Tag Archives: Introvert

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?

How to Meditate in a Noisy, Crowded Place

Over the last few weeks I’ve been practicing something¬†that doesn’t come easily to me at all.

My spouse enjoys the energy of the crowds at the mall. He likes wandering around during the busier parts of the day and year. Here in Toronto we often have special giveaways, promotional booths, or other events put on by various companies to draw attention to their products.

As you might have already guessed, I am not a huge fan of this¬†pastime. There is nothing relaxing to me about being surrounded by so many strangers in such a loud, bright place whose only purpose is to sell things to you¬†that you don’t even necessarily need.
Last month I decided to take a new approach to the time we spent at the mall. Would it be possible for me to meditate in a busy mall? Would I ever learn to enjoy spending time there? Could I be as peaceful at the orangutang on the left in that environment?

The only way to answer those questions was to give it a try.

How It Went

Luckily, I had many opportunities to practice mindfulness at various malls this past month.

The first time I tried it I was sitting in a small food court that is nearly always packed full with people. There was so much background noise that I couldn’t make out what anyone was saying. The sounds of clinking dishes, chairs scraping against the floor, and¬†dozens¬†of private conversations were all¬†going on at once.

One of the reasons why I dislike that kind of environment so much is that it’s¬†impossible to pick out individuals sounds or conversations. They’re all so muddled together that my brain can’t¬†make sense of any of it, and that annoys me.

This time I ignored my urge to think about the background noise. Instead, I closed my eyes and let it all wash over me. It felt sort of like floating down a river. You can’t control where the current goes, but you can choose to relax and allow it to carry you downstream.

The most interesting part of this experience for me was how¬†well this metaphor worked for me. I hadn’t realized how much energy I was putting into figuring out what all of those noises meant until I consciously chose to stop interpreting them for a little while.

The food court I sat in for my second attempt at meditating in a noisy place¬†was larger and busier¬†than the one I’d previously visited. I kept my eyes opened this time for the sake of comparison. This experience didn’t last very long due to reasons that I’ll explain in a minute.

The other attempts I made to stay mindful at the mall happened under less controlled circumstances. I was usually walking in a crowd while¬†trying to get my mind to slow down and focus on what was happening in that exact moment. This is something I’ve had a lot of luck with when walking outdoors¬†at the park or in some of my favourite Toronto neighbourhoods, so I wanted to see if it would work just as well at the mall.

The Results

The first trial was the most successful one. That food court was slightly quieter than the other places I chose. Closing my eyes and purposefully allowing all of the sounds I was hearing to pass through my mind without trying to decode them also helped. It will be interesting to see if I can recreate something similar to this experience in the future.

Keeping my eyes opened in the second experiment didn’t work well for me¬†at all. Food courts have too many distractions in them for me to stay focused on what I’m doing, especially when they’re as crowded as the one I was in. It will be interesting to see if I can reduce the amount of stimulation in this environment by focusing on a particular object the next time I try this. I’ve been thinking that something small and inconsequential like a soft drink cup might be the perfect thing to rest my eyes on if I want to keep them open in the future.

I was surprised by how little I enjoyed the experience of walking through the mall while trying to clear my mind. After thinking about it, I suspect it was because there weren’t any signs of nature there. Trees, bushes, flowers, and small animals¬†are soothing to me. I was also so busy trying to avoid running into other people that it was difficult to keep my mind clear of thoughts.

Have I become¬†a fan of wandering around the mall for the sake of having fun? No, I haven’t. I don’t think it’s ever going to become my idea of a good time, but this was still an interesting and worthwhile experiment.

Everyone¬†feels uncomfortable in certain places or situations. There’s definitely something to be said for learning to relax in an environment that isn’t your cup of tea.

I’m looking forward to trying¬†this¬†again in other noisy, crowded places¬†soon. It will be fascinating to see if I can¬†get better results next time.¬†If you’re on Twitter, I’d love to hear what your experiences have been with meditating or staying mindful in less-than-ideal circumstances.