Small talk is no small feat for those who don’t like doing it. People who identify as introverts, in particular, have a reputation for being averse to spontaneous banter with strangers. But try as they might, one can’t really live life without coming across a friendly chit chat. It’s everywhere — when you’re in line at the grocery store, when you accidentally bump into an old friend or even in a conference call with a client. So how do introverts deal with small talk? Ahead, tips for introverts from the introverts at Team Clozette.
Spot your fellow introverts
When in doubt, find your tribe. In any social gathering, there’s a good chance that you’re not the only person feeling awkward. Scan the crowd and strike up a conversation with them, maybe you’ll even make a new lifelong friend. It’s what happened to Head of Digital Growth Marketing Emellia when she met a fellow introvert at a professional workshop. “During a seminar eight years ago, I saw a stranger who looked quite uncomfortable and he had the same look of anxiety as I’m sure I was having at that moment too. So I felt rather empathetic and decided to start a conversation with him, so both of us can commiserate in our misery together. Fortunately enough, we bonded really well through our introversion and have become close friends until now,” she shared. The next time you find yourself in a crowd, team up with a fellow introvert.
Chat with a purpose
It’s a common stereotype that introverted people don’t want to initiate conversations, but the truth is they sometimes do but just aren’t sure how to do so. If you experience this dilemma when you want to talk to someone, Digital Imagery Creative Audy Irwantoro’s advice is to chat with a purpose. She shared that she used to ask people simple questions that can be answered by yes or no. “I put in the effort to ask questions and they don’t have much to share about it and I feel bad that the conversation just ends there,” she shared.
Over time, she found that being more purposeful helps. “Make sure you know what the intention of the small talk is. What are you trying to get out of that conversation with that person? I feel that to get better at small talk you need to channel your interest and ask more questions about the things that you're really interested in, then the conversation will authentically start from there. Another tip is to read more since you'll be more well aware about the situation around the world and have more insights to offer,” she said.
This may seem strange at first, but, according to Senior Features Writer Amanda, it works. She shares that before meeting someone or attending an event, she does some prep and simulates “imagined conversations” to anticipate how talking with a certain person will go. “Small talk is more bearable for me if I have time to prepare for a certain scenario rather than a sudden need for interaction where I'm unprepared at all,” she said. It works so well that some people mistake her for an extrovert.
She also advises to adjust your tone to each personality. “If they're a bit awkward like me, I try to talk to them about how they're feeling about the crowd or the setting first. It's easy to keep the conversation lowkey with people like that. If they're more extroverted, I try to ask them questions that centre more on 'them' than myself as they're more open to talk about their thoughts and drive the conversation. It's all about reading the room and the person you're interacting with,” she said. And what does she do if conversation gets stale? Amanda shares that her secret is to quietly exit, “If I notice that the conversation is starting to get stale, I usually excuse myself politely when I get the perfect timing.”
Be comfortable with awkward pauses
Awkward pauses make for great punchlines in sitcoms, but they’re not so funny to deal with in real life. It can be seen as a sign that you and whoever you’re talking to don’t have chemistry or you may think that it happened because you’re not an interesting person. Periods of silence in a conversation especially with those you’re not comfortable with are anxiety-inducing but they’re not necessarily bad and they don’t take away anything from the lively discussion you just had.
Campaign Team Lead Carissa shared that once she stopped worrying so much about filling in pauses in conversations, she became more at ease. “I find myself being more comfortable with making conversations, and pauses in between conversations no longer bother me that much as compared to before,” she shared. So instead of spitting out random topics just to keep a conversation going, just let a pause happen.
Think of all the ways a small talk could go well
When we’re anxious, there’s a tendency to think about everything going wrong. But this could be counterproductive and may even lead you to self-fulfilling prophecies. If you believe you’ll fumble for the right words, you may just do so. Instead of always thinking about the bad things that may happen, do the opposite. Emilia shares that she quietly hypes herself up before socialising, “I’ll start by making a mental self-affirmation that nothing will go wrong and from there, I will get the conversation going and, hopefully, find a common topic or shared interest which can make the conversation much easier and seamless,” she said.
When you start to scramble for what to say, Amanda advises to quietly calm down and observe, “I believe introverts are naturally observant so going by what you're comfortable with and what you notice in your surroundings will give you a clue as to what to say,” she said. Finally, Em says that as cliché as it sounds, practice really makes (almost) perfect, “I think when we face our fear over and over again, it becomes less scary in time.”
Small talk would indeed be less daunting each time you do it, but the key is to do it when you have the opportunity. Rather than keeping to yourself, join the conversation and you may just walk out of it with a new friend.
(Cover photo from: Mimi Thian via Unsplash)
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