I have had so many questions over the years about how to support introverts with executive function, that I made this video to discuss some good strategies I use. One common question I get is “what if my child/student doesn’t talk much, but I need to know things so I can help???
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Transcript: Click here to download the video transcript PDF.
Hey, it’s Seth with SethPerler.com and ExecutiveFunctionSummit.com. If you are trying to support introverts, how do we do that? I’m going to give you four strategies here. I don’t care if you’re an introvert, an ambivert, an extrovert or who you are watching this, I don’t care if you’re a parent, a student, or a therapist, or teacher, this is for you, if you want to support introverts. What does that mean? Well, I get these questions from people quite often about introverts. And it’s, how do we support an introvert? Or how do we support someone who doesn’t say much? We’re trying to get answers, we’re trying to be helpful, but we just they don’t say much. And what often happens is, is that especially people like me, extroverts, although I do not do this. But people, a lot of extroverts, like we’re talkers, and we can speak to another extrovert and it’s just like, bounce, bounce, bounce, bounce back, like a tennis game, just back and forth. But when it comes to me working with people who are more quiet or introverted, or don’t say as much, I have to create a different sort of space, I have to create a space where they can really feel heard. So essentially, what we’re trying to do here, if you want, I’m going to give you four ways to do this, but if you want to support introverts or people who don’t talk much, you really want to be able to be more helpful. It’s about the same thing that we all want.
So basically, there’s two types of people in your life. You have people who you feel secure with, and people who you feel insecure with, and of course, people in between. But generally speaking, we want to feel secure, not insecure with ourselves and with others. So you can have an auto mechanic, a dentist, a doctor, a teacher, a friend, a parent, a relative, anybody. Some people feel really secure, and some feel insecure. So someone who feels secure, you feel like they hear you, you feel like they’ve got your back, you feel like they understand you. You feel like they listen, like they see you. They take time to get to know who you are. Okay, that’s secure. Insecure is you don’t feel heard. And the same thing with introverts or people who don’t talk a lot, they need to feel heard. How do we make someone feel heard? Well the secret, and I’m going to give you four strategies, but the real secret is: we actually hear them. That’s the real secret. But I’m going to give you practical ideas, because a lot of people who are asking this are parents or teachers who are really trying to be helpful, but they just don’t know how to get the person to talk. And a lot of times, we mess it up by talking too much or not giving them the space.
I’m going to give you one example that you’ll be able to, especially for you and introverts, you’ll be able to recognize here of something that happens quite often that drives me nuts. When somebody is presenting or teaching or giving a talk and they go like this. “Alright, so does anybody have any questions? Nope. Okay, let’s move on.” That’s not enough time. You know, “Hey, anybody got any questions before I move on Okay, great.” So how can people even have time to process? Now some people know exactly what they’re going to say. But a lot of people need a lot more time. So I actually, the first strategy I’m going to talk about, I got four here…
1. The first strategy is called wait time, wait time. And that is where when I’m speaking with somebody, I oftentimes in my head will count, doing wait time. And but what I’m doing is I’ll say to a student, let’s say that I’m working with a student and the students like, “Yes Seth, I really want to work on planning.” And I say, “Well, what do you, what is planning? Why is it important to you? What do you want to work on?” Well, a lot of times the answer is, “I don’t know.” And ‘I don’t know’ is a great way to get that person who you’re working with or talking to, to sort of rescue you and finish the conversation for you. But that’s doesn’t help me when someone says “I don’t know.” So when somebody says, “I don’t know,” let’s say I’m saying “Okay, so what do you want to work on the planners?” Then the students like, “I don’t know,” I’m like, “Okay, take your time. Think about it. I’ll be right here, just listening.” And I look away, so that there’s sort of no pressure, I might look back and be like, “Take your time, just think about it.” So I don’t allow the ‘I don’t know’ to be the answer. I then create space to see if they really do have something to share. Now, I may count in my head. And they may say something after three seconds, 10 seconds, whatever. Or they might say, “I don’t know.” And then I really know they really don’t know, and then we can move on from there. But anyhow, the wait time in general, we tend to expect responses way too fast. And we don’t give people time to process and to think and to articulate their words. So the first thing, the first strategy is wait time, more wait time. A lot of times when I teach parents or teachers wait time, I teach them to wait after they wait. So let’s say that the student gives you their first answer. It’s a great idea after they give you the first answer, say, “I’m still listening, tell me more.” And allow more space to really even articulate more. This is sometimes the most magical, amazing experiences where I’m helping somebody, and they really tell me something that I need to know so I can move them forward, happens with that second wait time. So I just want to point that out.
