coworkers keep commenting on how quiet I am

A reader writes:

I have always been a quiet person, especially when I’m new in an environment and trying to learn about the culture before diving in headfirst. I know when I don’t know things and would much rather listen to those smarter than me and bury myself in my own work so I can learn as much as possible. When I know the culture/project really well, I have no problem contributing my own thoughts and ideas, and actually enjoy leading a team once I’m confident in my own knowledge of the project.

However, every single place I work I’ve had the same experience: I’ll be sitting in my private office/cubicle/etc., working at my desk on tasks that don’t require collaboration. Someone (who usually has worked with me for long enough to know me) will say something like, “You’re always so quiet! I never know you’re in here” or “Wow, why are you being so quiet??” It’s always said in a slightlyyyy degrading way and once in a while even followed up by “You should make more noise!”

This is SO weird and bothersome to me. It seems like the equivalent of saying “Wow, you’ve been working hard all morning and haven’t had time for small talk, what’s wrong with you?”

I have two questions: 1) Is this in some way making me a less valuable employee? Should I be trying to make more small talk with my coworkers, or making phone calls, or otherwise making noise so that people think I’m normal? and 2) How can I respond to this question? Beside the fact that it really grinds my gears, I never know what to say — “Well, I was working hard” seems like a dig back at them for NOT working hard, but I’m not sure how to let them know I’m a normal employee just like anyone else.

Some people do this in the same way they feel compelled to say “Wow, you’re so tall” to tall people.

It’s not so much a judgment as it is a … totally unnecessary observation that nevertheless comes out of their mouths.

Sometimes it’s just an attempt to connect. Someone who wants to express friendliness toward you might comment on your shoes, or mention the weather, or seize upon any other easily noticeable thing to make small talk. In your case, that happens to be that you tend to be really quiet.

And “You’re so quiet!” tends to be more socially acceptable to say than “You’re so loud!”

I think you’re probably reading more into it than is really there. In most cases, it probably doesn’t mean “what’s wrong with you?” It’s also probably not a prompt to explain why you’re so quiet (i.e., that you’ve been working hard). It’s just … almost meaningless small talk. You could reply with “how’s your day going?” and it wouldn’t seem out of place.

You could also just say,”Yeah, I get pretty absorbed in stuff and then I realize I haven’t said anything for half the day! How’s your day going?”

All that said, there are a small number of people who may have an issue with you being so quiet — like bosses who believe that everyone socializing is somehow essential to work getting done, or that you’re not a team player if you’re not a bigger part of the office’s social fabric. But you probably know if you have one of those bosses.

Beyond that, there is some value to connecting with your coworkers on a personal level. It can make people more willing to help you out when you need it, or respond to your requests more quickly, or share information that can help you do your job better. It can lead to the kind of relationships that people are talking about when they talk about professional networks — people who will refer you to jobs and vouch for you professionally and so forth. For many people (although not all), it can also make work more satisfying.

But you can form those sorts of relationships and still be a generally quiet person; one doesn’t preclude the other. So I’d look less at your noise level and more at how well you think you connect with the people you work with. If you don’t feel like you have those connections, then yeah, some small talk is a good place to starts. (Suggestions on that here.)

{ 282 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. A cookie for your thoughts

    I’ve always gotten around this situation by bringing in baked goods, which I know is frowned upon here, but damn it, that’s how I generate conversation. I”m terrible at just walking up to a person and asking them a question, but if I walk up to them and hand them a cupcake or a cookie, then I can get a conversation going around the pastries.

    Reply
    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Not frowned on as a general rule! Just if it’s your first day/first week and you don’t yet know the culture, or if you’re a woman who’s having trouble being taken seriously as a professional (or if you have reason to worry that will be the case).

      http://www.askamanager.org/2012/02/should-women-avoid-baking-for-their-colleagues.html

      http://www.askamanager.org/2013/10/should-i-bring-in-cupcakes-for-the-staff-on-my-first-day-as-a-manager.html

      Reply
      1. Mina

        FWIW, at one job, I brought in baked goods at the beginning of the second week. It was a good way to establish rapport, but by then I had a general idea of what the culture was like, and we were a pretty small group.

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        1. Say what, now?

          I don’t do it because we have a few people on diets here, as in medically prescribed because they are in danger of death. It would just be unkind to put the things they want in front of them. And you never know that it’s not the case in an office since some people would be embarrassed to say “I can’t have a cookie because my doctor told me that if I gain any more weight my heart is going to explode.”

          Reply
      2. Thlayli

        I work in a very male dominated workplace and I was told we used to have a lot of baked goods brought in and some of the men were quite competitive about who could bake the tastiest pastries. It seems to have been a bit of a phase though as it hasn’t happened in the 8 months since I started.

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        1. CM

          That’s great! I’ve worked in male-dominated workplaces where if a guy brought in baked goods, everybody would compliment his wife.

          Reply
    2. Krystal

      I often have to deal with this same issue at work and I agree that it is a strange way for some people trying to engage in small talk who otherwise don’t know how. In the past I have made a few friendships that usually started out with the person saying this to me for the first few awkward attempts to get to know me. Yes, it IS annoying but it stops after they become comfortable enough to just randomly talk to you. The one’s who ended up becoming my friends would then later stick up for me when a new person would say it. The new person would say “You are so quiet you don’t talk much” I don’t remember the exact words but the friend replied something like “She opens up when she gets to know you” in a non degrading way.

      Of course there is also the other group of people who somehow are personally bothered by a quiet person and will almost demand an answer as to why you are so quiet on a regular basis. Now that I am older those people have become the minority with their own set of problems and if they become bullies will be dealt with so that they do not disrupt my work performance.

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    3. Say what, now?

      I get where you’re coming from, it’s nice to have a reason to talk to someone as opposed to just walking over and being stuck with “hey, you’re tall.” But hopefully, you’re open to rejection on this. I would hate this. I don’t really like sweet things but would feel obligated to take it and eat it if you took the trouble to personally walk it over to me. I might start dreading your arrival… though, I’m sure I’m in the minority here.

      Reply
      1. Krystal

        I am not a fan of the bringing in baked good things either because most of the time I have already eaten breakfast at home. It is especially uncomfortable when the individual personally goes from person to person with a tin of muffins/cookies because I don’t want to eat it but I feel like a jerk if I reject it. In my experience people are easy to become offended over something that they took the time to prepare and share at work.

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      2. SaltTooth

        Are we the same person? I don’t usually like sweets and I’m also weird about eating something cooked in a person’s home if I haven’t seen their kitchen. Coworkers always pressure me into enjoying things people bring in and I usually take it, thank them, then hide it in my office trash. I also hate my coworkers going on about how bad it is for them to eat sweets while they eat sweets. If I ever do feel like eating a cookie or slice of cake I have to listen to them go on about how they wish they could eat cookies. UGH. This is why I hate all office socializing and eat alone in my office or take walks at lunch.

        Reply
    4. littleandsmall

      One of my former employers always has a box of cookies delivered to every new employee on their first day (or some kind of other treat if they had other allergies/food intolerances) and then has them walk around and introduce themselves to their new team and offer those who they’re going to be working with a cookie as an icebreaker. It worked well but obviously this was part of the workplace culture and the company is providing the baked goods, not the employee!

      Reply
  2. crunchybits

    Ha! I’m extremely tall (99.997th percentile woo!) and… this is very much a thing that happens. CONSTANTLY.

    I’m wondering how we can extend the analogy. People always ask me if I played basketball… maybe they’ll ask you if you ever uhhh were a librarian?

    Reply
    1. twig

      Hey Tall person! when us shorties ask if you play basketball — get even by asking if we play miniature golf. ;)

      Reply
          1. Stretch

            As a 5’9 woman, I always get this when I wear heels to work! The firm is comprised of 5 male partners, 4 of which are easily under 5’8. Every time I wear heels, one of them inevitably makes a comment about my height. You’d think their multiple degrees would lend them to more creative commentary, but alas, not the case. I finally (teasingly) said something to one of them along the lines of, “you’re making me never want to wear heels to work!” I could tell he was a bit embarrassed, and replied “I only say something because I feel so short!” Even though it can seem insulting (and definitely annoying), people almost never mean it in that way. In fact, most would probably also be embarrassed if they knew that it bothered you, OP!

            Reply
      1. MashaKasha

        Where were you 35 years ago when I’d just hit the growth spurt? People were driving me NUTS with the basketball question! Now, I guess I finally look adult and intimidating enough that no one asks me anymore. (or I look too old to possibly play basketball – yeah, that’s probably it.)

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      2. David St. Hubbins

        I’m a short guy and I used to get those comments all the time. “You’re short”. Wow, how observant of you. And I also have small feet, so I still get the occasional “What size shoes do you wear?” It used to piss me off, but then I just started answering with “Five. Why?” and a confused look on my face. That shut people up quickly.

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        1. Hrovitnir

          I will forever be ashamed of the time I did that. *shakes head* It was meant along the lines of gently giving people shit, as that’s how I roll (and I certainly can take it) – and I doubt he was bothered considering I also clearly found him attractive, but what a stupid thing to say. *sinks into ground*

          Reply
    2. Mandy

      I am 4’11” so on the extremely short side for an adult. I don’t usually comment on other people’s height though it doesn’t really bother me if people comment on how short I am. Yeah, I am extremely short.
      I did end up next to an extremely tall guy in my university food court one time and had to ask him how tall he was. He was 6’11”.

      Reply
      1. Future Homesteader

        5″ here. It never bothers me the first time, but I have a coworker I work closely with who says it at least once a week. At this point, I’m just tired of it. But my go-to (depending on context, of course) is “yup, I’m fun-sized!”

