How to Make Small Talk Easier When You're an Introvert

shy introverted woman

If you're an introvert, making small talk is just a teensy bit less awkward than a Pap smear. But just like you need your annual exam, you also occasionally need to go out and socialize with other humans. And yes, that sometimes means mindless chitchat about The Bachelor or commiserating about how cold/rainy/hot/dry it is. Sigh...

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If you cringe at the idea of a big, crowded get-together, we know you're not being dramatic.

"Introverts are easily drained when they feel they have to be 'on' with others," explains Toni Coleman, LCSW, CMC, a psychotherapist and relationship coach in McLean, Virginia. "At the beginning, their emotional reserve is generally adequate, but as they interact -- and make small talk -- that reserve becomes depleted."

And the only way introverts can recharge their batteries is in isolation. (The total opposite of extroverts, who get energized by being with people.)

There's no FDA-approved pill (yet) that can instantly turn you into the life of the party. But with a hella lot of hard work, you can become skilled at making small talk, assures Coleman.

Here's your cheat sheet.

Get control over the conversation.

You? Yes, you. And the reason is not so you can jabber on (God forbid), but so you can steer the duration and depth of your exchange.

"Ask close-ended questions that don't require a lot of explanation to answer and don't segue into another topic," Coleman advises. "Anything that only needs a brief reply and is best if it's about the other person." For instance: "Did you see The Revenant? Was it gross or what?"

More from The Stir: 10 Amazing Perks of Being an Introvert

Learn to let others talk more than you.

In a position where you absolutely must mingle, but are dreading the idea of talking about yourself? No prob. All you have to do is find someone else who really enjoys it. Then ask them lots of questions.

If they occasionally ask one about you, answer it quickly, and zing back the spotlight. For instance, "I just have one dog. And you have four? Tell me what kinds. And how old are they?"

You're not being disingenuous, BTW.

"In my experience, people love to talk about themselves, enjoy people who are good listeners, and tend to come away with a more positive impression of them because of it," Coleman says.

Know where the exits are.

Once you get the other person chatting, you need to know how to gracefully break away.

Looking at your phone and wondering aloud, "Gosh, what time is it?" is a good strategy, says Coleman. "Then follow it up with needing to catch so-and-so before they leave, or how you have to get home because you have a sitter, etc."

But sometimes, we all get mired in a conversation with a person who ignores all those "gotta go" cues and Just. Keeps. Talking.

And talking and talking and talking and talking.

(Hardcore introverts, we know your palms are sweating right now.)

"Look for anything they share that could help move the conversation to a close," says Coleman.

For instance, when they go on and on about how bloated Leo looks in The Revenant, that's your cue to say, "That reminds me, I should get a drink. Excuse me while I go find one. Hopefully, we'll chat again later."

Boom. Done.

More from The Stir: New Personality Type Revealed: Are You Really an Ambivert?

Now you can go home and cozy up with your solitude again.

You might be wondering: Does socializing get easier, the more you do it? The answer is yes, but not just because of practice, Coleman clarifies. It's because you're desensitizing yourself to what's making you anxious and building up your confidence.

And who knows? Over time, maybe you'll actually come to enjoy chatting about the weather.

 

Image via iStock.com/AleksandarNakic

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