Extroverted? Here are 9 Tips on how to be Quiet and Reflective (and more intuitive!)

This article started as a “sure, why not?” response to the tweet below…

 

I fired off one tweet to start:

 

 

Reflecting further and connecting this to some client themes that have been coming up recently, I firstly have something to add as to why being quiet and reflective is worth doing and being.

It has to do with your intuition.

 

 

Why your intuition needs you to be quiet and reflective

 

There seems to be a myth out there that intuition is some magical faculty that you are “bestowed” with or not.

Well, while there are definitely some very different intuitive and psychic abilities (some of which you either have or don’t have), intuition itself is for everyone… BUT it requires being quiet and reflective.

So, why is that?

Intuition is intimately tied up with, nourished and sharpened by introspection.

Introspection is the ability (it’s a practice!) to sit quietly and turn inwards. It means you are able to turn away from everything “out there” and tune in to your inner self, your inner world. This means noticing physical sensations in your body, feeling and understanding your emotions, and just overal spending some time being with your own inner being.

Intuition then is the ability to hear your inner self (which is not the same as hearing the constant babble of your thoughts). To listen intuitively is to notice the subtle signals you are receiving inside of you.

Intuition is that subtle tug that tells you to move one way, and avoid another path. Intuition can save the lives of soldiers, nudging them on where to go, and what areas to avoid. Intuition can help us find something we are looking for, by following a sudden unusual hunch, and ending up in a conversation with a stranger who knows exactly where to find what we need.

Too often, intuition gets confused with all kinds of magical-seeming psychic abilities. Yet really, intuition itself, your Basic Intuiton so to speak, is something all people have. It’s our inner SatNav and it tends to communicate very subtly and plainly, no fireworks involved.

Sure, some people have a bunch of psychic abilities on top of their Basic Intuition, but at root, intuition is just the ability to know or sense something in a way that doesn’t make complete rational sense. It’s a different way of knowing and navigating in itself.

Yet, because intuition is pretty subtle, it’s easy to overlook. When you’re really busy and distracted in the world out there, it’s easy to complete miss the subtle signals your own intuition is sending you.

So, in short:

 

 

 

So, how do you become more quiet and reflective?

 

Well, there are lots of ways and places to practice, but let’s start with how to do it in conversations.

That may seem counterintuitive. After all, aren’t conversations about talking? Aren’t they about dealing with the world “out there”?

Well, only one person can talk at a time. If the others involved struggle with listening then the conversation won’t go well. And if everyone in the conversation is really uncomfortable with any kind of silence, any kind of letting things sink in, and any kind of inner reflection on what is being said… then you have a yelling / bragging / domination fest, not a conversation.

Conversations are as much about expressing yourself as they are about fully hearing the other person. Hearing others requires making your insides quieter. If you can’t hear what someone else is saying over the noise of your own thoughts and opinions, then you have a problem.

What’s more, if you can’t hear other people over the babbling of your own thoughts, then chances are you can’t hear you own intuition over the noise of your thoughts either. So, being a balanced conversationalist with other people, also makes you a better communicator internally, with your own intuition – more on that later.

 

 

 

So, here are nine ways to practice being quieter in conversations when your default is to talk and talk some more:

 

1. Let silences be

 

It’s not your job to fill the silences. In fact, many of your quieter colleagues / friends / family may NEED the silence to formulate their own thoughts.

Notice how you feel when there’s a moment of quiet.

Does your brain jump in with a million different ways to fill the space?

What if, instead, you hold back? Say nothing…

Practice sitting in that tension you feel when it’s quiet (and that makes you want to say something, anything, to kill the void).

The void is your friend. Practice being uncomfortable and tolerating it. It will pay off, you’ll see.

 

 

 

2. Be selective about what you say

 

Some people struggle to say anything at all. They’re worried about saying the “wrong thing” so they censor themselves before even giving themselves a chance to speak. Not so for you.

Having mastered the art of blurting out whatever comes to mind (which, yes, can be really helpful!) you’re now up for level 2: doing some self-censorship before speaking.

Of the 10 things coming to mind, what is the ONE thing that is most useful to share? Share that, then be quiet.

Selecting the most important thing to say can take some practice. You may get it “wrong” at times. You may wonder if you should have shared something else instead.

