People out there have a lot of funny ideas about quiet people, the worst one being that all quiet people are alike. There are about 10 million reasons why someone might not talk very much, running the gamut from being shy, to hating you, to having sold their voice to a witch in return for legs. People who don't recognize this come up with their own ridiculous assumptions about what quiet people are up to. Even quiet people themselves are guilty of assigning their own traits to all other quiet people in the world. Here's a few of those assumptions.

Quiet People Are Looking For Your Help
There's a common assumption that all quiet people really want to be talkative, but can't be. They just lack confidence, or are really bad with words, but if you just reached out a helping hand and gave them a gentle push, you could rescue them from their silent prison, from which they must constantly look out in misery at normal people talking and enjoying themselves. First, many people are pretty comfortable with not talking very much, for various reasons other than having low self-confidence or bad social skills. Or at least they are comfortable until someone makes a point of how little they are talking and tries to awkwardly force them into spitting out more words for the sake of words.

Quiet People Lack Social Skills
The assumption here is that quiet people are quiet because they don't know what to say, or how to say it. They'd like to make jokes, but they always come out awkward. They want to make cleverly flirtatious comments about how young the host's lovely wife looks, but somehow it always comes out sounding like they are planning to rape her. And that's why they stay quiet. Knowing when, and to whom, it's appropriate to say things has nothing to do with how quiet or talkative you normally are. There are embarrassing faux pas blurters among both quiet and chatty people, and there are tactful wits in both groups too. Sometimes quiet people tie these things together as an excuse, since if being quiet is part of your personality, and lack of communication skills are tied to being quiet, well, you can't be expected to do anything about it. This is bullshit. Just because you don't naturally like to talk doesn't mean you can't intellectually learn the right thing to say so you can hit on someone you're interested in without being pepper sprayed, or deal with customer service without being rerouted into the "difficult customer" queue.

Quiet People Lack Confidence
Most people fit quiet people into the "shy nerd" stereotype, where the quiet person is intimidated by other people, or is afraid of being laughed at, or undervalues him or herself. But as long as we're going to movie stereotypes, there's also the silent kung fu master, who doesn't need to say anything, even when insulted, because he knows damn well he's a kung fu master and can remove your spine whenever he wants. I'm not saying that smiling arrogantly because the words of lesser mortals mean nothing to you is a positive thing, but just demonstrating that a completely overconfident person can be just as silent as an extremely under-confident one. And there are lots of other reasons that people of varying confidence levels might not feel like talking much.

Quiet People Want To Be Left Alone
A lot of times, being quiet tends to go hand-in-hand with not going to a lot of social events, leading people to believe the quiet person doesn't like the company of other people. This is one of the reasons more outgoing people try to "help" quiet people -- because they confuse it with being withdrawn and antisocial, which most people would agree is generally unhealthy. A certain number of people do like solitude and don't feel a great need for company, but most people have a pretty strong need for friends. It can be hard to see sometimes in the non-partying, stay-at-home types, but often they depend on friends just as much as anyone else, but just a few close ones, as opposed to keeping up with dozens of people. One common definition of the introvert/extrovert divide is that extroverts gain energy from being around people, whereas introverts spend energy when hanging around people. So parties make introverts tired, even if they like everyone there and are having a good time. It's like playing a pickup basketball game with your friends. You might have a hell of a time, but you're going to be very tired after an hour (or in my case, a minute) and have to call it, and go home.

Quiet People Are Mad At You
I've suggested a couple of times that quiet people may be mad at you or hate you, which is always a possibility, but this can also be a big misconception. So it turns out everyone has a different idea of what conveys a neutral or "baseline" attitude toward someone -- like if you passed this person in the hallway, and you were neither mad at them, nor happy with them, nor had anything in particular to say to them, what you should do to indicate there is no change in your relationship. Some people feel a smile is required, some people feel you should also say, "Hello," and some people also feel you should ask, "How's it going?" But most of these people oddly enough don't feel like they should stay around long enough to hear the answer. Anyway, for them, the "baseline" expression would be a smile. There's nothing wrong with people having different ways to indicate, "We are still OK with each other!" until people forget other people might have different ways to say it. People who believe a perfunctory "How's it going?" is required can become infuriated at a person strolling by quietly under the "no news is good news" approach, convinced their silent associate is deliberately snubbing them.

Quiet People Are Smarter/Deeper Than You
Obviously, this one is put forth by some quiet people themselves, in a sort of over defensive backlash against being treated like the weird, abnormal ones. History has always shown that the most sensible way to fix discrimination against one group is to turn around and discriminate against the other group instead. You see that kind of attitude in articles like this one, where the author talks about how introverts are "more intelligent, more reflective, more independent, more level-headed, more refined, and more sensitive than extroverts," and how extroverts' conversation is "98-percent-content-free talk."


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