In a Facebook group for entrepreneurs, I noticed a thread where quite a few people were chiming in that they are introverts who “hate” small talk. Finally, one person suggested that they find a word other than “hate,” since that’s so negative. Here’s my response:
You can say you’re “not wired for small talk.” That’s literally true. Our natural blood pathway is going to areas of deep thinking, reflection, integrating information and memories, etc. So being in situations where we’re called upon to stop doing that and somehow “go shallow” in our thinking is really a strain!
They loved this re-frame, and had no idea there was a biological basis for this common introvert trait. Now this begs the question, How do we handle social situations where small talk is expected? I have some answers. . .
As introverts, we’re much more comfortable observing from the sidelines, tuned in to our inner world, where we’re very active in synthesizing our observations and listening to our intuition. This inner world is our “home base,” and being expected to perform small talk can feel excruciating.
Small talk gives us the heebie-jeebies because we’re being asked to do what seems meaningless to us. We’re asking our brain to divert its normal complicated blood pathway to areas of higher order thinking (which is deeply satisfying to us) and instead flow to areas associated with the senses and the outer world. This isn’t our natural way of thinking, so we feel tremendous resistance.
I used to feel that way, but now I enjoy small talk.
For me, It’s the doorway to deeper relationships. As a gatekeeper, it gives me an opportunity to “vet” people before I let them into my life. It serves to strengthen social bonds.
So how can you get comfortable with small talk?
If you know ahead of time you’re going to be in a situation where small talk is expected, here are some things you can do.
Before you go:
And remember, up to half the population is on the introverted side of the spectrum, so you are by no means the only introvert at the event! Show up and help your fellow introverts navigate the outer world of small talk!