An open letter to everyone who has ever made me feel like there is something wrong with me—unintentionally or otherwise.

I am an ambivert. This means I have characteristics of both an introvert and an extrovert. There are one or two parts of being an introvert that I don’t think apply to me, but overall that’s the description that fits me best. I’m more than happy to spend time by myself and would rather stay at home and binge-watch a TV show or write than go out and socialize with people I’m not close friends with. While others seem to have no problem chatting away in new social situations, I get nervous about meeting new people. Small talk is difficult, and it’s even harder to do in large groups of people or with people I don’t know very well. Speaking up in class or giving presentations at school made me feel sick to my stomach.

But all my life, I have felt like being quiet and introverted is a bad thing. If anyone ever described me as quiet or shy, I felt like there was something wrong with me. Those words seem to come with negative connotations, like it’s something to be ashamed of or like I’m only half a person.

However, after 27 years, it’s pretty much ingrained in me now: I am Quiet.

And some people think it is a bad thing. But it’s not okay to feel that other people see a big part of your personality as defective.

So, on behalf of myself and everyone else who has ever felt put down or as if there’s something wrong with them, I ask you to do (or rather, not do) three things:

1. Please don’t make assumptions about me. People think they know something about me. They think they can make assumptions about my personality and things I will or will not do, or even things I can or cannot do. A friend once said to me, “You couldn’t stand up and talk in front of a crowd; you’re too scared to even make a phone call at work.” Not true at all and pretty belittling. I just sometimes worry about calling people regarding a subject I’m not very familiar with. If I have to talk about something I know inside out, it’s fine.

Someone else once commented, “I don’t blame you for not chatting to people; most people aren’t worth bothering with anyway.” Which just made me sound like I’m not friendly or that I don’t like anyone, and that’s not true either. I’m sure as a result of these assumptions, some people think I don’t have confidence. I may lack confidence in some social situations, but I actually have always had a bit of an ego. I love myself. I pride myself on being different and doing what I want to do without worrying about what people think of me. My quietness is not a reflection of my confidence.

2. Please don’t comment on my quietness. I hate it when someone comments on how quiet I am, especially in front of other people. I can’t put into words how low and humiliated I feel. I can’t stand being called on to contribute to a conversation that I’m happy to just be listening to, especially in groups of people I don’t know very well. It feels the same as it did when I got picked on to give an answer in class.

This is my personality. It’s just the way I am, and it hurts me a lot when people comment on it like it’s a flaw. I can be loud at home and with friends, but I can’t be loud on command, no matter where I am. And why do people never comment on extroverts in this way? “You’re very outspoken, aren’t you?” “Are you always this loud?”

3. Please don’t make me explain myself. Questions such as “do you ever talk?” or “are you always this quiet?” are not okay to ask—they make me feel about two inches tall. What on earth is a person supposed to say to that anyway? No, I’m not always this quiet, but you commenting on it in front of everyone is guaranteed to make it ten times worse. And being told that I need talk or that I need to come out of my shell is not going to help. I don’t have a shell to come out of. I am just fine. Maybe I just don’t feel like talking. Maybe I just feel happier if someone else starts the conversation.

I am not unfriendly, and it’s not that I don’t want to chat—I’m more than happy to. But I’m not happy having to explain myself just because I’m “quiet” or a little “introverted.” Extroverts don’t have to explain themselves, so why do I? People think that being this way is not normal; it’s seen as wrong or something that needs to be fixed. But I don’t need to be fixed.

People are the way they are. If everyone was the same, life would be boring (and nobody would be able to get a word in). And surely—despite their insensitive remarks—everyone knows that being quiet isn’t a bad thing, right? After a lifetime of being made to feel otherwise, I might need some convincing.

Share your thoughts.

Let’s keep our discussions reflective, productive, and welcoming. Please follow our Community Guidelines and understand that we moderate comments and reserve the right to delete comments that don’t adhere to our guidelines. You must sign in or sign up to comment.

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  213. Imad Haddad says:

    Dear Sam Rose, you speak the exact words that are always in my head. I too dread giving presentations at school. And I too have been asked countless times “why am I quiet” or “whether I am always quiet.”

  214. Terry says:

    Well said!

  215. Claus says:

    Dear Sam,

    Thank you so much for your post. Took me over 40 years just to realize that there’s nothing wrong with me and I’m still trying to figure out how to function in these extreme extrovert environments. Looks like you’re way ahead of me. Thanks again.

