Dear Extrovert: Tips for Chitchat With an Introvert

My life needs more chitchat - said no introvert ever
So, you're an extrovert. Congratulations. Go tell someone else all about it.

Because I'm exhausted just thinking about it. All the people-ing. And worse, I'm afraid that you're about to tell me all about how great extroversion is, and how you get all of your energy by interacting with people and isn't that amazing and I want you to stop talking before you even get started.

I know you might have trouble understanding how exhausting I find people, so in order to make both of our lives easier (ok, mine), I've got a couple of tips for you about chatting with my kind: Introverts. But I'm not going to actually tell you what they are. Dog, no. That requires interacting with you. No, I'm going to type them out here and leave them on the Internet where you can find them. And if you want to react, you can DM me on Twitter or comment and I'll get back to you in my own time when I can spare the energy. Because, people.

Here's what you should keep in mind when chatting with Introverts:

We probably don't want to talk to you right now.

Let's say we just made brief eye contact. Like, we're passing in the hall or taking the elevator together or we're both eating in the kitchen at lunchtime and we catch each other's gaze for a split second. I'm likely going to look away rather quickly because holy crap that person might start a conversation. And if there's one thing Ive learned about you energy-sucking vampires otherwise known as extroverts, it's that you love conversation.

But conversation stresses me out: the awkward silences, coming up with topics and questions to keep the conversation moving, the feigned interest, and honestly, I don't really care what you did last night or how cold it is outside. I only have so much energy and today I have no intention of spending it on listening and talking about stuff I don't care about. So find some other extrovert to lock eyes with and ask about their weekend.

(I need a nap. This is stressful.)

Now, let's say I'm having a day where I have lots of energy and I'm totally open to having a conversation with you. Here are a couple of sure-fire ways to bring it to a quick close:

You can end most conversations by answering questions with the word "busy"

Use the word "busy". I mean it. Pretty much any conversation that includes the word "busy" is guaranteed to suck.

For example, when the first words out of your mouth are... "OMG I'm so busy." Let's be honest: you're boring and I will probably end this conversation shortly. I asked, "How are you?" not "How's your workload?" Answering this way makes me fear that you're about to unleash your to-do list on my listening ears or you're going to start some dog-awful rant about how your life sucks right now, and given that I hate chitchat of any sort on a good day, I need to split ASAP. Because unless we're good friends, I don't want to hear your life story. And if we are good friends, you probably know by now not to answer that question that way when I ask it.

Here's another for-instance: Let's say you need my help. Starting with "I know you're busy..." is the worst. To be honest, I doubt I'm any busier than the next person although you can't be sure since everyone keeps telling everyone else just how busy they are, so I understand your trepidation. But please, just ask your question. And if you think I'm that busy, stop wasting my time telling me how busy I am and just get on with the thing because I'm pretty sure you're about to give me more work. Or interrupt me. Oh, wait. You already did.

Don't make us justify that we're introverts

Another way to kill the conversation is to tell me I'm not an introvert. First of all, it's my personality. Not a choice. So don't question it like my choice of car. And for the record: Yes, I facilitate workshops. Yes, I present in front of large groups. Yes, I can feign interest when I have to. But I need LOTS of recovery time after those interactions because, as I stated above, people are energy-sucking vampires. All of them. So, let's not have a conversation where I need to prove to you, with countless examples, how introverted I really am. Ever.

Don't interrogate or lecture us

You can also kill the conversation by asking too many questions when you can see my energy is waning. (This conversation thing is supposed to be fun, right? So, what's with the third degree? Why are you suddenly shining a light in my eyes and interrogating me? I need to go now...)

Or, even worse: Talk incessantly. This is one of the biggest fears of introverts: I am going to get stuck in a conversation I care absolutely nothing about, for way too long, with someone totally boring the crap out of me, and I have no idea why they insist on telling me about this thing that has absolutely nothing to do with me, how do I get out of here?

We only have so much energy and today we might not want to spend it on you

One thing introverts seem to have in common is that we only have so much energy to invest in people so we want those interactions to be meaningful. And if we don't think a social interaction is going to be meaningful, we'd rather skip it to dedicate our energies elsewhere: to our projects, work, families, whatever is important to us. If we're going to make the choice to venture outside of ourselves, outside of our own comfort zones, to interact in the wild, then we need to allocate our energies carefully. This isn't really a conscious decision, but it's probably where an introvert's flight instinct comes from during draining social interactions. If you're taking all my energy, I am going to want to get out of there as quickly as possible and you might have just turned me off from social interactions for the next little while because I don't want to get burned again by some other energy-sucking vampire. I need to go hibernate for the next few weeks. Thanks for that.

This is win-win

Introverts are not special snowflakes. And we don't expect to world to bend to our quiet will (as much as we might like people to just stop talking once in a while). But there is a middle ground: we will be more inclined to occasionally get social, listen and chitchat if you can accept that we aren't going to be that way all the time, let alone on demand.

Agree? Disagree? Awesome. Maybe we can chat about it some time. But not today. I'm recharging my social batteries.

___
Also posted on Medium.

Popular posts from this blog

UX Theatre: Are You Just Acting Like You're Doing User-Centered Design?

Designing the team experience: Building culture through onboarding (Slides from PPPConf, Chicago 2018)

The Unstuck Meeting: A safe failure space