Tag Archives: Introversion

How to Encourage Quiet People to Speak Up

A grey and white rabbit covering its eyes with its paws. Google analytics keeps showing me visitors who found this blog by searching for phrases like “how to get quiet people to speak up.” It seems like a good discussion topic, so let’s jump into it!

As a quiet person, I’ve been on the receiving end of many helpful and not-so-helpful attempts to get me to be more talkative.

I choose to believe this happens because some people are fascinated by us quiet folks and wish they knew more about how our minds work and what we’re thinking about.

Occasionally, I meet someone who is even quieter than I am, and that is exactly how I respond to them. So it only makes sense that others would have that same reaction.

While I obviously can’t guarantee that every quiet person on Earth will respond positively to all of these techniques, I can say they work on me and that I’ve had success when trying them with quiet friends and acquaintances as well.

Give Them Time to Warm Up

White man peering at bald statue that looks a lot like him.

Only time will tell if this works for statues, too. ūüėČ

Disclaimer: not every quiet person is shy, and not every shy person is quiet.

As someone who is both, however, I find that I become much more talkative once I’ve gotten to know someone better.

One, it means that I’ll already have some idea of what we have in common. Two, it also means that I’ll have a good indication of which topics, if any, others prefer not to discuss.

No, I’m not talking about anything controversial or widely known to be a sensitive topic here. It’s more an issue of knowing that friend X loves to talk about photography but has zero interest in anything related to team sports (or vice versa).

Leave Space in the Conversation

A snapshot of the legs and feet of someone wearing jeans and red sneakers. They're standing next to a "welcome on board" mat on what appears to be a wooden pier. Some people excel at filling every potential moment of silence in a conversation with words.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with having this temperament, but it can make it  harder for quiet people get a word in edgewise.

If you give me ten seconds to process my thoughts, I’m much more likely to speak up. Anyone who is comfortable leaving small amounts of space in multiples portions of a conversation will be rewarded by all sorts of interesting replies from me as I come up with them.

This is by far one of the biggest things that make me feel welcome to chime in.

Ask Open-Ended Questions

two birds sitting on the rim of a water bowl. One is chirping at the other. There’s something wonderful about open-ended questions that do their best to avoid assumptions.

By that I mean, folks who assume that me being a woman means I must love fashion and makeup aren’t going to get very far with me on those particular topics because I know almost nothing about them!

If they ask what I enjoy doing in my free time instead, we could have a long, fruitful conversation about the best books to read when you’re in any number of unusual circumstances, interesting things I’ve seen on nature walks, and why astronomy is such a fascinating branch of science.

Keep the Group Small

If possible, choose a smaller group of people to talk to instead of a larger one. I find it much easier to chime in when a few other folks are taking turns talking than when a dozen or more people have joined the conversation.

Relevant story time! Both of my parents grew up in large families. Mom’s side of the family was especially big if you stepped back a generation or two and invited the hundreds of relatives to the massive annual reunions the oldest family members used to organize.

I cared about all of them, but, wow, was it overwhelming to step into a banquet hall and hear dozens of animated conversations happening simultaneously no matter where you walked.

There were a few talkative relatives who would invite me to chat with them and a handful of other people. They were the folks who got to hear about parts of my life that I probably wouldn’t have shared in the larger conversation circles.

If you’re a fellow quiet person, what else would you recommend?


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How to Make Shy People Come and Talk to You

Monday Blogs Photo

Photo credit: isthattheguy.

Someone found this blog over the weekend by doing a search for how to make shy people come and talk to you. I thought it would make a great subject for today’s post as I’m shy¬†in real life until I’ve gotten to know someone pretty well.

Take your pet for a walk. I often find it difficult to start conversations with strangers or acquaintances, but that hesitancy disappears when there’s an animal in the mix. ¬†I virtually never¬†touch them due how terribly allergic I am to cats and dogs, but I sure do enjoy seeing a happy, healthy little creature¬†out and about with their human. Telling someone that their pet is gorgeous, smart, or well trained¬†is a great ice breaker.

Compliment them. Speaking of compliments, people¬†often welcome¬†them as well. I generally praise what¬†someone has created – a book; a song; a clever joke; a beautifully decorated cupcake – instead of¬†stuff they only have some control¬†over such as their appearance. There’s less of a chance of them taking that compliment the wrong way. Also, everyone has at least one talent if you search long enough.

Ask open ended questions. For example, what are you looking forward to this summer?¬†That kind of question can be interpreted as specifically or generally as someone wants. They could talk about that¬†blockbuster they can’t wait to see or they could mention¬†something¬†far more personal if they chose. I usually like talking about stuff that isn’t your typical small talk, but I also appreciate having the option of keeping things lighthearted and non-specific if I¬†choose.

