Oh yeah, well the jerk store called... Comebacks for the introverted
September 29, 2009 8:40 AM   Subscribe

What is a good comeback for an introvert, attending a social occasion, who gets told, for the umpteenth time, "Hey you're really quiet aren't you?"

I am quiet, a good listener, fairly laid-back, definitely tend toward the introvert side of the scale but I can also enjoy certain social occasions. I am interested in people and like to listen to conversation and hear people tell their stories.

Inevitably, after quite happily listening for the majority of the evening I will be told some version of: "Hey, you're really quiet aren't you?" or "You don't say much do you?" or "You haven't said more than two sentences all night."

After dealing with this dozens of times I'm tired of thinking about it and would like a nice scripted comeback for these statements. Something light, mildly humorous maybe, witty...

The title of my post notwithstanding, I'm not offended by these statements. I'm not interested in putting the other person down or making them feel small. I'm not trying to appear smarter or superior to anyone or trying to make any negative judgement about the fact that they like to talk.

Just a light, self-effacing response. What say you, hivemind?
posted by pixlboi to Human Relations (97 answers total) 81 users marked this as a favorite
"Inside I'm screaming. No, really."

Say it completely straight. Or just smile wryly and nod. Yep, I'm quiet.
posted by jquinby at 8:43 AM on September 29, 2009 [17 favorites]

They perhaps think you are hiding something. I used to be quite introverted at such gatherings (still am, depending on the event). I've heard a couple of times that people mistake this for aloofness.

Try asking people questions as they tell their story rather than just listening passively.
posted by wingless_angel at 8:44 AM on September 29, 2009

To "You haven't said more than two sentences all night.", reply "I haven't had more than two sentences worth of things to say."
posted by Electric Dragon at 8:45 AM on September 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

That's really obnoxious, isn't it? Happens to me a lot. I like to put on a big smile and say, "Oh, really? Am I?" It usually throws people off enough that they won't mention it again.
posted by oinopaponton at 8:45 AM on September 29, 2009

Best answer: "Well, with all the voices in my head I can't get a word in edgewise."
posted by bondcliff at 8:45 AM on September 29, 2009 [17 favorites]

Just stare. That's my kind of humor.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:46 AM on September 29, 2009 [4 favorites]

I like to deadpan "yes" (to "you're a quiet one, aren't you?") or "no" (to "you don't speak much do you"). And then smile and wiggle waggle your eyebrows. But I'm a weirdo with no friends.

Also, when prompted with certain questions about my quietness I like to say, "I have a rich inner life".
posted by mokeydraws at 8:49 AM on September 29, 2009 [7 favorites]

Best answer: "I'm too busy mulling over what I should have said yesterday."
posted by fish tick at 8:49 AM on September 29, 2009 [11 favorites]

How's about "thanks for noticing"
posted by Pineapplicious at 8:50 AM on September 29, 2009 [3 favorites]

A primary school teacher of mine used to say "speech is silver, silence is gold."

It's not witty but I think simply saying "I'm a little shy"/ "I get shy around groups of people" / "I just really like listening to what other people have to say" with a big (sheepish) smile can come across as really charming.
posted by kitkatcathy at 8:51 AM on September 29, 2009 [4 favorites]

Best answer: "I like to listen to conversation and hear people tell their stories."

Because people really don't mind being told you're quiet because you're enjoying them talk.
posted by smackfu at 8:53 AM on September 29, 2009 [13 favorites]

There's no need to be weird or snarky or aggressive or intentionally off putting with your answer. I'd just smile and say "I'm a good listener." Maybe be prepared to add on "Have you had a good evening?" to deflect conversation back to the other person if being socially interrogated makes you uncomfortable.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:53 AM on September 29, 2009 [12 favorites]

"I definitely tend toward the introvert side of the scale but I can also enjoy certain social occasions. I am interested in people and like to listen to conversation and hear people tell their stories."
posted by Jaltcoh at 8:54 AM on September 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

"Hey, you're really loud aren't you?"
posted by zennoshinjou at 8:55 AM on September 29, 2009 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I was out w/ a guy friend once, one of his friends asked me a similar question about me being quite and he answered "she's just silently aware" It's a little gentle on the words I found it to be quite sweet. Not exactly what you were looking for but I thought it was certainly worth mentioning.
posted by lwclec072 at 8:56 AM on September 29, 2009 [14 favorites]

"D'ya think so?" [And then casually/dismissively say something like:] "I'm just taking it all in."