Nevertheless, practice with selecting just one thing to say. Over time, you’ll gain confidence that sharing one thing is enough.

 

 

 

3. Do some soul-searching

 

For the introverts reading this: I found over time that many extroverts who just won’t shut up are actually feeling really responsible for the conversation. They worry that things will somehow “go wrong” if they don’t carry the conversation.

So if you’re annoyed about a colleague butting in all the time, it can help to know that – while there are certainly self-centered asses out there who just love to hear themselves blab – many people who compulsively fill the silences do so because it’s their way to take care of the conversation.

And for the extroverts, if this resonates, realise too that you need practice at trusting that other people have expertise and know-how that will surface when you give them space to share.

Imagine the relief, when you discover that when you lean back, someone else will helpfully step up. You may not believe this could happen. And if you’re really convinced that the conversation will fall apart if you don’t keep it going, then it’s important to do a little soul searching.

  • When you’re in a conversation, how do you expect people to behave?
  • What do you fear they’ll do when you’re quieter?
  • And who in your past used to treat you this way?

Chances are, your Conversation Expectations got stuck in time. That part of you still thinks you’re (very definitely not) partying like it’s 1999. You anticipate that people will do what X always did. And X made a big (traumatic) impression on you. (also see point 8)

Once you know who X is for you, it can help to remind yourself at the start of a conversation: “These people are not X, these people are not X, these people really are not X even if they respond similarly at times.”

Maybe not everyone is like Uncle Robert, who goes off on a tangent whenever he has the chance. Or aunt Mindy who tends to bring up the most inappropriate things whenever someone will listen.

 


For more detailed explanations with action steps and advanced tips, visit the Happy Sensitive Library, here.

(Not a member yet? Click here to find out about all the courses that are included with a Happy Sensitive Library Membership.)


 

 

4. Practice quality over quantity

 

Realise that it’s not about how much you can share, it’s about how much other people can receive. Seeing as they have their own thoughts to process too, wedging in your ideas takes time, and space.

A good conversation is like a meal, and there is a point where the other person is full and just can’t cram in one more potato. Think about this upfront. Don’t serve up 15 starters only to discover that nobody is interested in the main meal anymore because they’re stuffed. Start with the main meal first. Then give people time and space to digest it.

Also realise: letting others speak gives them a chance to digest some of the Conversation Meal. When there is an equal balance of talking and listening, people will be able to hear more of what you have to say. Listening to their reactions and thoughts, helps them clear their plate and make space for dessert.

 

 

 

5. Avoid “talking just to talk”

 

Practice making a distinction between helpful and important talk, versus talk that is all about distraction and avoiding. In other words, if you can’t stay quiet because it’s just too boring / unnerving / uncomfortable, then you are using words to distract, not to inform or connect.

Once people start using words to randomly fill the space, that once Nutritious Conversation will start to turn into a calorie-dense but vitamin-deficient meal. At the end, everyone will feel stuffed, and a little nauseated.

 

 

 

6. Meditate

 

Practice a form of meditation. It takes practice to get comfortable with not doing or saying anything. With practice, it will get easier.

Good communication requires knowing when to speak up and when to be quiet (5), being selective about what you say (2 and 4), and allowing silences (1), not just babbling endlessly no matter what.

The point of meditation is two-fold: to create some time of not doing anything and to practice being really present with yourself and your experience. Meditation is a way to practice listening to what is happening right here, right now, without trying to “fix” it.

Meditation doesn’t mean you have to count your breath, or sit quietly. In fact, if you dread those kinds of practices, try mindfulness. You can mindfully do the dishes: practice being fully present, feeling the water on your skin, and bringing your mind back to the here and now when it wanders off.

 

 

 

7. Take Notes

 

If your mind is going a million miles an hour during meetings, and you can’t focus on what the other is saying because you want to remember what you want to say, then write it down. Scribble down what you want to say. That way, you can go back to listening.

It will take practice to scribble down your thoughts in a way that you can make sense of later. But no worries, if it’s hard at first, you will get better at it.

Writing down your thoughts allows you to go back to listening to the conversation. Then, at an appropriate time you can chime in with “hold on, I have something I wanted to say. Let me just check my notes…”

P.S. If you don’t find writing helpful and/or you don’t have specific thoughts you want to capture, then you might find that doodling during conversations helps. It  can give you an outlet for any nervous tension, boredom or excitement.

