I see a lot of incorrect stereotypes about introversion on the Internet.
There’s the ‘introverts fear answering the phone’ trope (False – that is social anxiety, not introversion). There’s the ‘introverts are more intelligent than extroverts’ trope (Also shown to be uncorrelated.) But above many of the frustrating traits that are falsely associated with introversion, for whatever reason, the ‘You’re an introvert if you hate small talk’ trope bothers me the absolute most.
Do introverts hate small talk? Almost definitely. Because literally every human being alive hates small talk.
At my last office party, I decided to poll the whole office on this matter (being the wild, extroverted party animal that I am). I asked our team of eight introverts and four extroverts how they felt about small talk and the almost unanimous response was “I hate it.”
Everyone saw it as a necessary evil. Everyone considered it to be laboursome, draining and uninteresting. The only party who voted in favor of the social etiquette of small talk was, ironically, an introvert.
She commented that although she didn’t like it, it was nice to have pre-established conversation topics at hand, in order to avoid awkward lulls in conversation. She explained that small talk made her feel comfortable even though it wasn’t necessarily energizing. It was a go-to method of establishing common ground with a stranger.
But did she gain energy from it? No. Of course not. Nobody does.
Extroverts may enjoy social interaction more than introverts, but that doesn’t mean we enjoy all social interaction. And it definitely doesn’t mean we enjoy it all equally.
I am energized by parties, but I am infinitely more energized by a long, one-on-one conversation with a close friend. I am energized by some new people I meet, who provide fascinating perspectives in conversation, but I am endlessly drained by others, who focus their attention on topics that don’t interest me. Being ‘selectively social’ is also not a trait of introversion. It’s a trait of humanity.
There isn’t a person out there who enjoys talking about everything. No matter how extroverted they are. Everyone is intrigued by some topics and bored by others.
And small talk is a topic that bores pretty much everyone on the personality spectrum.
Nobody wakes up every morning ENTHUSED to talk to the corner store clerk about the grim weather their city has been experiencing this week. No one dances around their room in excited anticipation of the ‘what’s new with Bob and the kids’ talk that they’re going to have with their Great Aunt Mildred later that night. Nobody is energized by those meaningless social pleasantries. They’re simply conversations we all have out of courtesy.
Because it would be problematic to greet the corner store clerk by asking what his or her views on abortion are. Because it would make your Aunt Mildred deeply distressed to hear about your drug-fueled quarter-life crisis.
Because the only thing more annoying than making small talk with every vague acquaintance we encounter throughout our day would be having to stop and have a full length conversation with them.
Nobody has that kind of time. Nobody has that kind of patience. And quite honestly, I don’t want to hear the corner store clerk’s views on abortion. I don’t want my Aunt Mildred to know what I’ve been up to. I don’t like small talk – despite being decidedly extroverted – but I endure it.
Because it’s better than the alternative.
So for the love of God – please stop telling me you’re an introvert because you hate small talk. HONEY. We all hate it. Most of us with a fiery, burning passion.
But that doesn’t excuse you from having to make it. And it definitely isn’t the single defining trait of being an introvert.