The mystery and lack of validation will make overbearing egomaniacs CRAZY.
posted by applemeat at 8:57 AM on September 29, 2009

"I am. People like you do more than enough talking for all of us!"
posted by futureisunwritten at 8:57 AM on September 29, 2009

"It's a condition. Clinically, I'm in a coma."
posted by Jon-o at 8:59 AM on September 29, 2009 [3 favorites]

Partygoer 1: "Hey, you're really quiet aren't you?"
pixlboi: "Yep"
Partygoer 2: "You don't say a whole lot, do you?"
pixlboi: "Nope"

Said with a smile and the right body language, I think that could be quite effective. The point is to make it clear that you are comfortable, and that you enjoy hanging out and just listening.

The people asking these questions may come across as obnoxious, but they're probably just being friendly, trying to include you and make you feel comfortable. The fact that they're having the opposite effect is the problem. But if you're yourself, they'll eventually figure it out and be okay with you being you.
posted by alms at 8:59 AM on September 29, 2009 [6 favorites]

I usually say,"I haven't had anything to say."
posted by cmoj at 9:01 AM on September 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

Normally when someone says this I just say something along the lines of "Ha ha, yeah" to show that I agree with them and not belabor the point (plus if I'm being quiet in that particular social situation I probably don't want to spend a lot of time talking about why I'm not talking). A one-line explanation that would work as a follow-up in most situations for me is "I like listening more than I like talking."
posted by burnmp3s at 9:01 AM on September 29, 2009

Just smile and say "yeah, but I'm enjoying myself", or whatever, and then follow up with small talk ("how do you know everyone?"). Most people who say that are actually trying to be friendly. Maybe it doesn't come off that way, but such is the risk of being social.
posted by mpls2 at 9:03 AM on September 29, 2009 [20 favorites]

eh, i agree that it gets annoying. but i don't think there's necessarily any harm in people pointing out that you're quiet. it usually means that they're interested in you in some way, which is certainly a good thing. if you come back with something snarky, particularly if you're enjoying the conversation, you're going to end the conversation and the potential for new friends (if that's what you're looking for).

it happens to me a lot. i take awhile to open up to people or to be comfortable in particular social situations, and i just tell people that i'm shy when it gets pointed out to me. my issue is that i apparently look like i should be loud and obnoxious; i have pink hair and tattoos and people assume i'm after attention when i'm really content to be a wallflower. it's the people who assume i'm going to be loud who are usually the most unwilling to understand that i'm content to listen and people watch for hours at a time, but even they will eventually get it.
posted by plaingurl at 9:05 AM on September 29, 2009

"I'm a spy, don't tell anyone"
posted by foodgeek at 9:05 AM on September 29, 2009 [16 favorites]

That's happened to me a few times. I always deny it, with a little quizzical look at the person.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 9:05 AM on September 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

alms' response is what I use in the rare occasions when this sort of thing happens to me. If people persist, I tell them the oatmeal fable: "a family where the kid never talked until he was 6 and said the oatmeal was too cold. The parents asked "Why didn't you talk before?" and the kid says 'Because everything was fine before.'"
posted by jessamyn at 9:06 AM on September 29, 2009 [8 favorites]

"I'm recording all of this for the agency."

Though I love monkeydraws' idea of "I have a rich inner life"
posted by Askr at 9:07 AM on September 29, 2009 [2 favorites]

"Hey you're really quiet aren't you?"

"Quieter than some."
"Only when I'm bored."
"You try 8 hours of phone sex a day and see how much you feel like talking."
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 9:07 AM on September 29, 2009 [10 favorites]

Look 'em in the eye, smile, and nod silently.
posted by Metroid Baby at 9:08 AM on September 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

Affirmative nod with eyebrows raised. Smile or not, as you wish.
posted by jaruwaan at 9:11 AM on September 29, 2009 [3 favorites]

Instead of coming up with a snappy comeback, which is off-putting, why don't you just contribute something to the conversation? I would agree that it is awkward for someone in a group setting to put you on the spot like this, but it seems unnecessarily confrontational.

I'm not offended by these statements. I'm not interested in putting the other person down or making them feel small. I'm not trying to appear smarter or superior to anyone or trying to make any negative judgement about the fact that they like to talk.

