I think I speak for all quiet people out there when I say that we are tired of hearing, “Oh, you are so quiet”. This is annoying not just because it is stating the obvious but also because being quiet is seen a bad thing. Apparently, people think you are shy, socially awkward, simple-minded, sad, anti-social, or bored if you don’t speak much. While these can all possibly be a reason why someone is quiet (and there is nothing wrong with that), there are many more reasons why someone can be quiet.
I personally used to hate it when someone dared me to talk something, anything at all. Seriously, just because I am quiet, do they think I’m like a toddler who can be asked to recite rhymes? Nowadays, I don’t give room for this because I chime in with my two cents every now and then so that people don’t assume I’m shy or aloof.
Imagine the plight of people who are actually shy or socially awkward. Putting a spotlight on them and asking them to talk is a surefire way to stop them from speaking to you forever. All that preparation and courage they would have mustered so far to speak would be gone the moment they were forced to speak something and that would only make them more embarrassed.
Would you ask a talkative person why they speak so much and ask them to stay silent for a while? Even if they are so loud that they trigger your migraine, it would be seen as rude to ask someone to shut up unless they are very close to you. Then, why is it acceptable to ask mere acquaintances why they are quiet? In fact, in this world filled with cacophony, we should treasure the ones who are silent and not force them to speak more.
Then, there are those sweet extroverts who see a quiet person, assume something is wrong with them and try to help with their situation. I’ve had people who pulled me aside and asked me if everything was going fine in my life and if there was any problem I’m facing with anyone in the group. I loved how they wanted to make me feel comfortable and included in the group, even though I might have just been quiet because I was observing and taking mental notes of the conversation.
For the sake of these lovely people as well as the idiots who make it their life’s mission to ‘help’ a random introverted person become extroverted, I’ve made a list of all possible reasons why I could be quiet at the given moment. I may be quiet most of the time, but there is a different reason for different situations. Not all quiet people are quiet for the same reasons, so I present you with just my own reasons. I’m sure my fellow INFJs will be able to resonate with this list.
If I don’t talk much in general or to you specifically and you are wondering why, before you try to ‘fix’ me, please read this list. One or more of the following could be the reason why I am quiet at any given moment:
- Listening is my superpower. Considering that it is a rare talent these days, you should applaud it, rather than asking me to contribute to the cacophony.
- I am not a naturally loquacious person and don’t feel the need to be something I’m not just to fit in or impress others. I’m comfortable in my own skin and hope you respect that.
- I find your speech fascinating and do not want to interrupt you because I want to hear more. Also, I cannot think of anything to say right now because I’m deeply engrossed in your enlightening speech.
- I like you a lot, but I don’t want to take up too much of your time lest I bother you. You may have something important to do so I will keep my speech short and sweet. I won’t ramble on because I don’t know your schedule and I don’t want to unintentionally delay you.
- In this group of people, none of you has any manners and you all keep interrupting each other mid-sentence. I keep waiting for someone to finish talking and end up not saying anything because you’ve moved on to another topic and you’re still talking over each other. Well, whatever, it’s your loss for not being able to hear my unique point of view (That’s what I tell myself to feel better).
- I do not agree with what you said or I seem to miss the full picture, but considering that you are usually right and I respect you a lot, I will take my time to reflect on it and then get back to you. For now, I will just nod because I don’t want to take up too much of your time with my umpteen number of questions.
- I tend to have a different view on things and if I were to express all of my opinions that are unconventional and prove that my point is valid, I wouldn’t have enough time in my lifetime. Even if I became immortal, I wouldn’t have enough time to justify all my opinions because I would keep finding something wrong with the society as it keeps evolving. Hence, if I disagree with a popular opinion that you also seem to hold, I will not address it to save my energy. Also, I do not want to keep opposing you and seem like the Grinch. I certainly don’t want to lie by agreeing, so I’ll just keep mum.
- If we are focusing on a debatable topic, particularly if it is a sensitive one, I’d want to know your stand and guess why you feel that way before offering my opinion because I don’t want to unintentionally hurt you by speaking against a long-held belief of yours. I don’t want either of us to have any hard feelings.
- More often than not, I meet easily offended, close-minded people who cannot deal with a different point of view. I just let them live in their own closed circle and slowly back away from them because they are not worthy of my time and energy. If you find me interacting with you fine at first but just nodding my head when you speak about sensitive issues and then wonder why I’m avoiding you, you are probably one of those people.
