Have you ever wondered why introverts are quiet? They can be misunderstood as being unfriendly, disengaged, or uncomfortable. As an introvert, I know all too well that my quiet nature is commonly misunderstood, and ironically, even I sometimes misunderstand other introverts’ silence.
Anyone can be quiet for a variety of reasons, but there are three reasons why introverts are commonly quiet. And once you have insight to these reasons, you are better able to respond to their quietness and become better at connecting with them…whether you are an extrovert, an ambivert (meaning you have traits of both an introvert and an extrovert), or even a fellow introvert.
1. Introverts hate small talk.
Chatting about the weather and traffic seems trivial and of no use to most introverts. I mean, who really cares about these things? As an introvert, I certainly don’t! Why talk about the obvious? However, in my workshops and with clients I stress the necessity of small talk–how it is the natural starting place before transitioning into deeper conversation. But that doesn’t change the fact that introverts hate it and often will not initiate or engage in it. Even one step beyond small talk, surface talk such as “how are you” or rambling on about a general subject for too long can cause an introvert to keep quiet. When communicating with an introvert, slow down and intentionally ask questions to find common ground. Once you discover a topic that interests you both, dive into meaningful conversation, and you will find that introverts will usually respond favorably and open up. However, if you find that they are still quiet, don’t mistaken it as disinterest or discomfort. Their silence may be due to these next two reasons.,,
2. Introverts are constantly mentally processing. While extroverts share their thoughts out loud as soon as they form them, numerous or hundreds of thoughts roll around in the introvert’s mind until they feel comfortable sharing them; which may or may not ever happen! My husband John is an ambivert. We’ve been married for over 25 years, so obviously, he knows me well. But sometimes even he thinks I am disengaged when he asks me a question and I respond with silence. Externally, my lack of response together with my “thinking face” broadcasts a perception of disinterest or disagreement, while internally, I’m thinking about his question in great detail, contemplating my answer. My answer may take several seconds or make take hours to formulate verbally. He’s learned to be patient, but it’s only because he knows me so well!
3. Introverts actually enjoy quietness.
It’s common knowledge that extroverts get their energy from being around people and that introverts get their energy from being alone. And it’s also important to understand that when introverts are with others, they value quietness. Silence is not uncomfortable for introverts; rather, it can be a relief from constant chatter. For me, being able to be with someone without the awkward feeling of having to fill every second with chatter is a sign of true connection. I am reminded of one of my first dates with my husband, John. He said, “I like it that we don’t feel a need to talk every minute in order to feel comfortable with each other.” Yes! Hearing him say that was music to my ears, and gave me the permission to just “be”. One introvert recently shared with me, “The irony is that extroverts think they’re doing us a favor by filling space we intentionally left open.”
What is the best way to respond to an introvert’s quietness? Simply slow down!
Slow down to discover topics beneath the surface that resonate with the other person. Slow down and be patient while the introvert is mentally forming their verbal response. Slow down and just be comfortable in the quietness of the moment rather than feeling like you have to fill space.