Snappy comebacks tend to do just this.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 9:12 AM on September 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

Read the question before answering - pixlboi isn't offended, and doesn't want to give a mean or off-putting response.

If you're talking to primarily one person, they might be worried you find them boring. So a "I just enjoy listening to you. You always have great stories!" might be sweet.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 9:15 AM on September 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

I generally go with alms' method. However, there are some people that just won't take a hint. I was in a meeting at work a couple months ago when this woman (who was dominating the conversation) turned to me during a lull and said, "Why don't you ever say anything?"

I responded, "I'll speak when I feel the need to say something" which apparently was the wrong answer because she rolled her eyes at me and then proceeded for the rest of the meeting to try to get me to say anything. This a) put me in a very uncomfortable spot and b) made her look like a jackass.

So I think that if you really don't want to speak or to be bothered then be as curt as possible. You may come off as aloof but at least you won't have "that guy" trying to get a rise out of you.
posted by backseatpilot at 9:16 AM on September 29, 2009

I wouldn't try something snippy. You could say, "You're all just so interesting, I love listening." You can't go wrong with a compliment.

But seconding wingless_angel: if you don't like to make statements, ask questions. People will feel like you're involved in the conversation, but you don't have to actually say anything.
posted by musofire at 9:20 AM on September 29, 2009

Refer people to the classic Caring for Your Introvert essay, then mention how tedious it is to post a link on an iPhone.
posted by neuron at 9:20 AM on September 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

My recently-passed grandpa was the silent type. Never said much; we joked that Grandma talks enough to make his quota, and then some. Few people gave him shit about it, though, because he always had a smile, slightly bemused, like "Ain't this a crazy world..."
posted by notsnot at 9:30 AM on September 29, 2009

Knew a guy who would loudy bark "SOULS!" when asked this question. He's occasionally mix it up with "I plot your downfall!"

I imagine all the "I like listening to you all" goes down somewhat better.
posted by Jilder at 9:32 AM on September 29, 2009 [5 favorites]

"Hey you're really quiet aren't you?"


If the person is asking in a way you perceive to be obnoxious, then no need to be very charming. However, many people may ask a stupid/obvious question like that as an icebreaker, and what they mean to say is "Hi, I'm Theora. How are you this evening?" in which case, you might choose to respond to "Hey you're really quiet aren't you?" with "Hi, I'm pixlboi. I don't think we've met."
posted by theora55 at 9:32 AM on September 29, 2009 [3 favorites]

Nod yes.

I'm quiet too. For the first year we were dating, my (now) fiancee was always asking what was wrong. She was used to me being rambunctious when it was just the two of us talking. I don't like hearing myself talk, but at parties there are other people who do, so I end up listening to them.
posted by valadil at 9:35 AM on September 29, 2009

Just say "shhh".
posted by willcosgrove at 9:37 AM on September 29, 2009 [2 favorites]

"No; you guys are all really noisy"
posted by metaBugs at 9:37 AM on September 29, 2009

What hubris, to venture improvement on silence!
posted by phrontist at 9:42 AM on September 29, 2009 [7 favorites]

I would turn it into a compliment:
"I've always been a man of few words", and then just stoically return their gaze.

Seriously, being a great listener is one of the most valuable skills a person can develop, so show some pride!
posted by satori_movement at 9:51 AM on September 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

"I'm not quiet, I'm studying my prey."
posted by Pufferish at 9:54 AM on September 29, 2009 [15 favorites]

"It keeps my feet on the ground and out of my mouth."
posted by Dipsomaniac at 9:56 AM on September 29, 2009 [13 favorites]

Thank you for noticing.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:58 AM on September 29, 2009

"You haven't said more than two sentences all night." - > "That can't be right, let me see your notes"
"Hey, you're really quiet aren't you?" -> *feign ASL*
"You don't say much do you?" -> "Oh I say it, it just sounds weird without context, much much much, see?"
posted by syntheticfaith at 9:58 AM on September 29, 2009 [5 favorites]

See if there are any Clint Eastwood fans by saying "A man's gotta know his limitations..."
posted by eaglehound at 10:04 AM on September 29, 2009

This has happened to me about once a week for pretty much my entire life. My favorite response is to get a startled look, and then go, "Oh, were you saying something?" It tends to stop people in their tracks. Of course, I only do it if I'm really irritated because implying that you haven't heard a word someone has been saying doesn't tend to make friends.
posted by dortmunder at 10:04 AM on September 29, 2009

Pretty much. Uh huh.
posted by watercarrier at 10:11 AM on September 29, 2009

You could always tell that (probably apocryphal) story about Calvin Coolidge and Dorothy Parker.

