Why Your Office Introvert May Appear Rude (But Is Really Not)

An introvert works alone in an office

If you know an introvert who seems standoffish at the office, or even rude, there may be a perfectly good explanation. 

I get it. Working with us introverts can sometimes be difficult because we tend to be more reserved and quiet than other personality types. That’s why we often seem to be in their own world and don’t always interact the way you’d expect us to. If you’re used to outgoing people, it can be easy to misinterpret an introvert’s behavior.

But just because someone is introverted doesn’t mean they’re being rude. In fact, there are a lot of things introverts do that seem rude, but are actually just signs of their personality type. Keep reading to learn more about the hidden reasons behind some behaviors that may have you scratching your head.

8 Ways Your Office Introvert May Appear Rude, But Is Really Not

1. They wear headphones — a lot.

If you see your introverted colleague wearing headphones at their desk, it may seem like they’re trying to tune out the world. While that may be partially true, it’s not because they’re trying to tune out you — not necessarily.

Wearing headphones is often an introvert’s way of signaling that they don’t want to be disturbed. It’s their way of saying, “I’m in the middle of something, and I don’t want to talk right now.” After all, we excel at deep work, and it takes a certain level of concentration.

It probably has nothing to do with you and is just a defense mechanism, of sorts, that we introverts use to protect our energy and alone time. So, if you see an introvert wearing headphones, it’s best to leave them be — they’ll emerge from their bubble when they’re ready.

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2. They get to work early and stay late.

Introverts tend to be more focused and productive when they have some time to themselves before the workday starts. The same applies to after-work hours, when no one is around to disturb or distract them.

There are two ways this behavior could be misinterpreted. Some may see it as the introvert being a go-getter and putting in extra hours to get ahead and impress the boss. Others may see it as the introvert avoiding social interaction by coming in early or staying late.

In reality, both interpretations might be wrong. The truth is, introverts prefer to get quality alone time to get their work done. Again, it isn’t personal and may have nothing to do with avoiding you personally. It’s just how introverts prefer to work.

3. They sit somewhere away from the masses.

If you’ve ever seen an introvert pick up their laptop and move to another spot in the office, it may have seemed a little odd. But there’s a perfectly good reason for it.   

Introverts tend to work better when in a quiet and secluded environment. So, if they’re feeling overwhelmed or just need to get some work done, they’ll often go sit somewhere else — where it’s more peaceful — like a cubicle in the back corner, outside, or even go home if remote work is an option.

This behavior can be misinterpreted as the introvert not wanting to be around people. In reality, they’re just trying to create the best working environment for themselves. If they don’t, they may end up feeling overwhelmed and stressed because of all the noise and activity going on around them. And it’ll take them longer to finish projects as a result.

4. They take breaks by themselves.

When some people take a break, they use it as an opportunity to socialize and catch up with their colleagues — water cooler talk is very real. But many introverts do the opposite.

Instead of taking a break to chat (or eat) with others, introverts will often use their break time to do something by themselves, like read a book, drink some coffee, or even take a nap in their car.

This behavior can seem rude because they don’t ask others to join them. Again, it’s just an introvert’s way of recharging their batteries after being around people. They need some time alone to decompress and relax before going back to being social again.

5. They don’t do small talk.

Introverts generally don’t like small talk because it feels superficial to them — so they tend to avoid it.

This behavior can come across as impolite because it makes it seem like we introverts don’t care about getting to know other people. But it really isn’t like that — introverts may feel drained and annoyed when they have to talk about the weather.

They’d rather have a meaningful conversation about something they’re passionate about. If they can’t find anything to connect with the other person on, they’ll likely stay silent.

So if you want to get your introverted colleague to open up, it’s best to avoid small talk and instead find something more interesting to talk about. This doesn’t mean you have to ask them about the meaning of life. Instead, ask them about their hobbies, what they’re reading or watching, or anything else you know they’re interested in. You might be surprised at how much they have to say once you get them talking about something they care about.

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.

6. They don’t share much about their personal lives.

If you’ve ever tried to strike up a conversation with an introvert about their personal life, you know they’re not exactly forthcoming with information. They may give one-word answers or change the subject entirely.

It’s not that introverts don’t want to share; it’s just that they’re selective when it comes to opening up to others. They generally only share personal information with people they trust and feel comfortable with — people who get them. That’s why you need to take time to get to know an introvert before you expect them to share anything personal with you.

7. They say no to social invites.

While it may seem impolite, introverts may say no to social invitations, like an after-work happy hour, even if they’re from people they know and like. That’s because, at the end of a long work day, we may feel drained and tired from being around people, and we need to go home to recharge our energy. So if you’ve ever been caught off-guard by an introvert who declines your invitation, don’t take it personally.

8. They generally keep to themselves.

The introverts in your office may be seen as the strong, silent types. They’re not intentionally unfriendly, but they generally keep to themselves. In a busy office setting, this can be mistaken for rudeness since they’re not your typical social butterfly and may sometimes not even participate in seemingly minor social events, like office chitchats.

Really, their behavior may have nothing to do with you. They may simply feel more comfortable being alone than extroverts feel. We don’t need constant stimulation from other people and actually prefer to work independently. So if you see us working quietly by ourselves, don’t assume we’re being rude — we may just be doing what comes naturally to us.

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