2. Number two, number two. Pre-conversations. A pre-conversation to circle back to an original conversation, or to circle back to a conversation. Here’s how this works. Let’s say that I’m going to be working with you on some executive function that you’re working with. And you’re like, “Seth, I wanna I want to work on this thing.” And I’m like, “Cool.” And I asked you about it, and you really don’t know what your answer is. I say, “Look, why don’t you think about it, I’m gonna come back in five minutes and I’ll ask you the same question. But I really want an answer.” So for students who are like, “I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know,” they really don’t know what to say, give them space with a pre-conversation. This is like wait time. But you’re giving them space with this pre-conversation to really leave, give them time to think about it. So say, “I’m going to ask you the same thing, I want you to think about it.” Now you might say, I want you think about it overnight, I’ll see you tomorrow and we’ll talk about it. I’ll see you in a week, and we’ll talk about it, but I want you to think about it.” It might be in five minutes, whatever. But you’re giving somebody space to really think about it. And then you have to fulfill your commitment and revisit the conversation, obviously with that person. So make sure that you remember to revisit it. But that’s a really good strategy to really give somebody pre-conversations. They really need to know this information, they really need to know where you’re at with this. So “I’m going to ask you now, but I’ll come back and we’ll chat about it later. Just think about it.” So pre-conversations I use all the time. So it’s really powerful, really powerful. Just give somebody a lot of space to really process and then revisit it.
3. The third thing is called a false choice. So let’s say that I’ve used some wait time and some pre-conversations, and we’re really not getting anywhere and the person is really stuck, then I might use a false choice. I might say, “Okay, do you want me to give you some ideas?” Like let’s say that I say to a student, alright, we’re working on estimating time. You know, I start with the ADD and executive function, maybe the student struggles with it, and we’re time blind, we have time blindness, right? We’re not good at estimating how long things really take. And let’s say we’re working with that, and I’m working with a student. They’re like, I’m like “Alright, how long do you think this assignment is going to take?” And they say, “I don’t know.” And I’m like, giving them the wait time, they’re really like, “I really don’t know, I really have no idea,” then I might give a false choice, I might say, “Cool. So well, then do you think it will take 10, 20, or 30 minutes?” So I’m at least giving them an anchor of like maybe three options. It’s a false choice, because it could be one minute, it could be 37 minutes could be anything. But I only get three choices, do you think it’ll take 10, 20, or 30? So you can use false choices in all kinds of ways. But the idea is, is that you’re giving somebody like some training wheels, or some scaffolding or some anchor to start to explore whatever the issue is that you are looking at. So what was the first strategy? I said, wait time, what was the second one? Pre-conversations. And what was the third one? False choices.
4. And the fourth one is making a script. And this might sound silly, you don’t have to write out a whole script, but the gist of it is this. If you’re really trying to get through to somebody, you might jot down a couple ideas in a script so that when you approach them with a pre-conversation, or conversation, or false choice or something, you have some ideas in order to remember how to hold space for them, how to give themselves that wait time, and that openness, and that freedom to feel heard. So you might just take a little scrap piece of paper and jot down some things on the script for what you might say. So some things that I often say is “Go ahead and think about it for a minute. I’m right here, go ahead and tell me when you’re ready.” So you might say, “Think about it for a minute, and I’m listening.” Another thing I’ll say is that is “I’m listening. Go ahead, take your time, I’m listening.” You might say in terms of the script, you might say, “Hey, let’s talk about this tomorrow. What what time works for you?” or whatever you might say in the script for that. But anyhow, the point is, is that a lot of times in the moment, we’re not really thinking about how to strategize this, and it’s good to actually write it down and have thought about it. You don’t have to use the script, or you can use the script. But to have taken the time to really think about this human being you’re trying to be helpful to and to really take the concern for taking time, you know, it takes a lot of effort to do that. That’s a really cool thing. So you might want to do that make a script.
My name is Seth Perler, I’m an executive function coach, and I help struggling students navigate education so they can have a great life. And if you like this, I’m interested to hear what you have to say. Particularly introverts. If you’re an introvert, go ahead and comment below. I’m not an introvert. What makes you feel heard? What do you appreciate that allows you to feel heard? Let us know in the comments below. Any strategies that you might have go ahead and share them with us so that we can help more people help everybody. If you liked this video, give it a thumbs up, give it a like, subscribe, comment below. Please share my work with other people who like it on my website, SethPerler.com. I have a bunch of freebies for parents, teachers, and students. And my number one wish for you today, my number one wish for you today is that you have peace of mind and that you connect with people that you care about. Take care, have a great day. Share this work if you like it. See ya.
I have a son, who is almost a soohomore in college. He needs to work with you, if possible. He has had many health issues for many years.. He is extraodinary and a wonderful human being and son! He has had ADD/ADHD testing.
Could you please respond.
Thank you so much!
Sarah Lang says
My 18 year old son has Aspergers and frequently answers my questions “I don’t know”. I see it as a strategy for not having to think deeply about the question/answer. I will try giving him wait time and letting him know I am waiting for an answer. However, if I used the pre-conversation, I don’t think he would think about the question in the intervening time but would just forget. When I come back to it, especially if it’s the next day, I think he would say he forgot to think about it and would be no further ahead. Any solutions to this? I am an introvert too and try not to rush his thinking as I know it takes him a while to process things.
Maureen Cronin says
I’m a teacher who practices ‘no-hands-up’ when I ask a question (not for when my students have questions) to allow for more thinking time. I get them to tell me with their eyes that they have an answer.
Works really well.
I LOVE this, great idea, and deepens attunement
sarah Mehmood says
hi seth! my son is an introvert and i cant wait to try out these strategies!