Dorothy Parker, seated next to Coolidge at a dinner, said to him, "Mr. Coolidge, I've made a bet against a fellow who said it was impossible to get more than two words out of you." Coolidge replied, "You lose."
posted by electroboy at 10:12 AM on September 29, 2009 [9 favorites]

"I used to be even quieter. When I was training at the monastery, I took a vow of silence. I was only allowed to say two words per year, addressed to the Abbot."

"So what did you say?"

"Well, the first year, the Abbot calls me in, and I say, 'Cold floor'. After another year of silence, I say, 'Bad food'. And at the end of the third year, I say, 'I quit'. The Abbot looks at me disdainfully and says, "I'm not surprised. Ever since you got here you've done nothing but complain."
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 10:16 AM on September 29, 2009 [11 favorites]

SnippyAlert: "Better to be thought of as a fool than to open one's mouth and remove all doubt."
posted by teg4rvn at 10:18 AM on September 29, 2009 [2 favorites]

I'm kind of a strong, silent type.

(we're a dying breed) <-- if feeling snarky
posted by PercussivePaul at 10:21 AM on September 29, 2009

Without having a solution sentence, please consider using something that can not be misunderstood. People most likely are asking because they do not understand the situation nor you. This in general makes people uncomfortable. A sarcastic (witty?) answer will not provide them the level of comfort they need to understand and like you and continue the conversation. So I suggest you go for a straight, honest answer.
posted by oxit at 10:23 AM on September 29, 2009

pantomime that you are in a box.

Or, "shh... I'm hunting bunny rabbits." But only if you do a decent Elmer Fudd.
posted by magikker at 10:33 AM on September 29, 2009

I think your own second paragraph is exactly the right comeback to this situation. You are quiet. You are more of a listener -- you enjoy listening.

Some people, especially those who are going to make the point of mentioning it, are uncomfortable with this, and some find it so foreign that they have to bring it up just to make sure you are okay. As others have said, even though questions like this can come across as rude, it's usually done to make sure that the quiet person is okay or feels included.

I think any of the clever comebacks (that don't insult the asker) on here are just fine, but I also think it's important to (a) assure them that you are, in fact, okay and (b) state unequivocally that being a quiet person at a party is actually an okay lifestyle choice :)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:37 AM on September 29, 2009

I have a button that says "I'm not quiet. I'm silently stalking my prey."
posted by xena at 10:40 AM on September 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

How about "I fancy myself the strong, silent type." For that matter, there's no harm in simply owning it. If someone notes that you're quiet, I'd think "Yes, I am" is a perfectly civil answer, especially if accompanied with a slight grin. They're just pointing out something they noticed about you. It's not much different than saying "hey, that's an interesting hat," if you were the sort to wear hats.
posted by wheat at 10:47 AM on September 29, 2009

"I prefer listening. I like hearing other people's stories. There, now I've said 2 - no wait, 3 sentences! More than 2!"

(feign wiping your brow while letting out a "whew." - hey that's sentence #4! no wait, 5!)
posted by allkindsoftime at 10:56 AM on September 29, 2009

My teenage son gets this a lot. He works at our small-town grocery store and everyone there is very chit-chatty whereas he's more reserved (but once he gets going, he can talk your ear off). His co-workers have made it almost a contest amongst themselves to see who can get him to talk more, and the ones who have established a good rapport with him consider it a badge of honor because he's so "famous" for being the quiet one.

When he gets pestered too much, he usually uses a version of the "listening to the voices in my head" answers mentioned above. It works as a way to indicate that he's good-humored about it, and it helps the other person to know that it's nothing personal against them.
posted by amyms at 10:57 AM on September 29, 2009

Here's something to keep in mind, something I, as a quiet person, didn't understand until I met someone* even more reserved than I am: it can be really hard to carry on a conversation with a quiet person.

That doesn't mean that it's wrong or bad to be quiet, or that you should make yourself talk more, just understand that when your quietness forces the other person or people with you to do more work to keep the conversation going, they might eventually either run out of ideas or start worrying that something is wrong (you're bored, you don't like them, you're sad because your dog just died).

