What I Wish I’d Said When My Coworker Told Me I’m Too Quiet

IntrovertDear.com introvert too quiet

I am tired of people telling me that being quiet is a bad thing. I think this is a subject we introverts can commiserate on, as it happens so much more than it should, and it can leave us feeling worthless. It happened to me recently at work, and it came from one of my coworkers this time.

I’m a server at a chain restaurant that essentially serves sit-down fast food. It’s a job I’ve been coming back to on my breaks from school where I’m a full-time student. When I work jobs like this one, it reminds me of why I’m going to school in the first place: to one day (hopefully) find a career that allows me to be more of who I truly am. My serving job plays on some of my weakest skills: the ability to work in a fast-paced environment, to interact with strangers, and to deal with the likelihood that people will find fault in something I’ve done and tell me about it. I’m an INFJ personality type as well as a highly sensitive person (HSP), and the kinds of situations I’m put in don’t usually play to my strengths. (What’s your personality type? We recommend this free personality test.) I’m a people-pleaser, an overthinker, and often a perfectionist. None of these qualities are very compatible with the life of a waitress. But higher education is expensive, so here I am.

As a result, I’m often quiet. My mind is constantly racing, and in a food service job, there is always a lot going on — often too much for my mind and body to handle. So I revert to my introverted self, a defense mechanism against the many affronts to my sensitive senses. My coworkers have noticed. They ask me if I’m like this outside of work or what I’m like at parties (which I usually don’t attend).

‘You’re Too Quiet’

But one day, toward the beginning of my shift, a coworker began chatting with me while I clocked in and tied my apron. First he joked with me, asking if I was staying all the way until closing, even though we both knew I wasn’t. I’m used to being the butt of a joke; people tell me I’m easy to tease due to my willingness to believe others, and something about the way I react to them is amusing. It’s not something I mind all that much because it feels normal now. Like I said, I’m a people-pleaser, so I’m okay with laughing at myself and playing along.

Then my coworker asked if I had a boyfriend, sort of out of the blue. Being perpetually single, I laughed and said that no, I didn’t. To this he said: “Why? Are the guys you know blind?” Again, I laughed because I’m notoriously terrible at accepting compliments. In between my nervous laughter, I said something along the lines of, “I don’t know,” and “thanks,” trying to enjoy his flattery for a moment. But it was only a moment, because then he said the ill-fated words: “You know, it’s probably because you’re too quiet.”

Ouch.

Being Quiet Is Who I Am

My quiet nature is one of the most fundamental parts of who I am. I remember when I first began taking personality tests, having already known I am an introvert but then learning I am an INFJ. As I researched, read articles, and learned about what it meant to be an INFJ, I was overcome with how deeply it all resonated with me. I felt like I had finally found a way to explain my quirks to myself and others. I was hungry for more knowledge about my own personality and the personalities of those I love. All that I have read has helped shape the way I see other people and myself. Being an introvert, an INFJ, and an HSP are all parts of my genetic makeup: they aren’t things I can just change.

There were other moments like this, for instance, when I read Susan Cain’s book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. I felt so utterly validated and so much less alone. When I found the Introvert, Dear community and read the words of so many people with like minds, I began to realize how far-reaching our world’s introvert population truly is. And that I am not alone when I choose to stay quiet. I identify myself as an INFJ not to put myself in a box, but to remind myself that not only am I unique, but I’m also not. I’m not the only one out there like me.

What I Wish I’d Said

When my coworker implied that my lack of a significant other was because I have a quiet demeanor, it hurt, and I let that hurt trick me into doing what I do best: staying quiet. INFJs are constantly looking out for other people and that often leads us to neglect our own needs. I have spoken up when someone else was at stake, but rarely do I speak up for myself. Maybe my reluctance is due to a lack of positive responses from other people when I do speak my mind, or maybe it’s because saying something for me makes me feel like I do when I receive a compliment: awkward. But I do wish I’d said something to my coworker because being quiet is not a flaw — it can be a strength.

I wish I’d told my coworker that there’s nothing wrong with being quiet.

I wish I’d said that being quiet isn’t why I’m single, but rather it’s a series of other personal choices.

I wish I’d been able to say that my worth is not defined by how many words come out of my mouth.

I wish I’d told him that I say fewer words because I’m saving them, investing in a better thought to be expressed when it’s ready to be put out in the world.

I wish I’d explained that being quiet isn’t a weakness, rather, it allows me to listen and understand even more.

Most of all, I wish I’d just been able to say anything at all to stand up for myself, because of all things, I owe it to myself.

To all the other introverts out there, I want to tell you that it’s perfectly okay to be quiet but it’s not okay to let other people walk all over you about it. You have so much to offer the world and so much worth. Don’t ever forget that.

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  • Laurie Sherfey

    Here’s the answer when you get to a stage where you are done apologizing for being the way you are:

    “I think I am single because I have incredibly high standards. I am happier being on my own, than settling for someone who doesn’t “get” me at all, and who I am not comfortable with, and trust. With the right people I am a lot less quiet than you might believe possible.”

    Or short and sweet:

    “Have you never heard that still waters sun deep?”

    Or:

    “I am patiently waiting for the person who believes I’m worth the effort it takes to get to know me.”

    Or you can always just turn and walk away, since you’re already in that “QUIET” box.

    I never dated that much. But when I did, they liked me. As in proposing, liking me. I hope everyone takes your insight to heart, it’s spot on for us understated folks!

  • Suzanne Yost

    I like those answers, Laurie! I definitely have a bad habit of apologizing too much for things that don’t need to be regretted. I’m really glad my article resonated with you–thanks for the comment!

