On introversion and socialising

Buzzfeed have done a post called 27 problems only introverts will understand and it generated a bit of discussion with some Facebook friends.

I’m interested to hear what Dopers think about a particular aspect of this, relating to socialising. A friend made the comment about how much they hate being told ‘you are so quiet’ and whilst I sympathise, I have a slightly different take on it, which I’ll cross-post from Facebook because, well, laziness:

On the dreaded ‘why are you so quiet’ question…

As someone who is fairly middling on the introvert/extrovert scale (slightly more introverted than extroverted), I can see both sides of this.

I have heard the argument from very introverted people that they are perfectly happy being silent in a social setting, so people should just stop bugging/judging them.

But when you are in a social setting, I think there is a bit of a social contract that everyone contributes to creating a pleasant social experience for everyone. That means doing a bit of talking/sharing (not too much) and doing a lot of listening.

I know introverts hate the ‘why are you so quiet’ question (and I hate it myself), but I think the underlying message is, ‘Hey, why aren’t you contributing to making this a pleasant social experience for everyone?’ And I can see some validity to that query.

Nowadays when I am with others, I try to both ‘have a good time’ and ‘contribute to others having a good time’. That mindset has helped me a lot.

I’d be interested to know whether you agree/disagree with my thinking, and it might be useful to know if you identify as introvert/extrovert/something else. :slight_smile:

People are expecting *me *to contribute to or enhance *their *social experience?

Well nofukkinwonder I don’t have friends or get invited anywhere. Ignorance fought.

I loved it! That’s me. I’m good with people, but sometimes I get the, “Why so quiet? Are you upset?”

No, I’m just listening and thinking.

I found a nice graphic that explains that listening and thinking thing quite well!


I’m like the OP where I’d rather listen to other people’s storytelling rather than espouse my own. I also have issues with people talking over each other so nobody can be heard, and if that happens, I automatically back off.

Despite that, I find I have to “fake it until I make it” when it comes to contributing to a conversation. I find that taking genuine interest in what’s being said is the key to actually being part of it. Ask a question, laugh along, relate your own experience with whatever is being said. A little alcohol helps.

About halfway though college I learned two things.
1)If I keep to myself at a social function I actually end up calling a lot more attention to myself then if I interact with people. A little bit of small talk here and there and my friends would get the 'Why does Joey hate us?" question all night.

2)I didn’t drink, at all, in college. I was constantly nagged about that. Why don’t you drink? Are you allergic to alcohol? Are you an alcoholic? Do you just not like us? and on and on and on…I found it it was just easier to grab the first empty beer can or buy a cup at the door and walk around with that, even if I just used it to put my cigarettes in all night…at least then I didn’t get all the stupid questions.

[quote=“Joey_P, post:6, topic:665575”]

About halfway though college I learned two things.
1)If I keep to myself at a social function I actually end up calling a lot more attention to myself then if I interact with people. A little bit of small talk here and there and my friends would get the 'Why does Joey hate us?" question all night.


So for you, the reason for ‘being social’ is to avoid getting those annoying questions, as opposed to the reason I gave in my OP, i.e. to contribute to an enjoyable evening for everyone?

Ugh, I hate that too. At least now I’m older, I don’t get anywhere near the nagging. It’s not right that anyone should feel they have to pretend that they drink.

I saw that article too, and laughed my ass of through most of it. It’s so me, especially the “don’t talk to me! You’re interrupting my THINKING!!!”

Anyway, just wanted to hop in here and say that not all introverts are quiet in groups. I can talk just fine, and sometimes I even enjoy it. I do find it awkward to be in social settings where someone isn’t participating, even at a low level, and there is an expectation that others will bring something to the gathering. I have a few groups of friends like that; Mr. Athena and I tend to avoid them, because we feel like every single time we get together, we end up talking to each other, which is not why we go out and socialize.

Of course, after a good social evening where I talk a lot, I have to go home and hole up for 3-6 days to get over the trauma. But while I’m there, people would NEVER guess I’m very much an introvert. It’s the next time they call me when I’m like “Oh, I socialized last week, I couldn’t possibly do it again so soon” that they start to figure it out.

At least introverts now have a champion in Susan Cain Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. It’s an interesting book and a nice website.

These were cute. I started making a list of the ones that fit me – 3, 7, 9, 15, 18, 19, 21… – and then got distracted by daydreaming. :slight_smile:

I can be fairly outgoing in social situations with people I know well and not need to recharge, but being around very outgoing people drains me very quickly.

I currently have to deal with this problem at work, with a very extroverted boss – luckily my boss is on a 9-month schedule and I have a lot of time to myself in the summer, because we share an office. When she’s here, she is constantly talking to me or talking to herself (but wants me to answer) and interrupting my work to come look at this thing on her computer, and on and on and on, and by the time I get home I’m too tired to do anything else involving other people for the rest of the night.

