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

3 ways to listen better


Did you know you can improve the quality of a speaker by improving the quality of your listening? You have the power to improve the communication capacity of others by engaging more intentionally when you listen. 

1. Look like you’re listening. 

When someone knows you are listening their language, tone and demeanour can be more relaxed. A person fighting for your attention will feel led to be more exaggerated, intense or dramatic in order to capture your interest and garner a response. 

Giving the speaker your full attention – looking at them, stopping what you are doing and facing your body towards them communicates value and engagement. They will be freed to more clearly communicate what they were wanting to say. 

2. Let your face know what you’re thinking. 

I have a very loud face. There has barely been an emotion I’ve felt that hasn’t demonstrated itself on my face – for better or worse!! 

For better, someone speaking to me rarely has to guess what I’m feeling. For the most part my face mirrors the feelings being communicated or the facial expressions they are displaying. In a psychological sense, this mirroring communicates empathy for the speaker – “I am feeling what you’re feeling.” 

Some people are naturally more blank. Their thinking face is expressionless. While you may well be following closely what the speaker is saying, they are not to know this from looking at you. You need to think about what your face conveys to the speaker. 

3. Affirm the speaker. 

Nodding your head, hmmm’ing, and saying “I see”, “oh really?” or, “uh-huh” let the speaker know you are listening even if there’s nothing much else for you to say in response. 

Note – you can’t use these when you’re not listening! It’s unfair to the speaker and ultimately damages their trust in your true attention. These sounds are verbal affirmations to keep going, I’m with you, tell me what happened next. In their absence, in your silence, the speaker is forced to concede they’ve lost their audience or elevate the tone, volume and intensity to try and win you back. 

‘Half-listening’ could very well double the speaking time. That’s bad maths. A speaker can lose focus on their main idea while trying to capture your undivided attention or elicit a response. 

Ultimately, your listening can make the speaker more concise and more interesting. 

What other traits have you noticed of good listeners? How have you found a good listener can improve your communication?