I came across an interesting comment from a reader the other day. He said he found my site by Googling the search term “how to politely tell an extrovert to shut up”. This made me chuckle because I know it’s something most introverts have secretly pondered at one point or another. Don’t get me wrong.
It’s not that we introverts hate talking. It’s just that we appreciate some pauses in conversation to breathe and let our mind wander.
Talking to an extrovert who needs to fill every inch of airspace with constant chatter makes us feel trapped. We’ve got our face pressed up against a cage of endless sentences. How do we escape?
Believe me, I know this dilemma all too well. I used to be a magnet for overbearing extroverts. Their favorite pastime was seeing how many words they could vomit out without taking a single breath.
Of course, not all extroverts are like this. But the ones who are can create quite an internal struggle for introverts.
We’re initially drawn to talkative extroverts because we feel comforted by their ability to keep the conversation going when we can’t think of anything more to say…
Feeling guilty for wanting them to shut up
After a while, however, we wish they’d shut up. But then we feel guilty for being annoyed. “They’re just being friendly,” we tell ourselves, “I should be nicer.” Of course, it’s hard to be pleasant when you feel utterly drained and trapped.
What should introverts do in these kinds of situations? How do we politely tell an extrovert to shut up, without hurting their feelings?
After years of coaching introverts to develop confident conversation and connection skills, I’ve found the following approaches work like magic:
Casually explain your needs early on
It’s difficult to express yourself when you’re drained and irritated. That’s why I recommend casually weaving clues about your introvert needs into the conversation BEFORE you want to claw your eyeballs out.
You can say something like, “I’m an introvert, so I like socializing, but I also like having quiet time to think.”
Use the music or book excuse
This one works especially well if you’re sitting next to a talkative extrovert on a plane or bus and you can’t escape. Let them know that you’re going to listen to music or read a book for a while.
Simply say, “If you don’t mind, I’m just going to listen to some music for a while.” Then pop your earbuds in and congratulate yourself on a smooth escape.
Give a brief explanation of why you’re checking out
Extroverts get offended when we introverts suddenly retract into our shell, because they assume it’s something they said or did. In this case, it is, but they don’t need to know that.
On one occasion, I was carpooling back from an event with two other women. It was late and I was exhausted, but one of the women was keen to keep talking.
I said, “I’m really exhausted so I’m just going to listen to music.” The woman nodded and let me be knowing that I was just tired and not plotting to murder her.
Gently drop an honesty bomb
As the saying goes, it’s not what you say, but how you say it. A harsh truth delivered in a gentle manner can actually strengthen a relationship.
For example, you could get fed up and blurt out, “You talk so much, don’t you ever shut up!” Or you could take special care to craft a sentence that doesn’t point fingers.
Something like, “I like our conversations, but sometimes I just need some quiet time to collect my thoughts.”
Here’s another approach: “I’m not really a morning person so excuse me if I’m not much for conversation this early.”
Most importantly, remember that it’s okay to crave some quiet. Wanting an overly talkative extrovert to shut up for a while doesn’t make you a jerk.
You don’t have to constantly bend to the extrovert ideal. There’s no right or wrong when it comes to your needs. So embrace the communication style that feels good to you.
For more tips on how to be a confident conversationalist, download my Introvert Conversation Cheat Sheet.
Over to you
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Have you ever wondered how to politely tell an extrovert to shut up? Do share in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you!