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!
I definitely use the “I’m really not a morning person one” all the time. It’s true, I’m really not a whole person until at least 10 a.m. on a good day. But I also tend to be drawn to more extroverted types and it can be exhausting. But thankfully most of my close friends understand that I am an introvert and they can usually tell when I’m starting to get a little overwhelmed, which is nice.
Yes, it’s great to have extroverted friends who understand you. 🙂
I would choose to be an introvert even if I was not one. Extraverts should learn from us rather than the other way around. My problem lately is that extroverted friends do not give me a chance to speak as they are talk talk talking incessantly. I have to actually be what I consider very rude and interrupt and raise my voice just so I can say something. Then, if I finally can begin to speak, they constantly add encouraging words which interrupt what I’m trying to say or they just don’t really listen and continue talking. I want to tell them without being rude or hurting their feelings to please let me finish what I am trying to say.
If I’m talking to someone on the phone and my ear feels like it’s about to fall off from all the listening, I have occasionally set a timer to go off, making sure that the caller can hear it, and tell them it’s time for me to eat or leave or whatever comes to mind. I don’t usually feel guilty especially if I sense that the talker is being ego-centric or is distracted by other things.
That’s a good idea, Gerald!I’ll have to try that next time I’m stuck on the phone. 😉
Oh gosh I had a friend like that, she would talk and talk and talk and talk, all about people I didn’t know. Once I told her politely I’d just got home from work (it was 8pm) I hadn’t had anything to eat and I needed to eat asap. She was shocked and apparently went straight to another friend and said ‘the cheek of it! Catherine said she had to eat so we had to finish the call!’ There’s no telling some people.
Lol! Good one. I’ve actually opened my front door and rung the doorbell. I’ve then said, “Someone’s here. I’ll have to call you back.”
I drive a school bus and it’s quite easy to spot extroverts even when their so young. I don’t usually say anything unless one of the other students complains or the talker takes it to the next level and starts insulting other kids(or me). This is the first year that I’m using a star rating system. If they don’t get a star everyday then no treat at the end of the week. Works great for keeping the peace in a small contained area like a school bus. I Wish that I had thought of this 20 years ago. ?
A very clever system! If only adults could be bribed with gold stars. 😉
I love the last 3 pieces of advice, they are mostly what I’d say to people. But I can’t imagine saying the first one ‘I’m an introvert…’. Most people I know would say ‘an intro…whaaat?’
Do you have any advice for when you’re sitting quietly somewhere relaxing and an extrovert insists on talking to you? Usually my frown puts them off but sometimes not.
You’d be surprised at how many people know what an introvert is nowadays. I find that closed body language (not making eye contact, facing away from them, not smiling) is a great way to deter people who interrupt your quiet time. If they don’t get the hint you can say, “I don’t mean to be rude, but I’d just like to have some me time right now.”
I’ve always found a book to be useful. You don’t have to read it, just look as if you are. There are some stubborn talkers who won’t take this hint, so earbuds and an IPOD (turned off, but they don’t know that) are also a good prop.
There’s always those people who don’t get the polite hint, I need some quiet time, or I’m not a morning person. They are more interested in what they want. Any hints for them?
With those people you’ll probably have to be more direct. “I think we have different ways of communicating. I’m someone who needs to have breaks in conversation, times when we are both quiet. It can feel overwhelming for me when someone talks continuously.”
I had a friend who would call long distance and talk my ear off. I finally arranged with my child to “cry on command” so I had a reason to hang up! Not too honest, but….
Maybe your child will become a famous actor thanks to this little trick. 😉
As a chatty extrovert, I like your ideas, Michaela!
I love the suggestions in this post! I’ve definitely used the earbud trick before. I can also see myself saying something like, “I’m so sorry, but I’m recharging right now and can’t have a conversation.” to someone that insists on talking to me, but I need a direct approach. Nothing like getting right to the point!
I know this advice will come in handy because I’ve had plenty of extroverts talk my ear off!