Talk about what you love. I’m never going to be the kind of person¬†who enjoys watching sporting events¬†or drinking beer, but I still¬†get a kick out of hearing why other people find that stuff so entertaining. You can learn a lot about someone by listening to them talk about their passions and interests.

Be kind. I find it much easier to open up and chat with kind people. We might not talk about a lot the first time they talk to me, but the second and third conversations can¬†be much longer and more interesting if I walk away with a good first impression of them. I really dislike¬†it when people try to pull me out of my shell the first time they meet me. If they let our interactions evolve naturally instead, they’ll get much more out of me in the future. From what I’ve observed of other shy people, I suspect that a lot of them are the same way.

Now I want¬†to hear what’s worked for you! Let me know in the comments.

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The Friendship Challenge: First Steps

Drawing by Pictofigo.

Part two in a series of posts about making new friends as an adult. Click here for part one. 

Over the last two weeks I’ve slowly begun working on how to go about making some new friends.

My first task was simple: whom do I want to meet? Some people are most comfortable hanging out with friends in their age group who share the same marital status, background and political/religious beliefs.

None of these things matter to me. The friends I currently have range in age from 20-60, are married, engaged and single, and may share all, some or none of my beliefs. What they do share in common is an unquenchable curiosity about the world around them and a willingness to listen to other points of view without feeling threatened. 

I still don’t know how or when I will find more people like this but I know they must be out there somewhere!¬†Your criteria may be stricter. That’s ok.


In the comment section of my last post Jenna recommended Craiglist. I had already been thinking about either placing a strictly platonic ad or answering someone else’s ad.¬†Here’s what I’ve learned about that section, though: everyone is looking for a mistress.

Ok, so maybe not everyone. But over my last few weeks of lurking I’ve seen a suspiciously large number of ads that read something like this:

Married [man, woman, couple] looking for a single [woman, man] for a discreet relationship.


Single [man, woman] looking for a friend. I like  teaching fish how to juggle and eating cold spaghetti. You should be interested in having a good time and must not be married or in a committed relationship.

I’m not sure how the phrase strictly platonic¬†morphed into friends with benefits ¬†over there but at this point I’m pretty uncomfortable placing or answering any ads on¬†Craigslist.

Small Talk

Longterm readers know that Toronto is not the most outgoing city. Packing 2.6 million people into¬†630 km¬≤ does not leave the average person with much personal space (especially during rush hour). It’s customary, therefore, to avoid eye contact and conversation with your fellow travellers at almost any cost. Imagine 200 people squished into a subway car all of whom are pretending that the other 199 passengers do not exist or 10 people standing perfectly silent in an elevator.

I do not blame my fellow Torontonians for this. Sometimes what one needs more than anything else is to pretend as though your personal bubble still existed but something odd has happened to me more than once over the past few weeks, though: small talk.

The first time I was standing on a subway platform when a student struck up a conversation with me about a subway delay. She had just started classes at a local university and wasn’t happy with all of the changes in her life lately. We were separated when the subway finally arrived but for those few minutes I had a surprisingly honest conversation with a total stranger.

Now I’m noticing that more and more of the people who live in my building are starting short conversations on elevator rides. This is not quite as unusual as the subway conversation but it still surprises me just a little.

Will any of these conversations lead to newfound friends? I don’t know.


Have you made any new friends lately? What have been your experiences with Craiglist?

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But I Like My Shell!

It’s been a hot, muggy July here in Toronto so far. My lungs aren’t a fan of breathing oven air so I’ve been absorbing¬†this book.

Introverts, I’m sure you know how this conversation goes:

“You’re so quiet!”


“Is everything okay?”


“Don’t you want to come out of your shell?”


*tap, tap, tap* ¬†“What are you doing in there?”


“Don’t you want to share your thoughts?”

“Not at the moment.”

Lather, rinse, repeat.

One of the best points made in this book is that shells aren’t bad, they aren’t a character flaw. ¬†As I was reading I thought about turtles, snails, crabs, and armadillos. Without their shells they’d never survive!

It’s as ok to have one as it is to befriend everyone you meet but too often those of us who live in the west are taught the opposite. As a kid I brushed away the annoyance of other people treating my personality as something that needed to be fixed. There were specific situations in which I wished I was more outgoing, of course, but I couldn’t understand why being talkative and extroverted were valued so much more. If everybody is vying to be the centre of attention ¬†no one will end up there. The life of any party needs at least a few people to pay attention to what he or she is doing.

I wonder what the people who make comments about coming out of your shell would say if we turned the tables on them?

