Small Talk for Introverts: Don’t Be Nice, Be Professional

All too often, introverts are encouraged to take on the extroverted trait of creating small talk.

This is a concerted effort by researchers and pundits to inspire introverts into growing and expanding in ways that may be uncomfortable for introverts.

The overarching philosophy for such recommendations is that humans are social animals, and people want to do business and connect with those they know, like, and trust.

So, what’s wrong with introverts engaging in small talk to increase their social capital?

The short answer is “Nothing.”

Any opportunity to improve communication skills is not inherently a negative objective.

However, there is something to be said for merely watching and observing individuals before engaging them.

Also, communication should be organic and incremental rather than manufactured and hasty.

And therein lies the problem.

All too often, proponents of small talk are not discriminating in selecting optimal times to engage others.

From their perspective, every opportunity to engage anyone is fair game.

Small Talk for Introverts

Jennifer Granneman of Quiet Revolution said:

In reality, most introverts are drained by small talk because it feels fake and meaningless. When you exchange pleasantries or chat about the weather to avoid silence, you don’t learn anything new or gain a better understanding of your conversation partner (para. 3).

This is a legitimate criticism against many extroverts, because small talk feels like disingenuous communication.

After all, in this context, extroverts are merely feeding their self-interest to get their psychic needs met.

They could hardly stand in a grocery store line long before the need to engage with the nearest person to them became compelling.

And as soon as they have paid for their items, they are gone.

Innocent bystanders, who may have been introverts, have been robbed of their energy, unnecessarily.

One of the staff writers for the American Academy of Advanced Thinking once mentioned that a police officer friend once said, “Don’t be nice, be professional” as it relates to dealing with people.

Many would say conversing with law enforcement officials is different from communicating with average individuals.

There is a power dynamic that exists between police officers and regular citizens.

This may be true, but the use of energy becomes a significant factor.

What that means is that a conversational tone is appropriate, but that the tone should convey a certain level of aloofness and firmness.

In other words, very little emotional energy should be expended.

The words being exchanged should be measured and have a specific objective.

Wayward or unfocused communication is draining to introverts. Mainly, because introverts are active listeners.

They actually listen to the person speaking with their body and mind as opposed to waiting for the moment to respond immediately.

You can regularly witness bad or ineffective communication in many T.V. and podcast interviews.

The interviewer is listening to the interviewee, but seemingly waiting impatiently to ask the next question.

It is like some interviewers can be dismissive to merely get their questions answered rather than engaging in dialogue.

And that’s what small talk feels like for many introverts.

How Introverts Can Add Professionalism to Their Communication Style

There are a few ways introverts can circumvent small talk for more effective communications.

  1. Call people by their last names. Military and law enforcement personnel often call each other by their last names as a form of discipline and respect. The more society breeds comfort and familiarity, the greater the opportunity for the lines of civility to be crossed. Casual Fridays in corporate settings encourage self-expression over uniformity. A certain degree of uniformity and formality establishes professional standards. As an example, schools that require students to wear uniforms are instilling values that incorporate the importance of character rather than cosmetics and fashion. By embracing a custom where formality is honored, individuals tend to converse in ways that don’t waste time, as well as garner respect.
  • Invest your energy, don’t waste it. In every exchange or decision in life, the question should be, “Does this opportunity help or hinder me?” If it helps you, you should engage in the process. If it hurts you, you should reject it. From the outset, you should ask the same question when it comes to small talk. Many adults at work are like children watching the clock for lunch or playtime. Anyone who will aid them in passing the day away is fodder for small talk. These individuals hinder productivity and profitability, and attempt to recruit you as an accomplice. Act within your self-interest. If small talk is mutually beneficial based on the content, feel free to engage. When information helps your ambitions, participate at your leisure.
  • End talks on your terms. Nice people allow small talk to waste their time; while professionals use small talk as a way of gathering information. Once people begin taking you seriously, you gain a newfound respect from them. Often, people know what manipulation tactics work on certain individuals. These manipulators look for weak targets to get their selfish needs met. The cliché, “Nice guys finish last,” still holds true today. Place yourself at the center of your world, and maneuver with your best interests in mind. Engage and depart conversations at your will.

Although small talk can waste time and energy for introverts, those who use small talk purposefully and strategically can see their social capital increase.

Introverts are often more thoughtful than their extroverted counterparts, and should use small talk as a means of accomplishing an objective.

By choosing not to be nice, but professional, you gain the respect, control, and success you deserve.

—Tom Watkins

References

Granneman, J. (2016, Nov. 3). The real reason introverts dread small talk. HuffPost. Retrieved from: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/the-real-reason-introverts-dread-small-talk_n_56854922e4b06fa688823798.

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