We human beings are the only species on this planet that has the superpower of speech. Of words and conversations. We were made to talk, and yet, there is this group of people who call themselves introverts and abstain from talking (too) much.
How very odd!
I’ve never been — and I dislike using this word for its popular connotation — “social.” As an introvert, I hate small talk; I always have. But I frequently have long, meandering conversations with the few people I hold dear in my life. I dislike talking without a perceived need for it (read: gossip, tea-time huddles, party high-fives, pointless inside jokes).
This means I’m often found staring at my phone, book, or computer screen while several others are guffawing. While I’m perfectly content to be doing my present activity, I still become an aberration. I become someone who is perpetually reminded, “You’re so quiet.”
This brings me to the “assumptions,” the little nuggets about myself that people feel compelled to share with me from time to time. They used to make me feel mad — raving mad — both for the ludicrousness of this unsolicited advice and the fact that some people found nothing wrong with passing personal comments on to someone they didn’t even know well.
With time, I’ve learned to handle this verbal onslaught better. Now, I usually just dismiss it with a look of amusement, irritation, or absolute lack of interest.
I have the feeling that you, too, as an introvert, have encountered some of these unsolicited comments. Here are seven things people assume about me because I’m quiet.
Assumptions About Quiet Introverts
1. “You’re so shy!”
Of course, the only reason some people avoid small talk is shyness. But then there are the introverts, the people who by definition prefer a quiet, low-stimulus environment — one that doesn’t involve more small talk than is essential.
Turns out, shyness and introversion are not the same thing. While shy people avoid small talk because of an innate fear that they’ll be judged negatively, introverts abstain from it because they find it draining. While the two may overlap occasionally, every human being who prefers to keep to himself or herself is not suffering from debilitating shyness.
2. “I never thought you’d be able to deliver a presentation so well.”
Ah, always the tone of surprise when my legs don’t shake and my voice doesn’t quiver while speaking to a large audience. I’ve never been scared of public speaking, thanks in part to my mum who was exceptionally fond of encouraging me to take part in school debate clubs.
What I dislike is making small talk or gossiping with acquaintances I know only from sharing the building elevator. But unfortunately, many people still think that being introverted and stuttering through presentations go hand-in-hand.
Again, not so. In fact, many introverts make excellent public speakers because they have the gift of listening to others (more than talking to them). This comes in handy when tailoring their speech to the needs of their audience.
3. “You don’t have to act so stuck-up.”
Yep, that’s me. The one who doesn’t talk to human beings because they don’t deserve to be talked to. Not joining the office breakfast group because I had breakfast at home is pure, unadulterated pride. So is refusing to go for drinks with my husband’s friends’ wives (whom I know perfectly well from that annual New Year party).
Not talking much is the ultimate damnation: In the eyes of others, it makes you rude, stuck-up, arrogant, and inexcusably proud.
4. “Have you tried calling the anti-depression helpline?”
That is what I supposedly do — or attempt to do — every sad weekend that I spend at home, alone with my thoughts. I prefer reading to clubbing and sitting in my cushion-fort to shopping — what is this, if not a sign of depression?
It agonizes me how often introversion gets mistaken for depression. Staying home, lost in a book, has got to be devastatingly sad when all your friends are hanging out, right?
Many introverts love hanging out just as much as the next person; they just do it in a different way. They prefer spending time with a small group of friends or just one other person, and they’d rather talk about something meaningful than make small talk just to pass the time.
5. “You must lead a boring life. Here’s a book recommendation: How to Win Friends & Influence People.”
Oh, I’ve read that 40,566 times; how else did I win you, my thoughtful advisor and well-wisher? But I guess I’m destined to live my boring life of quiet, drinking my coffee by the window at home, having a feline best friend, and never joining the cool kids for flash mobs. Obviously, all introverts are bored to the core but haven’t the nerve to make a change.
This one, somehow, still agitates me each time I hear it. Which is when I wish I could explain the pastime I find the most dreadfully boring: listening to their droning!
6. “You’ll get stuck in a professional rut. You need to network.”
I often come across this strange notion: Introverts can’t be leaders on the job. Introverts stay muted even when they need to make constructive, strategic decisions. They’re also terrible at choosing a line of work aligned with their personality and skills.
Call me old-school, but wining and dining clients every evening is not the only way to climb the corporate ladder. And even in scenarios where it is, career-minded introverts grit their teeth, get on with it, then take some downtime to recharge.
7. “I’m so tired of people parading about as ‘introverts’ when they’re just not good at talking! Oh, I don’t mean you…”
But you should. Introverts, exactly as you think, like to keep to themselves because they cannot construct meaningful sentences and follow the niceties required during socializing. The whole idea scares them to no end.
All introverts are not — surprise, surprise — socially awkward. Many of them avoid socializing because it drains them, not because they’re afraid or anxious. Introverts just aren’t wired to keep up surface-level conversations unceasingly. They need to recharge after socializing, and that’s as natural and normal as being tired after a busy day at work or running a marathon.
You might like:
- Introverts Don’t Hate People, They Hate Shallow Socializing
- Why Introverts Absolutely Loathe Small Talk
- Why Are Words So Hard for Introverts? Here’s the Science
- 15 Signs That You’re an Introvert With High-Functioning Anxiety
Did you enjoy this article? Sign up for our newsletters to get more stories like this.