5 Well-Meaning — But Misguided — Things People Say to Introverts

Some people can’t stop themselves from making ignorant, annoying, and downright rude comments to introverts.

I like to believe that, in general, most people are well-intentioned. But when it comes to introversion, I’ve noticed that some people just can’t help but make ignorant, annoying (and sometimes downright rude) comments.

I’m sure many introverts have heard these comments. Whether it’s a friend trying to make a lighthearted joke to “loosen you up” or a coworker who thinks they’re being friendly and helping to “bring you out of your shell” (yuck), here are five misguided things introverts are tired of hearing — and what we wish people would say instead.

Disclaimer: Sass and sarcasm ahead.

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5 Well-Meaning — But Misguided — Things People Say to Introverts

1. “Do you ever shut up/Are you always this chatty? Ha, ha.”

Wow, a comedian! None of us have ever heard this hilarious and completely original joke before.

I know it’s a well-intended tease meant to acknowledge introverts and bring us into the conversation (maybe), but all it does is direct all eyes to us when we weren’t prepared for it, call attention to the fact that we are being “too quiet,” and reinforce the myth that we’re not engaged in the conversation if we aren’t the one talking.

Plus, how are we even supposed to respond to this comment? Beyond an awkward “ha, yeah,” and a splotchy red face, I’m not sure what you’re hoping to coax out of me when you say something like this.

Instead, make conversation with an introvert in pretty much any other way. While we tend to dislike small talk, I’d rather chat about the weather than be the butt of jokes like these any day. Better yet, start a more meaningful conversation — ask about an interest or hobby you know we’re into, if we’ve read any good books lately, or if we have any upcoming travel plans. It might shock you, but we introverts can actually be talkative when we have something to say.

Here are some more ideas to transform small talk into meaningful conversation.

2. “I wish you’d speak up/participate more/feel confident sharing your ideas.”

Ah, yes. Every introvert’s favorite piece of feedback. Personally, I’ve been getting these comments my entire life, on every report card and in every annual review since I was old enough to speak (which I’ve chosen to do somewhat sparingly).

Of course, we all have things we can work on, and constructive feedback can be healthy, necessary, and valid. I know comments like these are meant to communicate that we introverts are an important part of the team and to encourage us to make our voices heard. 

But I wish more teachers and bosses understood that confidence does not necessarily equal outspokenness, and there are so many ways to participate beyond just talking. Showing up, taking notes, communicating with body language, thinking and processing information deeply, following up in writing, and generally being engaged are all ways to participate (and introverts tend to excel at all of these).

If you are in a position of authority as a teacher, employer, or leader, consider the message you are actually sending when you constantly tell your introverted students or teammates that they aren’t contributing enough just because they aren’t vocal. Pay attention to the other ways we are contributing, and give us the opportunity to share our ideas and show our engagement in other ways — whether that’s through writing, in one-on-one conversations, or via some other alternative method that works for everyone. Give us the chance to work with our introversion rather than against it, and to share our thoughts in the way that works best for us.

3. “Is everything okay? You’re so quiet.”

Well, everything was okay… until you put me on the spot and made me feel self-conscious that I’m coming across as a sad, brooding, lonely weirdo.

Being quiet doesn’t necessarily mean something is wrong. Believe it or not, in most situations, introverts are actually content to sit back and observe. We’re likely having a perfectly good time (in our own way) — and if we’re not, we’ll find a way to excuse ourselves (or sneak away) soon enough.

We appreciate your concern, truly, but unless we’ve given you reason to believe we’re in some sort of distress, we’re probably just fine! Please don’t make us “act extroverted” to put you at ease, or put us in the awkward position of trying to convince you that you don’t need to worry about us.

Do you dream of being witty and funny?

Even if you’re usually the “quiet one,” you have a playful side — you just need to learn how to access it. Our partner Michaela Chung can teach you how to tell hilarious stories and to be funny in conversation and over text (even if you tend to overthink things and feel self-conscious in social situations). Click here to check out her online workshop, How to Be Funny in Conversation Without Trying Too Hard.

4. “I knew you wouldn’t want to come.”

I’ve been left out of things because people assume I would decline the invitation. While it’s true that some outings just aren’t my thing (you won’t catch me at a crowded bar late on a Friday night, for instance), other times, I would have been happy to tag along.

Contrary to popular belief, being introverted doesn’t mean we are rude or complete loners. Oftentimes, we actually don’t mind small-group happy hours or other events where we can carry on a conversation and meaningfully connect with other people. So please don’t assume that just because someone is an introvert they’d rather stay home all of the time. We’ll make our own decisions about what we do, and don’t want to do, thank you very much!

If there’s an introvert you’d like to get to know better, err on the side of extending that invitation. Sure, we might say no, but give us a chance to surprise you. In the right environment, we have a lot to offer (a thoughtful perspective, great advice, and an excess of wit, for example). Even if we can’t make it, we’ll probably appreciate the gesture of being included.

5. “My daughter (or cousin/friend/acquaintance/etc.) used to be shy, too, but they ‘got over’ it!”

Where does one even begin with comments like these?  

First of all, not all introverts are shy. Second, I really appreciate the comparison to your seven-year-old, who apparently was able to “solve” the “problem” of introversion much earlier in life than I’ve been able to… but introversion isn’t actually a defect to be “fixed.” Third, I hope this person truly did outgrow their “shyness,” and that they didn’t change who they are at their core (or at least pretend to) to appease you.

The next time you feel tempted to share an anecdote like this, maybe just… don’t. In fact, this could be a great time for you to practice embracing the silence that we introverts are already so comfortable with!

Remember, It’s Not You… It’s Them

Ultimately, statements like these show how misinformed the commenter is about introversion. While it’s not your job as an introvert to explain yourself or educate the world about the trait, they do give you an opening to (gently) correct the misconceptions many people have about introverts (snarky comebacks aside).  

Have you gotten any of these comments before? How do you respond? What else would you add to this list? Let us know in the comments!

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