Don’t ask an introvert if he’s OK!

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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

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135 Comments

  1. I’ve never gotten the “Are you OK?” question; not from what I can recall anyway. As a non-native English speaker I’m still struggling to get used to the “Hi, how are you?” question; which is far too common in English speaking countries.

    It’s not so common to use it in Scandinavia, as it is actually a very personal question.

    Sometimes I forget to answer the “how are you” and just say “Hi” back.
    It always amuses me when you reply with the same greeting back you don’t always get an answer back, or they seem surprised.

  2. I get the “Are you ok? ” question sometimes, but more often I get “You need to smile more” or they have the nerve to call me “smiley” as a way of letting me know that I don’t smile enough. I never go around commanding other people to do things such as change their facial expression. It’s none of my business what facial expression is on someone else’s face. A lot of the time I don’t smile unless I am talking to someone and that person says something that I find funny or kind or something like that, otherwise I have a serious looking face and that is fine by me. Other people might have naturally happy looking faces and that’s fine, too. But many people who have naturally happy looking faces, somehow think that that is better than someone who has a naturally serious looking face. I don’t go around telling these people that they need to stop smiling and have a serious expression. I think that many people also tend to feel uncomfortable when someone is a naturally serious person and wears a serious expression, so that’s why they go around telling those people to smile more and asking them if they are ok.
    At one job I had, during my first week, a coworker told me that a customer didn’t like me because I didn’t smile a lot. Well, that really shocked me because I had never done anything wrong to that customer and she didn’t know anything about me to have an instant dislike of me. Afterward, everytime I saw that customer, I always felt uncomfortable because I knew that she had an issue with me.
    I’ve also gotten the “you are too quiet” comment, and I also find that annoying because the same people who make that comment are usually unnecessarily loud and obnoxious, but I don’t go around telling them that they have a big mouth or talk too much. Actually, I did tell one person that she had a big mouth and she just laughed it off as though I wasn’t being serious, even though I was being very serious when I told her that.

    • Isn’t it amazing that people have that much time on their hands to worry about what expression others have on their faces? I don’t know if it’s mainly the U.S. with all the norm of the backslapping “false heartiness” of business deals and meetings or if extroverts all over the world are this bad about judging others. I hope someday people can be a bit more tolerant of folks who are quiet and serious – and minding their own business!

    • I totally understand this and it’s a huge pet peeve. I’ll be minding my business walking down the hall at work and I’ll hear, “Smile” in this patronizing tone as if I’m a child. My response to this was, “If I smile all the time I will look crazy”. I know that is abrupt, but I get seriously tired of trying to deal with other peoples issues of my facial expression. I have just found out I have a serious black & white borderline personality disorder. I am trying to think more on the positive side of peoples’ comments and I’m trying not to take everything so personally. Still very bothersome!

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  4. I find it intrusive and insulting when someone has something to say about the look on my face, or the way I do something, etc. For example, a few months ago I met 2 people, both of whom I know fairly well, at a restaurant. I tend to be early everywhere I go, and this time, I was really early. So rather than go in to the restaurant and be uncomfortable in a loud and over-refrigerated space, I sat in my car and read until it was closer to the meeting time.

    Well! One of them saw me in my car and I got no end of static from her about it. And she had to tell the other person who also gave me grief about it. “You DO that? That’s so WEIRD!” That still rankles me. I was quite happy, not doing anything weird…it was none of their business at all. And this harassment touches on the “don’t point out something about an introvert” topic brought up in a different post. That is so uncomfortable!

    • “WEIRD?” Wow. Yet if you’d gone into the restaurant and used the waiting time to make loud calls on your cell phone that wouldn’t have been “weird” at all. Bella, I used to meet a friend for dinner all the time – an extrovert – and she’d sit and read in HER car if she got to the restaurant first. It’s too bad those two don’t know how to enjoy a book – they might learn something!

  5. This issue is that people who are friendly really do care about you. They ask “are you ok?” because they really do care about your well being and will listen if you need to vent. They ask you this question because they are trying to make a connection with you in a safe way. Extremely introverted and private people are extremely hard to have as friends. They want the relationship 100% on their time, emotional convenience schedule, etc. Relationships need to have both parties trying. Go into work and say “good morning” and SMILE at people when you see them. You are making contact and when you are busy they will see that but since you had a word or two and eye contact/facial expressions that says “emotionally, etc. I am ok” they will give you the space you desire.

