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I consider myself an introvert and never spoke much. For example, when I'm in class and I know and answer to a question my professor asks, I usually don't say anything. And when I'm eating with friends, I usually run out of questions or things to talk about quickly.

How can I overcome this problem of not participating in class or running out of things to talk about?

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closed as off-topic by Rory Alsop Dec 21 '13 at 14:29

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This question appears to be off-topic because it is not about productivity. –  Rory Alsop Dec 21 '13 at 14:29
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8 Answers 8

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I'm the same kind of introvert people than you. Here are some advices I'm using myself to be more talkative.

In non professional situation, you can ask questions about the others. This way you don't have to talk to much but you will be active in the conversation. Try to find what are interesting for the other, and then ask questions. If you speak with some enthusiast and talkative person, he will drive the conversation. If you listen, then you will learn a lot about the person and a friendly feeling will be set between you. Don't hesitate to joke (but nothing offending), smile and use a pinch of self derision or non-sense: try to look not too serious or boring.

In professional situation, you need enough self confidence to speak with authority about important matter. Being a silent person can be an advantage: people might listen to you more carefully (silent people are considered as wise in the collective perception of things). Use the advices from JB King in order to avoid confrontation.

If you are afraid of talking in front of other, you can try to blank out the audience in your mind at the beginning: imagine that you are alone in your own room. Once you start to feel good (or at least a bit better) then re-connect with the audience. Use the feedback sent by their faces and body to adapt your speech and behavior: are they bored, convinced, amused, interested ? To limit the stress you need to breath deeply and slowly, and to focus on what you are doing, not on what the others are thinking of you.

Another tip to avoid running out of question, is to read/listen/watch news from the world about different topics. I have a google news page pre-configured with differents topic (politics, international, science, ...). I scan this page a few time a day (beware not to waste time on useless stuff) and this way I'm able to open discussions about these news. I use different kind of news with different kind of people (computer/technical/gadget stuff with my colleagues, politic with friends, ...) You don't need to be an expert, it is just a way to have many entry points to conversations.

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I used to have trouble starting a conversation myself. I often did not know what to say, especially when I was with someone I'd never met before. There are two things that helped me overcome this:

  1. Ask questions. It doesn't matter if it's a good question, just ask the first thing that comes to mind. If you really do not know what to ask, there are some basic questions that you can almost always ask, for example:

    • what do you do in your spare time?
    • what's your favourite movie / book / video game / sport / holiday destination?
    • did you see [enter your favourite television show here]? It helps if you are a sports fan, you can talk about last night's game for example.
    • do you like [enter a topic related to where you are]? e.g. class you just attended, the teacher, work assignment, the food, this place?

    Avoid simple yes/no questions, ask open questions instead. Remember to keep things light. Don't turn it into an interrogation. It helps if you make a remark about your opinion on the topic before asking another question. Followup questions are often easier because you can continue with the current topic:

    • why do you like [x]?
    • what is it about [y] that you like/hate...

    If this doesn't help you can share your current thoughts (as long as they are not dirty ;-). Or just look around, you often see or hear something to talk about.

  2. Be genuinely interested in the person you are talking to. Ask yourself who exactly is this person? What are his/her interests? What makes this person tick?

    This point turned out to be even more important for me than the first one. Once I decided I would try to find out more about other people, it became much easier to think of questions to ask. For example, I would ask about a person's hobbies, then pick the one I found most interesting and ask followup questions on it. If you are a man, you will find that most women love it if you take a sincere interest in them. Most guys prefer a more "shallow" conversation, but you can always talk with them about sports, cars or electronic gadgets.

    Ok, I know I said two things to overcome this but keep in mind that you have to...

  3. Practice often! If something doesn't come natural to you, you will have to do it over and over again before you become good at it. Regularly force yourself to participate in class or keep a conversation going. Starting a conversation will be hard at first especially with strangers, but if you keep practicing it will become easier.

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From "How to Win Friends and Influence People":

Fundamental Techniques in Handling People

  1. Don't criticize, condemn, or complain.
  2. Give honest and sincere appreciation.
  3. Arouse in the other person an eager want.
  4. Never show others that you are not interested in what they have to say.

Six Ways to Make People Like You

  1. Become genuinely interested in other people.
  2. Smile.
  3. Remember that a person's name is, to that person, the sweetest and most important sound in any language.
  4. Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.
  5. Talk in terms of the other person's interest.
  6. Make the other person feel important – and do it sincerely.

