Quit Asking Introverts, ‘Why Are You So Quiet?’

An introvert is annoyed when someone asks, "Why are you so quiet?"

Most introverts have heard the question, “Why are you so quiet?” countless times. People love to shine a light on our wordless ways.

As an introvert, I’ve lost count of how many times my quiet nature has been pointed out to me in the same manner you would call attention to someone who has lettuce stuck in their teeth, toilet paper attached to their shoe, or a giant purple octopus clinging to their head.

In other words, “You might want to do something about that… It’s embarrassing.”

Newsflash: We know.

This is probably one of my biggest pet peeves. I know being a quiet introvert isn’t a bad thing. Still, anytime someone points it out, I get anxious and feel judged. It triggers a chain reaction in my mind, making me doubt myself. I start feeling like there’s something wrong with me — that somehow I’m not “good enough.”

I recognize that people are probably commenting because they feel uncomfortable. Many people can’t stand silence. Empty air is something that is unfamiliar and even unwelcome for them, so they immediately seek to fill it with something, anything. If they’re really desperate, they try badgering words out of us, saying things like, “You’re being awfully quiet. Say something.”

Why This Question Annoys Introverts

Let me share with you an example from a couple of years ago:

I’m a graduate student majoring in psychology sitting in a class with other would-be therapists. The conversation is flowing, and I’m quietly listening and processing. Then, out of nowhere, someone pipes up: “Why are you so quiet? You never talk.”

I sit there, stunned, horrified, and embarrassed for being placed under the glaring spotlight of the class. Then, to my complete dismay, everyone starts chiming in about how quiet I am. When I reply that I’m just trying to take in the information, they start making excuses for me that I’m shy or bored.

Sound familiar? My classmates didn’t understand, and they didn’t try to. They didn’t know what I’m about to tell you. The “why are you so quiet” question annoys introverts so much because it implies that choosing your words carefully is a bad thing. It’s a profound misunderstanding of the meaning of the introversion.

We’ll speak when we’re ready and comfortable, so telling an introvert they are quiet is like telling someone the sky is blue: You’re pointing out the obvious, and you’re not likely to get the response you want.

In that class, I wish I could have told them the real reason I was quiet in that particular moment. Sure, sometimes it’s because I’m tired, I’m listening, or I’m daydreaming. But other times, they are the reason for my sealed lips.

It’s no coincidence that the people who ask this question are usually the same people who rarely listen or ask thoughtful questions themselves. And they’re often the people with the loudest and most overpowering energy.

Why Quiet Is a Beautiful Thing

Many introverts face this struggle on a daily basis. I know I do. But, my quiet tribe, I want to tell you that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with you. Being quiet can be a thing of beauty. Here’s why.

1. Quiet people really know how to listen.

How many times have you found yourself in the midst of a conversation with a colleague, friend, or romantic partner, only to look over and notice a glazed look in their eyes? They’re not really listening. If you’re anything like me, this sort of thing happens all the time. In a world that hardly ever stops talking, it’s rare to find someone who can listen with a quiet intensity to every word you speak. Enter, quiet people.

2. We speak with purpose.

Because we don’t speak often, when we do, it’s going to be after giving it some thought. This doesn’t mean that we always overthink, but it does mean we tend to be more careful with our words. Anytime a quiet person talks, especially in a group or around people they don’t know well, there’s most likely a purpose — which means we’re not just going to say the first thing that comes to mind. This is good, because sometimes the first thing that comes to mind isn’t necessarily the right or best thing to say out loud.

3. Just because we’re quiet doesn’t mean we don’t have leadership skills.

Many quiet people are able to take charge when necessary. According to Jennifer B. Kahnweiler, author of The Introverted Leader, quiet people can actually make better leaders because of their ability to look beyond the surface level. Similarly, the CEO Genome Project found that over half of the CEOs who did better than expected in the minds of directors and investors were actually introverts, not gregarious extroverts, as one might expect.

Roughly 40 percent of leaders describe themselves as introverted — Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, and Charles Schwab are just a few. Introverted leaders learn by listening, are prudent, demonstrate humility, manage uncertainty, and leverage their quiet nature. Clearly, the myth that introverts are less effective leaders than their extroverted brethren is just that.

4. We see things that escape others.

Quiet people tend to be very observant. Sure, sometimes we zone out and daydream, but other times, we notice things that others miss. This can even happen in a conversation with a large group of people. Because a quiet person is listening rather than talking, we’re more likely to pick up on bits of conversations or verbal cues that might escape others.

5. We tend to be easygoing.

Quiet introverts are often perceived as calm and easy to hang out with. In other words, we’re chill. We don’t usually make a fuss about where we’re going, and we allow others to vent their hearts out because we’d rather listen than be the ones talking… as long as what they’re saying is worth listening to.

6. We know ourselves well.

Those of us who talk less out loud have a tendency to talk more with ourselves internally. This builds a healthy friendship with ourselves. It’s easy for anybody to lose themselves when they’re constantly surrounded by other people. Being quiet helps you listen to your own inner voice.

Sometimes it seems like being outgoing is better. But think of this: Could you imagine if everyone was a talker? The world needs quiet people — be proud that you’re one of them.

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Danielle is a multi-genre author, poet, blogger, and freelance writer. She has a Master’s Degree in Psychology with a dual emphasis in Marriage & Family Therapy and Professional Clinical Counseling. Visit Danielle to stay informed about upcoming projects at: daniellevanalst.com and daniellevanalstblog.com.