1. Make small talk meaningful by telling stories
Introverts love deep conversations so why not bypass the usual platitudes from the start? Remember, we humans love talking about ourselves and telling stories. You can use these traits to your advantage and have a few fun stories prepared so you can intentionally but naturally lead the conversation in a more interesting direction. I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t like talking about travel or nature. So I always start there and these topics combine really well too which will keep the conversation flowing.
For example: ‘On the way over here I was chatting with my Uber driver who turned out to be from the same village I stayed in while visiting Machu Picchu in Peru. It really brought back a lot of great memories from that trip! Have you ever visited South America?’ It’s a great opener and an opportunity to ask what’s the most interesting place they have visited. Pick a real-life event that lights you up and work it naturally into the conversation.
2. Speak honestly to avoid people-pleasing
Many of us introverts are either active or recovering people pleasers. Have you found yourself at events agreeing with someone even though you disagree? It’s natural we all crave acceptance. We don’t want to offend or create confrontation. It’s easier to stay quiet and nod along. But, how many times have you walked away from a conversation disappointed withourself for not speaking up? You beat yourself up, thinking why did I say that? That’s not me! And, inauthentic behavior will gradually eat away at you and your self worth.
Alternatively, it’s far more empowering to stand by your values and calmly speak your truth. Being honest and true to yourself in these situations is really important for your self-esteem. It’s ok to say no and disagree with others opinions. Having an interesting debate and communicating your perspective is all part of being a leader. And, you aren’t always right. Listening to an alternative viewpoint is a chance to grow. Speaking from your heart cultivates integrity and will build your small talk confidence too!
3. Enjoy the comfortable silence
When speaking with other introverts, take the opportunity to enjoy the space in the conversation. There’s no pressure to rush in to fill the gaps and say something just for the sake of it.You can relax into the natural ebb and flow.
Introverts don’t like to feel rushed into speaking, we aren’t like extroverts who will happily fill any void in the conversation with small talk! We often dread an uncomfortable silence. But remember, taking a long pause doesn’t mean you have nothing to say, you’re simply thinking about what to say next with intention. And, fellow introverts will appreciate that too. Make a joke even, I’m enjoying the (un)comfortable silence, how about you?
4. Make a graceful exit to protect your energy
It’s important to protect your precious energy levels at networking events. Unfortunately, at some point you will find yourself around toxic people who will naturally drain your energy. It’s vital then that you can quickly excuse yourself from the conversation and remove yourself from their presence. But doing so confidently can be intimidating for introverts. It used to be a challenge for me too.
The invitation is to be honest, there is no need to make up awkward excuses. How many times have you used a transparent story to make a swift exit at a social gathering? (I could write a whole book full of them!). I advise you to be respectful but firm and have a natural conversation breaker prepared.
What helped me a lot was preparing a polite but powerful exit strategy for when the conversation began to become a burden. For example: ‘You know, I see a few faces around here I still want to connect with today so excuse me while I go catch up with them’. Simple but effective! This is actually a very empowering way of handling draining personalities and will free up so much more of your energy too.
5. Handle rejection with humor
You aren’t for everyone my friend. As wonderful as you are there will be some people who just won’t click with you. And that’s ok, that’s actually great (who has time for all those extra friends?). Even though you know it’s impossible for everyone to immediately like you, you still expect them to (we all do). And, you may feel deeply hurt when it’s clear they are slowly backing away from you mid-sentence (I’ve been there, it’s excruciating).
Don’t take it to heart and crumble. It doesn’t have to ruin your day. The key is to laugh it off! Who cares if they don’t get you and move on. So, stay away from the walls and dimly lit corners (an introvert’s natural spot at parties and events). Stop pretending to send that text, put your phone away and dive right back in. There is bound to be someone else there who warms to you just as you are!
I truly appreciate that small talk is uncomfortable for introverts but you have the power to make it work for you on your terms. You don’t have to change who you are to fit it! Instead, embrace your sensitivity and let people see the real you. Who knows you could meet the one person that could change your business and your life forever.