For introverts, it may be easier to form beautiful sentences in their heads rather than deliver those same thoughts out loud on the spot.
“Why are you so quiet?”
As an introvert I can’t count how many times I’ve been asked this question. It happened mostly when I was a child, but I remember one time in high school when someone asked if I was mute. I told them I just didn’t like talking that much.
Growing up, I was the shy girl who spent her time reading and writing stories instead of engaging in conversation. Classmates would ask me this question while teachers and other adults would merely sigh and comment, “Oh, she’s so quiet!”
So, in an effort to help the world better understand us “quiet ones” — and maybe prevent some of my fellow introverts from having to field this annoying question — here are five reasons that explain why an introvert isn’t talking.
Why Introverts Aren’t Talking
1. Relax, we’re just thinking.
I often reflect on my experiences and observe details in my surroundings, thinking and overthinking constantly, and forever shifting through the thoughts in my head. Sometimes I get distracted while talking, studying the sound of someone’s voice, their facial expressions, or even the words they choose that are unique to their personality. This doesn’t mean I’m not a good listener. I listen very well (as many introverts do), but when it’s my turn to speak, that’s often when things go sideways.
Introverts often feel it’s easier to form beautiful sentences in their heads rather than deliver those same thoughts aloud on the spot. I have to wait a moment to gather what I’m trying to say and apply meaning to it. Sometimes I think so hard about how to express a certain idea that I end up stuttering and saying the complete opposite of what I intended to say!
Other times, I just don’t want to talk. The landscape of the world we live in can be quite beautiful, and sometimes I just want to take it all in without being distracted by conversation.
The takeaway: If you are wondering why an introvert seems aloof or uninterested during a conversation, keep this point in mind. They’re probably not secretly shunning you or hating your presence. They may just be deep in thought and aren’t comfortable talking right now.
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2. We live for peace and quiet.
I need quiet to hear myself think, to collect myself, especially after being around people all day at work or school. Introspecting is how I apply meaning to the world and to my life. I want to understand, so I need a moment — let’s not lie, several moments — of soundless observing. Excessive noise can become overwhelming, and I get frustrated, unable to think.
A while ago, after I left work for the day, I suddenly realized how much I was craving silence. I said my goodbyes to my coworkers and left the noisy room for the empty hallway, and suddenly, I felt tremendous relief. The room hadn’t even seemed that loud or crowded, but somehow, my mind and body were unconsciously uncomfortable in that environment.
Peace and quiet allow for undistracted thinking time, which all introverts need. I certainly need a space of silence during every day in order to not feel overwhelmed by the constant extroversion of the world.
The takeaway: All introverts need space. Not saying they’re the only ones who need it, but they may need it more than others. Peace and quiet allow this much-needed breathing room. Then perhaps we can work up to hanging out later.
3. Honestly, we’re drained.
For two years, I worked in a call center helping people solve technical issues. Before I became a shift lead, I fielded about 30 calls a day, depending on the length of my shift. At the end of the day, I was often drained. My brain felt like jelly after talking to and emailing clients, and when it was time to go home, I wanted to retreat to my bedroom and never talk again. For introverts, the sheer act of talking can be draining and even stressful.
When I was a shift lead, I didn’t need to take as many calls, but I spent more time walking around the office assisting other agents, which required interacting face-to-face, something I always dreaded growing up. I did persevere, though, and it taught me quite a lot about myself.
Introverts get easily worn out by social interaction. It can be mentally — and sometimes physically — overwhelming to be in a crowd for long hours or after speaking for even a little while. For me, it slows my thinking and can even cause a headache because I get frustrated trying to say the right thing. If I’m out all day after hanging out or going to work or even after grocery shopping, I’m tapped out for the day and want to retreat to my quiet space to rejuvenate my mind.
The takeaway: If an introvert leaves a party early or shies away from long hours of social time, it doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t want to be around you. They may just need time to recuperate after being busy or social.
Do you ever struggle to know what to say?
As an introvert, you actually have the ability to be an amazing conversationalist — even if you’re quiet and hate small talk. To learn how, we recommend this online course from our partner Michaela Chung. Click here to check out the Introvert Conversation Genius course.
4. We’re very private people.
Some people enjoy talking about themselves and what’s going on in their lives, whether it’s about something light or something deep. I find that whenever I divulge anything remotely personal, I instantly feel a wave of vulnerability wash over me, as if I’m naked and exposed to the world. I don’t like people knowing everything about me. I’m a very private person, so much that it took me years to finally decide to even try blogging. It’s always been easier to put my thoughts into words on a page rather than to speak them aloud.
Some introverts don’t like talking about themselves. It can be easier to think and observe and nod the head rather than engage and participate.
The takeaway: Because we may not talk often, when the time comes to answer a personal question, it can be daunting. Just be patient. In time, introverts will open up when they feel comfortable.
5. It’s just who we are — and that’s okay.
I consider myself an introvert amongst the introverts. There were times, usually in high school, when I would come home having not said a word all day, to the point that my voice became hoarse when I did speak, from lack of use. I did want human interaction at times, but I mostly enjoyed recording my thoughts on paper and observing everyone around me.
Being an introvert goes beyond these five points. In the end, being quiet is just who we are. You don’t have to talk all the time to be noticed or to feel important. It’s okay to feel more comfortable in quiet places rather than in large crowds. Everyone has a niche where they belong. Just because someone seems like an outgoing person doesn’t mean they don’t have moments when they need alone time. I feel it’s important for everyone to be alone with their thoughts at times to better understand themselves, their choices, and their life.
The takeaway: Don’t force an introvert to talk more or try to change them into an extrovert. It won’t happen. Love them for who they are, because there’s nothing at all wrong with being an introvert.