Tuesday, May 12, 2009

[Essay] How To Make A Shy, Introverted Person Talk

Just a few hours ago, someone was asking me advice on what to do with his girlfriend who’s so shy and quiet, he’s running out of topics to talk to her about and he’s beginning to think and feel that his girlfriend is playing a game and he has no idea what the rules are and her usual response of either “Nothing” or “I don’t know” is beginning to get on his nerves. He definitely loves her but the effort of conversing with her is too much for him and he’s wondering if he should just move on or if there is a way to draw her out and get her to talk?

Well, my take on this is maybe it’s not really being shy as you both obviously know each other for quite some time now. She’s probably more introverted than shy and the topics you open for discussion is not exactly her idea of a conversation. Here are a few tips on breaking dead air:

Know where their interest lies.
To successfully draw a shy or introverted person into a conversation, you must first learn what their interests are before sharing your own. The trick to getting the information you want out of introverted people without making them run away is by the clothes they wear, the gadgets they have (if any) and by listening to their comments. I’m sure they’d be dropping insightful words here and there and the clue lies in those barely whispered words. Another trick to getting to know their interests is through emails and chats. Most introverted people I know, including yours truly, have more to say when either writing or typing than when talking. So send out that email or try chatting online instead of calling. You might be surprised at how long their replies are.

Be a good listener.
It is quite irritating to be cut off in the middle of explaining your point and you find the conversation going somewhere completely irrelevant. And being irritated, the introverted person would just sit there quietly and finish their one-sided conversation in their head. Being introverted or not, we should respect and listen to the person who’s talking until they finish whatever it is they wanted to say unless, they’re beginning to sound like a broken record. In that case, we all can gently ease the conversation away from that person’s ranting.

Encourage them to explain their point.
Most often than not, many introverted people, including me, would just answer a question with a simple answer and without further prodding or encouragement, we won’t be explaining the why’s of our answer. So why do we do that? It’s not that we don’t have anything to say, we do have a lot to say it’s just that it’s more tiring for introverted people to talk out loud than think and observe the people around us. It’s like we can only talk for a certain number of words an hour or something. So when introverted people do speak up, encourage them to explain their point of view by asking additional questions like “why do you say/think/believe/feel that/that way/like that?” or by prodding them on with a nod of your head and using encouraging phrases like “and?” or “what happened next?” When asking additional questions refrain from adding your own point of view as it will steer the conversation away from the other person. You can add your own two cents later on when the other person has finished talking.

Sometimes it’s good to let them decide what to talk about.
While it is indeed very hard to start a conversation with introverted people especially when it’s their turn to think of a topic to talk about, sometimes it is good to let them take control of the conversation. But do this only if the introverted person has already warmed up and is already quite talkative around the group. If not, keep conversations under your control with their interests in mind not yours. If you need to share something important that you think is not interesting to the introverted person you’re with, keep it light and simple and steer the conversation back to their field of interests. You’ll see that once we, introverted people, start warming up, we can pretty much talk about everything under the sun with great passion, conviction, and a lot of insight. When that happens, you can sit back, relax and hand the reins over to us.

Play a game: online or otherwise.
While it is very intellectually stimulating to talk to introverted people, we can’t keep talking forever like extroverted people can. We need to recharge our batteries as it is quite draining to talk so profoundly. The solution: play games! There are a variety of online and offline games you both can enjoy like board games, strategy games, arcade games, word games, card games and puzzle games. There are lots of games to choose from so find something that you both can enjoy. If it is chess you’re both good at then so be it. If it’s monopoly or checkers, then do it. The object of playing a game together is to take a breather from talking and to enjoy each other’s company without having to think of what to talk about. During game play however, bear in mind to encourage each other and pay each other compliments whether it be a good move or a bad move. No name calling or cursing even in the spirit of camaraderie. Keep in mind that it’s never a good thing to call your playmate names and cursing them. Doing so will only shut them up and shut you out of their lives.

Introverted people need their comfort zones before they’re able to share themselves. So for people dealing with us, it’s just a matter of us warming up until we get comfortable enough to start and keep the conversation going. Once we get chatty, you know that you’re in for a very enlightening conversation. So in the meantime be encouraging and patient. It will pay off I promise!