I think clever responses are fine, but if they're unkind (fake sign language, etc.), you'll just look like an antisocial jerk rather than a quiet person who's a good listener and enjoys spending time with people despite not being very talkative. So, I think something like this would be good:

Party-goer: "You're pretty quiet, aren't you?"
You: "Yep... [longish pause, smile] So, how do you know Lisa?"

*I spent a good few weeks thinking my husband's friend disliked me because I did so much of the talking whenever she and I had a conversation, I felt like I was just babbling on and on while she just... sat there, occasionally nodding or giving a one-word answer. Finally I asked my husband what he made of the situation, and he explained "That's just how she is, she's quiet--you know, like you?"
posted by Meg_Murry at 11:05 AM on September 29, 2009 [5 favorites]

I think an honest answer is fine, but I agree with Meg_Murray about being sociable. It of course depends on the situation: in a group, you’re fine being super quiet; in a one on one, then it’s a little different. You have to be willing to meet people part way in order for us to carry out our damned social impulses. Even though I run towards the introvert side, I’m the type that can’t stand two people sitting in uncomfortable silence so I often find myself exercising my conversation muscles against my will.
posted by Think_Long at 11:18 AM on September 29, 2009

"I'm just waiting for my song to come on"
posted by jasondigitized at 11:20 AM on September 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

I definately think that effacing, self or otherwise, is the wrong direction to go with this, but I understand the temptation. Friendly, bemused and/or quizzical are better ways to go when someone asks a sincere but invalidating question. The sincere but misdirected concern of the asker is usually that they think you're bored. So, maybe a head tilt, soft smile, soft, ponderous look in eyes, little pause, and "oh, I dunno, but I'm having a lot of fun listening. How about you?" Yes, this will prompt a little conversation and take you out of your introvert zone a little bit. I think that's usually a good thing and you can always play along for a little, then excuse yourself with, "thanks for the chat, I'm going to go [refresh my drink/to the bathroom/find my friend]. Take care."

And, for what it's worth, many, many cultures consider the quietest person in the room to be the wisest and the most centered.
posted by Skwirl at 11:22 AM on September 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

"Some people like people watching, I like people listening."
posted by specialnobodie at 12:03 PM on September 29, 2009

If this really happens the majority of the time you have social interactions, you may want to practice asking more questions and adding more about yourself to the conversation. Most people are not super-extroverts searching for someone to babble at incessantly, and prefer conversations to be more of a give and take. Like Meg_Murray said, you might understand this if you ever encounter someone quieter than you are. I can be introverted and I hate nothing more that babbling on at someone, and I'm also not awesome at gracefully ending conversations, so the super-quiet put me in an awkward position. Adding to the conversation puts people at ease and prevents the conversation from getting to the awkward questions stage. Also, it prevents your conversational partner from suddenly worrying, 20 minutes in, that you are a very polite deaf person or that you only speak very limited English.
posted by fermezporte at 12:10 PM on September 29, 2009

Just thinking about whether or not I closed the trunk after loading in the bodies.
posted by Freedomboy at 12:12 PM on September 29, 2009 [2 favorites]

I'm from the future. I've heard it all before.
posted by chairface at 12:40 PM on September 29, 2009 [7 favorites]

When I was working (now retired) I was required by my profession to be in social gatherings that placed me in situations similar to yours.

I am an introvert. I determined a long time ago to investigate that quality and find out what if anything I could do to improve my reaction in such situations. What I found out was that introverts, such as me, have an uncanny ability to assimilate data by just standing around and observing folk. Our nature is to observe, listen and deduce quality information when placed in such gatherings.

I determined that when folk would remark about my ‘quite way’ that I would educate them. I always commenced my comments by telling them….how very nice of you to notice. Then I would tell them….I am an introvert by nature and quite frankly by choice. I learn a great deal at such gatherings and I truly enjoy hearing and observing people who obviously are enjoying themselves. A common misconception about introverts is that they are quite and reserve because they are shy. Actually most introverts prefer quite and solitude to recharge their batteries….so I was just recharging my batteries….thanks for noticing.

