All The Possible Reasons I’m Not Talking Right Now

I don’t know about you, but as an introvert, I seem to have two modes of conversation: I spew all the thoughts that have built up in my head or I say hardly anything at all. In Mode #1, I give the false impression that I’m an extrovert. In Mode #2, people wonder if I’m upset or bored. Sometimes people ask if I’m okay, to which I reply, confused, “Yeah, I’m fine.” Other times they comment on how quiet I am—but this just makes me feel even more self-conscious.

So what’s really going on when I’m quiet? Here’s what might be happening:

1. I can’t think of anything to say. I really can’t. My mind has gone blank and the silence that is stretching out awkwardly is simply serving to intensify my mind paralysis. I have so many thoughts—or do I have none at all? I can’t tell. Those thoughts take the form of images, hunches, emotions, and fragments of phrases, but sometimes they just don’t coalesce into words.

2. I’m focused on something else. How should I delicately word this email so I don’t sound like a jerk? What should I order for dinner? When I’m trying to think through something, I go silent. I turn inward and attend to my own thoughts. It’s hard for me to concentrate on more than one thing at a time, because my brain seems made to dive deep and focus intensely. Give me a few minutes to finish my mental task, and then I’ll be talking again.

3. Group conversations are too much. Everyone is talking. There are too many people here. It’s so loud. What did you say? This conversation is moving fast and there’s no time for me to think. I’m sick of small talk—I wish I could find one person to talk to in a meaningful way.

4. There’s an interesting world inside my head. As an introvert, I’m a natural observer. I observe people, relationships, nature, situations—everything. Whatever I see and hear and experience enters my mind and stays there for a while. Some people label this behavior “overthinking” (and yes, sometimes I do get stuck on negative thoughts). But to me, thinking is what I do best. But I can’t talk and reflect at the same time.

5. I don’t feel like you respect my ideas. This happens to me every once in a while. I’m sure it happens to both introverts and extroverts. But sometimes I feel like it’s not worth bringing up something I care about because I don’t think the other person will get it. Maybe I talked about something personal but the other person made me feel stupid for opening up to them. I felt worse after talking to them, not better. This means I will become quieter and quieter around that person.

6. Actually, I’m not fine. Something bad happened. I’m upset. I didn’t get the job or I got in a fight with my boyfriend. Maybe everything just seems to be going wrong today. But I don’t want to talk about The Problem right now. I need to think about it for a while. Probably later—once I’ve had time to process—I’ll talk.

7. I’m politely trying to end this conversation but the other person isn’t getting the hint. Ok, enough! Stop! I like to listen, but not this much. I get especially annoyed when people repeat themselves. Or when the conversation is just a list of complaints. I’m about to do the un-introvert thing and interrupt you!

8. I’m tired. I promise I’m not upset with you, I just didn’t sleep well last night. My mind is foggy, my body feels gross, and I’m struggling to make it through the day. I have limited “people” energy on a normal day, but today I’m running on empty.

9. I was daydreaming. Sorry! What did you say?

10. I’m peopled out. The weekend was too busy. I’ve been under siege at work, school, and home and I haven’t gotten enough alone time. I want to be alone, or with just one other trusted person like my significant other. I just don’t feel like myself. I need time to focus on my own thoughts and feelings and fill myself back up mentally and emotionally. Trust me, after a few hours (or days) to myself, I’ll be bubbling over with things to say—I’ll be back in Mode #1.

When an introvert is quiet, don’t assume he is depressed, snobbish or socially deficient. — Laurie Helgoe, Introvert Power: Why Your Inner Life Is Your Hidden Strength 

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Read this: 12 Things Introverts Absolutely Need to Be Happy

Learn more: The Secret Lives of Introverts: Inside Our Hidden World, by Jenn Granneman 


  • Brenda says:

    Man I so relate to this. Thanks so much.

  • aurora99 says:

    So insightful! #5 describes so often when I’m quiet around certain people. I’m learning to value myself and I refuse to throw my pearls to swine.

  • Joseph Muniu says:

    Thank you, I now have something to refer my highly extroverted friends to when they wish to know why I get so quiet sometimes. This one ” 7. I’m trying to end this
    conversation but you’re
    not getting the hint” and this other one ” 9. I was daydreaming.
    Sorry, the fantasy
    unfolding in my mind
    was too thrilling to
    ignore…” answer it all for my case.

  • Livia says:

    3 and 4 are the best! Group conversations don’t really count as a conversation for me. It’s just small talk and, usually, I have nothing to say.

  • tiff says:

    all are spot on! #5 sums me up perfectly.

  • I fall in love with your Blog!! Totally agree with number 4 – and the rest of it !

  • Cathy says:

    Once, when taking an art class, I was watching the instructor demonstrating a technique. I suppose this wasn’t the first time in class that I was watching intensely. Well, the instructor stopped and told the class that there was someone in the group who made him feel uncomfortable/judged when he demonstrated and he pointed and said it was me. I was shocked! My intensity to observe and to learn was misinterpreted as judging. I was hurt and angry to say the least. I believe, like so many introverts, that had he spoken to me privatley, there would have been a more amicable understanding.

    • Wow What An ass of an instructor to single you out and say that in front of everyone. That would have made me angry and hurt too. Humiliating as well. Ugh.
      If you are an instructor demonstrating something in front of people you are going to have people watching. Lol.
      If you were not looking and being distracted with something else then you would have been considered rude I’m sure. His reaction to you Doesn’t make sense.

  • I have gotten into the habit of telling people; “I’m thinking”, if I have to pause to answer their question. This works for me very well.

  • BU says:

    I love every article you post! It’s like you’re talking about me. You’ve given me so much insight into myself. I’m finally starting to accept myself for who I am and not trying to be something I’m not. Thank you!

  • Joe K says:

    This INTJ is reading up on Introverted Intuition: the primary Jungian cognitive function of both the INFJ and the INTJ.

    You being an INFJ, I thought this the perfect opportunity to ask this question

    Dario Nardi’s book: “The Neuroscience of Personality” refers to Ni (Introverted Intuition) viewed under an EEG cap as: “a whole-brain, zen-like pattern”. Basically the entire brain is being used to realize an answer. Paraphrasing Dario Nardi, this whole brain zen state works best when focusing on a single question without distractions.

    This having been said, what are your feelings, intuitions, thoughts, etc about your introverted intuition ?

  • Val says:

    Oh yes, number 5! There’s no point in talking if nobody’s listening. Number 7 too, I’m carrying something heavy, I’m edging away from you, just give me the bullet points, not your life story!

  • Karen Kahrs says:

    This is fantastic. I’ve never heard this articulated so well. I shall adopt this terminology (mode#1 & mode#2) for myself 🙂 I am often mistaken for an extrovert because when I’m actually with people, I can get extremely chatty. The chatty-ness increases depending on how long I’ve been in solitude, I’ve scratched my own head trying to figure it out! I’d love to hear you expand more on mode #1.

  • Angie Coll says:

    I love it! Loved this! Thank you for understanding! I’ve been laughing to myself how MUCH I can TOTALLY relate to this!!! hahaha Oh man that was lovely! Hahaha😅😂😆😆😃