- I am terrible at confrontation and I have a lot of things I disagree with. Unless something annoys the heck out of me, I ignore it, silently judge the speaker (I’m not a saint) and move on. Your differing statement has to make my skin crawl if I have to respond to you.
- A lot of people I know seem to love talking but cannot listen. There are also those narcissistic people who keep diverting the topic back to themselves. If I know that you are not going to hear me out, I will not waste my breath on you. Now, if I thought that you would be interested in a topic I’m passionate about, I’d never shut up. If it seems like we spend a lot of time together but I never talk much, perhaps you are talking at me rather than talking with me?
- I’ve had a long day and am drained of my energy. I possibly had a lot of social interactions or attended day-long meetings or seminars. Maybe I’m even hungry and out of fuel. I have no strength to speak and can hardly listen to my full capability because I’m on battery power saving mode right now.
- I am sad or mourning and if I meet people who know about it, they will try to console me. This does not help because bringing up even old scars will hurt me as if they are fresh wounds. I have a hard time moving on and prefer to grieve alone. So, if there is something bad going on, I will be a shut-in and/or concentrate heavily on work and completely avoid the thing that worries me. I will avoid talking to you when I’m sad because you will not let me be in denial. I don’t need you to check up on me. I just need you to give me my space to grieve and/or be in denial till I eventually feel like talking to you.
- I’m wondering about the meaning of life and going through an existential crisis, so forgive me if I don’t comment on the latest trending news or gossip. You’d be surprised how often I go into hermit mode and contemplate about life, the universe and everything.
- I have zero interest in the topics that we are discussing here, but I’m trying not to be rude and change the topic. Since I value your friendship, I will just nod and look excited because you are clearly passionate about this topic. Maybe I’ll even learn a thing or two by listening to you and learning is always good.
- I find this topic annoying and/or boring and do not wish to hear a word. Luckily, I’ve mastered the art of pretending to listen while zoning out, so you think I was stumped by your brilliant speech that I don’t know what to reply. You probably even think I’m dumb and can’t think of how to respond, when in fact I’m not even paying attention. Thanks to you, I’m in another world diving into my daily dose of daydreaming.
- I have a pressing task that I need to work on ASAP, but you are wasting my time and I have no way to politely ask you to stop talking already. Since I suck at getting out of conversations, I’m having to endure it all the while panicking about my pending task.
- I absolutely detest small talk. I wish you’d talk about something that has more depth. We don’t have to talk about philosophical ideas or our political stands or religious beliefs in the elevator, but I’m interested in knowing about you. However, I cannot make myself to care about how much you hate summer. Newsflash! Everyone hates summer in Chennai! Instead, tell me something I don’t know about you like how awesome summer is in your native or tell me tales of your childhood summer vacations. Unfortunately, you are not going to open up to me about deep or personal stuff till we know each other for a while and I cannot deal with the small talk phase, so you are going to have to perform monologues till you say something about yourself that gives me some scope to ask further questions about you without sounding like a creep.
- It is clear to me that you are a prejudiced person who has some preconceived notions about me that you are unwilling to change, so I have no reason to talk to you. I probably tried changing your mind but got exhausted and gave up. So I won’t bother talking to you again. However, if you show your good side, then I would want to be in your good books and try to change your mind about me again. If you are still obnoxious, have way too much ego and think everyone else is beneath you, then I won’t be talking to you unless I have to.
- You are a backbiter who selectively picks a few words that came out of my mouth, spins a tale around them and goes on to broadcast it to everyone you know. I will endure your speeches if I have to but keep my words as minimal as possible.
- You keep asking me uncomfortable or awkward questions that I don’t want to answer. Though I am adept at avoiding questions, you are very persistent. You force me to display an awkward, embarrassed smile and/or do the Indian nod and say the barest minimum so that you can’t ask me further questions from my answers.
- You are spewing negativity with every word you utter and I don’t want to encourage a toxic person to keep talking to me. If we were not relatives or classmates or colleagues, I would pretend you didn’t exist. Unfortunately, I’m having to endure this out of courtesy, so do not expect me to respond much.
- I am absolutely annoyed or maybe even disgusted by your mere presence, but I cannot bring myself to say that out loud so I’m hoping that you’ll go away if I don’t respond and send body language cues that I don’t care about anything you have to say. Since I am incapable of clearly letting people know that I don’t like them, you might never know that I detest you and keep talking to me while I tolerate all your crap. This one is completely on me, I’m sorry. I hope you will eventually figure out that I have INFJ door slammed you and leave me alone.
