I’m an introvert. That means I generally prefer books to parties and quiet evenings at home to “exciting” group activities. I don’t hate people. Far from it. I cherish the small circle of close friends I’ve cultivated over the years, and I actually get lonely when I haven’t had enough meaningful interaction.
Being an introvert also means there are plenty of times when I go quiet.
I can’t speak for all introverts, but personally, I have two modes of conversation. The first one occurs when I spew all the thoughts that have built up in my head. Things I’ve been chewing on for a while. Things I’ve been waiting for the right moment to say. Generally, my thoughts come tumbling out when I feel comfortable around someone — when they “get” me on some level and will understand what I have to say. In this mode, I’m often mistaken for an extrovert.
In Mode #2, I say hardly anything at all. This is when my introversion becomes obvious. People ask if I’m “bored” or “upset.” They exclaim, “You’re so quiet!” like that’s never dawned on me before. They might even judge me as stuck-up or rude. They seem genuinely confused why I’m not jockeying for the floor like everyone else.
So what’s really going on when I go quiet? Here are all the possibilities. Introverts, can you relate?
All the Possible Reasons This Introvert Isn’t Talking
1. I can’t think of anything to say.
I really can’t. My mind has gone blank. It’s been bombarded by so many thoughts at once that a mental gridlock has occurred. Like a congested freeway during rush hour, nothing’s moving. My thoughts take the form of flashes of images, half-formed sentences, and vague feelings, but they’re not coalescing into words. Trust me, I don’t like this awkwardness either.
2. I’m focused on something else.
My mind is elsewhere: What should I order at the restaurant? Do I sound like a jerk in this email? When I’m thinking through something, I go silent. Extroverts tend to “think out loud,” speaking their thoughts as they process them (I’ve known some extroverts who’ll do this even when no one’s around). Introverts, on the other hand, tend to process internally, attending to their own inner monologue. They turn inward and concentrate deeply — even when it’s just a choice between shrimp or chicken.
3. Group conversations are too much.
There are so many people here. It’s too loud. Several people are talking at once. What did you say? This conversation is moving so fast that there’s little time for me to think. I had a point to add… waaaaait… and the conversation has moved on. I’m always playing conversational catch up. And I’m getting sick of small talk — can we talk about something that matters?
4. I simply enjoy observing.
I’ve always been more of an observer than a take-action-er. As a child, I could pass hours looking out our large living room windows, simply watching the comings and goings of the people outside. Even today, sometimes I enjoy being in a busy place and simply sitting back, relaxing, and taking in the scene. There’s something meditative about quietly watching. It’s a great way to recharge my “introvert battery,” too, when I’m out with a group of people.
5. You’re not going to “get” what I have to say, anyway.
I’m going to be completely honest. Many times I keep my thoughts to myself because I don’t think the other person will understand or relate. Worst case scenario, I suspect the other person will be mean, judgmental, or cruel. Maybe they’ve made me feel stupid in the past for opening up to them; I felt worse after talking to them, not better. I’ll become quieter and quieter around this person.
I’m sure this scenario happens to both introverts and extroverts at times, but it might be harder for us introverts to deal with. In my experience, extroverts tend to “put it all out there” with more ease. Many introverts, on the other hand, have a strong need to trust the other person before they share intimate details about their life or personal struggles. And when someone criticizes or belittles us, our deep-processing brains will be left chewing on the interaction for hours (or days).
6. Actually, I’m not fine.
Something bad happened. I didn’t get the job. I got in a fight with my boyfriend. Everything’s going wrong today — but I don’t want to talk about THE PROBLEM right now. I need time to think. Probably later, once I’ve had time to process, I’ll talk. For now, I’ll be quiet.
7. I’m politely trying to end this conversation but the other person isn’t getting the hint.
Uh-huh. Right. Okay. *looks at cell phone* No matter how clipped my answers get, sometimes the other person doesn’t take the hint. As an introvert, I enjoy listening, but not when people take advantage of it. I’m about to do the un-introvert thing and interrupt you!
8. I’m not feeling well or I’m tired.
Everyone — introvert or extrovert — is more subdued when they’re sick or tired. However, most extroverts I know can rally better than I can. They get “high” off socializing and excitement, giving them an energy boost, even when they’re down. Introverts don’t feel that same high, and in fact, get overloaded more easily, due to the way their brains respond to rewards. When I’m running on empty, I’ll be especially quiet.
9. I zoned out or was daydreaming.
Sorry! The interesting world inside my head momentarily swept me away from reality. Can you repeat that?
10. I’m peopled out.
The weekend was too busy. I’ve been under siege at work, school, or home and haven’t gotten much downtime. It’s not that I’m angry, depressed, or disinterested — I simply don’t have the energy to talk right now. I desperately need to be alone to recharge. Trust me, after a few hours (or days) to myself, introverting, I’ll be back in Mode #1.
(What’s an introvert? Here’s our in-depth explanation.)
You might like:
- Introverts Don’t Hate People, They Hate Shallow Socializing
- 12 Things Introverts Absolutely Need to Be Happy
- 17 Signs That You Have an Introvert Hangover
- Why Are Words So Hard for Introverts? Here’s the Science
- 15 Signs That You’re an Introvert With High-Functioning Anxiety
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