8 Things You Shouldn’t Say to an Introvert

stop saying to introverts

Thanks in part to books like Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, the world is finally learning what introversion is. But if you’re an introvert like me, you still feel subtle pressure to act more extroverted. It’s like people know what the definition of introversion is, but they still want introverts to act like extroverts.

That pressure comes from all sides: teachers told me to speak up in class more. My extroverted friend sighs audibly when I say I want to stay in tonight. Co-workers marvel at the fact that I like eating lunch alone.


People often mistakenly think I’d be happier if I acted more extroverted—so they try to “fix” me by encouraging me to perk up, speak up, and go out more. But the answer isn’t for introverts to fight their nature but rather to work with it.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying introverts are “special snowflakes” and they should be coddled or tiptoed around. But many people don’t realize that the offhand things they say to introverts can end up making them feel self-conscious. Introverts might start believing there’s really something wrong with them and retreat into their “shells” even more.

I can’t speak for all introverts, but I bet many introverts would agree they wish people wouldn’t say or imply things like this:

1. “Why are you so quiet?”

We already know we’re quiet—we’ve been hearing this our whole lives. Sometimes people replace the word “quiet” with “shy” but the effect is still the same.

Pointing out our quietness makes us feel self-conscious. It’s like dragging one of our perceived flaws on stage when we were trying to keep it bound and gagged in the other room, hoping you wouldn’t notice. We feel our quietness has harmed us at certain times, like when we tried to woo a date or impress a potential employer on a job interview. It’s something we’ve tried to overcome, but we’re naturally more internal than external, so we’ve gotten mixed results. Would you be embarrassed if we pointed out that you talk a lot?

If you want us to open up, ask us questions to draw us out. Introverts crave connections with others, but sometimes we have trouble starting conversations. Once you get us talking about a topic we care about, we may talk your ear off.


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2. “Get out of your head. You think too much.”

Thinking is what we do best. Never tell me not to think. As an introvert, my brain is my greatest asset and the most effective tool in my arsenal. I can focus alone for long periods of time, imagine many outcomes for any given scenario, and mull things over until I understand them deeply.


Introverts’ brains are actually designed for deep processing. When information enters an introvert’s brain, it travels a long, slow route through the brain, passing through areas related to long-term memory, planning, learning, and reasoning. Compare this to extroverts, who favor a shorter brain pathway that is linked to working memory and immediate action, explains Marti Olsen Laney in her book, The Introvert Advantage: How Quiet People Can Thrive in an Extrovert World. So telling an introvert to stop thinking is like telling them to stop breathing.

3. “Spit it out!”

Do you know why introverts “umm” and “ahh” when they speak? And why they may take longer than extroverts to respond? It’s because introverts tend to use long-term memory more than short-term (“working”) memory, writes Laney. For extroverts, it’s the opposite.

Just like it sounds, long-term memory stores information for long periods of time. It takes longer to access long-term memory. When introverts are speaking, they have to reach into long-term memory to pull out just the right word. Compare this with working memory, which stores information “up front,” making it quickly accessible.

The best way to access long-term memory is to relax and let your mind wander for a moment. Telling introverts to “spit it out” or “hurry up and just say it” puts the pressure on, which just makes word retrieval harder.

4. “You should get out more.”

When people ask what I did last weekend and I didn’t have any big social plans, I’m tempted to make up something so I seem more “normal.” For me, often the best weekend plans (after a long work week) are no plans at all. As an introvert, downtime is crucial to my well-being. It’s how I relax and recharge. Extroverts need occasional downtime too, but introverts need more of it.

5. “Just wing it. It will be fine.”

We all remember that one extrovert in school who got up in front of the class, and although it was obvious he put minimal effort into his presentation, he charmed his way to an A. Meanwhile, nervous introverted students were studying their notes for the billionth time.

Not all introverts will agree with this one, but in general, introverts like being prepared, especially when something involves speaking or performing in front of others. If you’ve ever had someone tell you to just “wing” a class presentation, you may have felt a flood of panic. Speaking in front of others means all the attention is zeroed in on you. Planning what to say removes the pressure of having to think on the fly.

Wanting to feel prepared applies to social situations too. Introverts feel more comfortable when they know exactly who is going to the party, what to expect, and when it’s acceptable for them to leave. This helps us create a mental “map” of the situation and get into the right mindset for socializing.




6. “You’re not saying much. Are you okay?”

Just because I’m not talking doesn’t mean I’m angry, bored, or depressed. I probably just don’t have anything to say right now.

7. “If only you would come out of your shell.”

Introverts tend to be private and reserved, and that’s okay, writes Susan Cain in Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking: “You might have been prodded to come out of your shell—that noxious expression which fails to appreciate that some animals naturally carry shelter everywhere they go, and that some humans are just the same.” Interestingly, once an introvert feels comfortable with you, their shell cracks wide open and their true personality comes out.

8. “Just get over it.”

People say this when introverts express concerns about socializing or doing things that drain them. But being an introvert is about processing the world differently and creating energy by being alone. So introversion isn’t something we will ever really be “over.”