    • Hi Mark – thank you so much for your comment! Wow, if everyone could express himself as nicely as you do, this world would be a lot more pleasant. You’ve made many great points here, and it definitely is unfair of us to make the rest of you “guess” whether we feel like talking today or not.

      Thanks again, and please come back to Introvert Zone often – I know I for one am going into the office tomorrow with a little different attitude. 🙂

      • It’s isntreeting to me how middle of the road I am on this analysis. On most of those characteristics I could go either way depending on exactly how you defined it and in what situation.At the end of the day I think I am still an introvert. Although I have grown up with introverts and sometimes consider myself extroverted by comparison, people who don’t know me well generally tell me that I am introverted (not necessarily with that term, but compatible with it’s definition).And I can add one more thing to the introverted list: it drives introverted people crazy when extroverts claim to be “big picture” people. To an introvert, an extrovert takes vast, complex picture and reduces it to one teeny tiny itty bitty little picture and then easily and quickly deals with the issue. Not big picture, little picture. Very small and very simple.

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  7. Oh lord, thanks for posting this. I get asked this question a bazillion times a day and in every performance review. I am not an extrovert. Why do people expect me to be?

    • Hi Jeff! Very glad to have you here. It’s as if we need to consciously wear a certain expression on our faces in order to “blend in” for some people or something. I’m often lost in thought, and I don’t want to be jarred out of it. My hope is that people will learn, little by little, that introverts are good and normal too! Thanks for your comment – and please keep coming back to Introvert Zone!

  8. Just this week, there was an article on Huffington Post about how to recover from being an introvert. In the comments, many people rightly took the author to task for that idea.

    I had a boss, a classic extrovert, ding me in a performance review for being introverted. That’s like taking points off for me for having green eyes and not blue. The really dumb part is that HIS job — sales — required an extrovert. Mine, making Powerpoint presentations for him to use, required an introvert’s skills and ability to work alone. So where’s the problem?

    • Bella, that is so funny. They always give the introverts a black mark in the performance reviews, especially on areas such as motivation and taking initiative. I was always scolded because people thought I wasn’t motivated and that I didn’t seem to care about the job, even though I really did care. They simply thought I didn’t care because I wasn’t as outgoing and expressive about everything. People really don’t give others enough credit and just go about assuming things.

      • JW, that is such a shame. Your quiet and probably calm demeanor instead of back-slapping enthusiasm and loud talking was something your bosses didn’t know how to take. It’s very unfair when people just assume instead of finding out. We introverts have to make sure we show what we’ve done of value and speak up for ourselves a little, because it’s the only way some people are going to know (since they don’t understand our natural way).

    • Bella it does sound like you were in a great spot for an introvert! I wonder if your boss was just uncomfortable with your personality since he must have thought you were “too quiet” or something?

  9. I don’t so much get this day to day as I’m working on a PhD and my office is actually too quiet for my liking, and no one talks at all. The time I do get it is when I’m out socialising.

    As an undergraduate it was one of the main reasons why I’d avoid going out. I’d be in a group of a dozen or so people and I’d be sitting there fairly content in a club or bar, enjoying the music and talking occasionally but not all the time, and people would keep saying “Are you ok?” or “Smile!” or “Come on, it might never happen!”. This would normally prompt several other people to notice and to ask if I was ok as well. Sometimes people would take it upon themselves to make sure I was having fun, even if I insisted I was. I would find myself grabbed by the arm and dragged off to dance. Or someone would attach themself to me and force me into a long and empty conversation as if I couldn’t possibly be happy sitting there quietly. Did they realise they had actually made it so that I WASN’T having fun when I had been before they stuck their nose in?!! To tell them that would sound weird or cruel though.

    I still find myself having to be conscious of my facial expression, dreading someone thinking that I’m not smiling enough and stepping in. I’ll pretend to be sending a message on my phone or something or try to listen into conversations going on around me that I’m not part of as if I’m really interested, just to avoid being singled out.

    Yesterday I visited a friend of my partner’s and his fiance who have just become parents. They and another couple were discussing their babies and I happily sat and listened but the friend kept firing me with “Are you alright?” and “Are we scaring you?” (about parenting I presume!) when I was actually fine. The problem is that out of politeness you can’t say something cutting and so I actually jokingly pretended that they WERE scaring me, just because it was easier.

    • Hi Anna! I’m sorry; I read your comment the day you left it but never answered it. It’s awful when a person can’t just wear her normal facial expression without the smile police swooping down on her! Funny, looking at all the extroverts around me, they don’t wear perpetual grins either, but I guess since they talk a lot more than we do no one wonders if they’re about to collapse in worry. Hahaa..yes – it was nicer to say you were getting scared…but if he’d been mean/rude it would have been oh, so tempting to say, “I’m just bored!”