Twelve Ways to Win People to Your Way of Thinking

  1. The only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it.
  2. Show respect for the other person's opinions. Never say "You're Wrong."
  3. If you're wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically.
  4. Begin in a friendly way.
  5. Start with questions to which the other person will answer yes.
  6. Let the other person do a great deal of the talking.
  7. Let the other person feel the idea is his or hers.
  8. Try honestly to see things from the other person's point of view.
  9. Be sympathetic with the other person's ideas and desires.
  10. Appeal to the nobler motives.
  11. Dramatize your ideas.
  12. Throw down a challenge.
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Not answering in class could be a lack of self confidence, perhaps from fear of getting the answer wrong, or being harshly judged by your peers. If this is the case ultimately you need to learn it's OK to be wrong occasionally, and to not be too bothered when you are.

The best way I've found to learn this resilience to simply speak up when an opportunity arises. Very occasionally this will go wrong, and you won't feel great, but this will be far outweighed by the positive feeling you get the 99% of time it's a success.

As for running out of things to talk about. There's various things you can try. Read lots, keep up to date on current affairs, and even sports (even if you're not a fan). Make sure you're well rounded, so if your a scientist read some literature or learn a foreign language etc.

Finally, most people like talking about themselves, so create a list of simple stock questions that can apply to most people, like what do they do? Do they enjoy it? Where do they come from? Then when you get stuck you can just reel out one of these questions.

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I think it's better to forget you're an introvert or the word introvert.
In class, I advise you to sit in the first row. In that way, you will be closer to the teacher so that you won't need to raise your voice. You might answer a question or ask one once per class at first. It's not much effort.
With friends, chit-chat is casual, you don't need to talk about abstract things. Listen to others and make remarks, compliment them. Do not close conversations with "no", "I can't do that" or "I don't know".

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I disagree with your first sentence, at least at face value. I do mostly agree with the rest of what you wrote in terms of stepping out of one comfort zone. –  eflat Feb 26 '12 at 8:04
    
@eflat thanks for your comment, but I think introversion is seen as something less valuable than extroversion in our society. The OP says he is introverted, but is he a specialist and is there a clear definition of it? Is it temporary or permanent? Is it a continuum? I think there are many uncertainties about it. Since it is seen as less valuable (assuming it really exists), it becomes self-limiting. It is negative thinking and I maintain on my answer. –  Theta30 Mar 5 '12 at 8:18
    
At at a level of common reference, introversion is seen as being lesser. But that doesn't make it so. If one remains at that level of understanding, it can be a negative, limiting belief. That's why I recommended research or testing to see if a formal label of introversion really fits. Surely it will be revealed to be only part of the equation. Investigate the traits and characteristics, strengths and weaknesses, of your particular personality make-up. Then work to improve or accept. –  eflat Mar 5 '12 at 23:10
    
As an aside, I know someone who is 'INTP' (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/INTP), so introversion is a part of them. They prefer being alone, contemplating, and being with a few close friends. Yet this person regularly gets up in front of hundreds of people to speak, and is quite dynamic in that role. He is clear on his work and purpose and worked to do what he concluded was his to do. –  eflat Mar 5 '12 at 23:12
    
There are validity problems of this theory and "The terminology of the MBTI has been criticized as being very "vague and general" as to allow any kind of behavior to fit any personality type, which may result in the Forer effect, where individuals give a high rating to a positive description that supposedly applies specifically to them" –  Theta30 Mar 6 '12 at 19:51
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Lots of good answers here. There is one additional aspect that I suggest checking out. One answer suggested you forget you're an introvert. I say the opposite. Know thyself. There are other aspects to your personality, and even introversion itself has positive characteristics.

I'd recommend some time learning about different personality aspects and types. Check out the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and/or Enneagram. The links here to Wikipedia are a start, but also check Amazon or you local public library.

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As an introvert, our focus is inward. In a social situation which we may find exhausting in long chunks, it helps to put the focus outward. Direct eye contact, a pleasant expression, an expectation of a pleasant experience, all contribute to how we're seen by others, how approachable we appear to them.

Perhaps you tire quickly in social situations. Be aware of your own energy, and recharge it if at a party by stepping outside briefly, connecting in a more quiet way with one person.

In class, perhaps the answer is in your head and it seems a no-brainer. Yet it's the dynamic of the class to speak even the simple answers, as class discussion develops as a result, and others benefit from your knowledge. It's not a test, it's a discussion.

I find that people who rely solely on asking questions frequently get an answer and don't take the topic further. I much prefer someone who brings up a topic based on a common interest, which itself can be discovered by a question. A tennis match of questions is exhausting and annoying for the recipient though, and makes the person being asked "20-Questions" (like the game) feel as if you have little depth of your own.

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I've found that usually when I'm being introverted or quiet it's because I'm thinking mostly about myself. How I might embarrass myself, nobody would want to hear what I have to say, I don't have anything to say, etc.

If I can remember to think about the other person/people - and think about how I am actually going to help them (I know that sounds silly) by talking with them - and making it about them, not me, it is so much easier. Almost everybody loves to talk about themselves - and if you make it into a game of sorts it can really help.

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