- You cannot shut up for the life of you. I am afraid that if I start talking to you, you will continue the conversation for hours and I would end up feeling drained and need a nap to recuperate from that conversation. Also, I’d feel guilty about wasting my time on an acquaintance when I could have spent that time with someone in my close circle.
- You may be a nice person, but you are needy, clingy, whiny or possess any such negative trait that takes up a lot of my time. I do not want to deal with negative people because I am incapable of differentiating the feelings of others from mine. No matter how great a person you are, if you are cynical and pessimistic, I’m going to have to avoid you for self-preservation purposes. Sorry, not sorry.
- There is this thing called reciprocity which you do not seem to comprehend. This is fine as long as you don’t try to make me feel like the bad person. If you are going to contact me only when you need help, I might be down to humour you, but if you prefix your request with how I don’t talk to you anymore and fake how much you miss me, I’m going to have to avoid you. If you are a taker, you cannot expect me to initiate conversations every now and then. I don’t need you. You need me. So don’t be an idiot and try to emotionally mess with me. I can see right through you and I will never take your calls ever again.
- I like you, but what you just said was so stupid that I cannot even respond. I might subtly address it later, or maybe not.
- You have offended me quite badly and if I opened my mouth, I would say mean things to you. I want to remain a nice person and avoid further discord, so I will shut up for now and put you on probation. Once I’ve cooled down, I shall slowly bring up the topic again.
- I cannot respond to you right now because I am concentrating on not slapping you across your face. You know the saying, if we throw a stone into sewage, it will only get splattered on us? Speaking to you feels that way. I owe myself some peace of mind and I don’t owe you a response.
- You are a convincing speaker who keeps asking me to take up activities that I don’t want to do or buy things from you and since I cannot say no, I end up indulging you at first and then realize my stupidity and avoid you like the plague.
- I find it hard to express my thoughts in speech. Writing is my chosen mode of expression for a reason. In my mind, I would intuitively know that A implies B, and B implies C, but when saying it out loud, I assume the other person knows this relation, so I end up saying A implies C, which becomes cryptic and confuses them. I don’t have this problem when I’m writing, or at least it’s not as striking. I can almost put my thoughts as is on paper. In fact, a lot of times I don’t know how I feel about something until I start writing about it. I also prefer writing to speaking because I get the chance to edit it and make it sound more articulate. So, if I have the option of texting you or dropping you an email about something, I will not be speaking to you about it. I might even avoid seeing you so that I can send you the information by writing.
- I can easily spot mistakes with everything and everyone around me. Although the perfectionist in me is hypercritical only towards myself and goes very easy on others, the fact remains that I can easily find faults in others and their work. When you show me your work and ask what I think, I will find a way to express my constructive criticism in the most polite manner by highlighting the goods and beating around the bush on the improvements. If I thought it was awful, I will just say its cool and avoid talking about it further. As a sensitive person, I know how much it hurts to hear that your work is not great. So, unless I know for sure that you can take criticism lightly and explicitly seek my opinion, I won’t offer it.
- If we are colleagues, when you present an approach to solving a problem, I’m busy taking in all the new information, dissecting and analysing it thoroughly, making a pros and cons list, wondering how you arrived at it, trying to gauge your thought process in how you approach any given problem, comparing it with your past ideas to see a pattern, checking your attitude towards work (i.e., if you want to do it properly or do you want to just finish it off easily), checking if anyone would be even remotely opposed/offended by it, how other people who don’t like you would disagree with the idea and how to resolve that (because I can’t stand conflicts and I want the best approach to be implemented), and so on and on. If your idea is good, I would also want to emulate you, beat myself up for not thinking of it, analyse how I missed that, backtrack my thought process and try to improve it, etc. When so many things are running in the background, I can’t possibly speak out my own thoughts. I can only nod and perhaps smile.