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        1. Camellia

          My former mother-in-law told her 4’11” daughter to punch them in the crotch and say, “There’s a storm down here! How’s the weather up there?” I loved that.

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          1. CM

            Hahaha I love that.
            I always blow off the comments and didn’t think I cared… but recently I realized it had been several months since somebody commented on my height, and it was such a relief not to have to think about it for so long.

            Reply
      2. shep

        I’m also 4′ 11″. I waffle between being annoyed and just laughing off the, “Wow, you’re so tiny!” comments.

        The first time I saw my current doctor, she asked me to hold out my arm so she could take my blood pressure and she exclaimed over my tiny hands. Didn’t offend me at all, but that’s SUCH a funny thing to say to another adult. (Or anyone, for that matter.)

        And, OP, I’m also quiet for the most part. No one’s really commented on it, but it would irk me a little if they did. I have some minor social anxiety and am pretty shy about chiming in on conversations in my office, where there are some people I don’t know well, but if someone initiates a conversation with me first, I think I make up for my quietness by being animated and engaged while we ARE talking. Not that I need to “make up” for being quiet at all, but I believe that mitigates potential “you’re so quiet!” comments.

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      3. Small but Fierce

        I’m also 4’11” and I don’t mind the comments. I do mind, however, when people attempt to use me as an arm rest.

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        1. Mina

          Guh. 5’2″ here, and that happened in college all. the. time. I’m in my thirties and my baby brother, who towers over me, used to pat me on the head.

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        2. Anlyn

          Shoot, I’m 5’4″ (average height for a woman) and have had people do this to me. Dude, don’t put your arm on my shoulder! Not cool!

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          1. Ego Chamber

            Is that seriously the average? Worldwide or in which country?

            I’m 5’3″ and all the women I know are taller than me (I’m in the northwestern US).

            Reply
            1. NorthernSoutherner

              Yeah, also 5’3″ but I felt pretty tall in my first marriage, with my MIL and SIL in the five-foot range. Since remarrying and moving to the Northeast, though, I do find myself looking up a lot.

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    3. Adlib

      The struggle is real. I’d rather they actually ask me about playing volleyball since I did. Other than that, I usually just say “yep!” when people comment. Sometimes I’ll say “I know” in a friendly way.

      Reply
    4. Ramona Flowers

      Someone on here has a tall wife who responds with equally obvious comments like: “you have brown hair!”

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      1. Chicklet

        This just reminded me. Years ago, I had hair that went just past my waist. People constantly felt the need to tell me I had long hair. Um… I know. I would just respond with, “Thanks, grew it myself!” and a smile. It usually seemed to do the trick of making people realize it was a weird thing to say and getting them to move on without being upset.

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        1. Gee Gee

          When my hair was that long, people loved to tell me that I should donate it. Apparently I didn’t “deserve” my hair…?

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          1. Lehigh

            Yeah, some people are super insistent about donating hair, which personally I think is a little weird. They wouldn’t ask you to donate blood, or money, or a kidney. But your hair! Your hair must go!

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            1. Gandalf the Nude

              Compare:

              Your hair is such a lovely shade of red! You should donate it!

              Your blood is such a lovely shade of red! You should donate it!

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            2. Temperance

              So actually, they absolutely will ask you to donate blood, money, and kidneys. Mostly the first two, though.

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            3. Ego Chamber

              I’ve been told multiple times (after shortening a bob to a pixie) that I should grow my hair out, just so I could donate it. When I point out that I do severe chemical damage to my hair on the regular to get it a color I like, they have a solution for that too! Stop dying my hair.

              To recap: Stop doing something I want to do, that I enjoy, so that I can do something I have no interest in doing, that has a huge time commitment, and that will change my physical appearance—when I have no desire to do that.

              This is weird, right? Because I think this is really weird.

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              1. SarahKay

                Yes, it’s really weird. And rude of them! Wow! The only way that would be even vaguely reasonable would be if they were regularly growing and donating their own hair. But even then it would still be rude.

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        2. Not that Anne, the other Anne

          I have very long hair and could never figure out how to respond to those statements either. Finally I just decided it was a compliment (or to treat it as one) and just say “Thank you!”

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        3. Red Reader

          The bottom eight inches of my hair are dyed green, blue and purple. People come up to me and go “Hey, your hair’s green!” like I somehow had managed to miss this. Floors me. (I sometimes respond with exaggerated surprise. “Holy crap, it is??” and invariably, I’m the one getting dirty looks for it. :P Dude, you’re the one exclaiming the obvious, don’t get pissy at me.)

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          1. Caaan Do!

            I get similar reactions as a left handed person sometimes. I’ll go to sign a form and they’ll exclaim “oh, you’re a leftie!” like they’ve never seen anything like it before. I know we’re rare-ish (although surely not so much these days since people stopped being forced to be right handed in the last 50 or so years?) and it doesn’t bother me at all as it’s harmless observation, but I never quite know how to respond to the wonder in their voice. An equally enthusiastic, non-sarcastic “yes, I am!” ,is usually enough to satisfy them.

            (I have been the teeniest bit tempted to look at my left hand with bewilderment and say “f*** me, so I am!” but I think that would be cruel :) )

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            1. kristinyc

              I always get, “Omg! I didn’t know you were left handed!”

              Like, I’m sorry… was I supposed to make an official announcement? I never know how to respond to that.

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          2. Anion

            That happened to me all the time when I used to dye my hair different colors. “Wow, your hair is pink!” Sometimes I’d do the exaggerated surprise, sometimes just a brisk, “yep!”

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        4. Blue Anne

          That’s exactly what I do. I can sit on my hair, and people always comment on it. “Thanks, I made it myself.”

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        5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

          I have super long hair, too, and I always get this response. I tell people I get it from my mama.

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        6. T3k

          I try to be nice about mine (thankfully I don’t get the “you should donate it!” comments) and will say something like “I know! I keep getting it trimmed and it keeps growing!”

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      2. KG, Ph.D.

        I am a tall wife, although I am not that person’s tall wife…and by god, I’m going to start using that one! It’s fucking EXHAUSTING.

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      3. Connie-Lynne

        I have long purple hair, and for the last 30 years I don’t think a day has gone by, certainly not two, wherein some person has not informed me of my hair color!

        I vary my responses between “Yes, I’m aware,” and “OMG HOW DID THAT HAPPEN!”

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    5. August

      I’m 6 feet tall and it really seems to be people’s go-to conversational gambit. It’s pretty irritating, but at this point I’ve just become a master at chuckling awkwardly and changing the subject (“haha, no, but I wish I played volleyball!”). The vast majority of people don’t mean it in an insulting way, and I’ve always sort of assumed that they’re grasping at whatever obvious conversation starter they can.

      Reply
      1. Jesca

        See I comment on how tall someone is, but this is because I have a degenerative disc disease in my neck and literally cannot not look up for long. So I let people know that they are tall, that I have a medical condition, and that is why I cannot look up and talk to you anymore and am staring at your feet!

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    6. Stranger than fiction

      And why is iy ok to say someone’s so tall but not so short similar to how Alison pointed out people will say you’re so quiet but not so loud??

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      1. fposte

        1) people say “You’re so short” all the time. Sometimes they pick you up. (Thanks, Randy Newman!) 2) because tallness is supposed to be better and therefore it’s a compliment to notice; quiet vs. loud isn’t an exact map, but quiet is definitely supposed to be better than loud.

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          1. fposte

            Even when you’re not trying to quiet them down? I’ve never heard anybody cheerfully say “You’re so loud!” when it wasn’t actionable, so I’m intrigued.

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            1. Jesca

              I am not really clear on your phrasing of “actionable”, but I am going to assume you mean like in the moment it is happening? But yeah, if I have a good relationship with them, I will just be like “Hey, why you so loud today!”, or “that’s an interesting conversation to have so loud.”, haha or “well maybe you wouldn’t have missed that if you weren’t so loud!” or some other ridiculous comment. But this generally requires the other person to have a pretty good read on themselves AND a sense of humor! It also helps if you act as though and people recognize that you have a pretty good read on your own self and accept that you are not perfect either.

              Actually, I used to work in this open office plan, and this manager that sat across from me was sooo loud! And when he answered the phone? It went up like 10 octaves! I would laugh and tell him how the people who call him must know to pull the phone away from their ears when he answers. I don’t think he honestly was aware of this prior to the open office plan. Most of the time it wasn’t a big deal, but whens someone suddenly shouts “HEY BOB GOOD TO HEAR FROM YA OLD BUDDY” in a dead quiet room? People would literally jump out of their seats. The key is to have a sense of humor about it and understand that you are not perfect either and it is OK to hear and accept that you do weird things too.

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              1. fposte

                “Actionable” was an austere way of saying “When you’re not implying somebody should pipe down” :-).

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                1. Jesca

                  Ah yes, I see. No, I will literally rib people about their loudness. It is more than likely a result of me developing a sense of humor over my quietness. People will literally walk past my desk and go “Shut up, Jesca”. I find it funny, because it is true. I am quiet. I can spend days (yes plural) not verbally interacting with another human being if I do not pay attention to it.
                  So from that, yeah I comment on other people’s general loudness. Haha.

              2. Anon today...and tomorrow

                The phone thing? My husband does it too!!! He’ll have his ringer on silent or vibrate and be in the kitchen cooking when all of a sudden I hear him talking from three rooms away. I keep begging him to get his ears checked because he also keeps the volume on his phone turned way up. No such thing as a private phone conversation with that man!