 

 


For more detailed explanations with action steps and advanced tips, visit the Happy Sensitive Library, here.

(Not a Library Member yet? Click here to find out about all the courses that are included with a Happy Sensitive Library Membership.)


 

8. Let go of control

 

It’s hard to listen when you’re afraid of what you’ll hear.

If you have a tendency to babble on and on, then maybe you’re doing it because deep deep down you’re worried about what people might say to you when you give them the chance to gather their thoughts and speak. 

So instead, you’ve developed a habit of essentially steam-rolling others into passivity. Before they can figure out what they want to say back, you’ve ended the conversation and left the room.

This may seem unlikely and very very out there. Yet, if you have trouble listening and a compulsion to talk, then I believe there has to be a good reason why. Often, good reasons like this are outdated. They no longer apply to your current day life. But, part of you doesn’t realise that. It’s like some parts of you got the 2019 update, and others didn’t, and they’re still running OS-YOU-1988.

Steamrolling conversations is useful when you’re dealing with someone who is abusive or always out to make you do things you don’t want to do, or make you feel things you don’t want to feel. When you learn at some point in your life that listening lets the pain in, then of course you’ll keep on talking no matter what!

Talking becomes a way to have control, listening a way of losing it.

Yet, the habit of talking all the time also keeps the fear alive. To discover that things may not be so bad now, you have to take the risk and practice listening. Let down your guard. Let the chips fall where they may. (also see point 3)

When you have a fear of being criticised or attacked, you can end up expecting criticism everywhere, even when you don’t need to worry about that. To change the fear you have to challenge it: be open to expecting a different outcome. (also see point 9)

 

 

 

9. Suspend good/bad judgements

 

One thing I’ve noticed that can really get in the way of good listening is when someone quickly “judges” everything as either good or bad. This is essentially black or white thinking. It means, if things are not ALL GOOD then they must be ALL BAD.

Abusive people and narcissistic people tend to think this way. If you had a narcissistic or abusive parent, then chances are that you learned to think this way from them. You were taught that you needed to be perfect (all good) and that if you weren’t perfect, you were a failure (all bad).

When your mind is running the Black White Operating System, then any comment or criticism stating that what you do, say or believe is “not 100% good” will then get heard by you as being “all bad”.

So when someone says that there is an easier way to do something, what you hear is: “the way I am doing it is not 100% good”

Using the Black White Operating System, this information is then translated as follows:

  • rule: things can only be all good or all bad
  • new information: the way I am doing it is not 100% good
  • reasoning: since the way I am doing it is not all good, it then must be all bad.
  • conclusion: someone just told me that the way I do things is all wrong!

 

In this way of thinking, you can only be perfect, or wrong. There is no middle ground.

At “best” this way of thinking is arrogant (I’m perfect and make no mistakes!”) At worst it completely blocks any learning. That’s because it’s really hard to take in new information when you’re convinced it makes you “all bad”. Instead of learning something useful, you’ll probably waste lots of time trying to defend against the negative judgement you think others have of you. Even if all they were doing was to give you a helpful suggestion on how to make your life easier!

If you recognize that your family raised you to think this way, then the first thing you need to do is make an effort to make more categories in your head. You need to add some new options inbetween “all good” and “all bad”. You need to install a few shades of grey inbetween the black-and-white extremes.

Even better would be to get out of linear thinking completely and practice seeing how there are a lot of different categories for things, any of which can be worse or better depending on context. Something can be easy, fun, experimental, slow, fast, tedious, cheap, hard, good-enough, conventional, thorough, simple, perfect, efficient, thorough, terrible… and none of those labels are either/or. Something can be fun and cheap, or fun and expensive, or efficient and conventional, or efficient and terrible.

 

 

 

 

For example, your standard way of doing things might be thorough and slow. This has advantages and disadvantages. If you need to deliver results quickly because there is a deadline, then doing things slowly and thoroughly means you don’t get something done in time. So in that case, if someone can give you tips on how to do it faster, that is helpful and appropriate. Your usual way of doing things might be the way to go, except when there is a deadline coming up fast. In this scenario, neither fast nor slow is all good or all bad.

