6 ways to communicate effectively, even if you’re introverted or shy

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So you’ve got an introverted personality, or maybe you’re just a little shy, but you don’t want that to hold you back from being an effective communicator?

Firstly, kudos to you for stepping out of your comfort zone to improve a vital skill like communication. The good news is that some of the most successful people of the modern day are introverted and still excellent communicators. 

One of the most successful filmmakers of all time, Steven Spielberg is an introvert. And so too is Bill Gates, an exceptional leader and founder of Microsoft. Let’s not forget billionaire investor, Warren Buffet. 

Recently, he talked about his struggles with communication in the past and how he thinks it’s an essential, overlooked skill. He emphasized “the necessity of pushing oneself beyond comfort zones, advising them to tackle communication challenges head-on while they are young”. 

As an introvert who has been working on my communication for the last few years, I’ve learned a lot. And although I have lots more to learn, today I’m sharing 6 ways you can communicate more effectively even if you’re shy or introverted. These are things that have worked best for me so far.  

Are you ready? Let’s jump in.  

1) Set yourself small communication goals

So much of your lack of confidence around communicating is rooted in your shy and reserved nature, right? You don’t feel comfortable communicating so you probably don’t do it unless you have to. Well, that has to change. You can’t get good at something without doing it. 

With that in mind, the first step to becoming a more effective communicator is to set yourself small daily communication goals. Think about what’s holding you back and why you’re driven to improve this skill. Then set yourself three small achievable goals. 

You might be tempted to skip the goal-setting part but it’s extremely important. “Setting goals is linked with self-confidence, motivation, and autonomy” as outlined by Marylin Price-Mitchell Ph.D. These goals will help you to build your confidence in communication which is key. 

And be sure to write your communication goals down as research finds that writing goals down makes you 33% more likely to achieve them. 

Maybe you’ll aim to contribute one idea or proactively ask a question in a meeting. It could be as simple as committing to start a conversation with a colleague at the coffee machine. They’re your goals so you get to decide what’s best for you but setting some goals is important. 

Creating goals like this and hitting them consistently is the best way to build confidence and momentum. And the best part of all is that you can start right now, with no excuses. What communication goals are you setting for yourself for tomorrow?  

2) Aim for quality, not quantity

When it comes to communication less is more. As outlined by Forbes, “Concise communication is more important now than ever before”. And research shows the best way to improve overall team communication is to focus on quality not quantity. Quality is key. 

This is good news for people like you who aren’t naturally talkative. Believe it or not, there is such a thing as talking too much and it can lead to the message being lost and people not paying attention to the speaker. Focus on quality and you won’t fall into this trap. 

In his book ‘Brief: Make A Bigger Impact By Saying Less’, author Joseph McCormack argues that in a world filled with noise, being concise helps your message more clear and more memorable. 

It’s much better to contribute one or two relevant and thoughtful inputs. And that’s an easier skill to develop. If you don’t say much right now, focus on adding one valuable contribution to a conversation throughout the day. It’s helping you to build a habit and confidence at the same time. 

Master this and you’ll be a more effective communicator than most in no time. 

3) Focus on active listening

Are you a good listener? 

Most of us think we are: 96% of people consider themselves good listeners according to an Accenture survey and yet 86% of corporate executives and employees cite poor communication and collaboration as reasons for workplace failures. 

Turns out: we aren’t as good at listening as we think we are. 

Active listening is a skill that can be developed, like any other. It involves developing a whole host of communication skills “from learning how to read subtle cues to controlling your own emotional response” explains workplace expert, Amy Gallo

It might sound funny to focus on listening as a way to be a better communicator but hear me out. Most people listen to respond. Essentially everyone is just waiting for their turn to talk. Active listening helps you to listen to understand and then respond

Remember what we said earlier about focusing on quality over quantity? Active listening makes it easy for you to contribute something valuable and meaningful because you’ve listened and understood the person you’re communicating with. 

Active listening is a key skill in becoming a more effective communicator whether you’re introverted and shy or not. Getting good at this will put you ahead of lots of your peers. 

4) Clarify your thoughts before the meeting 

Are you the kind of person who prefers to understand everything fully before speaking? 

It makes sense: as outlined by VeryWell Mind, “introverts also tend to think before speaking. They want to have a full understanding of a concept before they voice an opinion or try to offer an explanation.” This shows you want to be clear on your message. And it’s a good thing. 

But, it means you’ve got to be a bit more prepared than your counterparts who are happy to react on the fly. Take some time to review the meeting agenda, and consider some possible talking points. Clarify your thoughts on the topic before the meeting and be ready to share.

Chances are the conversation, will probably stick to what you expect. Since you’ve already had time to think about it, you’ll feel more at ease sharing your thoughts in the meeting. 

I’ve developed this skill in recent years. I always spend a few minutes thinking about how the meeting might go and consider my point of view. Clarifying my thoughts allows me to communicate clearly in the moment. It’s been a game-changer for me and will be for you too.

5) Make eye contact

Making eye contact when you’re already feeling nervous and uncertain is pretty difficult, right?

The thing is: eye contact is a very powerful tool in effective communication. As outlined by Indeed, it has a whole host of benefits including: 

Learning to hold eye contact is a skill. Although it might feel scary at the start, with practice, you’ll master this skill and you’ll be well on your way to being an effective communicator even though you may be shy or introverted. 

According to Tony Robbins and team “eye contact is the most important factor in non verbal communication.” It’s a vital skill to master. 

Start slowly by holding eye contact with friends and family where you feel more comfortable and add it to work conversations progressively. 

6) Practice and celebrate the small wins 

Communicating effectively is a skill that you can develop just like anyone else. It’s true you might face different challenges if you’re shy or introverted but honestly, communication is something everyone needs to work on. 

And like any skill, you don’t just get better at it unless you practice. Be patient with yourself and recognize that it will take time to become an effective communicator. But if you follow the steps we’ve outlined and you stay consistent. There’s no doubt you’ll get there. 

I’ve experienced this myself on this journey to becoming a more effective communicator. I’ve been practicing for years now and although I’ve still got a lot to learn, I’ve come a long way. Staying committed to practicing my skills in communication has been the key to success for me. 

And don’t forget to celebrate the small victories. If you successfully hit your daily communication goals, be proud of yourself and celebrate the victory. It means you’re one step closer to your goal of becoming an effective communicator.

Final thoughts 

Becoming a more effective communicator is something that would benefit everyone. Just because you’re shy or introverted, doesn’t mean you’re not capable of being an excellent communicator. 

Take your time, have patience and trust the process. Before you know it, you’ll be one of the top communicators among your peers. And the best part of all? 

You’ll be more confident and less anxious when you’ve got to take the lead in meetings or presentations. And you’ll feel more confident in social situations with friends, family and colleagues. Improving your communication is all upside so give it a go and reap the rewards. 

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Cat Harper

Cat is an experienced Sales and Enablement professional turned writer whose passions span from psychology and relationships to continuous self-improvement, lifelong learning and pushing back on societal expectations to forge a life she loves. An avid traveler and adventure sports enthusiast, in her downtime you'll find Cat snowboarding, motorcycling or working on her latest self-development project.

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