  • Lucy C

    Thanks for this great article Suzanne. I just finished reading Quiet and for the first time I feel validated too. I feel your pain – I worked at a popular fast-food restaurant at school and felt uncomfortable the whole time. And I still remember a comment that was made about me, that no one notices I’m there because I’m so quiet I could be invisible. It stung badly at the time. With your talents, I’m sure one day you’ll be in a job that complements your peaceful nature with your skills beautifully 🙂

  • Kelly

    Thank you so much for writing this article! “My worth is not defined by how many words come out of my mouth” – All my life I have felt this way but never knew how to put it into words. This article has inspired me to embrace myself exactly how I am and not let anyone tell me I need to change.

  • Thank you for this article. I have often received similar comments and always had trouble responding. Usually they just made me feel bad about myself or like there was something wrong with me. Recently, I was at least able to shrug and say, “That’s just how I am.” If I can accept that I am quiet, then it’s not really a problem. If I really, genuinely do not care what anyone else thinks. At age 34, I’m still working on it. But I think I’m making progress. And it’s great seeing all the Introvert Power blogs, etc that are showing up!

  • Suzanne Yost

    “Quiet” is definitely one of my favorite books out there. And I can relate to those kinds of comments, for sure… Thanks so much, Lucy!

  • Suzanne Yost

    Kelly, I’m so glad! That’s all I hoped to accomplish with this article. 🙂

    Jane, I’m definitely a people pleaser so I know where you’re coming from. It’s hard. But working on it is all any of us can really do. Thanks for your comment!

  • narvesh

    I m also introvert personality type. I do not talk too much. Moreover I can not engage in conversation for a long time. I lost my words to say. Does every introverts seems to look this way??

  • Marsha

    Hey Suzanne,
    Being able to share your experience with the world shows amazing strength! I’ll be on the look-out for one of your books in the future!

  • Sebastian

    Beautiful article! I feel the same thing day after day of my life. The world will not appreciate the quiet people so easily, so we, as quiet and wonderful minds, have to love our quiet and wonderful worlds 🙂

  • Diana Neill

    You sound so much like me! Thank you for this article. One thing that I am constantly facing is people telling me I’m too quiet, then when I say something, I shouldn’t have said that or it makes them mad when I say it or something that makes me regret ever opening my mouth. Sometimes I feel like I’m not allowed to talk because when I do, I’ve said the “wrong” thing.

  • M.S.

    Oh this article resonates so very much with me. Have been hearing this all my life “You are too quite”. Just never knew how to respond. I have always considered it as a weakness of mine.

  • Tanya

    It’s very comforting to know I’m not alone and these experiences are shared. :). Courage always fails me when asked to respond to my “flaw”.

  • Bracetty Bracetty

    This happens to me all the time at jobs. I hate when coworkers and managers make me feel bad for not always speaking. I hate when they try to make a project out of me. “helping me get out of my shell” I also hate the most when i do speak up and they act like its the most amazing thing and say things like “look whos finale coming out of there shell’, “look who can finale speak” , “he can talk” ect ect. I hate it all so much. why does society have to be this way. When i listen to my coworkers and managers talk to each other they speak about NOTHING. just mindless conversation that means nothing. Ive also realized some coworkers hate me because i dont speak alot they literally avoid me and give me looks and say things to others about me. I hate that things are this way,

    • Catherine

      That is so weird isn’t it. That people think because we don’t talk much, we’re somehow unlikeable or snobby or feel superior. We’re not. We’re just quiet and thoughtful. Why can’t people just deal with that? Its not always about them, they should realise.

  • dm

    I’m an introvert. When it’s safe, I talk. Generally, that’s in a 1-on-1 conversation. Lately, I’ve been around some people who are on the Red/Dominant end of the spectrum. I’m on the Blue/Submissive end, and boy do they like to steamroll me. It’s like the killer whales that “play” with the sea lions, tossing them here and there, till they devour them. “Fun” for the killer whales; “terrorizing” for the sea lions.

    I’ve given them the benefit of the doubt, but, they’re back to steamrolling me, so, I have to make a decision. They’ve proven themselves to have a sick delight in hurting, controlling and steamrolling others, so, I’m backing away. They’re NOT safe.

    Now, I’m not saying all Dominant personalities have a killer-whale-instinct, but some do. I’ve found the healthiest people on planet earth don’t need to steamroll anyone. They’re whole, so they don’t have to make sport of others. The thought likely doesn’t even enter their minds. But, there are those who aren’t whole. They’re broken, and they have no internal boundaries, so, we need to lay them out.

  • Catherine

    Probably the best thing to do is just shrug and say, ‘yes, that’s how I am.’

  • Mack

    Came to this article through a Google Search today, after hearing two co-workers talking negatively about my quietness. This week, I’ve put in several 11-hour workdays, assisted my father as he was being admitted into the hospital, grieved as a friend died yesterday, and did as much as I could for my brother who’s leaving for the military in a day. You’d think after navigating this challenging week, I could feel some sort of accomplishment. But no, the week is capped off by my co-workers making fun of me for not socializing during office hours. Figures.

  • Ricardo G. González

    I just got “I´m very disappointed at you” from a co-worker after i´ve spent almost one year working hard and making a really extraordinary effort to ‘join the crowd’ that happens to be the ‘norm’ at this company (leaving the work area to go chit-chatting about ‘no onions on their food this evening’ or whatever that distracts us all from focus on OUR JOB). I answered “well, what are we gonna do about that?” with a victorious attitude on the outside, but guess what happened on the inside? I got really distracted by it and i did my next activity on the schedule all wrong! Anyway, what gets on my nerve it´s the fact that everybody seem to make mistakes for being the whole time doing this kind of thing, you know? Good news is, it hurts less now i know i´m an introvert and have embraced it as a strenght that leads to good things if focused the right way.

  • LF

    Men often complain that women talk too much so being quiet is probably an asset.