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                1. Jesca

                  Haha and before I got there? No one said anything! People would literally be jumping, and no one would be like “Why so loud?” Haha but I made it into a joke, because really people are not always so self aware that they are So Loud. Every time he did it after that, people would erupt into laughter. But I made sure he never felt judged for it. He could probably stop doing that as much as I can stop not talking when I have nothing to say!

        1. The Rat-Catcher

          I thought this too. Similar to how it’s acceptable to say “you’re so skinny!” but not “you’re so fat!” even though it can make more slender people feel weird.

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          1. Thlayli

            That’s because it’s considered “good” to be skinny and “bad” to be fat.

            It’s not considered unacceptable to call someone short where I live though. I get called short all the time. If your society considers it acceptable to comment on someone being tall but not on someone being short then that means your society considers being short a “bad” thing.

            Which to me is far far more insulting than commenting on someone being short.

            Reply
      2. Student

        Short person here. People comment on it frequently. Sometimes they use a more cutesy word for short, but they mean the same thing.

        There’s probably a gendered component, since there’s still a lot of idiotic cultural baggage around a guy being short, but some people view women being short as a good thing – so people feel a bit freer to comment on short women to our faces, like me, than to comment on short men.

        Most awkward is when they ask me why I am short. Most obnoxious is when they try to parlay my shortness into bizarre/unwelcome/sexist comments, like old stereotypes/assumptions that women only date taller men. Second most obnoxious is conflating height with age, but I try to be understanding about it.

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        1. H

          Ugh, the dating taller men thing. Ugh. I’m 5′ and it sleeves me out when people say stuff about “you have your pick of the gents!” Like, yes, thank you, I am now free to date men with hang-ups about dating taller women. Swell.

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          1. Hrovitnir

            Haha, that “swell” at the end gets me. I cringe imagining getting in a relationship with someone only to discover they particularly enjoyed being bigger than me/would be threatened if that were not the case. (There are variations on the first half of that that are not cringe but I’m failing to find a better way to phrase what I mean.)

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        2. Thlayli

          Yeah the “short man syndrome” thing. That really pisses me off. I noticed it a lot in the uk and Australia – if a tall guy didn’t like a short guy he would accuse him of having “short man syndrome”. Which is such a load of horse manure.

          I always used to challenge them – “what does that mean, what are the synptoms”. And then say “isn’t that just man syndrome?” Which basically turns the insult around on them in a funny way. None of them ever said it twice in my hearing.

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      3. Sylvan

        I’ve heard comments on short people’s height a lot, particularly about them being childlike. People also sometimes don’t take short people’s authority seriously. I get bothered about being tall, but that particular type of condescension doesn’t come into it.

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      4. Kelsi

        We’ve got several loud folks in my office who have received similar (meant in good fun) comments….stuff like “Well, we always know when Joe’s in, haha!” or sarcastically “Gosh, Karen, why don’t you ever talk in meetings? Speak up!”

        I mean, the culture of my office is such that everyone jokes around in this way, and it’s not taken badly. But in a different office culture it could definitely feel uncomfortable.

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      5. Temperance

        People always tell me how short I am and make jokes about it. I don’t actually care? It’s not an insult, and I’m not ashamed of it. I’m 5’2″.

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    7. Mrs. Fenris

      Oh good lord yes…my 14 year old daughter is 5’11”. People comment on it everywhere she goes. Like a 14 year old needs any comments on how they look different from everybody else. Fortunately she LOVES being tall and hopes she hits 6 feet, but still. We do kind of chuckle when they ask either of us about playing basketball, because you have never met a family with less aptitude for team sports than ours, and she’s the worst of all of us.

      Reply
      1. Snark

        Tell her to do what my 5’11 wife does:

        Goober: “You’re so tall! Wooooow”
        Ms. Snark: “And you have blue eyes! Daaang.” “And you’re left handed! Whaaaaat.”

        Also, tell her to rock it. With stiletto heels. It’s like a magic sorting hat for insecure dudes vs. the ones who know a tall girl is worth the climb.

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      2. Alienor

        My 18-year-old is 5’9″, and it seems to be bothering her more the older she gets. She’s always been tall, so she’s used to the “you’re so tall!” comments, but she hates seeing group photos where she’s towering over everyone else, and she’s tired of being taller than all the guys she’s interested in. I hope she can embrace it one day!

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    8. SparklingStars

      I’m extremely quiet – and I also happen to be a librarian. But what bothers me more than people commenting on my quietness is when they comment on my size/weight (I’m naturally very small). People think it’s OK to ask me how much I weigh, or what size clothing I wear.

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      1. Diamond

        Yess, I’m not short but I get ‘you’re so thin’ all the time. It makes me so uncomfortable. There is no response I can give to that that doesn’t feel awkward! Let’s all just stop pointing out random things about other people’s bodies.

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        1. Cactus

          Let’s all just stop pointing out random things about other people’s bodies.

          YES, please. I can’t stand random non sequitur comments from people. I’m okay with some small talk–weather, traffic, whatever–but I do not need the weird physical anxiety that comes with feeling that various body parts are being analyzed for how interesting they are.

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    9. NoBadCats

      This just leads me back to the old rule I learned when working as a receptionist: Do NOT say the first thing that pops into your head. Do NOT comment on the most obvious attribute of the person in front of you.
      The most obvious thing about any person is probably the least interesting topic of conversation for them, which is equal to the number of “jokes” they’ve heard about same. For example, when you meet someone named “Samantha,” please for the love of gawd, don’t make a “Bewitched” joke.

      Reply
      1. Cactus

        Thanks for saying this. Prior to getting married, I had the same last name as a famous person. People were always asking if I was related to them. Seriously? Would I REALLY have been growing up in a small town in the Midwest, or working in a not-well-paying health care clinic job, if I was related to a celebrity?

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        1. Lily Rowan

          It’s funny, but most people I know with the same last name as a celebrity are actually related. Not closely related, but related in some way! So you can be both.

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      2. Sir Hump

        unless your brain is trying to make you tell a “Sorry I Havent A Clue” Samantha joke, in which case, cling on to Bewitched like a lifejacket

        Reply
  3. Artemesia

    If you are getting that a lot, I would strategize about connecting to co-workers a bit more. e.g. When you come in the morning make it a point to greet nearby co-workers and ask about their weekend or some other banal small talk as you get settled. Make it a point to join people for lunch occasionally or if there is a break room where people eat, join them and participate in conversation. It is good to have an easy social relationship with co-workers; you don’t need to change your work behavior or your personality. I made the mistake once of trying to seem very businesslike and avoided anything personal as a young woman in a professional setting. I was so ‘businesslike’ that they were shocked to find out I had a 5 year old and a 7 month old baby; literally, shocked, I had people coming up to me for days when the word got out after an office party where someone off handedly said ‘oh and you and Husband don’t have kids do you’ in a conversation about kids. When I mentioned that yes we did; they were stunned. It was the office big deal for about two weeks. Taught me to be a little more relaxed about ‘professionalism’.

    Reply
    1. Marillenbaum

      This is excellent advice! At my first job, I was told I was reserved by my boss, and that it put me somewhat out of step with the office culture, which tended to be chattier. So I made a point to do a few things: make the rounds on Monday mornings for a quick “How was your weekend?”, practice making small talk with the members of senior staff who intimidated me, and asking if anyone wanted anything when I went to Starbucks. Essentially, I treated it as just another work task, and integrated it into my workflow accordingly.

      Reply
      1. Jesca

        I am relatively introverted, and this is what I do!! It becomes just another task. And when someone points out how quiet I am? Yeah I just own it and people generally just accept it. And when they do comment on it, they are generally just ribbing me.

        But there is always one or two people who feel personally affronged. Those people are in the minority though and generally have a whole loy of other interpersonal issues. So, dont take that personally.

        But yeah, small talk a bit. Even if you just make crap up or overlay some mild drama in your life, just do your work rounds lol.

        Reply
          1. Jesca

            Haha if anyone continues to say it or becomes obnoxious with it, I usually just retort with “I generally do not talk if I have nothing to say.” If they thought about that to any degree, they would realize I just told them that they are just hot air releasing.

            Reply
      2. Introvert

        Essentially, I treated it as just another work task, and integrated it into my workflow accordingly. I love how you phrased this!

        Reply
    2. Stranger than fiction

      That’s so funny because someone who has worked here with me for six years – in the span of one week, last week – said “omg yiu have kids?” and then “omg you have a bf ” ( even though I’ve had pics of them on my wall all this time. Guess I just don’t go around talking about it.

      Reply
      1. Temperance

        I weirdly had more than one person ask me/assume that I’m single. I wear rings! It’s because Booth doesn’t ever come to my office and I’m weird, I think? IDK, I find it hilarious. One of my former coworkers gave me a pep talk about how we singles need to love ourselves more.

        I don’t have any pictures of him here, but I do have photos of my nieces and nephew and some kid art that I received as gifts.

        Reply
        1. SarahTheEntwife

          I have one coworker who I knew has a kid, because he comes up periodically in conversation and she occasionally took an afternoon off for kid-related things, but for the longest time I assumed she was divorced or that the kid’s father otherwise wasn’t in the picture. And I wasn’t going to ask because that just seemed really rude and the answer was probably not something she especially wanted to talk about. And no, it turns out she’s quiet happily married and just doesn’t talk about her husband much.

          Reply
    3. M-C

      Totally agree with Artemisia – if you’re getting this kind of comment more than once, you’re probably being -too- quiet. For this office, at least. And even more so if this has been told to you in several different environments.

