As an introvert, I wish I could stay home every day working on the many creative projects I seem to get myself into. Unfortunately, reality always comes along and screws up those plans by throwing car payments, mortgages, food shopping expenses, and countless other obstacles into the mix, forcing me out into the real world to my office desk job.
I consider myself a nice person. I don’t get into fights. I don’t belittle people. I don’t voice the thousands of sarcastic thoughts that flow through my brain each day (well, maybe to my close friends I do). Yet sometimes when I leave the office for the day, I can’t help but wonder if some of my actions do in fact make me come across as hostile.
Let me explain the thought process behind six of my daily actions that may come across as rude — but aren’t meant to be.
Things Your Office Introvert Does That Seem Rude, But Aren’t
1. Eating lunch alone
I eat lunch in my car, alone. This does not mean that I don’t like you or any of our coworkers enough to want us to spend some casual time together. It just means I need a little quiet time to myself midday, to sit and recharge my batteries so I’m ready to handle the remaining hours of my shift.
I also much prefer the routine of eating food I’ve prepared at home and brought with me, rather than going out to various lunch spots to try out new options. There’s a comfort to my routine that is necessary for me to have a productive day.
Yes, it may seem weird to see me out there shivering on a 10 degree day or sweating on a 95 degree day with all the windows open. Rest assured it’s not some extreme attempt to avoid you or your lunch group. It’s just a part of the day I need to have for myself.
2. Not making small talk
This applies to most introverts in general, but I absolutely hate small talk. This does not mean that I hate talking to you specifically or that don’t want to talk to you. I would just prefer not to hear about how hot it is outside today or how much the traffic sucked during your drive in.
I’m not saying that every discussion needs to be some mind-blowing talk about the state of the world or anything, but letting me know the office is too hot every time you walk in the room isn’t exactly going to whip me into a social frenzy.
3. Not sharing personal information
Some people love to walk into work on a Monday and let everyone know every detail of their weekend — and that’s great for them. I choose to be more selective about the amount of personal information I share with people. Again, this does not mean I don’t like you, or don’t want to be friendly with you. It just means I generally don’t enjoy offering up that kind of information on a casual basis.
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Offices are also a hard environment to share personal stories merely because most cubicles are so close to one another. Sometimes I may hold back information not because I don’t want to share it with you but because I don’t want to share it with the guy three cubes over who, while not necessarily trying to eavesdrop, can’t help but overhear the entire conversation.
4. Not contributing during meetings
Public speaking is something that most people have a fear of. Take that average fear and double or triple it, and you may have what’s going through an introvert’s mind at the thought of presenting in front of a group. I’m not saying that all introverts have social anxiety. But even for those of us who don’t, we simply find speaking up in front of a group to be overstimulating.
Keeping quiet during meetings does not mean I don’t care or don’t want to help. It means I’m absorbing everything that’s being said by others in the room. Generally, I like to listen rather than talk. In meetings, there are a lot of strong personalities fighting to get their points across and their visions accepted. In these settings, I would rather sit and listen to everyone’s perspectives first, then take some time to process what I’ve heard to eventually come back with my own thoughts and ideas.
5. Not smiling much
People associate smiling with being happy, so I guess it’s not unfair that the same people will associate not smiling with being unhappy. I don’t smile often, and it has nothing to do with being unhappy. It’s just not my natural personality to walk around with a goofy grin on my face.
This can sometimes lead to being judged as “grumpy” or people wondering, “What’s his problem?” While sometimes I may be genuinely grumpy, I can honestly say that 90 percent of the time my lack of smiling does not mean there is something wrong. It’s just my regular expression.
6. Not saying goodbye at the end of a day
Leaving the office and the end of a work day means having to walk by many cubicles. Most cubicles are set up so the user has their back to passersby. I do not like to bring attention to myself in most situations, so my choice to not vocally say goodbye to everyone I pass is in no way intended to be rude.
It’s the end of the day and I just want to get home to the things I enjoy. I also want to avoid situations where I may say goodbye to someone and not someone else, and now that someone else feels offended.
If we make eye contact on my way out of the building, I’m more than happy to give you a nod or a “have a nice weekend.” And I do genuinely wish you to have a nice weekend. But otherwise, I’d rather just be on my way.
Your Office Introvert Doesn’t Hate You
Unless you’ve given them a very specific reason to, your office introvert’s seeming lack of interest does not mean they hate you. In fact, they might like you more than you realize, and a little time, patience, and effort just might bring out a new friendship.
These were just a few of the ways you might be judging your office introvert, and hopefully this helps explain some actions that may have seemed rude but were never intended to be. And if the office introvert is YOU, please share your story in the comments and let me know how coworkers may have misjudged you.