  10. Shannon Hamling on

    I usually just consider this a pet peeve. Along with people who say “You must understand.” and those who ask you to repeat yourself for what seems like a million and a half times. =]…I know I’m introverted but maybe I’m just a little bit over irritated with people in general. I don’t know…=/

  11. That “you need to smile” thing seems only to be directed at women, I have found. As though our looking worried, tired, unhappy, etc. is disturbing to those around us and must be corrected, for their benefit.

    • Hah – I hadn’t thought of that! So no matter what our jobs and roles in life are, we must also always appear to be “happy hostesses.” Sort of like how an advice book for women probably read in the 50’s and before. LOL! I will try to be more considerate of others around me from now on. 😉

  12. Oh, I’ve gotten that question LOTS. But I think I’m also guilty of asking it a few too many times. I try to ask ‘it’ when I really think someone I know well is acting unlike themselves, and sometimes I’m right, but sometimes I’m wrong and I laugh it off and apologize for interupting, since I know how they feel. Me and extreme extroverts don’t get along well. I know that, and I try to distance myself from them, but when I’m forced to be in close contact with them….it’s not pretty. XD My ‘leave me alone’ vibes just aren’t strong enough, I guess lol.

    • I’ve also taken someone aside and asked them – if it’s someone who would normally confide in me anyway. And yep, often there really is something going on with them.

      I’d never think of doing that with a casual acquaintance/coworker though. Many of the people who’d ask me and other introverts such a thing must be really arrogant – I mean, what if we actually were having a problem – with family, job, health, etc. Why should we tell someone just because they Want To Know? 😉

  13. I basically lost my last job b/c I didn’t “smile enough”. No one had an issue with my work, my boss loved my quiet ways. But the young 20-somethings did NOT like working for me. I was too quiet, too serious, I held them accountable for my own standards and didn’t get involved in their lives. It wouldn’t have mattered their ages, I’m not into the people I work with lives! I don’t really care, we have work to do. But because I didn’t smile enough and feign enough interest in their lives they confronted me. Said everyone hated me. I bawled like a baby, AT WORK, and they were shocked. Couldn’t believe that I could be hurt… Really? I’m not a human being?

    So, 2 weeks later after doing my best to smile at all of them, knowing they all hated me, being forced to listen to their drunken escapades, I was “laid off”.

    Why is it a crime not to smile and have idle chit-chat at work?

    J

  14. Emily Roberts on

    Ack. I get the “are you okay” question from my friends waaay too often. Most of the time I’m just sitting at my desk, thinking about something pleasant but inconsequential, perfectly happy in my land of daydreams, when it is all shattered. One of my friends asks me, “Are you okay? You seem kind of quiet.” Then I play my part, chuckle good humouredly, and tell them I’m fine, while inside I’m annoyed because I have to reassemble my thoughts and take precious time getting back to where I started, just so that another well-meaning friend can ask the same question five minutes later! It’s like thinking for thinking’s sake is somehow inherently wrong nowadays!

  15. I get asked if I am OK a lot too, or to smile more – I absolutely hate it. So I don’t go walking around with a big goofy smile on my face 24/7 – big deal. In fact, years and years of being bombarded with these types of questions and comments have left me with a complex and now I find it hard to be in any public space without being very aware that I’m probably looking grumpy and that everyone is noticing, which probably makes me look even grumpier. I do try and look happier and sometimes I think I’m doing a good job of it only to have someone yet again say “are you OK?” or “aww, you look so tired” which brings me crashing back down again. I know people mean well, but it’s very, very exasperating.

    I’m a bit of an odd-one-out at work as most of my co-workers are very social and talk about anything and everything, whereas I just get on with my job quietly and prefer not to make any small talk. I kind of feel a bit bad about it sometimes, as though I should make more of an effort with them, but then that’s just my personality type, and who I am.

    Tonight they all decided to go out for coffee after work. I was supposed to go but I ended up just slipping out quickly after work and going straight home. They just aren’t the type of people I get on with. I find I can get on with certain people, but they are few and far between normally.

    Reading other introverts’ stories on here has been helpful, and I hope many more will find this place and take the time to add their own. It’s a comfort for me as I’m sure it is with many others here to know that we are not alone 🙂

    • Hey Jeremy! Glad the stories are helping. They help me too! It’s wonderful to read things that… formerly I’d thought I was the only one in the world who felt that way. Ahhh..the slipping out quietly when everyone else thinks we’re all going somewhere. A wonderful relief on the drive home, then sort of a weird feeling too, thinking, are they saying to each other of course I didn’t show up, etc.?