      I knew someone who liked to “trying to learn about the culture before diving in headfirst” and did it systematically, and we ended up having a Big Talk about how unpleasant that is for everyone else. Have you considered how that approach can be perceived by others? It can easily mean you seem judgmental as you examine others for their suitability before you actually reveal anything about yourself (something which was actually the case for my own example). In any case, it precludes any real exchange. Others have to make the effort to try and find common grounds with you, while you get to play Ms Superior and decide whether you’re going to engage at all. Then you expect them to get over their initial bad impression when you’re finally ready to cough up something in your own sweet time. This isn’t about competence, it’s about making reasonable efforts to fit in socially (even if you’re radically different from them). Please, OP, reconsider, if only for your own sake.

      Reply
      1. Artemesia

        It is a fine line to walk. You do want to lay low in a new environment and get the power structure and lay of the land. But that doesn’t mean quietly judging. In fact, you should be cordial and friendly while not exposing much of your soul and certainly not making any demands or suggestions for change. Don’t start trying to rock the boat until you understand if you are in a sail boat or a cruiser, and know who the chief mates are.

        Reply
      2. SarahTheEntwife

        Wow, that seems really judgemental. Seriously, introverts don’t generally think we’re superior. We’re just quiet. And some of us have difficulty with social situations and take a while to figure out how to interact with a new group of people. Would you rather I be quiet for a few days, or awkward and rude? It’s one or the other.

        Reply
      3. JC

        Meh. I’m a quiet person who gets this kind of comment often, and I certainly don’t feel the need to change. Being quiet is just who I am. I’m pleasant, say hello to people and eat lunch with them…and am also quieter than the average person.

        Maybe quietness in others is unplesant to you, but to people like me, other people’s constant talking is just as unpleasant!

        Reply
    4. JAM

      My husband is fairly introverted and quiet and rarely volunteers information about himself. I’ve tried coaching him some since he wants advancement and knows he needs to be social at his workplace to do it. A turning point was when he took a week off of work and they asked if he had plans. He “forgot” to mention we were getting married and going on our honeymoon, he just said he was going out of town. About a year later he mentioned “oh my wife works there” to someone and they were like “when did you get a wife?” They all still laugh when we go to coworker weddings and they’re like “remember the time you got married and didn’t tell us for a year?”

      Reply
      1. Emmylou

        I had a coworker like that. One day in a meeting she said, “oh I’ll be off on Monday — I’m getting married tomorrow.” She was nice but very quiet.

        Reply
  4. Commiseration

    I get this comment when I am quietly working at my desk very often. When I am focused, I work quietly. Day to day, however, I am a very extroverted project manager who makes small talk whenever I run into an acquaintance. Is it possible you could be slightly nervous about this characteristic you perceive as less than optimal, when your co-workers are just making a comment about how quietly you work?
    Just for the record, it drives me crazy, too.

    Reply
  5. LadyL

    I’m not quiet, but I get the “you’re so tall!” comment a lot, and it’s always awkward. Responding to a factual observation in a polite and conversation-furthering away is incredibly difficult. It’s just a statement of fact, so “thank you,” isn’t right, but just saying, “Yes, I am,” feels rude and snippy. You can’t respond, “You’re so short/you’re so loud!” either, and just changing the subject is weird too. Sometimes with these kinds of social interactions I think you have to just put your best fake perky personality on and be like, “Haha, you got me!” Like Maria Bamford’s extrovert personality on Lady Dynamite. Allison script is great, it’ll make the person leave feeling like they had a Positive Human Interaction, and 90% of coworkers won’t think about it beyond that.

    Reply
    1. crunchybits

      when I was younger and had more patience to do so, I would tell people with a very straight face “oh I’m actually just 5’9″ – I just LOOK taller because of the vertical stripes.” They would blink and be like “you’re not wearing stripes” and I’d be all “whaaaat” and look shocked, and they’d generally laugh instead of thinking I was being a jerk.

      Anyway, I like your suggestion.

      Reply
      1. Thlayli

        Yeah, people usually say these things without thinking and are then a little worried you’ll be offended or something – if you hit acknowledge it and move on they’ll probably just be relieved more than anything.

        Or you can say “did you know you’re the first person to ever say that to me” then they will laugh.

        Reply
    2. Magenta Sky

      Maybe you should response with “I am? Really? Thank you *so* much for telling me! I had no idea!”

      But that might come across as being a little snarky.

      Reply
      1. Future Homesteader

        I actually wrote an entire satirical piece in high school English that was premised on my not realizing that I’m only five feet tall.

        Reply
      2. pugsnbourbon

        After I cut my hair into a pixie, a distant work acquaintance asked me “what happened to your beautiful hair?!?!” If I’d had just a little more presence of mind, I would have put on a baffled face, put my hands on my head, and started muttering, “what do you … what … OMG NO – WHERE DID IT GO?!?!??” etc. etc.

        Reply
        1. Anon today...and tomorrow

          If I was a co-worker who saw you do that to someone that would entertain me so much I might casually say “oh, make sure you go say hi to pugsnbourbon today” to other people just to watch you do it again – although to be fair, I’d tell you that I was planning that before I did it. I lead a very boring life here at work and that would liven up my day.

          Reply
          1. Emmylou

            Back when I made more frequent significant changes to my hair cut and colour, I had coworkers who felt free to squint and me and say things like “I liked it better before.” Did I ask your opinion?

            Sometimes people are just awkward.

            Reply
      3. Snark

        My wife has a lot of success with sarcastic replies like “Aaaand you have brown hair,” but she manages to inject enough wit into it that it comes off as a humorous reminder that one is pointing out the obvious, not as excessively snarky or snappy.

        Reply
    3. Aurora

      For pretty much all of these “factual observation” types of comments (“you’re so tall! your hair has gotten so long! your nails are so shiny!”), I’ve found that a brief, warm acknowledgement and then quickly flipping the conversation topic tends to work best. I almost always go with a smile and a somewhat humorous “Why yes, I suppose I am/it is/they are! … How are you?/The weather’s been gorgeous lately, hasn’t it?/Ready for the weekend?” Since, as Alison mentioned, these comments are most often poor attempts to start a conversation, it’s fairly easy to just treat them as “social noise” that doesn’t require any sort of substantive response. As long as the tone of the reply is friendly, it moves the conversation along with a minimum of fuss.

      Reply
    4. Temperance

      People regularly comment on how short I am. This happens all the time. I don’t think short is a negative in the way that loud is a negative.

      I usually respond with a sarcastic comment, but it isn’t really something I feel is a negative.

      Reply
    5. The Rat-Catcher

      I have a couple of (stupid) go-to comments for the short thing, sort of like I had when I was pregnant and people were being invasive about that. Some of my favorites are “Yeah, I’ve gotten pretty good at climbing the shelves at the store” or “My kids are probably going to outgrow me” – the kind of inane things you say to other people in superficial conversation.

      Reply
    6. JamieS

      I feel ya. I’m not that tall but I am left-handed so I get asked if I’m left-handed while doing something that makes it obvious I am (writing, eating, etc.) or get people making asinine comments/jokes. Often times I’ll get a two for one and get both. It has been a lifelong struggle not to respond too snippity.

      Reply
    1. LadyKelvin

      I have found that making a point to initiate a short conversation once a day helps increase the amount of small talk and builds bridges with my colleagues. For example, I’ll walk over to make tea and on my way back to my office I’ll swinging into a colleagues’ office and say Hey, haven’t seen you in a while, how are you doing? and then since we are both clearly in the middle of things, its a 1 minute convo and I’m free to go. Or I’ll notice that another girl is wearing a great color, so I’ll drop by just to tell her that I like her shirt. If I can plan for them in advance, they are short and friendly and I don’t seem like I’m out of touch. It helps that the majority of people I work with are fairly introverted as well, so we enjoy each other’s company at work and don’t feel pressured to hang out after work as well.

      Reply
  6. Claire

    I get this a lot too, it drives me nuts. As if it’s a bad thing that I’m not standing in the hallway having lengthy personal conversations all day? (Of course the coworkers to comment that I’m quiet are always the ones oversharing and gabbing in the hall for hours on end -_-)

    Reply
      1. Claire

        Oh for sure, I do think I tend to swing to far the other way sometimes because it’s easy for a quick “hi how are you?” to turn into a 30 minute chat

        Reply
        1. Thlayli

          Omg this happens in my work all the time. There is one particular guy who I can’t even ask him a work question without getting an hour long story about his life

          Reply
  7. sky

    I’ve had this in previous roles as well. It’s my one of my biggest peeves and I would urge any extroverted people to think very hard before saying this to someone. Personally, I sometimes struggle with social anxiety, which makes me naturally more quiet until I’m ‘integrated’ into a team. Someone pointing it out to me just shuts me down completely and I find it ten times harder to join in conversations after that. And I’m not imagining that often people are pointing out what they see as a ‘negative’ characteristic so really it should not be more socially acceptable than ‘you’re so loud!’

    Reply
    1. long time lurker

      Ditto this. A lot of quiet people are self-conscious of the fact, so even though people mean it innocently, it tends to hit a soft spot.

      Reply
    1. Introvert

      That’s a great idea! OP could also try playing music (quietly and tastefully, of course) at his/her desk to reduce the remarks, “I had no idea you were in there!”

      Reply
    2. Amber Rose

      This has never worked for me. It doesn’t actually seem to matter how much work stuff I talk about, if I’m not actively involved in every social conversation I am “too quiet.”

      I literally spend my whole day walking the building and talking to people but it’s still “You’re so quiet, how come you never talk?”

      Reply
      1. chomps

        @Amber Rose: “I literally spend my whole day walking the building and talking to people but it’s still “You’re so quiet, how come you never talk?””

