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.
“Why are you so quiet?” they ask. In other words, “You might want to do something about that… It’s embarrassing.”
Newsflash: We’re introverts, and we know.
Being asked this question is probably one of my biggest pet peeves. I know being a quiet introvert isn’t a bad thing at all. 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 most people are probably asking this question 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. So they try badgering words out of us: “You’re being awfully quiet. Say something.”
Why This Question Annoys Introverts
To explain why this question annoys introverts, let me share with you something that happened to me a couple of years ago.
I was a graduate student majoring in psychology, and I was sitting in a class with other would-be therapists. The conversation was flowing, and I was quietly listening and processing. Then, out of nowhere, someone piped up and addressed me: “Why are you so quiet? You never talk.”
I sat there, stunned, horrified, and embarrassed for being placed under the glaring spotlight of the class. Then, to my complete dismay, everyone else started chiming in about how quiet I was. When I answered that I’m usually just listening and trying to absorb all the information, they started making excuses for me. “It’s okay that you’re a little shy,” one woman said. “I guess we’re just not that interesting!” another student teased.
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 most of the time, we’re already feeling a little self-conscious in a group — especially when it’s people we don’t know well. Drawing attention to our quiet ways just makes it worse.
But, more importantly, it implies that choosing your words carefully is a bad thing. It’s a profound misunderstanding of the meaning of introversion.
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As introverts, we’ll speak when we’re ready and comfortable, so telling us we’re 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.
And in that particular class, there was an additional reason that I was often quiet. Sure, sometimes it was because I felt tired or was daydreaming. I wasn’t lying when I told my classmates I was usually just listening and trying to process.
But sometimes, my quietness has to do with the people around me. I might seem quiet, but it’s because their energy is so loud that it overwhelms me! I have no trouble opening up around people who listen thoughtfully and authentically seem to care about what I have to say.
Why Quiet Is a Beautiful Thing
Many introverts hear these uncomfortable comments on a regular 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 are six reasons why; I hope you remind yourself of these the next time someone makes you feel “less than” for your quietness.
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 partner, only to look over and notice a glazed look in their eyes? They’re not really listening. 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.
Indeed, 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 conversation 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.
You might like:
- If You Relate to These 21 Signs, You’re Probably an Introvert
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- Here’s What Makes Each Introverted Myers-Briggs Personality Type Angry
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