  16. Teachers in school ask me if I’m okay all the time. We could have a free class and my classmates would be loud and obnoxious but I’m asked “Are you okay?’ by the substitute teacher when I’m the only one sitting quietly and reading.

    My English teacher also would tell my parents that I’m not involved in class and that I don’t ask questions. Yet I get the highest results in tests.

    • Shaking my head and laughing, sort of sadly. Isn’t it a shame that when a student is nice and quiet and actually reads a book, IN SCHOOL, he is thought to have something wrong with him!

  17. Yep, got it again yesterday at work. Trying to get a ton of stuff done, with a To Do list in my head and someone says…”Are you OK”? Blam, out goes the list of stuff to do. Yea, I’m fine. Just tired is my normal answer, lots to do as I run off and stop at my desk to try and reassemble my To Do List in my head.

    School, I remember that being tough. I loved to sit in corners and read, people thought I was weird and called me names. It was rough, I don’t miss school at all.

    J

    • The question makes me so mad, I sometimes look down at what I can see of myself and put a hand to my head with an exaggerated concern. “I think so…why?” But that’s not constructive; people don’t learn. 😀

  18. I am most often asked that question when I am walking down the hall with my head hanging because I’m deep in thought. I am always startled and respond with a “Huh? Oh! Um, Just deep in thought. Working out a problem.” That usually covers it, since I keep walking. But I am annoyed that the deep train of thought I was in got shattered and I have to take several minutes to reassemble it.

    Generally I try to remember to make eye contact with a smile and a nod. Responding to the ‘How are you?’ is asking too much in the 2 seconds you usually have to respond before they’ve moved on any way. I can make it if they give me, say, 5 seconds.

    • I do think that’s why I smile in the halls more than most people around me – to disarm the “are you OK” question that comes up the minute I just let myself go deep in thought!

  19. A.
    I have a theory about this question being a species of “dominance” thing.

    Like if I get *caught* in a moment of vulnerability and spill my guts, we’ll either be instant bffs (a valuable commodity in our lonely world) or vulnerable b/c that person has exclusive knowledge of a weakness of mine.

    B.
    On the other hand, it’s really not fair for us to take offense at people who don’t understand how we’re different. Is it fair to punish ignorance?

    My best example: A few years ago my preschoolers asked me, “Mama, are you mad?” I came back with, “No, this is my thinking face.” But it got me aware. I’ve since then tried to make my ‘neutral’ face less-austere, and it hasn’t made me a Grinning Idiot.

    A day or two later a child asked me, “Mama, are thinking again?” She had re-framed her understanding of my facial expression and it’s never come up again.

    • Interesting viewpoint. But I doubt many of those asking are thinking of dominance.

      A few years ago my adult daughter asked me if I was mad. I said no. She had asked me to do something for her and I said yes after a brief hesitation. She questioned the accuracy of my not being mad. I insisted I wasn’t. She said “But you clenched your jaw. Just briefly, but I saw it.” I had to run back through my thought processes and yes, I was mad because it meant my adjusting my plans, but I got over it before I answered yes. The adjustments weren’t that big, and would fit with something else I had wanted to do. Anyway, I never realized until that moment that I clenched my jaw when mad. Now I use that as a signal for me to look into why I am mad. I often don’t realize the subtle creeping anger that comes over me until it’s hard to hold in.

      • Hmmm! I’ll have to start noticing that sort of thing! But mostly I get it when I’m concentrating, deep, deep in the Zone..and someone just can’t stand that I don’t look at them immediately when they appear in my peripheral vision.

    • Yes, I have had at least two of the “are you OK” people who were definitely trying to get me to talk some personal stuff. They thought they were really about to feast on something. But yeah, mostly I think it’s just ignorance. That question seems to come out of peoples’ mouths anytime someone isn’t laughing and talking nonstop.

      • This raelly resonates with me. As a child I was not so much introverted, as shy. I hated math because we always had to work problems on the board… in front of EVERYONE. My brain would just freeze up. I'm not so shy today… but I still hate math. I wonder what would have happened if I had teachers that understood how shy I was…

  20. Why do people ask introverts, “Are you OK?” just because we aren’t yammering on all the time?

    Because they are stupids. Some extroverts just want conversation from anyone surrounded by them. So if anyone is keeping quiet…they will sure ask — “Are you OK?” Or they will think…there is some problem with the person who remains quiet.