        I think those people are just jerks. Also, I’m assuming the people saying that aren’t the people you’re talking to?

        Reply
      2. Anon today...and tomorrow

        I work with people like that right now. I’m a person who only deals in light chit chat with my co-workers. I work in a verrrrrry small office of a much larger company and a lot of these people have been here for years and are heavily invested in one another’s lives in and out of work. I am always being told I’m quiet, anti-social, or reserved because I don’t want to share more than idle chit chat. I’m not an overly quiet person. You want to talk about the series finale of Sherlock? I’ll happily stand around for 20 minutes to discuss. You want to know what my husband does, how much he gets paid, my daughters social media habits, or what my sons issues with food are? Yeah…that’s not really your business. Unhappily…in my office nobody ever wants to talk about Sherlock (or Call the Midwife, Doctor Who, The Good Place or New Girl). :(

        Reply
    3. Ramona Flowers

      Also, I don’t mean to sound unkind as I know a lot of people are sharing their experiences of social anxiety. But it can be kind of unnerving to have someone just sort of slink in and out and never talk to anyone.

      I’m also not sure it’s realistic to only ever interact when you know a project well – because in the meantime you’re kind of leaving that to other people, as well as missing the opportunity to actually learn from your colleagues.

      I don’t expect many people to agree but this seemed worth mentioning.

      Reply
      1. A cookie for your thoughts

        I’m similar to the OP in this regard, where I won’t contribute to a project unless I know it really well, mainly because I don’t want to be the dolt who suggests something that everyone else suggested long ago, or suggests something that obviously won’t work for Reasons I Have Yet to Learn, or asks stupid questions (because, contrary to the old saying, there most certainly are stupid questions). Better to be thought of as quiet than a time-wasting dum-dum.

        Reply
    4. Tuesday

      I don’t think this person is just silently taking things in. She says people walk by her desk and make comments while she’s engrossed in her own work. That’s different from, say, sitting in meetings or at a table in the break room not participating in a conversation.

      I get that some people find it off-putting when other people don’t engage in smalltalk all the time, but I’m familiar with the kind of comments the LW is talking about and they just feel patronizing. It’s a similar feeling to when you walk past someone in the hallway and they tell you to smile. I understand that a lot of people feel more at ease when everyone seems happy and chatty. I understand that we all have to put up with certain things that go against our nature when we work in an office (being friendly with coworkers; not singing along with the hold music; wearing pants.) But it’s really exhausting to try to be talkative when you’re just not that kind of person. Especially when it’s just to appease your extroverted coworkers and isn’t actually part of your job.

      Reply
  8. TeacherNerd

    I’m on the quiet side myself, OP – I’ve mostly outgrown my shyness but I’m still an introvert, and since I’m a high school teacher, I generally feel I get enough socialization just interacting with my students (whom I find easier to talk to than my co-workers until I get to know them). I’ve changed classrooms a few times since I’ve been at my current school, and I’m finally in a classroom surrounded by other teachers in my department, so I find it easier to poke my head into their classrooms for a quick howzitgoin’ before retreating back to the safety of my own space. It helps me when I can do things in smaller pieces. (It helps that we don’t have long between classes; less pressure to hang out for an indeterminate amount of time.)

    Reply
  9. Bend & Snap

    I don’t particularly like talking to people at work…or anywhere…but this sounds like a good opportunity to make a little small talk and raise your profile. People will stop commenting once they have a better sense of who you are and what you’re like.

    Reply
  10. DatSci

    Anytime anyone makes an asinine observation comment to me, I just look at them pointedly and say “That’s Correct.”

    If its a fairly innocent but obvious comment, I smile and say “You’ve got that right!”

    Works like a charm for just about every situation…

    Reply
    1. Amber Rose

      Dinosaur comics had a comic the other day about generic replies that work for every conversation.
      “It is what it is.”
      “You know I can’t talk about that.”
      “Let’s put a pin in that.”

      To which I’d add, “Yep, you’re right” and “I can’t argue with that.”

      Reply
      1. Lehigh

        “You’re so quiet!”

        “You know I can’t talk about that.” *dramatic pause.* *whispers* “Because it would be a self-invalidating conversation.”

        Reply
    2. Nora

      I like that! I usually just say “yep”. I don’t think there’s anything I can say that will get people to stop mentioning that I’m quiet, and trying to change my behavior to appease those people is only going to make me bitter.

      Reply
      1. SarcasticFringehead

        The one-word answer works particularly well when they phrase it as “you don’t talk much, do you?” (not necessarily recommended for talking to managers, of course, but when you’re 16 and pretty sure your coworker is trying to flirt with/neg you, it helps shut that conversation right down.

        Reply
        1. Magenta Sky

          Years ago, I made an informal study of what noise takes the least amount of energy to make, for those social situations where I need to acknowledge that someone exists, but there’s nothing to actually say. (It’s a kind of guttural “uuh.”) It conveys that I’m making a conscious effort to obey the social niceties, while being of minimal inconvenience to me.

          Generally, it work. It works best when someone comments on it, and I give them the above explanation.

          Yeah, my coworkers think I’m a little weird. (But if I talked more, they’d think I’m weirder.)

          Reply
      2. Not I said the cat

        SAME. I am not interested in changing my personality whatsoever. I keep it cordial and polite but not going to divulge anything personal/engage in conversations that would drain me as an introvert forced into an extroverted setting 5 days a week.

        Reply
  11. Amber Rose

    I get this constantly, and for years I was baffled by the “you’re so quiet, make more noise” comment. Did they want me to tie a bell on my wrist or hum constantly just to be always making some sort of sound? Should I blow a whistle every few minutes? Nobody else does that though? So confusing.

    These days I just agree.
    “You’re so quiet.” “Yeah, I am.”
    “Make some more noise!” “Nah, I’m more of a quiet type.”

    Reply
    1. paperfiend

      I also get the “you’re quiet” comments. Not in a “you don’t talk often enough” way, but in a “you startled me – I didn’t hear you walking” way. At work and at home.

      Mostly I get this from people who are 1) loud talkers or 2) loud walkers. My husband’s family are both. I swear, all I do is NOT stomp and NOT shout and they think I’m trying to sneak up on them…

      Reply
      1. Magenta Sky

        I have been clumsy all my life. Since pain hurts, I learned at a very early age to be very aware of my surroundings. But I’m still clumsy. So generally speaking, I move very quietly and with careful deliberation – except when I walk into the furniture.

        I don’t think I have a single coworker who hasn’t jumped out of their socks when I “snuck up on them” and then bumped the file cabinet next to their desk. Tripping over stray air currents is apparently a Super Ninja Power.

        Reply
  12. Mr Mike

    I’ve gotten the same comment throughout my working life because: A) I have never had any interest in sports of any kind (including hunting or fishing). B) I have never had children and therefore, no C) Grandchildren. I have found 90%+ of non- work-related topics involve these irrelevent topics and so have nothing to talk about…

    Reply
      1. Adlib

        I LOVE curling when the Olympics roll around! I’m in a Midwestern state so it isn’t big here, but I have friends in a northern state who actually are in a curling club.

        Reply
        1. Beancounter Eric

          I haven’t seen NBC’s TV schedule for next February, yet, but Winter Olympics Mixed Doubles round robin begins 8 February.

          Oddly enough, Atlanta has a curling club. One of these days, I’m going to have to sign up for curling school.

          Reply
        2. Trig

          Ok, hang on. The midwest contains 5 states on the Canadian border. What qualifies as a northern state if MN and WI don’t?! (Other than the obvious Alaska, I’m guessing Maine?)

          Reply
    1. sunshyne84

      Same. In school, teachers loved me for being the quiet one, but at work not so much. I don’t have kids or a boyfriend or like shopping too much so I just don’t have anything to contribute. *shrug*

      Reply
    2. Artemesia

      I remember back in the days before I had kids, that the wives of my husband’s co-workers would always talk about their kids at events and when I would try to join in with an anecdote about my nephews, they would sort of ignore that and freeze me out. It was some kind of weird tribalism of motherhood. I have tried to be very sensitive to not drawing those distinctions in the rest of my career so that single people, people without kids etc don’t feel frozen out of conversations.

      Reply
  13. PJ

    It might be worth responding with a “Does that bother you?” (said in a friendly, rather than defensive, tone).

    If the answer is yes, then it can open a dialogue as to why. Do they think you’re sleeping on the job? Do they think you’re over/underworking? Do they want to socialize during work hours? Are they trying to make you feel bad? Do they think you’re making them look bad?

    If the answer is no, it can be a subtle hint to the other person that those kinds of comments are a bit pointless.

    Reply
    1. Marillenbaum

      I think sometimes, someone being quiet and at work can come across as being deeply engrossed–which is certainly not a bad thing, but it make s me wary of approaching them because I don’t want to be a distraction (even if I’m interrupting them for a work request. Sure, some of that is my issue, but it can’t hurt to cultivate a degree of openness so people know they can ask you things.

      Reply
      1. Kimberlee, Esq.

        Yeah, I think this is sort of it… if you’re not known to engage in convos with co-workers, over time you’re creating and reinforcing the notion that you don’t like to do it, and people will respond (even subconsciously) by not engaging with you as much. Which of course can have negative repercussions at work and socially. Being friendly and engaging every once in a while will at least mitigate those habits from forming in others, and make them feel more comfortable asking you about work-related stuff as well.

        Reply
    2. Halls of Montezuma

      And you might find out that you’re so quiet that you’re startling people when you get up to go to the restroom or something because they never realized you were there, or they’ve been playing music/taking phonecalls on speaker thinking they didn’t have any neighbor today and now feel bad they subjected you to that.

