It's OK to Cross the Street to Avoid Small Talk

I laughed when I saw that gentle encouragement. After reading Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, I hopped over to the Quiet Revolution website. Quiet Manifesto #7: It's OK to cross the street to avoid making small talk. I chuckled because I've regularly done exactly that. 

Are you an introvert? Take this brief quiz to find out.

For Introverts at Work

So how can introverts enjoy this preference for introspection, depth, and quiet in a work culture that celebrates the extrovert ideal? Here are a few of my favorite ideas from Ms. Cain's book:

  1. Create restorative niches throughout your day: take a 10-minute walk outside after high-stimulation meetings.
  2. Arrive at meetings early to pick the best seat that supports comfortable and active participation. Latecomers tend to get relegated to the back rows farthest from the action.
  3. Go to work events with an extrovert coworker you like and trust. Her energy may rub off on you and give you friendly support to engage with others.

For Extroverts at Work

And if you're an extrovert, here are ways to work with introverts that's rewarding for both of you:

  1. Don't assume that a quiet coworker is passive. He may be actively engaged inwards to solve the thorniest problems without showing it externally.
  2. Ask for feedback in writing in addition to a group setting. Introverts prefer to provide thoughtful input after deliberation instead of during spontaneous discussions.
  3. Introverts are not antisocial; they just prefer smaller groups because they listen deeply; big groups are overstimulating. So if your company hosts staff events, offer a variety of small-group and all-hands choices.

Ms. Cain's most important piece of advice: wherever you are on the introversion-extroversion spectrum, be yourself. And by all means, do cross the street if you don't feel like small talk with me. I won't take it personally!

Judy Dang