    Who are these people who’ve appointed themselves the facial expression police?

    Well, they just judge anything.

  21. Hadn’t happened to me in a long time. But after 2 weeks of relatives coming & going at my house & a broken toe, I went to work on edge. Apparently not able to put on the happy face anymore. So what email do I get from the talkative extrovert in the next cube? You guessed it. “are you ok?”. Thanks to this website I laughed, realizing she can’t help herself & went to reassure her. Of course that meant standing there talking for 20 minutes. Its going to take me a few days to recover from all this! J

  22. I laughed when I read the first paragraph. I just experienced this last Friday. I am situated in my client office recently. I don’t know anyone there except for my colleague from my company. There was a guy in the client company whom everyone said very friendly. He was on leave when I first came there and has just been back for a few days. Our works are not related and his desk is behind my back with a distance from me. The funny thing happened last Friday afternoon when I was concentrating on my work staring at the screen, he came by my desk and said something. At first I thought he was talking to my colleague as they knew each other well, then I heard something again and looked around and realized that he was talking to me. “Pardon?” I said. “Why do you always look serious?” I didn’t know how to response “Really? I just don’t realize that.” Sound a bit silly, huh? But I couldn’t think of anything else to say. That was the first time we talked to each other and the first thing he told me just wondered me. Am I really always serious? Do I look unfriendly to others? Should I and could I do something to make me look friendlier to people in the office when I walk along the aisle even though I don’t know them and they don’t know who I am either? I didn’t feel annoyed by his question but feel a bit guilty. I don’t understand why. But as I read the first paragraph of this post, I was cheered up. OK, so it’s might not totally my problem. If I don’t know them and I have lots of work that I love to spend my time on, it’s just fine for me to be alone doing my stuff.
    I’m going back to read the rest of the post now. Just couldn’t help sharing my recent experience. How nice to come across this just the right time! 🙂
    By the way, the guy is not really annoying. I think my colleagues were right about his friendliness. Just interesting to see how an extrovert interprets our way of thinking and doing. 😀

  23. I have just recently discovered the definition of introvert. I feel like a great weight has been lifted off of my shoulders. There have been times, lots of times in my life that I have felt odd. Have wondered on numerous occasions if I should be on some type of “magic” pill. I don’t enjoy socializing, except in groups of 10 or less people. I do enjoy having conversations with my few close friends, whom I’ve stayed in contact with for many years, one-on-one that is! I thought it odd, that I get so much energy and pleasure by being a homebody, while the majority of society would shun such a notion! Even visits with my friends or family are better in small doses. I also cannot stand to be interupted, whether I’m having a conversation, or involved in a project of some sorts. After a couple of days of alone time, then I am ready to embrace humans again. lol! It really helps to know that I am not weird or disturbed, simply because I have this personality trait! However, I now understand why I have felt odd all of these years. It seems introverts only make up 25% of the population. It makes it a little more difficult to find people with this trait! lol.

  24. Finally! A site that is dedicated for people who are like me. I remember being in school and when there is recess, lunch, or even field trips I’m usually sit in a area where there is less people and be in deep thought. Then here comes the “you are ok?” question, or here’s the classic one, “why you don’t talk?” I smile politely and say that I’m fine and keep it moving. On the inside though, I want to tell them to leave me alone, “why you always talk?” My peers find me weird because of this I’m being judged unfairly. I did not discover that I’m an introvert until I was in college. Now I have a clear understanding who I am now and makes it easier to look into certain careers.

  25. Actually I find that it helps to let an introvert know that it is ok to have their space and time zone, but when it comes to working together on a research project for example, it helps if you let them know that there is a deadline. The silence from introverts is not a challenge but more of a different style of observation. As a research partner, you can count on them as one of the most reliable because they work very well on their own.

  26. So, looks like I may be a bit odd in this regard, but I tend to welcome these kinds of questions because then I get the fun of educating the ignorant. I might say something as simple as, “Oh, yes, I’m having a lovely time being quiet and listening,” and hopefully raise some awareness that being quiet and listening can indeed be a smashing good time. Why not say, “I’m having more fun sitting here and reading than I would being in the middle of chit-chat”? I rather enjoy correcting people’s faulty impressions, and I don’t mind in the slightest if I’m considered odd or weird. Actually, I rather like it. People see that I’m odd, and they also see that I’m perfectly happy and well-adjusted being odd, and sometimes it makes them think.
    Maybe sometime I’ll say, “I’m sorry, is my thinking bothering you?” Sometimes asking a stupid question back helps people recognize that they’ve just been rather stupid. Or I’ll merely say flatly, but pleasantly, “I’ll talk when I want to,” or “I’ll smile when I want to.” Trying to strike a balance between being pleasant and letting people know in no uncertain terms that those are *my* choices, not theirs.