      Reply
    3. Bookworm

      I also think it’s possible that coworkers are concerned that OP doesn’t feel comfortable and they’re expressing their worries sloppily.

      Reply
  14. NW Mossy

    If you’re consistently getting the comment “I never know you’re in here,” that can be a sign that you’re keeping such a low profile that people forget you’re around.

    People generally like to know those they work with, and not even necessarily in a personal sense. Just sharing some of your work style goes a long way, because then people start to form a picture of Professional You that’s more filled-in. You can lay it out for co-workers just like you did for Alison – you hang back until you’ve grasped the material and then start jumping in more. You can leverage your desire to learn from others by picking out aspects of the tasks you’re working on and asking others about them (“I noticed that we always do X in this process – how did that start?”), even if you don’t need their help to complete the task. This kind of thing will give others a sense of who you are at work, and that knowledge will help them to see you as more than a silent-but-deadly work ninja.

    Reply
  15. Kindling

    This is the absolute worst. If anyone has a good comeback for this in non-professional situations where you can be a little ruder, I’d love suggestions. I get this a lot at parties which does wonders for my social anxiety, of course. Fortunately nobody has done this to me yet in the workplace, but I will keep Alison’s suggestions in my back pocket for when it inevitably happens.

    Also: if anyone reading this has done this before (called someone quiet), I’d implore you to stop. I’m sure your intentions are good but it really dings the self-esteem to have it called out.

    Reply
    1. Marillenbaum

      I go with a blithe, “Oh, I’m not really here, I’m a hologram.” I find keeping a light touch with my tone does wonders for even a snarky response.

      Reply
    2. SarcasticFringehead

      For me, cheerful agreement with things that may or may not be pointed comments (for instance, my grandmother mentioning how pretty my hair was as a kid, aka before I shaved half of it off) works well. If they’re just trying to come up with things to say, you’re keeping the conversation moving (“yep, I’m often quiet in social situations – want to commiserate about the awkwardness?”), and if they’re trying to make a point, it derails them.

      Reply
    3. Nolan

      “Just surveying the room/taking everything in”
      “Just catching my breath”
      “Huh? Oh I just zoned out for a minute there”
      “Heh, you leave the room and all the conversations move on!”
      And my personal favorite for house parties… go find the hosts and ask if they need any help :)

      Reply
    4. Magenta Sky

      “I’m studying to be a ninja. It’s good to know I’m making progress. The next lesson is on undetectable poisons.” While looking meaningfully at their drink.

      Reply
    5. Kimberlee, Esq.

      I think there are more and less polite ways to do it, but this is commonly employed to great effect as an inclusion tactic at workplaces. If someone is known for being quiet and not speaking up in group discussions, good managers will sometimes say something like “Hey Kindling, we haven’t heard anything from you on this” as a way to encourage people who may be feeling silenced (who of course are more likely to be women and people of color in our modern American workplaces at least) to take part.
      Of course, this doesn’t need to translate to wheedling people into social conversations constantly, but it’s important at work to create situations where people that are normally quiet are compelled to speak up. It’s part of why they were hired!

      Reply
      1. Marillenbaum

        Oh, that’s an excellent point! I’m in a grad program right now, and one of my classes had a lot of men who would answer questions by discussing their experience and opinions for ten minutes without actually answering the question. Several of my female colleagues and I took to amplifying each other’s voices in the class (like that WaPo article about women in the Obama White House). So, if Heather makes a comment, and then Wakeen spends ten minutes on his time working in Azerbaijan, Jane will raise her hand and say “Heather’s comment earlier raises the question…” So that we could reinforce to our professor who was meaningfully participating and furthering the discussion.

        Reply
      2. Kindling

        Oh for sure, that’s fine. But the specific phrase “You’re so quiet” is not the way to do it. I like your phrasing and would not be upset by that in a meeting at all! And I appreciate that sentiment.

        Reply
    6. Sylvan

      I don’t have a good comeback, but I just take it as a sign that we’re not a great match. They want to hang out with someone more talkative and outgoing. They can go do that while I hang out with other low-key people who think reading in the same room totally counts as socializing.

      Reply
  16. Beancounter Eric

    Do you do good work? Is the boss happy with your work? Do you deliver results?

    Yes to the above? – then don’t worry about the “you’re so quiet” crowd.

    Some will say share more about yourself. I sometimes feel co-workers know far more about my personal life than they need to, and one of my resolutions for next-job is to keep things personal very close. Your mileage may vary, though.

    As to a response to the folks who comment about how quiet I am, “sorry, but that’s who I am.”

    Reply
    1. Sadsack

      I think, “Sorry, that’s who I am,” at work will not go over well unless you are really light and joking about it. I think it’s ok to remark that, yeah, I’m quiet a lot, or something like that, but something about “sorry that’s who I am” can seem defensive or cold.

      Reply
  17. Collingswood

    I also used to be on the receding end of this comment quite a lot. I second making an effort to say hi/make small talk with coworkers. And just as a note to extroverts who say this: it comes across as a criticism and if you are saying this to encourage someone to talk more, it will likely do just the opposite. I also have some social anxiety issues and when people would say this, it would make me even more anxious about making small talk because I felt like my efforts would be highly scrutinized.

    Reply
  18. Lora

    “Well spotted.” “Bless your heart.” *unblinking stare*
    I kinda suspect it’s something like a hiccup or burp with people who like to talk. They have to say something, constantly, because like Tinkerbell it helps other people believe in their existence. If they don’t have anything to immediately say, things like “you’re so quiet!” “what’s the weather like up there?” and “someone’s got a case of the Mondays!” come out of their mouths unbidden. So, according to Miss Manners, I simply pretend that I didn’t notice.

    Reply
    1. CM

      I think that’s too biting for an innocent (although annoying) observation. If you really want to pretend you didn’t notice, just comment about something else. “You’re so quiet in there!” “Busy working. How was your weekend?”

      Reply
  19. SL #2

    I’m an extrovert, and what I’m reading this as is that OP’s coworkers are using ‘quiet’ as a catch-all for ‘we don’t really know you well yet.’ Alison’s advice for a little bit more small talk with coworkers in the morning or in the break room is spot-on, in my opinion. It doesn’t need to distract you from your work, it doesn’t need to push you too far out of your comfort zone, but people get unnerved when someone doesn’t want to participate in water cooler chatter and the social niceties of The Office Environment. I bet that’s where these comments are coming from, rather than literally “you’re too quiet, make some noise.”

    Reply
    1. Chickaletta

      Yes, I was going to say something like this! And I’m on the quiet side. But I’ve also been around people who are really quiet and it can start to feel disconcerting to be around someone all day long, every day, who you know nothing about, or what they’re thinking or feeling; it creates a slightly eerie vibe. That isn’t to say that it’s anyone’s business, but it would go a long way to interject once in awhile in a conversation or state something benign about your day (ex: it was a nice sunrise this morning).

      “You’re so quiet” is probably an attempt to start a conversation with that person and not knowing what else to say. If it bothers you, forgive them and move on, we all have our faults after all.

      Reply
    2. Fishcakes

      Yes. Generally, “you’re so quiet!” really means “I bet you’re nice and I’d like to get to know you a little better.”

      Reply
  20. bohtie

    I get this a lot and my instinctive response is basically to smile and say in a clearly joking matter, something along the lines of:
    -“Yeah, I hear that one a lot!”
    -“I’m just sneaky like that”
    -“Busted, you got me”
    or, if I need a serious answer, “Oh, yeah, I was so wrapped up in this thing…”

    and either way, immediately deflect by asking them how they’re doing, etc.

    But I’m also (a) a bit of an accidental ninja, to the point where I’ve scared the crap out of my coworkers because they didn’t realize I was there, which is often what inspires the comments about how quiet I am (like seriously I just don’t make a lot of noise, and have had to teach myself to make sure to step loudly when I’m at home so I don’t freak out my roommate and stuff like that), and (b) actually pretty outgoing, just not much of a talker in terms of initiating conversation, so I don’t actually mind it as a convo-starter.

    Reply
    1. Trillian

      Another Accidental Ninja here. Except I blame Elyne Mitchell’s Silver Brumby books, which got me practicing how to move silently, which then became a habit. I also had to learn how to make noise so I wouldn’t startle people on the street.

      Reply
    2. Sorrel

      Apparently I’m an accidental ninja too! Which I find hard to believe, because I am six feet tall and wear fairly heavy boots and tend to walk pretty heavily on my heels as a result, but it’s a rare week that goes by without someone jumping like a scalded cat when I say something to them. I guess the carpet on our floor is just REALLY impressive.

      Reply
    3. Business Cat

      I think I’ve become an accidental ninja because my last boss required that I stand silently in his doorway until he had finished whatever he was doing and acknowledged my presence before I was allowed to speak to him. So I learned to be very quiet and very hesitant to interrupt others.

      Reply
  21. Tangerina Warbleworth

    Hi OP. There’s an underlying issue here: you’re trying to figure out why a person does something. I get it, I really do; but that kind of thing ends up being a huge waste of time. You will never know why a person does a thing, and you don’t really need to. You just need to figure out for yourself how to deal.

    There are a lot of good suggestions here; also, it doesn’t have to be snarky. If your delivery is friendly and warm, it will likely be taken as such. If it were me I’d probably say, “I know, I keep forgetting my castanets at home,” with a wink and a small laugh. When I do that kind of thing, my experience has been that normal people will smile and be friendly. The very few who don’t are the ones who are determined to Be Offended by everything anyway, so who cares what they think.