Basically, if I can tell that I’m making an effort to be “on,” my batteries are in the process of rapidly depleting.

While there’s some validity to this point, the thing you forget is that most extroverts think you’re being “too quiet” if you’re not talking as much as them. As an introvert, I don’t talk much. But I do talk a little. And that’s not enough for some people.

I can talk, I’m just kind of crappy at the “starting up the conversation” part. And yeah, if I have to be very interactive/chatty for hours, it really physically exhausts me. Sometimes I need to grab a minute in the bathroom or something just to be able to have a moment of peace.

Some of these articles go a bit too far, though. There’s one set of drawn panels that treat the introvert like a “greet quietly, back off with eyes averted, do not dare approach again unless allowed to” special snowflake.

A good point. The worst thing you can do in regards to drawing unwanted attention is to not do whatever everyone else is doing. You’ve got to blend, blend, blend. :slight_smile:

I think this gets down to the real reason I don’t care for things like facebook and twitter. they seem to be geared around extroverts who IRL would still be talking about whatever mundane things that popped into their head. 'cept now they can do it online.

I’m an introvert and I used to be quite shy. In junior and high school I would get the “why are you so quiet” question.

I have worked and worked (and studied books. and started threads on the dope) all my life to be able to make small talk. I really like having friends (to hang out with in quiet places one-on-one) and the only way to get them is to talk to people.

I do also get frustrated by people in social situations who don’t carry their weight. Even extroverts can be lousy at a keeping a conversation going. Just because you talk a lot doesn’t necessarily mean you’re participating in a give-and-take where both people are showing interest in each other.

“why are you so quiet” is extremely bad small talk though. It’s showing lousy social skills to say, in essence, “something seems to be wrong with you, can you explain that?”

Even the politest best small talker in the world isn’t going to spend much time with someone that doesn’t talk back.* They may make it easier to talk back though.

*unless you are extremely pretty.

“Often when I talk, little specks of saliva fly from my mouth. Wouldn’t you prefer I just listen?”

I loved that link, and sent it to friends, because (contrary to the supposition of extroverts who do not understand) introverts DO have friends.

A couple of related thoughts:

1. BEWARE THE FAKE INTROVERT. An example: I know people who claim to be an “introvert” on the basis of the anxiety they feel in social situations. However, there is a distinction between:

(a) *I feel social anxiety in group situations because I really care a whole lot what other people think of me, and I have to prove myself worthy because I care so much what they think, which takes a huge psychic toll on me, and after all, it is all about me, right? So being around other people is draining…

(b)* I feel great social anxiety because I understand that there are norms I’m supposed to adhere to in order to have a reasonably productive and integrated life, and I don’t want to hurt others by my seeming coldness, even though I really don’t actually give a shit what other people think of me.*

“A” is a toxic person. “B” is an actual introvert.
2. AS AN INTROVERT, YOU ARE WELL ADVISED TO “SUCK IT UP” AND (LIKE IT OR NOT) COPE WITH SOME RULES SET BY THE REST OF THE WORLD.** I recognize that introversion can easily be mistaken for self-absorbtion. And you know what? At the end of the day, the lovely introverted thoughts going through my brain during social interactions - but completely opaque to others - don’t matter. What matters is: did I behave like a decent person to others who were, for whatever reason, subjected to my company?

I have a simple exercise that helps me with #2. Whenever I have to spend (unwanted) time with other people, I ask myself afterwards: CairoCarol, what did you learn about the other person(s) during the time you spent with them?

If I can provide a good answer to that question, then I know that I have behaved decently even though I probably wanted to whimper and run away. If I don’t know anything new about the people I was with, then I know I have allowed my introversion (which can sometimes take the form of nervously talking/being animated) to overwhelm me to the point where I am not coming across as a decent person.

In my case, it’s not that I’m “perfectly happy being silent in a social setting.” On the contrary, I’m painfully aware of how much I suck at socializing. It’s because I can’t think of anything to say! Or if I can, by the time I’ve done so the appropriate time to say it has long since passed, and the conversation has moved on. I envy people who can just open their mouths and let the words flow out, but that’s a skill I lack. Telling me to “stop being so quiet” or “just talk more” would be like telling someone else to “stop being so physically uncoordinated” or “just be good at math.”

Some things are just better done alone: watching films, listening to music, sunbathing, working, sleeping, knocking one out…

I can’t stand groups of more than 4. I can’t talk and don’t want to be there. One-on-one with strangers is OK, provided I’m in the mood. Usually I’m not interested.

In some respects, going into publishing was a good move, as nearly everyone there is an introvert and the extroverts are universally despised.

Resting Bitch Face, that’s how I’m going to describe myself when I’m, you know, just there. It gets old after awhile to get asked why I’m so upset or mad. I’m not, it’s just “my Resting Bitch Face.”

I like it.