  27. Chrysanthemum on

    I’m an Extrovert, but with Introvert qualities. If I’m not smiling, people will ask me if I’m okay. Most likely, I’m thinking or observing or processing an answer in my mind – maybe just slower than others would like or differently in the public than is expected by others. But I don’t take it offensively. I give others the benefit of the doubt that they are sincerely concerned about my happiness. Most of these people usually see me with a jubilant smile on my face, so no wonder they would be uncomfortable about my serious side (no smile, deep in thought). In researching Introverts and as I seek to get a better understanding, I’m finding that Introverts are often offended when asked about how they are doing or when their facial expressions are misunderstood by others. But why assume the negative? Why not be positive about it? It seems to me that Extroverts are more likely to appreciate Introverts by trying to work with them, but Introverts are less likely to appreciate the differences of Extroverts. Rather, they are annoyed by those differences as if differences should be annoying rather than appreciated. If Introverts and Extroverts are to get along, let’s give the benefit of the doubt to each other and try to appreciate our differences.

  28. Sometimes I do think extroversion makes people less intelligible to someone who is thoughtful, as I prefer to consider myself (as opposed to “weird”, “quiet”, “creepy” or any other derogatory adjective others have attached to me, to my face). For one thing, thinking out loud, as extroverts do, is an inefficient way of thinking. Also, I’ve never trusted “charming” people. How often does someone approach me all friendly like and all they want to do is sale me something I have no interest in. Or they just want to make themselves feel better due to some underlying insecurity. I like the suprise on their face when I stand up for myself, and they realize I am not the easy, rollover target they expected! Few extroverts can handle reality when it is spelled out to them without the flowery charms they use as a weapon…

  29. This is such a great post! A few months ago I was asked by a coworker if I was ok, and then asked directly if I was depressed. Depressed?! I mean, I admit I was very mellow at work after having just completed a high stress 4 month project spent in a small room with 8 people I didn’t really care to be with all that time (your basic introvert nightmare), but a depression diagnosis? Totally incorrect – I was absolutely ELATED it was over (and amazingly no meds were involved)!

  30. Hi everyone

    am so glad ive found you!
    ive seriously thought there was something wrong with me ..i started to think i maybe suffered from social anxiety disorder.I just cant converse or interact with my collegues at work when it comes to social events..i just completely shrink away from it which always makes me think what they think of me.
    i also have a very serious expression on my face..similiar to what some have described on here which makes my collegues stare at me for long and hard..i always know when they staring at me but i just carry on doing what am doing and ignore it but it does hurt me that they should stare in that manner!
    But then on the other hand i wonder if they secretly admire our self sufficient personalities ..i wonder if they wish they could be more like us rather than the clowns theat they are lol

  31. oh man I feel tickled by this reading because I can so relate. when others ask (especially those that already know me and my ways) “are you ok” it seems like they are trying to get a laugh off of you. and when I reply they reply “ok I was only asking.” Are we supposed to be smiling looking jolly 24/7 on the outside. They cant see us smiling from within.

  32. I’ve gotten this question so many times it’s not even funny. My mother and grandmother ask me this all the time, especially if I just happen to be thinking of something with a concentrating look on my face. “Are you okay?” *sigh* “Yes, I’m fine. Dang it what was I thinking about again?” XD It’s also wierd that my parents are both pretty much extroverted, so is almost everyone in my family and yet I turn out introverted, it’s strange lol

    Anyway, this is a question that gets on my nerves very much. I even had one teacher when I was in middle school think that my parents were abusive simply because I didn’t talk much, or didn’t smile. She started giving me concerned looks for 2 months and coincidently I broke my foot that year. Oh that wasn’t good. She confronted my mother and asked her! Is it that hard to comprehend quiet people? I comprehend extroverts pretty well, but it seems like it’s not reciprocated very well by the other side lol

    • I know quiet people make others nervous.But those that talk too much make me nervous. I feel bad because i have 3 little ones that just talk all the time. My husband complains I’m too short with them.