Why do you ask so many questions?

Well, have you ever tried to be quieter?

Why do you have so many opinions?

I’ve been sorely tempted to try this. The only thing stopping me is that I don’t think (most) people realize how grating the come out of your shell! conversation becomes over time.


What do you think?


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5 Ways to Get Quiet People to Speak Up

Visitors, you’re on a roll here!¬†Recently someone found this blog by searching for this:

How [do you] get quiet people to speak up?


1. Figure out their passion in life. For example, I love science fiction, hiking, and late nineteenth to mid twentieth century American and Canadian history. When I find someone who knows a little (or a lot!) about these things I can’t help but to talk to them about it.

2. Give them time. Sometimes people are quiet in part because it takes them a little while to feel out new¬†acquaintances. ¬†I respond much more quickly to people who are patient and kind while I’m warming up to them. This kind of courtesy and understanding ¬†speaks volumes about one’s character.

3. Accept no as an answer. One of the least helpful things one can do is push anyone into being more talkative. Being quiet isn’t a personality defect. I can’t speak for every quiet person but I know I’m much less likely to open up to someone who cannot take no for an answer.

4. Ask them what they think.¬†There have been times when a group conversation moves so quickly that I have trouble getting a word in edgewise. While I’d certainly never¬†expect anyone to do this I don’t mind being asked what I think.

5. Try a different medium. I’m fairly quiet on the phone and in person but much less so through email or instant messaging because I like to think about what I’m going to say before I blurt it out. It’s much easier for me to do this with the written word. This won’t be true for every quiet person, of course, but you still might have more luck if you change how you communicate with them.


Fellow quiet people, have I missed anything?

Everyone, what have been your experiences with encouraging (but not forcing!) quiet friends to speak their minds?


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When Words Are a Feast or a Famine

Photo by Ben Pollard

Is rain in the forecast for today?

Hey, I didn’t know swans lived in Ontario!

Have you had your tea yet?

¬†Let’s go for a walk.

Drew smiled.

 What? Am I talking too much?


¬†You know I only operate on two different speeds. Tomorrow I’ll probably grow silent again so enjoy this while you can!¬†


Most of the time I’m quiet around even those who mean the most to me.¬†Occasionally¬†I have a long list of thoughts that aren’t too private to share. I’ve never been able to find a balance between the two, though.

Have you?

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Thursday Challenge: Listen Twice, Speak Once

¬†A man went about the community telling malicious lies about the¬†rabbi. Later, he realized the wrong he had done, and began to feel remorse. He went to the rabbi and begged his forgiveness, saying he would do anything he could to make amends…

Click here for the rest of the tale.

Almost everyone who has ever met me in person has at one point or another said, “Lydia, you’re so quiet!”

It’s true. I am quiet.

Maybe part of it is because I’m an introvert and my energy lasts longer in social situations when I speak less.

Part of it is because I don’t always know what to say. Sometimes I don’t have an opinion on topic X, or I feel an¬†embryonic¬†poem or short story quivering on the tip of my tongue, or I’m enjoying listening to everyone else talk too much to chime in.

And part of it is because words are permanent. You can almost always say it later but you can never take it back if you’ve made an incorrect assumption or judgment of the situation.

So I listen first, try to absorb all of the available information before forming an opinion.

Your challenge this week, should you choose to accept it, is to listen twice as long as you did last week before speaking up.

Maybe it will work for you, maybe it won’t. The only way to know is to try! ūüėČ


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The Small Talk Chronicles: Good Questions

Part one in this series.

One of the most difficult things about small talk (at least for me) is figuring out what sort of questions are both appropriate and interesting for the setting.

Inquiries like where do you work?, are you married?¬†or do you have kids? seem to be fairly common. There’s absolutely nothing impolite about asking any of these, of course.

The issues I have with these questions are as follows:

  • They’re a little boring.
  • They can easily lead to conversational dead-ends if someone doesn’t have a job or family or isn’t happy with what they do have.
  • If you don’t have the “correct” answer some people will proceed to tell you exactly what you’re doing wrong with your life. :O

This isn’t to say I never ask these types of questions, only that it’s good to have a back-up plan.

So far I’ve learned that I prefer open-ended questions that can be scaled to include more or less personal information and that I already know how I’d answer.

For example I love asking, “what do you like to do?”

Everyone has something in his or her life that brings a spark to his or her eye. When you figure out what that something is – often even if it isn’t necessarily something you’re knowledgable of – it breathes new life into the conversation.

It’s such an open-ended question that someone who loves her job could mention that while someone else who is passionate about his kids, her hobby, his volunteer work, her spiritual awakening would be free to talk about those aspects of their lives as well.

