Why do people ask introverts, “Are you OK?” just because we aren’t yammering on all the time? Who are these people who’ve appointed themselves the facial expression police? About seven years ago I faced this issue several times a week! I’d be at my desk, deep in thought, maybe trying to figure out a complex formula, then someone would walk by and says calls my name, shattering my thoughts. I’d tear myself away from my calculation and focus on their face, getting ready to respond, then here it would come: “Are you OK?”
To me, if I’m not in tears or screaming or otherwise outside the norm of calm office behavior, why would anyone imply that I had the incorrect expression on my face? “Are you OK?” is what you’d say to someone who’s stumbling, weaving, or having a seizure, not to a deep-in-thought coworker who’s intently staring at her screen. One time years ago I really hurt the feelings of a super nice guy who asked, “Are you OK?” because in response I whirled around and snapped, “Yes! Are YOU OK?”
I guess “Are you OK?” is the current way to ask, “Why didn’t you respond the way I want?” because I see it all the time now, even on TV. When someone gets a short answer from another person, instead of wondering if the person is busy, doesn’t like them, or is otherwise preoccupied, they immediately ask, “Are you OK?” thus implying that the other person is the one with a problem. The other person must not be OK or he/she would have responded enthusiastically to any and all comments!
Now that I’m much more aware of introverts and extroverts, I react to “Are you OK” in a lot more appropriate manner for the workplace! I always say pleasantly, “Yes! How are you?” and then continue to make pleasant chitchat. Soon enough, the friendly person will go on her merry way and I can get back to my thoughts.
Photo credit: DrJimiGlide