  33. I get these questions on what sometimes feels like a daily basis. “What’s the matter?”, “Why aren’t you talking?”, “Smile!”, “You look angry!”, even. This is so frustrating to me, because 95% of the time absolutely nothing is ‘the matter’. I am usually in a good mood, perfectly happy and content to be sitting quietly and observing, speaking only when I really feel the need to. After a get together with others, my fiance often remarks that others had asked him during the night “What is wrong with her?”, “Is she pissed off at something?”, “She doesn’t say much”, etc. These questions really upset me, because in my mind I am making a huge effort to NOT appear that way (and am exhausted because of it). I don’t like that I seem to give off an air of being unhappy or that I don’t like someone… I try to work on this, but it is impossible to change your very basic nature!

  34. One time, I was at work just filling out out some paper work. A coworker says something to me and I didn’t catch what it was because I was so preoccupied with the paperwork. I asked, “I’m sorry, what?”
    Then, he laughs and says, “HEY HOBBS! What kinda music do ya like?” I knew he didn’t really care about what music I liked, he just wanted to “lighten the mood.” I told him I like country. He then asked me why I didn’t respond immediately. I told him ,” Sorry, dude. I just had to get this filled out real quick.” Another coworker standing by said, “What’s the matter? You can’t multi-task.” I didn’t say it, but I was thinking it. “DUDE, GET A LIFE!!” (That’s probably not healthy anyway.)
    I’m thinking some people (not everyone in general) are just weird. By weird, I mean IGNORANT. I’m not ashamed of being introverted cuz I know the shame is actually on THEM.

  35. YES! i do get alot of “are you okey?”. it really makes me feel awkward. i wonder if its because of my face..or what. people make me feel that i’m the most problematic person when they ask me that. they are trying to be concerned but they don’t need to because there is nothing wrong with me. why can’t they just get that? guyz please help mehhh!!! how do i tell these people that i’m normal and there is nothing wrong and i’m happy. because the way they act around makes me feel dumb. i don’t need pity! for cyin out loud.

  36. I’m not sure if I’m what you’d call an extrovert but I HATE being by myself. If I don’t have any human contact for a few hours I get really bored and unhappy, but loads of people seem to much prefer to spend time by themselves (also, I am very annoying), which annoys the fuck out of me. So when someone doesn’t engage me when I’m walking around to find someone to talk to, like obviously bored lady at the office in example above, it’s extremely frustrating.

  37. Extroversion is the norm. People who are INTP, for example, are within 1 – 5% of the population. That means that they are in one heck of a small minority. Throw in the fact that some of these folks are schizoid, meaning that they are emotionally aloof, and you are talking about 1 – 3% of the population.

    • I’ve read that about 25% of the population, maybe higher, is introverted. In any case, no matter the number, it’s a personality trait that has been accepted as completely healthy – not inherently abnormal. I’m sure there are plenty of extroverted personalities that are “schizoid” (for reasons that have nothing to do with their extroversion) and introverts who also possess personality disorders, but that really isn’t the point .

      • Sifrina,
        Your figures, though they are significantly at variance from my sources, may be closer to correct. I wouldn’t doubt it either, going by what I see in coffee shops, and people simply walking the sidewalks of the big city.

  38. Extroverts often end up taking on the color of whatever comes along. I have traveled in many countries and it is something to see how people pick up on essentially mimicing one anothers emotions, attitudes, platitudes, tonalities, etc. Think about all the Latino kids in America who were following the fad of calling their fathers, “Papi!” That was real big for awhile. Think about all the clever people who used the line, “What can I do you for?” or, the standby, “It’s ass backwards”, and all the African American men who suddenly picked up some kind of street accent, “A-aight?” Think about all the people you knew in school who felt that they had to have a certain pair of pants, shoes, hairstyle, whatever to fit in? This kind of stuff never ends for many people, they follow the fads straight on to the grave.

  39. I am the type of person that usually would ask “Are you ok” if when I called the persons name, his facial expressions shows signs of worries… I do not do this on purpose and on the contrary, I do this because I am concerned and I want to give a helping hand if it is possible.. Never thought that it would bother someone if I asked them if they were ok..
    LalouTal@beachfront villas´s last post ..Casa Yardena

  40. I am interested in the posts that describe the “Are you OK” question in the work atmosphere. I think the question is normal for friends and family though.

    I am a mix of extrovert and introvert depending on where I am. At work I am an introvert because of the politics – it’s just easier and don’t like feeling insincere or that I’m selling myself out. Outside of work I can be an extrovert with people that are sincere and when politics are minimal. I think this is how I work. If the people that come around me lack sincerity and the genuine interest in encountering another person then I CHOOSE to spend my time within myself and with my own observations. But if an individual comes along in a receptive non-cookie cutter stimulating social dynamic way – then I will happily engage. There are harmful work place gossipers that you need to watch out for. Your avoidance threatens them are they tend to be the ” Are you OK ‘ers”, in my opinion.

