-one is going to rudely but in.
I relate with your article 100%. i hate group discussions .It feels like you have been talking about me all along.
But am slowly embracing my introversion nature…and things are becoming easier since i now undersstand myself better,.
If I’m with a small group of close friends it’s not issue. But I feel that way 100% with new people or people I don’t know well. I always feel two steps behind what is being said in the conversation. When I finally think of something to say, the conversation has already moved on to another topic. So I tend to stay silent. Sometimes I think of something I could have said, but only hours later. It’s the main reason why I try to avoid most parties and group activities. I honestly feel more lonely in a room full of people than when I’m alone.
Thank you..That’s me completely..I feel more lonely and exhausted when around too many people I dont know who the hell they are..I totally agree.
I can totally relate, but I’m disappointed to see the main point of the article is not acceptance of who we are and what need as introverts, but the suggestion that we need to change..
Many times we do actually need to change because we can’t communicate effectively. But that doesnt mean we need to become extraverts
George Carlin was the best on this. He once said that ‘I love individuals one by one. If you look hard enough you can almost see the universe in their eyes – their hopes, their dreams, everything about them! But when individuals begin to clot, when they begin to clump together into groups – they change. They sacrifice the beauty of the individual for the sake of the group. Groups are toxic and the larger the group – the more toxic it becomes’.
Personally, I avoid any group situations whatsoever. If I can see one forming, I’ll be running as fast as possible in the opposite direction. Even as a young child, I recoiled from the thought of any ‘group’ activity’ because I quickly realized that as soon as any type of group forms – problems are never far away.
Twenty years later – I still feel exactly the same way and time has verified by original suspicions of ‘groups’ over and over again. I was right to dread them when I was younger – as if I had been programmed with this knowledge in advance.
As George Carlin pointed out – when individuals clot into groups – they change. The beauty of the individual gets compromised in an ocean of noise because everyone is competing for position and attention within the group. On the other hand, dealing with individuals one by one is far more preferable in every sense – because there are only two people exchanging their thoughts and ideas.
I have heard it said that introverts find group situations exhausting and draining. For me, this is not the case – I just find the thought of ‘groups’ in any situation – EXTREMELY off-putting and with good reason! You name it – ‘Groupwork’, ‘Teamwork’, ‘working together’ or anything associated with more than one-to-one person interaction – you will never see me within a hundred miles. I will be long gone, believe me!
It has been my experience that when individuals form groups – they stop being sincere and true to themselves. When you do get them alone – the aura around them changes and the beauty of their individuality starts shining through. As soon as the group re-establishes itself – that aura disappears around them and you’re back to square one where the individuals gets lost among the noise and posturing of the group. IT’S ALWAYS LIKE THIS, ALWAYS!
In summary, avoid groups at all costs. Don’t engage, run away as fast as possible. Do what I do, Imagine you’re running from an airborne disease that chasing you on the go. See ‘groups’ as a ‘disease’ – something that’s fundamentally detrimental to you’re health and well being. Stick with individuals and take them only one by one – where an honest, rational and intelligent conversation can come to the forefront.
Just like any introvert, I resonate with this issue, though not that often anymore. The thing that exhausts me the most is hearing and seeing extroverts talk (and debate among/between themselves) and move non-stop without pausing even when it’s best to – and when I really have to stay during the entire shit show. In times when I really have to participate, I have figured out to use my humor or the quality/depth of what I say to leave my own mark. Doesn’t matter if I talk less or if my voice is not as loud as the extroverts’. I make it a point to flaunt my character and brains in my own way, and for me that’s enough. Likewise, when it’s possible to talk one-on-one, let’s say during lunch, it’s become my strategy to pick one or two people I can talk to until the situation is over, anyway since introverts prefer those types of interactions. I don’t even attempt to engage with everyone anymore.
Nice suggestions one hey
I have practiced for years and years….in an uneducated society that didnt have much support or acceptance for people who are different. It sucks. I practiced lots of ‘Uhuhs” and ‘oooo yeah’ and ‘ Oh wow!’…..to peoples time old repeated small talk about nothing. And yet still I stick out as an odd ball …..I focused lots on how I speak too openly or am 5 conversations behind the group. And now I say fark it.! Who cares what they have to say., I just dont give any thought to their feelings and thoughts. Tip toe around me for a change. At least people know me now as someone who doesnt say much, but when I do its profound , deep or interesting. And then they can piss off.
So this is me, but when I was younger like 20 years ago, I didn’t understand so I used to actually try and come up with something to say. It was so bad I actually developed what felt like a nervous twitch in my cheek, saw a doctor and everything. Only now do I understand what was really going on. I thought there was something really wrong with me, it’s a huge relief to know I’m introverted
You are not alone..That’s me as well…I am very introverted and when it come to group discussions, it always makes me anxious because in my head, I might have a point but I don’t know when to say it, or I might literally have no idea what’s going on…Thank you so much for speaking out..You are not alone, I feel the pain as well..
