nobody likes small talk (it’s not just the introverts)

“Introverts don’t like small talk.”

Introverts (those who gain or recharge energy by being alone – as opposed to extroverts who draw energy from others) are often assumed to be shy, socially awkward or even rude because of the way they engage or don’t in social environments. However, those attributes are more to do with personality or emotional intelligence than the number one marker of introverts – they find people-heavy environments physically and emotionally exhausting. 

Introverts often express a deep dissatisfaction and even frustration with “small talk”. But I have an increasingly strong belief that NO ONE likes small talk. Not even extroverts. 

Extrovert readers, please feel free to correct me if you disagree, but no one likes small talk. It’s repetitive, it’s shallow and it’s only really a means to the end – a more rich and stimulating conversation or connection. 

The difference is that extroverts have the social stamina to endure more of it. Because they gain energy from being with people, they are not as drained by the small talk and don’t fear an exhaustion of their social energy before getting to a deeper conversation. They are also happy just to be talking – to people! – and so will more readily settle for surface level chit chat. 

For introverts, there is a very real chance that all of their social energy will be spent before they get to a point in conversations where they find meaningful connection or intellectual enrichment. 

Nobody likes small talk. Some are better at it. Some can participate in more of it before fatiguing their social energy. But no one actually likes it. No one comes away from a party and says “that was so good I spoke to a whole lot of people about absolutely nothing”. People of all temperaments are stimulated and satisfied by intellectually or emotionally meaningful connections with others.  People want to laugh heartily, be challenged mentally or connect personally – regardless of temperament. 

My hot tip for an introvert to thrive in social gatherings is this – find yourself an extrovert! Stand near them and ride the wave of their small talk into an actual conversation. Save your energy for the good stuff! 

Further reading 

six truths about extroverts
extroverts and quiet times

monday morning ministry

These are not my children. I borrowed them.

They’ve been seconded for an important Monday morning ministry that required availability in two categories. The first – that they needed to be somewhere at a specific time prior to 9am on Monday morning – in their case, school at 8:20am. Done. The second – they needed to be up for an early morning conversation – not a difficult task for this 15 year old deep-thinker, 14 year old sanguine and 11 year old lover-of-a-good-story. Done.

The ministry requirement is this – to help me fight a debilitating case of Mondayitis.

Although Sundays are my favourite days, they are also my longest and most physically exhausting. The love tank is full but the physical energy is depleted. Then comes Monday morning and we have our review and planning meetings – where I’m called on to bring the creativity, energy and lateral thinking. But more consistently, all I’m really able to bring is the coffee.

After a few challenging meetings, some disappointments in my own attitude and contributions, and just knowing that things were not functioning as positively or helpfully as they could, I was talking it through with a mentor. She encouraged me to consider ways to get myself in a better frame of mind and readiness for the start of the day and week.

Enter this fabulous trio.

The need to have them at school means I arrive at work 40 minutes before my first meeting – rather than 1 minute before (or after!) it starts. I have time to get a few emails processed, sort through things left on my desk and say hello to a few other people in the office. I’m more relaxed, switched on and ready to engage a better version of me.

As an externally processing extrovert, people interaction is what kick starts my engine – especially when I’m weary. Arriving at morning meetings having not actually used my voice let alone had a laugh or shared a moment of human interaction is not a great way to start. These kids ensure many laughs and a whole lot of random chats in the brief trip to the school car park.

And as an added bonus this team has totally adopted their ministry role in my life. If you ask them why I take them to school on Monday mornings they’ll tell you that they help to get my day started well and make me work better. As they get out of the car they’ll often check to see if they’ve made me laugh enough or told enough random stories. Bless them.

Some encouragements for you. Have you reflected on your own responses and best practices to be able to set yourself up to win? Who can you recruit to help you achieve that? And what might your ‘Monday morning ministry’ be? Who could you bless with some practical or emotional support? 


Understanding Others #2

As is often the way, since posting my thoughts about the power of understanding in my last blog I have seen the truth of that play out in a myriad of situations. I’ve seen it in the consequence of theabsence of understanding – the hurt, damage and frustration that comes from assumption and misunderstanding. And I’ve also seen its power to connect, heal and empower as the extra effort to understand another is rewarded with positive interactions and relational growth.

Maybe you’ve seen that at play in your own circumstances too?

That Solomon guy knew what he was talking about! (Prov 4:7)

When we start unpacking the differences of personality (and there are many) one is the distinction between being an INTROVERT or an EXTROVERT.

This is the description of how different people are energised. In short, an introvert gets energy from within (themselves) and an extrovert gets energy from without (others).

How do you know which you are? Here’s a test …

A day by yourself (no company, no talking, no crowds) sounds like
a) Bliss!
b) Punishment!

Ok, so that’s definitely the extremes of the scale – but you get the idea.

An introvert – gets energy from solitude. Being in larger social groups uses lots of energy – even if they find those environments enjoyable. That may be because of a lack of social confidence/capacity (so it takes a bit more energy to ‘keep up’) but that is not always the case. They work most productively and creatively in quiet environments, they are more likely to have hobbies or interests that they can do by themselves.

An extrovert – gets energy from others. In fact, not only do they get energy from being with others – they can be depleted of energy when they are alone. They work better in teams, they tend to be external/verbal processors, they are most productive and creative in collaborative situations and they are motivated by high energy social spaces.

Knowing which you are (and others around you) can provide some key understandings – and understanding, as we have established, can make all the difference.

Some things to consider …

  • The introvert is often misunderstood to be a loner or anti-social (they may be – but they may not!)
  • The extrovert can be misunderstood to be attention seeking or hyperactive (they also may be – but they may not!)
  • Given that the introvert’s gift to an extrovert is their presence and the extrovert’s gift to an introvert is their absence – it presents itself as a tension that needs to be managed. There will always be compromise required in friendship groups, marriages, families and work places to see that each gets what they need.
  • A person’s level of “outgoing-ness” is not automatically connected to whether they are an introvert or extrovert. A person can be very outgoing and confident in social settings but still require solitude to recharge. Likewise, a person could be quite shy and not necessarily a notable contributor to social situations but still draw energy from those environments. (And vice versa.)

Take a moment to consider the people around you – your family, your work colleagues, ministry team members, your spouse and your kids. Being aware of where they get their energy and what situations deplete it could help to understand them (and even yourself) more fully.

More in this series
Understanding Others #1
Understanding Others #3
Understanding Others #4