    But at work, from a colleague – I just simply think the “are you OK?” question is just too personal and unprofessional. My facial appearance is not my colleague’s business. Sometimes I think about growing a beard – because bearded people never get asked this stupid question. Now I know why man has grown a beard for serious leadership positions for centuries- so people won’t wonder if “they are OK” :).

    And yes, At work, I do think the question attempts to exude dominance over another and is often done to do exactly that. How often do you see a colleague ask their supervisor if they are OK? Exactly. There is a power role playing here. Some extros think this question is a race to who asks each other first because it automatically implies that there is absolutely nothing wrong with the asker because they asked you first. I’ve seen this question used in a political and public way hundreds of time in the workplace. It’s a race – and normalcy is the finish line 🙂 . I’ve had the colleague come in hung over and lookin like shit come around corner in the hallway about 100 meters away yell out to me “ Are you OK?” just in a pathetic attempt to distract any attention away from him and his own deviance. Britain is notorious for these funny politics. They actually use ” Are you Ok” as a defensive form of greeting. How often do we really see colleagues genuinely concerned about each other to the point that we say to each other ” tell me your problems” – which is what ” Are you OK?” is related too. We don’t. It’s a cheeky work place question that doesn’t deserve an answer as if they are genuinely concerned.

    Try the following next time a colleague asks you if your OK: ( with a calm and relaxed smile )

    * say ” Do I look OK?”
    * say ” The question is – Are you OK?”
    * Say ” Is there any reason why things wouldn’t be OK”
    * Just put your Shoosh index finger up to your mouth like you would a child that is disturbing your important work
    * Say ” that question is too personal John – please stay professional.”
    * Say ” If a grow a beard – would that make you feel better”
    * Say ” Is there something I can help you with ” as if they aren’t OK.
    * Say “ I’m really busy Sally” as if a nosy child has said something inappropriate
    * Say “ Excuse me “ if they say it again say “excuse me” … then again if need be
    * Say “ Fine – are you OK”
    * Say “ Do you mean -What’s wrong with my face?” using an inflection that highlights how inappropriate a question like this is.
    * If they respond to any of this with …”You look so serious” or “You’re so quiet” , just say, “ it’s called PROFESSIONALISM , you should try it”
    * Say ” try not to think about me if you can”
    * Say “focus on your job please – not me”
    * Say ” Are you doctor”

    • I guess I could always respond, “Yes, I’m ok. Why, did something happen!”
      I have read that there are a number of secret schizoids, who feign much greater interest in social occasions and activities than they actually feel. If they’re really good, they move to Hollywood.

  41. So glad I’m not the only that gets SUPER annoyed by that question. I had a friend who would ask me that almost everyday and eventually I was like “Don’t ever ask me if I’m okay ever again because you always ask me that when I’m just minding my own business, but when something actually is wrong, you don’t even ask, so just don’t ask me at all.” really went off that day. She looked at me like all surprised, but when I responded like that, she agreed and never asked again.

  42. I’m mighty glad I found this page and now know I’m not the only constantly being judged by others as “nervous/unapproachable/anxious/stressed, etc.” just based mainly on not wearing a smile. What can I do if I was born with a serious face. I agree that we can’t be smiling all the time as that would seem like we’re crazy.

  43. I am an introvert, though I used to enjoy socialising with my small group of friends in our local bar. They were all extroverts and used to talk very loudly, fool around etc, and I used to just sit there perfectly happy and content listening to them as they used to make me laugh. One day I was in the bar with my friends, an acquaintance of ours decided to completely slate me in front of everyone. He had the nerve to call me miserable and boring, and said he wondered why anyone bothered with me, amongst other things. Needless to say I was extremely upset and hurt by his comments. As a result, if I knew he was going to be in the bar I would avoid it, thus missing out on some good nights with my friends. This guy hardly knew me, how dare he say such things to me. The close friends that I have always tell me that I am a lovely, caring person and they enjoy my company.

  44. janice@shyness, getting rid of shyness, shy, timidity, how to get rid of shyness

    I really like this blog. You have some very interesting articles and even the comments are great. I hope you won’t mind that I use some of your ideas and comments about introverts. Being an introvert myself, I can recognize myself in your articles. Great stuff. I just happened upon your site and happily ready your articles. Excellent stuff!
    Janice Devereau´s last post ..Social Anxiety Disorder: Fear Can Overwhelm You

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