If you have ever been frustrated because you just cannot get your introverted friend or colleague to open up and say what is on their mind, you are not alone! You may begin to wonder if they have any thoughts or opinions at all; so it must be even more frustrating to learn that introverts always have a lot on their mind but not much on their lips–despite your attempts to engage. Here are three ways you can get an introvert to open up:
1. Avoid putting the introvert on the spot in front of others. This is a double-edged sword and a sure-fire way to shut an introvert down! When at all possible, engage in one-on-one conversation, which is a setting that sets most introverts more at ease. They will be more likely to give you beneath the surface answers and let you know their true thoughts and opinions. If you do need to ask them for input in a group setting, the introvert will appreciate being given a heads-up, so do not ask them to be the first to answer.
2. Ask specific, thought-provoking questions. Broad questions such as, “How are you/how have you been” will likely result in “fine” and asking, “what do you think?” will likely result in a brief answer of “sounds good” or “let me think about it.” Instead, try asking more specific questions that show you are seeking and value their input. “Tell me about achallenge that you’re going through right now.” If you want his or her opinion on a matter, asking, “I want to know your thoughts on this” will be more effective than asking, “Do you have any questions” or “is this okay?”
3. Be comfortable with silence while you’re waiting for an answer.
Just because the introvert does not immediately answer you does not mean he or she didn’t understand the question or is trying the avoid the subject. Even with specific questions, Introverts think to speak, so be patient, resist the need to rephrase or repeat the question and quietly give them time to gather their thoughts. You may think the person is disengaged, but he or she is probably not only searching for the answer, but how to best put that answer into words. One of the best ways you can show patience and kindness is by averting eye contact while waiting for an answer, allowing the introvert to gather his or her thoughts without feeling stared down.
All introverts are different, so there is no magic wand that will work with everyone, but by adapting your conversation style to best meet their preferred style will be a great start, and much appreciated by your introverted friend.