2. He’s so boring. Well, this again depends on your viewpoint. If you’re the kind of person who thrives on extreme sports and parties till the early hours, then someone who prefers to stay home and read a book is probably going to seem boring. However, to someone with an enquiring mind who thrives on deep conversation and learning about new things, the sports jock and party animal can seem just as boring.
3. He needs to get out more. People seem to think that being quiet is something that needs to be cured and that getting out more is the remedy – as if that by dragging a person to nightclub after nightclub, he’ll miraculously change into the life of the party. Getting out more just makes a quiet person feel more miserable, more inadequate when they don’t enjoy themselves, and more desperate to go home and curl up with a book. Please, just leave us be.
4. She’s just shy. This one can really piss us off. Just because we’re not saying much right now, doesn’t mean we’re afraid of saying something. Shyness is the fear of social judgement. Quiet people aren’t afraid of speaking, they’re simply more discerning about when and to whom they speak!
5. He can’t be very smart (or the variation: he’s lazy) – he never says anything in class, meetings, workshops etc. Just because we don’t say a lot in group situations, doesn’t mean we’re dumb or not paying attention. While everyone else might be discussing the topic animatedly, we’re taking it all in, processing the points raised and thinking about solutions. We don’t talk for the sake of talking, and will only speak when we feel we have something useful to say.
6. What did you say, I didn’t hear you?! Yes, we introverts/highly sensitive people do have a tendency to speak softly. This is often because it’s difficult to compete with the extroverts in the room who generally dominant discussions and sometimes we might feel it’s just not worth expending the energy to make ourselves heard above the racket. It’s wise to remember that the person with the loudest voice doesn’t always have the best ideas, so make an effort to listen to the quiet members of the group. You have just as much responsibility to listen to them, as they have to contribute to group discussions.
7. She’s always alone, she has so few friends. Doesn’t mean she’s miserable! We like quality rather than quantity, so tend to prefer to have a few close friends than an addressbook full of contacts that are great for a party, but not for a heart-to-heart chat. And strange as it may seem, spending regular time alone is for us, both essential to recharge our energy and quite simply, bliss. Of course, sometimes we do feel lonely too – but no more so than anyone else.
8. Is something wrong? Another question that can really annoy us. Just because we’re quiet and lost in our own thoughts instead of chatting away inanely with you, doesn’t mean we’re angry, sad or coming down with the flu! We simply find small talk tedious.
9. Why are you mad at me? Oh boy, this is just another variation of the ‘is there something wrong’ question. Just because we’re lost in our own thoughts and not saying anything, doesn’t mean we’re ignoring you or giving you the cold shoulder.
10. Why do you hate people so much? What?! Seriously?! We don’t hate people, if anything most of us are incredibly philanthropic, and are the first to help a stranger in distress. We simply find crowded situations draining and having to extrovert ourselves and talk above the hubbub is exhausting. It's not so much that we hate people, it's more like we hate talking in crowded noisy situations.
11. You’re going home already? You only just got here! Yup, sorry, we are likely to disappoint you on this one, and there’s not much we can do about this. We really appreciate the invitation to your parties but deep down most of us dread them – the noise, the crowded venue, the tiresome small talk, the distasteful spectacle of watching people drink themselves stupid. But we don’t want to hurt your feelings so make the effort to come along. So please don’t be offended when we need to leave early – it doesn’t mean we don’t value your friendship, we simply have only so much energy.
12. What are you scared of? We’re not scared – we’re risk-adverse. We think more before we act, so while you’re carrying on about the awesomeness of your idea of jumping off a cliff with no clothes on, we’ve assessed that that is a very bad idea. Just because we’re not jumping off the cliff with you, doesn’t mean we’re scared. Just means we’re not stoopid!
13. We need you to show initiative. If you think about it, the operative word here is ‘show’ not ‘initiative’. Most quiet people have heaps of initiative and use it all the time. They’re the person who sees something isn’t working and goes ahead and fixes it, or notices some vital component is running low and goes ahead and orders more, or goes ahead and sets up a new system or process, all in the background without anyone noticing. It’s not that quiet people don’t have initiaitve, it’s that quiet people don’t blow their own horns or seek attention for the crises they avert. Before you criticise an employee for ‘not showing initiative’, make sure you have your facts right. And if you’re the employee, don’t be afraid to keep notes of the times you do make problems go away unnoticed and bring these out in performance reviews – sometimes it is healthy and necessary to blow your own horn.
14. He’s not a team player – he never contributes to team activities or attends team functions. Let me get this right, you’re saying this person is not doing his job properly because he doesn’t say a lot at meetings and prefers not to join in for Friday drinks? You mean you’re rating his performance low because he’s an introvert? Be careful, be very careful.
Not everyone in your team is going to be able to contribute in the way you might want. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t valuable. They may be contributing in ways you don’t know about – by being the member of the team that listens to others’ problems and is there to bounce ideas off of, and is always supporting the more energetic members. Your quiet staff members may be far more valuable than you think.
Have you noticed how job description and performance rating capabilities these days seem to be heavily based on personality traits and not actually work ethic? Things like: ‘steps up to challenges, projects confidence, works well under pressure, is outgoing and shows enthusiasm, at ease working in an uncertain or ambiguous environment, can act and make decisions without having the full picture’. Sounds like they’re saying they believe only an extrovert can do the job, right? Sounds a lot like descrimination to me, and we don’t want to go there, do we?
15. You're antisocial. Well, I know I sometimes get mad when extroverts/non-sensitives don't respect my need for quiet and alone time, but I haven't the urge to get a machine gun and mow down a mall full of noisy people. 'Antisocial' is one of those words that has crept into common usage and is incorrectly used as a synonym for introverted, shy, quiet. It's true meaning is far stronger (from dictionary.com):
- unwilling or unable to associate in a normal or friendly way with other people
- antagonistic, hostile, or unfriendly toward others; menacing; threatening: an antisocial act.
- opposed or detrimental to social order or the principles on which society is constituted: antisocial behaviour.
- Psychiatry: of or pertaining to a pattern of behavior in which social norms and the rights of others are persistently violated.
- a person exhibiting antisocial traits.
Introverts and Highly Sensitive People are none of the above, so please don't call us antisocial.
16. Little Johnie is so quiet, aren’t you worried about him? You should get him checked out by a specialist, he may be autistic or have aspergers. Don't you love it how people who have no idea what they're talking about can act the expert? Unless you're wanting to scar someone for life, please don't ever suggest that their quietness is any kind of condition. All sorts of emotional damage and self-esteem issues happen when people believe the labels others give to them, that there is something wrong with them.
There are some aspects of introversion and high sensitivity that can mimic aspects of autism and aspergers such as withdrawing into their own world, being easily disturbed by external stimuli etc but are in no way the same thing. If your child is introverted and/or highly sensitive, there is absolutely nothing wrong with them, they are perfectly normal, and don't ever let them believe otherwise.