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Pacific Northwest, United States
I am The Shytrovert a proud, moderately shy INFP and this is my blog. I write about society, relationships, current events and how shy and introverted folks can cope in an extroverted world.

7/20/10

How to Talk to Quiet People







So you know a real nice, quiet person that you’d like to get to know. How best to approach them? First, you need to know which type of quiet person you’re dealing with. Is this person a shy extrovert who actually wants a lot of friends, longs to be social but is afraid? Or is this person an introvert who is not particularly interested in talking to a lot of people and may just not be in the mood and/or irritated by your overtures? OR is this a shy and introverted person (shytrovert) who feels anxiety when speaking to others because they lack skill, have poor self-esteem, or may just not be in the mood and/or irritated by your overtures?
Hard to know, right? Either way, quiet people typically do not like to be the center of attention. They also don’t like to be pitied. I can of course only speak for myself, being the third type of quiet person (shy + introverted – they are not synonyms) hence my web handle The Shytrovert. Don’t ever make a big deal out of me being quiet and/or shy. I FUCKING HATE THAT. It’s embarrassing and makes me feel like a freak in a side show. Don’t rush at me with a million personal questions, either. Extroverts are good at that. They want to get to know you - and know you now - because they are comfortable with strangers and love meeting new people. They get their energy from that. As an introvert, I don’t. And as a shy person, I’m not immediately comfortable with people I don’t know. A stranger isn’t a friend I haven’t made yet. They’re a drain on my precious energy stores. Getting to know me is a slow process and is best done incrementally.
The preferred way to get to know me is to do something with me and let the conversation flow from that. Like most introverts, I detest small talk. Not because I’m some super brilliant intellectual who looks down on people who enjoy it, but because frankly I find it to be mundane, forced and awkward. Like most people, I don't enjoy feeling awkward. Plus, like many shy and introverted folk, it’s not exactly my forte. Extroverts who want to talk with me often find I’m an easier shy person to get to know than most. This wasn’t always the case. When I was younger I had no clue about social skills –I didn’t know how to start or sustain a conversation –I was also too anxiety ridden to talk to anyone above a whisper. Time, therapy, and social skills training have helped a lot.
If you are dealing with an extremely shy type of quiet person, you may be better off just being polite and non-threatening. That means NOT jumping all over that person with questions and chatter or being all weirded out because they can’t finish a conversation. They simply may not have the skills to interact in the way you want. Just let it be. Just smile and say something like, "I enjoyed talking with you." Do not be sarcastic. Be kind and sincere. No pressure. Over time, when they see that you’re nice and not some pushy extrovert who is out to make them feel horrible about themselves, they may open up to you.

9 comments:

  1. This is what I try to tell people. This is what I kept trying again and again to tell a couple of people who I finally had to break off relations with about a year ago. They were actually quite hostile to me, more and more over time, because I'm *quiet*! Most people aren't like that with me. But they took it personally. I don't need people in my life who say I should "grow up and TALK," the judgmental creeps. I'm going to have to start reading your blog. :)

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    1. Eh, who needs those people? Good riddance to bad rubbish, I say. Now you know who your true friends are. Better to know sooner than later.

      Let's hope those people don't have quiet children *shudder.*

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  2. Dear Shytrovert, I came accross your blog and although this post is old it really gave me a new look upon shyness. I am a "people person" and, as awkward as it may seem, I became very close to a "shytrovert" person. We are very very very different in the way we relate to people but very similar in our thoughts and views. She is a good friend of mine and I see how our friendship has grown in the past year. However I find it very hard to understand my friend and as a extrovert person this is very hard for me as I like to talk and share my life with those whom I trust but with her is very awkward. I believe she is like your second example, the kind of shy person who doesn't want to open up to many people or to have many friends (although she wishes to be socially at ease with everyone). We can stay close to each other and simply not speak a word for minutes. To me this is so hard but I like her friendship and her presence and that is why I never gave up on her. What you said is so true... the moments that I got most from her was when we were both engaged in the same activity. She simply started to talk and I didn't ask or say anything. It was so new to see her sharing her life that I didn't know what to do or say, afraid that if I did something wrong she would have stoppped opening up... I feel that we are both growing with this friendship. I am learning how to treasure silence, essential things, valuying her right to be alone and not having to talk all the time. I am also learning how to be patient, how to respect her way to deal with people and situations and not to force her to be like me. I don't know if I am helping her at all. I believe so because if I stay too far or too distant she manages to ask me to come closer. But if I stay too close she got in to her shell again. I am still learning the right distance but her friendhsip is worth the effort. Your post really helped me to have a bigger picture of the situation. Thanks you!! God bles...

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  3. Hi MM,

    So glad to hear that what I wrote is helping you to cultivate what sounds like a fruitful and fulfilling relationship with a shytrovert. Myself, extroverts who have the patience to meet an introvert on his/her terms are very special and rare. If more extroverts found the rewards of these types of friendships I feel like the so-called innie/outtie divide could be closed for good.
    Thanks for reading blog!

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  4. Anonymous9:26 AM

    Hi, thanks for explaining how introverts work, what they're thinking. Recently I gave up making the effort to be friends with an old friend from childhood. Why? I got tired of being the only one carrying the conversation when we hooked up. Even with email, his one sentence replies to my paragraph check-ins just were imbalanced. Simply put, if I'm the one carrying the conversation through the entire night and the shy person is just sitting there looking at his beer glass it gets kinda dull for me. And this guy is a math professor, which really makes me wonder. If he can teach college level maths in front of a class–yet have so little to say in person, that's one to get you head around. The funny thing is I could not speak to him for 9 months time and call him up and ask "so what's new?", and all he'd say was "oh, nothing much". Allright then! Thanks very much for that update...erm...I guess. Its just not fair to make so little of an effort like that. I call bullshit on that because a friendship needs a little effort from both to work. Its not fair for one person to have to come up with all the talking points while the other person just sits there, making curt replies that don't help to stimulate further conversation. I finally gave up on knowing him–and surprise–when I stopped emailing our correspondence stopped altogether. He made no effort to reach out.

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    1. You're welcome, Anon. Just doing my small part to spread peace and understanding among the MBTI types. You know, you tried, you tried. It didn't work for you, NEXT. Whatever. The important thing is you weren't a dick about it. Quiet people get enough of that, that's for sure. Thanks for reading and commenting.

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    2. Anonymous6:18 AM

      Thanks again and all the best to you :-)

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  5. Anonymous3:39 PM

    Can I ask where you found the social skills training classes you mentioned? That would be a nice resource I wish I knew more about.

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    1. I found a social skills class through the Learning Annex, that was years ago. I don't think it exists anymore, unfortunately. You can do a search in Google for your area and see what you come up with. In the meantime, I highly recommend the book How to Start a Conversation and Make Friends by Don Gabor. Unlike other books that claim to help shyness, this one tells you what to actually say instead of offering tired platitudes you've heard before, like "talk to more people" and crap like that.

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