5 Things You Should Never Say to an Introvert

An unhappy introvert

“Why aren’t you in the room with everyone else?” 

Introverts are easily misunderstood to be impersonal, standoffish, or shy. The reason introverts are quieter is they prefer to process their thoughts and feelings internally and get more energy from within (versus extroverts, who get their energy from being around other people). 

Introverts may be reserved, especially in an unfamiliar setting or when meeting new people, and they rarely like small talk. As an introvert myself, I prefer to have in-depth conversations with my inner circle, and I’m more receptive when conversing with small groups or one-on-one. However, my energy runs low after a couple hours of socializing, and I need a quiet, enclosed space to rest and recharge.

So there are a few things to avoid saying to an introvert — whether they’re off in another room trying to recharge or among others but not saying much (if anything). Any comments like the examples below will definitely put a damper on an introvert’s mood.  

5 Things You Should Never Say to an Introvert 

1. “Why aren’t you in the room with everyone else?” 

When I’m ready to chill, I will quietly slip away from the group and go to my room (or a guest room in someone else’s home) to read, write, listen to music, charge my phone, or immerse myself in my hobbies. Usually, a good time for me to recharge is after finishing a group activity or when my family disperses to take a call, work, or run errands. I feel relieved to have the downtime and need at least two or three hours to rest in a quiet space. If I do not allow myself this rest-and-recharge time, then I will be exhausted, irritable, and grumpy.

However, if you open the door and ask, “Why aren’t you in the room with everyone else?” it makes me feel guilty for resting after a social burnout. I dislike being interrupted and, admittedly, I may snap if I haven’t had enough time to rest. 

What to do and say instead: If I’m in my room resting, feel free to knock on the door and ask how I’m doing or if I need anything. And of course, please inform me if you plan on doing something like go shopping, play board games, or watch a movie. I may participate or decline, depending on how much downtime I’ve allotted. Similarly, when I reemerge, I’d appreciate an update on anything important, such as upcoming plans that I missed.  

2. “There you are!” 

In front of family or friends, please do not point out that I have reemerged from my quiet space, because that is embarrassing for me. Like many introverts, I do not like being the center of attention — it makes me feel like a deer in headlights. 

When I’m finished recharging, I prefer returning to gather with my family or friends quietly, without anyone making a fuss over my absence. If you say, “There you are!” — even if you are smiling — I cannot tell if you’re frustrated that I chilled out for a couple hours by myself or don’t care that I did.  

What to do and say instead: I enjoy visiting with people and I know you don’t intend to confront me in front of others with this “There you are!” remark, but I still get embarrassed. If you wish to privately discuss my whereabouts, please don’t make me feel bad for not participating in all of the group activities. We all have different needs — and recharging is my necessity

3. “Quit talking so much!” 

Like 99.9 percent of introverts, I tend to listen more than I talk. I do not like it when you jokingly say, “Quit talking so much!” when, in reality, I am the quietest one in the group. I do not find it funny when people tease me about my quietness like this. It also ruins the quality time spent in a group conversation — as I said before, I do not like being the center of attention, especially if I’m not expecting it. So this will make me want to withdraw from the group.   

And this comment really irks me if you do not know me well or you just met me. It is an unnecessary filler if there is a moment of silence, and it makes me feel bad about being an introvert. And I shouldn’t feel bad about it! There are many positive aspects of being an introvert — from how introspective we are to how creative we are — and I wish more people would focus on that instead. 

What to do and say instead: There are two things I want you to know. The first is that silence does not have to be uncomfortable. It’s OK to have silent moments in a conversation. The second is that there is nothing wrong with observing people’s personality traits. However, if you notice that I am quiet, please don’t joke about it in a group conversation. Look at it this way: How would you feel if I sarcastically remarked that you talk too much? 

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4. “Are you OK?” 

For the record, “Are you OK?” is not a harmful question, but it can get on my nerves if I’m asked this more than once. For example, if family or friends are visiting and I haven’t participated in the conversation or if I’ve been in my room for a while, then they may think that I am not enjoying myself. But this is an introvert misconception.

As an introvert, I admit that I am not always easy to read. I do enjoy engaging in conversation, but I prefer to listen. If the opportunity arises, I will contribute a point that I think is worth mentioning or share my experience related to the conversation topic.  

And I am even quieter if people I haven’t met before are there, too, like at a family dinner. While cooking and eating, I will probably sit back and let you and your friends catch up.

What to do and say instead: I do appreciate your concern if you ask if I’m doing OK. I’m able to restore my energy to socialize for the remainder of an afternoon or evening after taking time to rest by myself in a quiet room. Recharging for a couple of hours is a form of introvert self-care, and I hope you understand it is about me, not you.

5. “Why aren’t you talking?”

When someone asks, “Why aren’t you talking?” I have my reasons. I am either tired or I am bored with small talk (or both). My great-grandfather said that you learn more by listening than by talking, which is true, I think. So I prefer listening.         

Small talk frustrates me when it does not lead to deeper conversations. For me, it’s awkward when meeting new people and I do not vibe with them. And I find it frustrating to have small talk with the same person or people over and over again. 

What to do and say instead: When someone says, “Why aren’t you talking?” it seems to be criticism more than a question. Plus, it embarrasses me (like No. 2). Please give me time to listen to what you or others have to say in the conversation. I am able to participate as soon as I’ve had the chance to process the conversation.

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