And we shouldn’t have to be.  retina_favicon1

Read this: Yes, There Is Such a Thing as an ‘Introvert’ Hangover



17 Comments

  • I definitely love that website and it’s such a relief to feel finally ok with myself cause there’s nothing wrong with my way to be. Thank you guys <3

  • I have heard all of them in all my life. Thank god I know there’s nothing wrong with me. But I do think there’s something really bad with most people, they should respect us and stop trying to change us in to something that we are not.

  • This says it all. I only just recently found this website and was relieved to finally know why I just don’t fit in with a lot of people and situations. Well said. It’s good to know i’m normal but different and different is okay.

  • Njogu says:

    I agree. Introverts stand out.

  • Last fall I met a young man who told me that he struggled in high school until he discovered that he was an introvert and needed to manage his energy. He started to tell his friends, teachers, relatives about his needs and people listened to him. I think he felt empowered too and he started to do better at school. The more we talk about what we need the easier it will be for all of us especially young people just starting out in life. Cheers!

  • The Kings kid says:

    This is a good blog/website that may help any extrovert, like me to understand the introvert in their life a little more. As I read the different post, it says the things that an introvert won’t say but thinks – And talking is key to people like me. What an excellent tool for extroverts to communicate better with introverts and learn what to do and not to do when dealing with them.

  • Isatu Mansaray says:

    It’s hard for me to be the introvert in a family of extrovert’s. When I was younger all the way up to my teen years, I would sometimes go for days without speaking and family always thought that there was “something wrong” with me and didn’t believe me when I would say that I am fine. I was always the problem to my extroverted family, especially my two of my brothers and my dad. They always said that I was anti social and it makes people feel uncomfortable when I don’t talk. They don’t realize or even care to realize that it takes a lot for me to open up and it is a challenge for me to even start over in a new job. They couldn’t understand how I can spend hours in my room reading a book, or just being by myself. Folks at my job think I’m weird because I either do nothing on the weekends or if I go out, I go out by myself. If I do want to hang out, it’s not with a huge crowed, but mostly one other person. Then when I do get to know my co-workers, they are surprised that I have a lot to say or that I am actually a funny person.

  • Hit the nail on the head with this one!! I’m so tired of the above and people expecting more of me than I’m willing to express. When I speak it has meaning and not drivel that I hear all the time from people who love the sound of their own voice.

  • or they think you are up yourself because you are quiet and stick to yourself..

  • cazimi3 says:

    “You’re not saying much. Are you okay?”
    “What do you want me to say and why are you wanting me to say it so much?”
    No real answer.
    “Well, if I don’t know what you need from me, and you don’t know either, why do you expect it?”

    Perhaps this: “You’re not listening very much. I’m worried about you.”

  • goldengirl1100 says:

    Thank you so much! Spot on!

  • Matthew says:

    If I may offer what I hope is some constructive criticism, the problem I have, as an introvert, is that even supportive articles like this one tend to use words like “protection” or “shelter” as though I’m somehow more tender or weak just because I prefer to be alone. Likewise is a common assumption (also seemingly present in this article) that introverts are peer dependent and/or sensitive to criticism and may be tempted to alter our personalities or behavior accordingly – another subtle cue to extroverts that we’re weaker than they are.

    However, confidence and introversion can go hand-in-hand. I’m a confident introvert, and haven’t tried to be anything else for decades, despite hearing everything mentioned in this article and having had all sorts of accusations leveled at me (anti-social, anyone?) I’m secure in my introversion and am not interested in being anything else. Despite this, I am known as a very friendly person…at least among those who are willing to accept that I prefer to socialize sparingly.

    Both introverts and extroverts can be personally weak, or personally strong. There’s no reason to assume that introverts are any weaker or less confident than extroverts.

  • Max says:

    Omg you get me , I related to every single one

  • Russell says:

    Thanks for an excellent article – I resonate with every one of those eight points!

    In all the jobs I’ve had, every boss has said something like “You need to be more assertive, put yourself about a bit more.” Actually no, I’m happy being a back-room plodder at work. I just conscientiously get on with it and don’t need to be up front!

  • Laura Nelson says:

    I also relate to all of the points made and have been accused of being autistic or even on heroine because people just can’t handle it when I look at them and not say anything (I’m usually thinking something they really don’t want to hear). When most people would just blab and blab even if it is stupid or they actually say nothing, why is it that silence or waiting for something intelligent to say is considered so weird?

  • Justin says:

    I do see the resemblance in my life with each above stateme t about what not to tell us. But, unlike quite a few…I don’t care if people have a problem with me being anti social, or quiet, or even the weird one due to my lack of participation in a group conversation or event.
    I haven’t ever felt the need to change…and to those who know me well, I am one of the best listeners they know due to how I can hear them out, and give them a real, honest answer even if it isn’t the one they wanted to hear.
    I figure, if an outgoing extrovert can’t respect me for who I am, then they don’t deserve my respect or time.

  • Abigail says:

    I love this blogsite. finally, feels like i am not at all alone 🙁 it is always a truggle to speak up or converse.even with just one. Feels like all i could.say is childish or non sense or no meaning at all thats why i dont anymore speak. They.would always say Quit it, stop being so quiet, so shy… it feels like really hard dwelling with such zhings, people…

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