    Reply
  22. MashaKasha

    I’ve gotten the “you’re so quiet” a lot over the years. Could never figure out what was expected from me to not be quiet, since my work did not involve making any sounds 90% of the time. Was I supposed to be talking loudly to myself as I worked? bring a boombox in and put my favorite mixtapes on? bring extra crunchy snacks in? what? Hoping to find out from this thread.

    Reply
  23. LadyKelvin

    I get this a lot from people I don’t interact with much. I’m just not a super open person who enjoys talking to everyone about everything, so I am typically polite and cordial with people I don’t know well and talkative with people I do. So when I mention to my coworkers that so-and-so said they think I’m super quiet, they can’t believe someone would say that. I’ve just stopped worrying about what those people on the periphery think, as long as my coworkers and boss don’t think I am too reserved then I’m fine. There is also someone on my team who tends to steamroll conversations, and has significantly changed the dynamics of our group as he will pick up on a topic and then talk on a tangent for 10 minutes without a breath interrupting whomever may be speaking. When he does that the rest of us just wait for him to be done, roll our eyes, and continue with the conversation we were having. I’d much rather be considered quiet than be like him.

    Reply
  24. Ice Bear

    I’ve gotten similar comments here and there from various coworkers (not bosses) as well but I’ve always done a good job and gotten great reviews so I don’t worry too much about it. Personally, in a world where many people are too loud, force their opinions on others, and constantly need to be the center of attention, I take it as a compliment that people don’t see me that way.

    Reply
  25. Rachel Green

    I am introverted and people make the “Wow, you’re so quiet!” comments to me a lot as well. I’ve been with my current employer for about 6 years now, so I don’t get the quiet comments nearly as much as I used to. But, it is still irritating. Especially when they phrase it as a question: “Why are you so quiet?” I’ve never known how to answer that. I think I’ve responded in lots of different ways in the past. “I’m just listening for now” or “I’m just taking everything in” or “I don’t have anything to add,” depending on the context. I’ve even just smiled and and changed the subject or laughed it off. I think it’s just one of those things that all introverts have to grin and bear. Know that you are not alone.

    Reply
    1. Alienor

      “Why are you so quiet?” has always been so weird to me, like…is that a question that ever even *has* an actual answer other than “That’s just my personality?” Have they asked other people in the past and gotten some sort of answer that satisfied them? If they’re among that group of people who think someone being quiet means they’re upset or mad, are they prepared to hear “I’m upset/mad” with a possible side of “at you?” I don’t get it.

      Reply
  26. Princess Carolyn

    I like Alison’s suggestion of “How’s your day going?” when it’s clear they’re commenting to make small talk or strike up a conversation. It’s a good way to show interest and seem less quiet without actually coming up with much to say.

    If this comes up in more of a meeting/strategizing sort of context, it might make more sense to explain that you’re trying to take it all in and learn as much as possible before you start adding your two cents. But, you’ll still want to be ready to add something of value in those situations, in case they press.

    Reply
  27. I'm Not Phyllis

    I’m quiet too … and not just at work but also in larger groups or where I don’t know anyone. I’m an introvert, and I suck at small talk, so I get the “why are you so quiet” or (the sarcastic) “OMG you never stop talking!” all. the. time. and completely understand how annoying that can be. People who know me know that I’m generally friendly and up for a chat (unless I’m legitimately too busy). Normally when someone asks why I’m so quiet at work my response is that I’m just working away and that they can come by any time. Because I’m an introvert, I know myself better then to believe that I’ll spend more time around the water cooler, but at least I can let people know that they’re welcome in my office and that I’m happy to talk to them.

    Reply
  28. diaphanous

    If I ever make quiet comments, it’s because I didn’t notice you were at your desk and am hoping I didn’t start singing out lout or talking to myself :)

    Reply
  29. Marcy

    I agree with Alison that this is probably just a harmless conversation starter. There are many that, as a literal minded person, I find baffling/annoying. Another one is: “I haven’t seen you for a while!” Um..yes…because you’ve been on vacation. I just try to substitute it in my head with “Let’s chat now!” and respond accordingly. As someone who likes to keep work and home perfectly compartmentalized, I do find the bleed through from work talk into small talk slightly irritating, but…whatever. There are a couple of people in my office who absolutely refuse to engage in small talk and are definitely seen as the weird ones who are always “holed up in their offices.”

    Reply
    1. Thlayli

      Yes! For most people all these types of comments are just “let’s chat now”.

      What a great way to describe it

      Reply
  30. fidgetfingers

    This!! I have this same problem!! I’m totally comfortable talking about work once I know what I’m talking about, but until then it’s hard to feel like I can contribute meaningfully to the conversation, so I just don’t.

    When someone comments like this, usually I just sort of laugh it off and keep working. Sometimes if the commenter is particularly obnoxious, I’ll respond with something completely inappropriate, like, “Yeah, I had a really traumatic childhood and didn’t start talking in public until high school, thanks for noticing!” That usually gets them to leave me alone…

    Reply
  31. nnn

    A while back, I thought of the idea of replying by staring at them, baffled, and then saying “What kind of response are you expecting?” And ever since I thought of that idea, no one has said “You’re so quiet!” to me! So if anyone has the opportunity to try it in the wild, report back and let us know what kind of response they were expecting.

    A less snarky option is to turn to them with eye contact and fully-engaged body language, and say “What do you want me to talk about?” Same tone and delivery as if you were planning a special day for a loved one and were asking them “What do you want to spend the day doing?”

    Bad but entertaining idea: respond to “You should make some noise” by screaming at the top of your lungs as though you’re being murdered.

    Reply
  32. Student

    It might help to give some thought as to what this co-worker actually wants from you, and whether that’s something it is in your interest to provide. You may be taking the comment too literally.

    I find that this is usually a cry for attention. The co-worker wants somebody to socialize with, and since you are naturally “quiet”, thinks you might be easy to engage with. Usually such a person doesn’t really, literally want you to talk more; they want you to listen to them and take an interest in their life and make them feel important/special/acknowledged. It works sometimes because “quiet” people are less likely to push back against the co-worker, the “quiet” person isn’t already paying attention to another physically-present person, and the “quiet” person is likely to do more listening than talking, which is what the instigator wants anyway. Varying by the co-worker, it may also be a way of telling you, indirectly, that they want you to recognize their workplace value by seeking their input more often, or something like that.

    Obviously, whether you should indulge this attention-seeking varies by workplace and person and whatnot. Sometimes, indulging it can be a good way to network; other times, it’s jut a waste of work time.

    Sometimes, it’s a way of trying to draw you into the team more. It’s a person who is himself very out-going, who cannot understand how you can be happy with being quiet because he is not happy being quiet. Such a person is trying to do something positive by drawing you out of your shell, but is possibly misguided about your actual needs/preferences. It’s always worth looking around you to see if maybe your quietness is holding you back from work interactions, or making you difficult to approach and get to know – but it’s fine to decide the colleague is misguided, too.

    Reply
    1. Kowalski! Options!

      This. I’d also caution that it might not just get you drawn into the team, but drawn into someone’s personal drama, too. I’ve had (and have) coworkers who will use any kind of small talk as a launching pad for a five-minute soliloquy about anything that’s on their minds, whether it has to do with work, or not, and end up being a one-way street to “OMG, TMI!”. (Fr’instance, I have a co-worker who’s been on the team for two weeks, and I already know more about her reproductive health than I do my own.)

      Reply
  33. Penelope Pitstop

    OP–my natural working style seems similar to yours and I seem to draw similar “quiet” comments, especially when I’m new to a role, org, team or project. I’d rather absorb and speak thoughtfully than just talk to talk, y’know?

    But, unfortunately, there are some organizational cultures (and/or roles) in which if you’re too quiet, you’re sort of dismissed. Not overtly or out of hostility, but in ways that may eventually and subtly put an invisible ceiling on your success there.

    You’ll have to tweak these to fit the dynamics of your situation and personality, but here’s what I’ve done that’s served me well for establishing a ‘presence,’ if you will:

    – try taking a mid-morning or mid-afternoon ‘break’ from your desk if that’s an option and using that time to connect with someone during that time (sometimes my heads-down reads unapproachable, even when I don’t mean for it to and some sort of up-for-socializing ‘signal’ diffuses that impression)
    – ask for advice or perspective about something or how something is done – even for something minor – can build camaraderie. Most people don’t mind or even like helping someone learn the ropes and it seems, maybe a little less ‘island.’
    – take on a role in meetings that feels right for you – ask a question, validate someone else’s idea or give them recognition, toss in an idea during a brainstorm – whatever makes sense in your situation. I’ve found that sometimes any contribution contributes to a sense of ‘team-ness.’

    FWIW – I’m not at all saying the world SHOULD operate this way and I don’t think it’s reflection on your value at all, but sometimes those with more introverted tendencies can be misread. Finding some optics that feel right and comfortable to you can curb those comments and help you flourish.

    Reply
  34. Goya

    And “You’re so quiet!” tends to be more socially acceptable to say than “You’re so loud!”

    Sadly! I’m one of the quiet ones and I would love to say “You’re soooooo loud!” to some of my co-workers

    Reply
    1. LadyKelvin

      Me too! I have a coworker to whom I’d really like to say “Could you please stop talking, we are trying to have a conversation not sit in a lecture.”

      Reply
    2. The Other Dawn

      I hear ya. I’m typically quiet, although can be loud when I’m really comfortable with everyone. BUT. There are several people here that are just loud all the time or have a REALLY annoying, grating laugh and I would just love to tell them they’re so loud.. Or annoying…

      Reply
    3. Sara

      Right??? I used to get that all the time from a coworker who spent half her day on the phone having very loud conversations about decidedly non-work things like doctor’s appointments for her husband or getting her car fixed. Like, okay, I’m quiet, but at least you don’t have to listen to me wax on about my spouse’s kidney stones.