I hate group chats, but for different reasons. I often feel responsible for making everyone feel comfortable (if it’s with people I care about – coworkers, friends, etc.), but I hate attention from a group of people and I need quite a lot of time to decompress. This is happening to me for every lunch break – very demanding.
I get very selfaware and insecure from the way people respond or react to me that I can’t concentrate half an hour after I’m done with lunch”break”.
I really, really hate it.
Me 2. The SAME. For years… and now i understand why. My manager has told me a couple of times to participate in the regular non- important talks that happen in our group but first of all even if i like to do so, i dont know what to say or when.. having many people talking makes me distracted. It’s also draining and distracts my attention on my work. I had the same issue with group talks as far as i remember. When I’m with one person or max 2 i engage in conversation, and i like it and enjoy. More than 2 people is not enjoyable to me much. Cant focus on saying sth while two people or 3 are talking. Note that for work meetings things are different and I don’t have any specific problem because I don’t need to think about unimportant things to make up and only talk when i have something important to say which is good. Otherwise i listen which is great in work meetings.
I’m so frustrated with discussion groups that I am regularly involved with so I googled to that end and found this! Good to know I’m not the only one. I don’t feel helped by the discussions and don’t feel able to add anything worthy to them.
The worst thing is that even though im an introvert i always try my level best to come out of the box and try to make opinions but what happen for most of the time is that even when i try to exhibit my best i dont get the desired result,i always end up being the loser i hv seen ppl who hv just got the confidence that they know everything and blurting out stupid things and succeed i feel so much sad and humiliated after taking so much effort,taking the challenge of speaking before a group of people it all goes to vain
I hate going to events where you are supposed to circulate. If I walk up to a group I don’t know, they just ignore me. I do ok with one person or maybe two ( though then you sometimes notice them eyeing each other when you say something) but with groups it almost seems not worth the effort – plus everyone knows people who change according to the group they happen to be with.
Remember the cute girl or boy in junior high who was nice by themselves, but turned into a jerk with their friends?
Hi, good read, though aren’t you telling all the introverts to be fake, and not true to themselves? In my experience, the nature of the introvert is to shy away from all meaningless conversations, not to be engaged with fakeness in them. I personally have to fake interest and fake smiles/body language with the feeling of hating myself afterwards for trying to be interested when im not. Hope you can clarify this a little?
It only happened once at a party, when someone in the group I was standing with looked at me and asked why I was being so quiet.
I looked this mofo dead in the eye and said, “Because I’m listening.”
It was great – he had no idea how to form a rebuttal. Totally speechless.
Much of this resonates with me. I am very happy to chat to anyone one-on-one, even complete strangers, so I guess that makes me a little extrovert but if there is three or more, I can quickly get very anxious and retreat into silence and even very dark moods, which I guess is a classic sign of introversion. I think this is called “ambiversion”.
Anyway, I’ve been searching for advice on what to do about this as my moodiness has often ruined what should have been happy social evenings. My dear wife is comparatively extroverted and loves group conversations when everyone competes with endless tittle-tattle. Unfortunately, this is most often the case in family situations, and I more often than not withdraw and go into a sulk.
I’ve talked to all my family members about this on one-to-ones but, as one of the posters above alluded to, that all seems to get forgotten when they’re in a group. It just seems to become competitive and selfish. Everyone seems to be trying to hog the limelight and show how great, intelligent, nice they are. I just can’t bring myself to compete and find it hard, even to pretend to be interested.
Leaving the room isn’t really an option, although I do tend to spend more time in the kitchen or bathroom on such occasions!
I really wish I could be more of a wit and chatty on such occasions but with every year I just feel more and more like a grumpy old man!
Any advice most welcome!
For me, it is not so much about conversations. I am quite simply put NOT a group person. I get along great with most anyONE…on a person to person basis…but assemble all those people into a group and, each individual becomes a different person than they are one-on-one. It is at that point that I become the invisible (and inaudible man.) Again, it is not solely about conversation…the whole social dynamic changes. There’s always the tendency towards social stratification. There’s always the competition to establish a “pecking order”…there’s always the one or two people who feel obligated to be the leader…and nobody, I mean nobody ever wants to be the Omega. Groups of people are very similar to wolf packs in how they organize. That is why I tend to avoid any group activity. While I certainly appreciate the advice given in this article…the socialization process for groups is much more complex than being heard in group conversations. You need to be respected, and that is often dependent upon socioeconomic, professional, educational status etc. There’s a lot going on. And to close I quote Mark Twain: “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt.”
I definitely relate to this. I love my friend with all my heart and love chatting with him, but I don’t like joining chats with him and his friends.