This usually leads to other questions about the differences between introverts and extroverts. There tends to be a social stigma that introverts are ‘different’ from and not the same as the rest of us and extroverts love to talk about their need to be involved and active in social and family gatherings. So armed with a little information about them and their requirements and you and your differences the conversation never lags. If you are not aware of the qualities of an introvert there is a great book titled “The Introvert Advantage” by Marti Olsen Laney which details from the introvert’s position in an extrovert’s world.
posted by malter51 at 12:55 PM on September 29, 2009 [3 favorites]

"Somebody has to listen"
"God gave us two ears, and only one mouth"
"oh, go to hell"
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 12:58 PM on September 29, 2009

"You talk enough for both of us"
posted by dagnyscott at 1:00 PM on September 29, 2009

I recommend one of two approaches:

1) Answer, defensively, "IS THAT A RHETORICAL QUESTION?" and then laugh maniacally for a moment, then catch your breath, cover your mouth, make your eyes go wide, and silently move on without another word.

2) Stare at them...then sort of glaze over and stare through them. Let a little drool come out of the corner of your mouth, then fall over. Lie there until they leave.

Or I guess you could try what other people said. Depends on the impression you want to make.
posted by Brak at 1:10 PM on September 29, 2009

Aw come on, guys. When someone says that -"Hey, you are awfully quiet!" they are inviting the person to join in, and to let them know that they are not being excluded. Up until that point, the choice has been to let the quiet person be quiet, but there comes a time when you have to establish that they have not been deliberately excluded.

While a snappy, dry comeback sounds fine in practice, I guarantee it will fall flat on it's face. When someone extends an invitation in good faith - even if they are loud and obnoxious - it's rude to dismiss it with thinly veiled aggression. If the outcome you want is to have no one else talk to you, that's a really good way to do it. And you won't get invited back to the next party, either.

Just smile, spread your hands wide, and say, "Yeah, I am kinda quiet. I've really been enjoying listening to everyone. I am having a good time just sitting here (or kickin it, or chillin, whatever), and happy to be with people who enjoy each other's company."

You will own the room after that. People will know you are having a good time, that you are comfortable, and you have been invited to join in the conversation at your leisure. They just want to know if you are having fun being there.
posted by Xoebe at 1:59 PM on September 29, 2009 [21 favorites]

If it's someone you don't know very well burst into tears then go in for a hug.
posted by Bonzai at 2:01 PM on September 29, 2009 [3 favorites]

I was just going to come here to cite that Coolidge story, but it's already been taken care of. It's a great story.
posted by ishotjr at 2:09 PM on September 29, 2009

I always heard it this way:

Dorothy Parker, seated next to Coolidge at a dinner, said to him, "Mr. Coolidge, I've made a bet against a fellow who said it was impossible to get more than two words out of you." Coolidge replied, "Fuck you."

I think that's the NatLamp version.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 2:17 PM on September 29, 2009 [2 favorites]

"I don't like to waste words."
posted by the littlest brussels sprout at 2:30 PM on September 29, 2009

Them: You don't say much, do ya.
(they walk away really fast)
posted by granted at 2:48 PM on September 29, 2009

Perhaps "You haven't given me a chance to get a word in yet" would work?
posted by Chunder at 3:15 PM on September 29, 2009

Summon up your best Norwegian (think the muppet's Swedish chef if you have to) and say, "Jeg er norsk."
Then, in halting, Scandavian-accented English say, "Where more Aquavit?"
posted by webhund at 4:21 PM on September 29, 2009

I used to fight this. Now I just give a dry smile and it doesn't phase me. I'd just say, give a "Really?" and keep it moving.

Btw, I love this thread. Thanks for posing this question Pixlboi!
posted by GeniPalm at 6:02 PM on September 29, 2009

"It's my style."
"I'm cultivating an enigma."
posted by TimTypeZed at 6:28 PM on September 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

If I'm feeling mischievous, I might say, "I'm (just) biding my time." -- at which point I'm pretty much obligated to look for an opening where I can make a contribution to the conversation, which, as noted above, is what they're inviting me (or in your case, you) to do.
posted by Tuesday After Lunch at 6:59 PM on September 29, 2009

I get the "You're so quiet!" thing so often that I've long wanted to have a t-shirt made that says, "I'm not quiet, I'm just quieter than you."
posted by hellomynameisphil at 8:28 PM on September 29, 2009 [2 favorites]

"Shhh! Don't spread it around -- then everyone will know."
posted by dhartung at 10:03 PM on September 29, 2009

Meg and Xoebe have it. I have a friend whose husband rarely says anything. It's too bad - I understand being quiet, but he can be like a social vacuum - and because he doesn't tend to ask people questions, people get tired of holding up the conversation and wander off. So aside from an extra mouth to fill at an event, it's like he's not there. He seems like a nice enough guy, but when my friend wonders why some of her friends don't tend to invite him to gatherings, it's because he makes no effort at all.