When you can listen with the understanding that no one idea is “all good” or “all bad” and you can instead put ideas in context: “ah, this is prefered because of certain circumstances, and in another scenario, another way could be prefered” then it becomes easier to listen to all the ideas and all the possible feedback.

You stop worrying about what is “right” and instead focus on what will work right here, right now.

 

 

Wrapping up: what good listening is and isn’t

 

 

Good listening is not a trick to get people to listen to you. People can feel whether you are truly open to what they are saying, or whether you’re urging them with your eyes to hurry up and give up their turn.

 

 

When you truly listen, you are creating an open space. In this space, all kinds of ideas and feelings are allowed to be. This includes ideas and feelings from other people, as well as your own.

You notice what the other person is saying, as well as your own reactions to it. You are present to all of it, without trying to push for some kind of conclusion. For the moment, you are just letting it all exist, without figuring out what to do with it.

 

 

 

Good listening means that wildly different viewpoints can exist in the same room.

You can sort out what is what later. Right now your job is just to understand what the other is saying.

Understanding doesn’t mean you have to agree.

When you can listen like this to others, then you can also listen like this to yourself, and vice versa.

Intuitive inner listening requires making space for unexpected viewpoints. Your insides are not a one-dimensional numerical answer. When you listen to your intuition, there can be a lot of different messages that come up. If you start worrying right away about what the “right” idea is, or you’re freaking out because all those messages are not what you expected, then listening to and following your intuition becomes really hard.

 

The Intuition Myth

I think there is a simplified image out there that your intuition is a charming fortune teller who will spell out exactly what you need to do. The reality is, your intuition is often more like a meeting room filled with some very different characters. And they all have different needs and opinions.

Being intuitive requires that you can make space for all the conversations first, before you worry about what to do.

It’s like that in meetings to. Everyone gets their say first (or at least, that’s how it would go ideally) and then at the end, some decisions are made about action steps. First all the voices get to have their say, from there, you work out what some logical next steps would be that everyone can commit to.

This is not as woo-woo as it seems.

If you’re expecting a single “right answer” then it becomes hard to work through more complex problems. For example: part of you may want to spend more time outdoors. Another part of you doesn’t like the bus commute to get to your favorite spot. Another part of you wants to spend more time on a work-project and worries that once you’ve been outside, you won’t want to do the work anymore.

If you try to silence all the voices, except one, then you have an inner dictatorship. Not recommended. Listening to these different needs and concerns, exploring them first and then coming up with a compromise, is harder, but more satisfying for all.

Perhaps you can do the work-project first, then spend time outdoors, and either carpool there with a friend, or pick a less pretty spot closer to home, so you can walk or cycle there. Or you alternate doing the work-project and going outdoors, depending on the weather. Or you decide to take the bus after all, and do some work-prep during the commute.

The key is, listening to everyone involved first and taking their needs and concerns seriously. This helps you come up with a much better solution later on.

It’s like that when talking to others, and it’s like that when checking in with your own intuitive messages too.

 

 

P.S. You can find a series of audios, worksheets and action steps to help you hear your own intuition + other people better, inside the Happy Sensitive Library, here.

I go through the points in this article in a lot more depth, have added worksheets and action steps and additional tips and explanations.

Even though HSPs are often credited with being good listeners, Being Highly Sensitive doesn’t automatically make you a good listener.

  • You may be extroverted and have a lot to share and be less focused on listening.
  • You may get distracted by the thoughts in your own head (this applies to introverts too!)
  • You may worry about what people will say to you and therefore not really be open to hearing them.

When you struggle to really hear what people are saying in particular situations, it can be like shooting yourself in the foot. You keep going round and round the same assumptions in your head about what is going on, even while other people are trying to comfort you and tell you that things are not as bad as you fear!

The same goes for hearing your intuition. When – for any reason – it’s hard to listen, your intuition can’t bail you out! You may feel stuck worrying about something, even though there is a solution.

So, for all these reasons, it’s useful to evaluate if and when it’s hard for you to listen, and then practice the things that help you listen better. Get started right away by clicking here => “How to Hear Your Intuition + Other People Better” inside the Happy Sensitive Library.

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