Good advice. Being honest, but polite is often the way to go. If people don’t understand, it’s on them not you. 🙂
I definitely use the earbud or book excuse when I’m on an airplane. I LOATHE small talkers on a plane!
I’m a dental hygienist. You would *think* that as a patient you wouldn’t WANT someone talking your ear off while both of their hands are in your mouth but I have so many patients that WANT me to tell them everything that’s happening in my life while I’m cleaning their teeth! When they insist, I indulge them but any chance I get I tell them when I’m the patient in the chair, I hate when people ask me questions and incessantly talk to me, hoping they realize it actually *is* annoying. I realize this approach is extremely passive-aggressive but it has gotten me off the talking train several times ?
So interesting! I actually studied dental hygiene for a year and found that I didn’t fit in with the bubbly type A personalities that dominated the class.
It’s the same when you need to go to the hairdressers. It’s like you have to tell a complete stranger your whole life story, I feel as if I am being interrogated which is a form of torture for me ? to the point that I have my partner cut my hair now just so that I do not have to go to hairdressers.
My hubby is an extrovert and on several occasions I have just told him to keep quiet! Not very kind but after over 30 years of marriage he seems to understand.
This is a really interesting article – thanks. But what about when you live in a small house and your extrovert family members keep talking on the phone with their friends? I know they have every right to do this but it can be so draining…
My wife is an INFP, yet she talks a lot to me and I often can’t get a moment to think. And so, when I want her to stop talking, I simply say: “You look so beautiful with your lips closed”.
And after this comment, she smiles,laughs, then stops talking for an hour or so. 😉
I used to have a VERY chatty group of girlfriends who never really stopped to let me talk – if I cared or knew anything about what they were talking about! I could get up and just go to the loo and they’d keep talking but it was much harder to tell them I was leaving altogether. I found a way around it though – getting up from my seat and preparing to leave. That was very effective 🙂
I googled your site to find how to tell an extrovert politely to f*ck off when they have made some remark about “how you never look happy” or about some other aspect of your resting bitch face. Intellectually, I know it is more about their insecurity and their need to have some stupid grin pasted on the other guy’s face, but sheesh…. is it really necessary to comment? What is there to say in response to this? “Sorry, I don’t walk around with a big stupid grin on my face all the time. It’s just my face. Leave me alone.” Love to know a good substitute for saying f#ck off, even though I really want to.
I’m INFJ and so polite, until I’m really not! Often better to be authentic and straight IMO 😀
Most people who know me on a casual basis would definitely say I am a total extrovert and never stop talking! Well the never stop talking is mostly true unless you really get to know me. Then you will find that I suffer from severe social anxiety and constantly talking is simply my anxiety running at full speed! I know that I am annoying to many because of it and would be grateful for any of your polite ways of asking me to be quiet! You would be saying to me kindly that I am ok and don’t need to build a wall of chatter around me to feel safe with you!
Ms. Chung, you have just described a number of my coworkers and even some relatives. There are few things more frustrating than having your ears violated by endless small talk, or worse yet, chronic complaining, when all I want is to relax and listen to a podcast or read. I remember when I still was a smoker (I am not anymore) that I would go to my apartment building’s designated area to do the deed, only to have my ears battered by the ramblings of neighbors who didn’t understand the concept of just having a quiet smoke without having to hear someone else’s life history. The struggle is real! I will be utilizing these tactics in the future. 🙂
Michaela, I just discovered this post after entering the following search: “can an extrovert’s non-stop talking actually make an introvert crazy?!”. Although your request for feedback was quite some time ago, it is as relevant today as a year ago. I can’t tell you how frequently I want to ‘scratch my eyes out’ as you mention in your post. I live with this, and when I politely communicate that I can’t listen anymore, my spouse stops talking; seemingly without having his feelings hurt. The issue I have is that I have to repeat this process daily. I don’t think he realizes the impact it has on me.