This is also a highly scalable question. By that I mean that it can be adapted to fit any situation – work parties, family gatherings, wedding receptions, or job interviews. How much the person who answers this question decides to reveal can expand or contract as well.

 How did you meet our host?

Or, alternatively, how did you decide to volunteer or work with this organization?

I like this question because it so easily leads to stories. Was your new acquaintance once set up on a hilariously doomed blind date with the host? Did he or she first become interested in the organization because relatives worked there? There are so many possibilities.

Are you planning to attend event X?

One of my favourite things about living in Toronto is that there’s always something free to check out on the weekends, from festivals to parades, rib fests to art fairs.

Not everyone plans to check out events like The Pride Parade, Buskerfest, or the Toronto Jazz Festival, of course,¬†but enough do that it’s worth it to ask if there’s a particularly well-attended event coming up in the near future.


What are your favourite questions to ask when you don’t know someone well?

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The Small Talk Chronicles

One of the things I dread about making new friends are the politely inane conversations people tumble into when they first meet. So many topics are off-limits for these conversations because they can so quickly devolve into hard feelings or a clash of ideologies.

Most safe topics aren’t things I have ever fired up my neurons about in order to form an opinion . I don’t:

  • Watch sports or reality show competitions.
  • Have kids or pets.
  • Believe that weather reporters do anything other than pick numbers out of a hat when making their weekly forecasts.
  • Know anything about fashion, makeup, or shopping.
  • Want ¬†juicy details on what¬†so-and-so did or said last week.

With the exception of gossiping none of these topics are¬†bad and I don’t think any less of those who find them scintillating. They just aren’t intriguing to me.

Normally I don’t post about topics that I haven’t at least begun to unravel. I think I will turn this into a series posts as I figure out what does (and does not) work for those of us who hate small talk.

What I love to discuss – the life weirdnesses and triumphs that come with being a bi, agnostic, pacifist, childfree feminist –¬†also tend to be stuff that isn’t always a good idea to bring up with someone the first time you meet.

Some people seriously do not respond well to any or all of these labels for reasons that don’t have a damn thing to do with me as a fellow human being. More often than I like to think about I’ve been on the receiving end of a lecture on why I am not (or should not be) one or more of these items so until we’ve either hung out a few times or the topics come up naturally in conversation I’m stuck with silly banter about the weather and fluffy’s latest adventure at the dog park.

What I’ve learned so far:

As much as I love to rely on asking other people questions about their lives I really dislike it when this technique is used on me. After a few minutes it begins to feel like an interrogation instead of a conversation.

Sometimes humour can be introduced early in a conversation but I express it most often through wordplay or dry, ironic understatements. Once someone gets to know me it’s entertaining but it can be jarring for people who aren’t accustomed to this style.


Fellow introverts and other despisers of this social convention, what tricks do you use to keep the conversation flowing more smoothly while playing the small talk game?

People who love small talk, why do you enjoy it so much? Is there any advice you can give to those of us who don’t enjoy it?

Everyone, do you prefer small fish or big ones? ūüėČ

Penguins meet and talk small fish, big fish

(Photo credit.)

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9 Ways to Recharge Your Energy

Labels are tricky things. They can quickly communicate an identity or complicated set of ideas in a word or phrase. They can also box us into roles that only sometimes actually fit.

Today let’s talk about some alternative ways to recharge personal energy for people who usually do so by spending time alone. If I was discussing this with someone who had never known this need I’d use terms like introvert and extrovert and gloss over the idea that many people switch between the two in certain circumstances. I’d like to talk around these terms, though. Even people who usually are energized by being part of a crowd will either¬†occasionally¬†need to be alone or need to brainstorm other ways to recharge.

Sometimes one needs time alone in places or situations where it isn’t easy to carve out that space. Maybe you’re the primary caregiver for one or more small children, have a demanding, fast-paced job, are sharing a hotel room with three other people on a vacation or are trapped by a spring snowstorm in a remote cabin somewhere.

Here are some of the things I’d try to help prevent becoming (temporarily) burned out on people if I wasn’t able to have time alone:

  • Ask for quiet time. Noisy environments drain my energy much more quickly.
  • If the environment cannot be made more quiet, wear headphones. Sounds I choose to hear are far more relaxing than those I’m forced to process.
  • Go for a hike.
  • Imagine new stories.
  • Work on repetitive tasks. Boring physical or mental chores can block out what is happening around you.
  • Sleep.
  • Meditate.
  • Prepare a favourite meal.
  • Spend time around water. Swimming is the most helpful but even a bath or hot shower can clear the mind.

How would you bounce back in a situation like this?

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