I have a fellow introvert friend named Emma who reminds me of me when I was younger, in all the good ways. Quiet, thoughtful, curious about everything, and adventurous in her own way. (Actually I wish I had been more like her brave self.)
She always raises such good questions, so I enjoy our email conversations about navigating our way in the world as introverts who want to have a say in things.
Often she asks questions that I hear many introverts asking. This particular question shown below is so classic. If you’re introverted, you have heard this many times:
“You’re so quiet” or “Why are you being so quiet?”
Sound familiar? It’s just one version of something that can be about looking down on our introverted nature.
So I asked Emma for permission to share our conversation here, and she said yes. It addresses a common concern for introverts in a way that felt so useful. I wanted to share it with you in case it helps you too.
Enjoy this peek into our explorations about the “quiet” question:
When I was working at camp last summer this kid in my tent walks up to me and says “You’re so quiet.” I didn’t know how to respond so I was wondering if you have any ideas? I’ve tried various responses to this question but never any that I feel satisfied with.
I think I feel frustrated because the tone behind the statement often seems judgmental, I don’t go around telling people they’re so loud. I guess I just don’t understand why so many people feel the need to make that pronouncement as if it’s news to me when I’ve been hearing it my entire life.
I hear you. That is a classic complaint of introverts that they get this question in a tone that feels like something is wrong. I used to hate that too. (I’m more talkative these days so no one asks me that anymore. Maybe I should be more quiet. Ha.)
If you have the presence of mind at the time someone asks, it could be a good moment to bring up the topic of introversion. You could say something positive about being quiet or about listening first. The person is curious, even if they sound bothered. So we might as well answer their curiosity with education. Or you could turn it around with a question to them: “Is that bothering you?”
I do think people worry that something is in fact wrong and they might want to help. More likely they are wondering if we are judging them when we don’t say something. People tend to worry a lot about being judged by others (it’s a survival instinct), so it’s often top of mind and therefore you can guess it’s part of why they are wondering what’s up when someone is quiet.
Make sense? In light of this, how do you want to handle it next time?
Thanks so much, that makes a lot of sense. I think next time I’ll say that it’s one of my strengths and if they continue to ask I could mention being a good listener and that being a calm gentle presence makes me easy to talk to and a good friend and a safe space because people don’t have to worry about being judged. Thanks for helping me shift my perspective!
Awesome!!! Yes. I love that!
I feel like I’m always trying to find the balance between expressing myself enough so that my needs get met and I build meaningful connections, without pushing myself into something I’m not, just because society is biased in a particular way.
Sometimes when I feel like I’m just being me, I can still feel misunderstood by folks who perhaps aren’t used to my M.O., but I can also provide a model of a different way of being for them that’s maybe not so manic and that’s pretty special. I think about that a lot.
Everything we’re talking about in this conversation is so classic for introverts. You’re not alone.