This is not a condemnation of introverts. I'm one, my wife is one, but it can be really hard to have small scale social interactions with someone who is that quiet and always at a remove.
posted by canine epigram at 10:26 PM on September 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

The late senator Edmund Muskie once said:" If you have nothing to say, don't improve on silence". I wish I'd known this when an awful friend of my father's would boom "Why are you so quiet?" every time he'd see me.
posted by brujita at 10:53 PM on September 29, 2009

You could say, "it's part of my job description" and then smile and walk away.
You could say, "it keeps the interference from impacting the surveillance equipment"
You could say, "They say that about sociopaths a great deal don't they?"
You could say, "Oh? Well I thought I hid it well by not saying much."

Why not have fun with it? It is a party.
posted by gypseefire at 4:14 AM on September 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

A lot of these snappy, hostile, barely-veiled-insult responses seem to be missing the fact that what people mean when they say "you're quiet, aren't you" is to draw you into the conversation. They're trying to be nice, and give you an opening.

Responding with a prepared "comeback", especially an insulting one, is kind of low.

I can be quiet too, but I've started to realize that being a silent, empty chair is a bit rude. So I try to make an effort to not be quite so boring.

I appreciate it when the extroverts make an offering like this to me. I try to respond by telling them what I've actually been thinking about during their conversation: sometimes this is way too much information, sometimes it's irrelevant to what they were talking about, sometimes it's a showstopper and awkward. But it's never boring.
posted by ook at 6:05 AM on September 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

It seems a lot of people here mistake a conversation for a zero sum game where someone has to lose for someone to win. Why so aggressive? The other person just asks you a question.

I agree with the minority of people who think it's just a way for people to include you in the conversation. People don't like the idea that they're hogging the conversation, and they're also a bit concerned about opening up too much to someone they don't really know and therefore, don't really trust (yet). They feel like you're charting them, while they're sailing blind, which in a way is true.
posted by NekulturnY at 6:09 AM on September 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

I think the standard Miss Manners response is "how kind of you to take an interest."
posted by Laura_J at 6:57 AM on September 30, 2009

"Yes; but are you pondering what I am pondering ..."
posted by hariya at 7:07 AM on September 30, 2009

"Maybe you need to get your hearing checked?"

Seriously, some people don't want to talk much. If they don't look bored, that's fine. If they do look bored, ask them a direct question (but not "why are you so quiet?"). We have a good friend who often doesn't say more than a few sentences in an evening in company. Sometimes I don't say much either, sometimes I do. Marriage changes the balance of conversation too!
posted by mdoar at 10:24 AM on September 30, 2009

"Still waters run deep."
posted by Grlnxtdr at 3:48 PM on September 30, 2009

If a fellow social event participant feels the need to ask you about your quietness, you are probably being too quiet. See this moment as your opportunity to contribute to the conversation.

I am not some wild extrovert, but I certainly have felt uncomfortable when I am in a group with someone who is just sitting there stone silently. The reason it can be unnerving is that spoken language is a relatively major clue about how someone is feeling as part of the social dynamic of that group. You may be all happy as a clam inside, but let the rest of us know you don't hate us and aren't plotting to murder the whole party, okay?

Its all fine and good if you like being quiet and listening to stories, but you do have a social obligation to ensure that other participants in your social event are actually enjoying being the talkers.

So I'd take that question as not only an invitation but a suggestion that you hold up part of the conversation.
posted by RajahKing at 12:39 PM on October 1, 2009

A lot of the answers you're getting are really defensive. Making an easy joke with no follow-up is a conversation killer. It's only funny in sitcoms. If you do this in real life, people are going to peg you as the guy who only opens his mouth to be a jerk.

Why do you think people are asking you? Do you think they are curious about you? Do they feel self-conscious about talking more than you? They want to know if you're usually this quiet or something is wrong? Do they think they will feel more at ease if they hear you say something?

When people listen without talking, I think of burning man participants versus tourists. If you really find the other person super interesting, then you probably have a lot questions ready to go. You could say: "I'm just really interested in people" and continue with your best question: "how come you chose patagonia?" or whatever...
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 12:25 AM on October 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

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