- In a meeting, not only will I analyse all the opinions in great detail, I will also scan the surroundings and pick up subtle signs that tell me who blindly supports and favours whom, who has an ego clash with whom, who is open to new ideas and who has the “I’m always right” attitude. I don’t even have to think about doing this, it just happens involuntarily and subconsciously. My mind automatically reads stuff like a person’s facial expressions, body language, tone of speech and gestures, maps it against the first speaker and the suggestion and draws back on all previous interactions of the reactor and the speaker, pulls up all the responses of the reactor to similar suggestions made in the past and identifies whether they are responding to the idea or the speaker. Now if I’m with two people, things are relatively easy and my mind can just assess the dynamics between the two of them. As the number of participants grows in meetings, my mind keeps tabs on how everyone reacts to everyone else and looks up all past data from older meetings and casual conversations and keeps arriving at conclusions on the group dynamics. Since all of this happens instantly, it takes up a huge part of my brain’s processing capability and I can’t make speeches because I’m preoccupied with a lot of stuff. In a meeting, I will listen, take mental notes and think up my opinions, but I cannot make time to form my thoughts into coherent words. So, I end up being silent during the meeting and follow up later, most likely as one-on-one.
- If I have nothing new to add to the discussion than what has already been said by others, I refuse to say something just for the sake of speaking and letting people know that I’m here too. If you want to say the same thing over and over again or launch into an irrelevant lecture that no one cares about, please feel free to. If you treat meetings as a place to show off, then good luck with that. Just don’t expect me to be like you because I respect and value other people’s time.
- I cannot be expected to speak in brainstorming sessions because aside from the above three points, I do my best thinking when I’m alone without any distractions. Even if I somehow think of an idea, by the time I structure my thoughts into coherent speech, people would have agreed upon a solution and only expect inputs on improvements or moved on to the next problem.
- As a social introvert, I love talking to people and making friends, but it also drains my energy. Since I have a limited amount of energy, I pick and choose a limited amount of people I spend my time with. If I’ve just met you, I prefer to take my time and assess your general vibe before I can be comfortable enough to share my thoughts with you. I’m not even going to let you stand on the rim of my inner circle until I know you are a nice person. Till then, I won’t open up to you at all.
- I’m very guarded about what I reveal about myself. I cannot open up to people unless I’ve known them for a long time. While I can be completely myself at home, I show different parts of myself to different groups of friends. When a new person enters a group, I pull up the blinds because I don’t want to share certain things in front of them and I stay silent. It gets awkward when friends from different groups join me because I don’t know what part to reveal and what part to conceal, so I become silent.
- Remember I’m great at listening? This invites a lot of people to reveal their deepest secrets to me. They sometimes tell me things that they have not told anyone else and since I care about most people, I store even the most trivial things anyone tells me. Days later, they would have forgotten that they said anything and when I casually mention something about it, they would be surprised how I knew and avert their eyes. Things then get awkward because I know their biggest secrets, but they don’t even know the basics about me. Sometimes I don’t know if something said one-on-one is a secret or not, so I concentrate too much on not talking about potential secrets in public that I don’t participate in the conversations at all. Sometimes the secrets creep me out and I avoid talking to the person. If you have revealed your embarrassing secrets to me, do not expect me to do the same. That is not how I roll. I will avoid you if you keep prodding me to share some of my secrets.
- I cannot, for the life of me, remember the names of the people I’ve just met. It is as if names are just labels and I cannot take a note of them and store them permanently. I forget people’s names very easily if they are not close to me and I haven’t met them in a long time. So when I see an acquaintance after a long time, I feel a pang of guilt in not knowing their name and then I cannot talk properly because that guilt eats me away. If I had to proceed with talking to them, I would feel insincere and fake because I don’t know their name. I hate being fake the most, so I stage something and leave quickly with as few words as possible. If we have not seen each other in a long long time and we were just acquaintances even when we were in touch, I’ll probably not be speaking to you. Sorry about that.
The bottom line is that just because I don’t talk to you, it doesn’t mean that I don’t like you or that I’m shy. I could consider you a great friend and still not talk to you for months because I don’t want to disturb you. Alternatively, just because someone talks a lot to you does not mean that they like you. They could just be a huge gossip or they may just want to kill time. How much one speaks is not relative to how much one cares.
Anyway, the above reasons are things I wanted to say to a lot of people but couldn’t find it in me to express them. There are quiet people who are completely different from me and have a radically different list of why they are quiet. Instead of assuming that someone is quiet because they don’t know what to say or they don’t feel comfortable, why not take the time to understand them? Its alright if you are too busy or don’t care enough to see from their point of view, but at least stop bugging them to open up and talk more when they may be perfectly fine just the way they are.
If you are a quiet person, tell me how much of this list resonated with you in the comments section. What more would you add to your personal list? If you know someone who is quiet, please share this post with them.