    /Claus

  216. write my report

    … or perhaps I just want to see a summary of the paper to determine if it is relevant to my study. For most studies, a proper research report includes the following sections, submitted in “Writing Papers in the Biological Sciences (2nd edition)….

  217. Bee says:

    I feel the same way. I use to feel that I’m not good enough. I have even been told I’m slow!! I’m learning to accept myself and I want to shine with what I have. I feel so fortunate to have found the Quiet Revolution.

  218. Ed Hirst says:

    This article captures it perfectly. I’ve spent a long time struggling with the idea that I am somehow ‘wrong’ for being quiet, or for wanting to be quiet. I’ve had personal relationships damaged in part because it’s difficult to explain myself other than ‘that’s just how I am’, especially when you’ve spent years being told – or having it insinuated – that ‘how I am’ is actually something that needs excusing.

  219. Myra alport says:

    Well written, Sam. You are very in tune with both sides of the equation.

  220. Joy Sabin says:

    I really appreciate this article. I agree that Quiet Rev has given me a place to “land” to learn more about me. I am ambivert with a bit stronger tendency towards introvert but can “fake” it with the best of them. I am learning that I don’t need to “fake” it because I am learning to say to myself- I matter, because I am, just as I am. I don’t need to garner anyone’s approval any longer in order to justify my need to be alone and quiet when I feel over whelmed by issues and circumstances.

  221. Mary says:

    Well said,Sam. As far back as I can remember,there were always comments about my quietness/shyness from people,including Family and friends. I learned early on that I was different,and considered myself unworthy of others. I even chose a career that forced me to be someone I wasn’t. I feel that I’m an ambivert living in an extrovert’s world. It wasn’t until I was about 50 that I finally felt comfortable just being myself…quiet. I am 66 years old now,and feel much of my life was spent pretending.Sad.

  222. Matt says:

    Thank you very much for sharing. You and I are quite a bit alike. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being more introverted than outgoing. I believe this world needs good listeners just as much as it needs good talkers.

    Thanks and God bless you 🙂

  223. Curtis Martin says:

    What I like about the Quiet revolution is that I am slowly getting comfortable being myself. I get to stop justifying myself and making excuses in my head.

  224. Curtis Martin says:

    Our company is in culture-change mode. Go Go rah rah really sums it up. Introverts need not apply. They were even talking about how to rate culture participation on our annual evaluations. Like, “Do we mention it in evaluations if staff don’t attend the holiday potlucks?”

    What if you are an introvert *and* have Celiac disease? Should I just attend and not eat anything? How uncomfortable is that? And we have potlucks for every holiday, Cinco de Mayo and Halloween included.

  225. Stephen Keene says:

    Well said. I am an outspoken introvert, a “techie” in a commercial sales world. I am not shy about making presentations or making small talk in large groups of new people, but I find the process mentally and physically draining. People assume that because I can do this, that I am an extrovert who relates easily to to the needs and feelings of others. I am not and I don’t. In effect, I am playing a role because it pays the bills. I am the guy who steps outside for a private conversation with close friends, thanks the host for their hospitality, and begs forgiveness to leave due to another commitment. I spend most of my time with small groups of highly competent, professional people finding solutions for difficult technical problems. Going back to my office and losing myself in analysis is how I re-energize to do it all again.

  226. Emmanuel De la Cruz says:

    For a long time I felt as if something was wrong with me because i wouldnt talk as much as others..or because i would get really drained after being out for a few hours..i honeslty felt like a grump but i wasnt mad at anybody or anything, i just needed some time by myself to recharge..all the comments they would make like “why are u so quiet” or “oh he’s really shy” would cause me to shut down even more…I didn’t know I was an introvert until I stumbled into a buzzfeed video about introverts.. Now that I see I’m not the only one, I learned to accept who I am. And I don’t need fixing.. Awesome article. Thanks for sharing!

  227. Cat says:

    Says it very well. I am Quiet and I love it. It saddens me that we are made to feel odd. At work I had a supervisor who understood me, but she retired and I am now sinking in a world of extroverts who have no trust for quiet persons. Even the HR head and ombudsman who are ambiverts and extroverts themselves are so invested in the world looking out of the Extroversion lens that they too forward the culture of go-go-rah-rah. All the Quiets are quitting. What a waste of talent!!!

  228. Sach1304 says:

    Thank you for the article. It so completely describes many of us. Thanks again!

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