      Reply
    4. introvert

      Oh this + 1000! My office is full of extroverts and you can actually just feel that energy and to me – SHRILLNESS getting louder and louder as they get their rush – on the phone, people in their office (rarely work related) socialness chit chatting – me in my office, headphones on, door almost shut (we have an ‘open office’ environment) and by the end of the day I am exhausted just listening to it. On top of that my supervisor literally encourages me to walk around the office, coffee cup in hand – just to make chit chat with people – because that is the culture they want – (I go to someone’s office because I have something WORK related to talk to them about – and I check with them first to make sure they are available). I almost ‘save up’ things to talk to co-workers about so that I can be sure my boss will see me – because this is / has been part of my review. I sent him information on my personality type and how I work etc – doesn’t matter – WE are extroverts and you must be too.

      Reply
  35. Rikki Tikki Tarantula

    Back at ToxicJob, I could get pretty quiet at times because I’m introvert-ish and trying to actually get work done. We had a manager who was VERY chatty, and he and I were friendly but I wasn’t part of the gang that hung out with him and chatted for minutes on end (he wasn’t my manager, and I was trying to get work done). I found out that a senior manager interpreted my not spending lots of time talking with chatty manager as proof that I hated chatty manager, and felt free to tell lots of people this. (Just an example of the horrible office politics there. So glad I’m out.)

    Reply
  36. Amanda2

    I’m lucky enough to be quiet and tall! I get comments on both constantly. It’s frustrating because I have to work hard, very hard, on not being quiet. It’s something I am constantly mindful of and usually trying to be “less quiet.” It’s incredibly deflating to have someone make the “You’re so quiet” comment because it feels like a sign that I’m failing and all the hard work is not enough. It’s also incredibly tiring because “not being quiet” is incredibly tiring for me and requires constant effort. It’s okay for there to be quiet people out there and they don’t deserve to be subjected to commentary on that trait from non-quiet people anytime they relax into “quietness” for justa bit! Now, there’s nothing I can do about being tall but it’d be great if others could do tall people a solid and stop commenting! :-)

    Reply
  37. Sara

    Along the same lines, I used to get “You’re so calm!” all the time, in my old job. I ran events for a museum so there were always last minute changes or whatever to work around. It always struck me as kind of a funny thing to say, like of course I am, how would this situation be helped if I got upset? It was just part of the job.

    Reply
  38. Turquoise Cow

    OP, I totally feel you here. I tend to be quiet when I’m new to a place, or if I don’t know people very well. Once I loosen up, I tend to talk more, to the point where close friends and family rarely make comments about my quiet.

    It only bothers me when I get mixed messages about it. At an old job, I would get “you’re so quiet!” and “loosen up!” or “you’re so serious!” comments from some people, and then hear feedback about making sure to not socialize too much from other people. Once a coworker overheard someone comment than I needed a muzzle. (We weren’t sure if it was sarcasm, but the coworker thought she sounded serious, and it came from someone who talked a LOT, and in a loud voice, so…)

    Reply
    1. Alienor

      Omg, my boss’s boss at my first job was *convinced* that I was the most serious person who ever lived. As it happens, I have a really snarky sense of humor, but I was in my early 20s at the time and didn’t think it was appropriate to deploy it on someone who was 35 years my senior and a vice president. Everyone who actually worked with me knew better.

      Reply
  39. Anne Shirley

    I feel like Alison has answered a number of questions about how “coworkers keep commenting on X” (my food, my clothing, my lunchbreaks, etc) and unless X is something that would invite discrimination or offense (religion, gendered activity, weight, etc), there really needs to be a level of acceptance that coworkers, as people in general, really just love commenting on things. What thing they are commenting on is often of much, much less important than the fact that they are chatting at all. If they were not commenting on your volume it would just as easily be your tendency to be cold or preference for a kind of music. It’s a phenomenon born of several people being in a designated location for long enough that small talk gets recycled at a much, much higher rate of frequency.

    OP, I would urge you to shrug off their comments like you would about the weather unless it becomes obvious to you that you are seriously outside the office norm.

    Reply
    1. Justin

      I think people say this stuff because it’s just… something to say. I am sure it’s annoying (I’m a short guy and yeah, I’ve heard about it). I empathize. But I agree, think of it like the weather and shrug. And try to think of things to chime in on at times that work for you.

      Reply
    2. TG

      There could be some judgment attached, though. I’m an introvert and have been dealing with this throughout my life. The phrase “You’re so quiet..” can sometimes feel like there is an unspoken “and it bugs me so you need to do something about it,” attached. Some people seem very uncomfortable with silence and with calm, silent coworkers.

      Reply
  40. Lily in NYC

    I really think this happens to everyone -but just about different things. People tend to comment on things they notice without really thinking about it and I would try not to take offense at it because it’s likely not meant in a derogatory way at all.

    Reply
  41. Parcae

    There are a lot of examples of “my coworker makes weird comments” in the archives here. My theory is that they are usually some mix of trying to connect by stating the obvious (“Wow, you’re tall”) and checking for drama (“Must be nice leaving early every day!”). It’s not that your coworkers are convinced there’s something sinister going… but there MIGHT be, so they want to investigate. They key is convincing them that this is not the drama they’re looking for. I’ve generally gotten good results by trying to stay 1) non-defensive, 2) cheerful, and 3) agreeable.

    “You’re so quiet!”
    “Yes, I missed my calling as a librarian!”

    “You’re so tall!”
    “Yes, I love being the only one in the office who can reach the high supply shelf. I keep all the good pens there!”

    “Wow, you take a lot of time off!”
    “Yes, I’m so glad that Manager let me negotiate a flexible schedule. It really helps!”

    “Are you really going to eat that cookie?”
    “Yes, and I’m really looking forward to it. Oatmeal raisin is my favorite!

    Reply
    1. Sybil Fawlty

      I love this approach! I think you are right, most of the weird comments are fishing for some sort of drama. I’m going to keep your replies in mind for the next time I need them.

      Reply
  42. Mockingjay

    Why people comment on a colleague’s focus at work, I will never understand. “Oooh, look at Bob. He’s working.” Yes, he is. Why aren’t you?

    The nature of my job is that I can go for days without speaking to anyone. I’m not antisocial (far from it), but if I am researching and writing, I really, really can’t be interrupted. The stuff I work on is technical. I have to close out the world to do it properly and to minimize error.

    Current Job understands this focus, which is fantastic, but ExJob drove me up a tree. The ExJob “culture” favored people interaction over concentrated, planned execution. Meetings, meetings, break room conversations, luncheons, more meetings to discuss, debate, search your feelings Luke, then a rush to produce a document or something. Then they couldn’t figure out why the customer wasn’t happy with the quality of the delivery.

    Reply
  43. Jennifer

    I had a coworker who was an extreme morning person and would be all, “Why are you so quiet?”

    It’s 8 a.m., I’m tired, nothing interesting has happened since 5 p.m. last night and I have nothing to say!!!!!

    Reply
  44. IntrovertedAndProud

    I get this all the time. I have even gotten another, rather interesting, follow up comment to “You’re quiet” which was “You always think carefully about what you say, don’t you?” If you haven’t read it already, I highly suggest picking up a copy of Quiet by Susan Cain. After a spat of “You’re so quiet” comments, and a rather mean comment about introverts in a hiring panel I was part of, I stuck a copy of “A Manifesto For Introverts” on the wall in my office, since we’re allowed decorations. I get less comments about how quiet I am now. And it also reminds me that its not something to worry about. I do, however, make a point of going to any in office get togethers. I need to make sure that I am being an introvert and not a hermit. So, off I go to eat birthday cake…

    Reply
    1. TG

      I second the recommendation for Quiet. Reading this book was the turning point for me in feeling like I was not broken.

      Reply
  45. Business Cat

    This is the exact AAM post that I needed to see today! I’m either laser-focused on work or daydreaming most of the time, and am AWFUL with small talk, so I find it difficult to make connections that seem so easy for other people. If we’re talking about work, I don’t have any issues, but once we delve into personal territory or pleasant banalities “How was your weekend?” I get so stiff and awkward! It feels like there is so much pressure to ask the “right” questions or respond “correctly”… I know that’s not really a thing and I’m overthinking it, but I consistently feel like I’m doing it so wrong. If I know you on a social level I talk almost incessantly, but I feel like my thoughts and interests are *WEIRD* and it makes it hard to just connect with my coworkers as people. Mix one part social anxiety and one part emotional Pisces mentality and you get…oh, Business Cat has trailed off and skittered down the hall and back to her safe office.

    …I’m looking forward to reading through the comments for advice. :D

    Reply
  46. BB

    For me, I don’t really say anything that’s blatantly obvious. I prefer to be remembered as somebody who made interesting observations rather than as somebody who would say the same thing as anyone else.

    Reply
  47. kimberly

    I get this every once in a while.

    My response is generally “I do try.”

    I’m a quiet person and I’m OK with that.

    Reply
  48. Bruce H.

    Put a sign on your desk: It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.

    Reply
  49. JAM

    My husband is naturally quiet and most days so are his team members. One of the members of a more social team used to come in and say “it’s just so quiet in here!” and then stand around awkwardly while no one said anything. Then one day a guy named Gary did the most Gary thing and recited some random fact about some country’s imports or exports or something and it started a trend. Everyone started keeping lists of random facts to recite if someone said they were too quiet. They actually got more social as a team. We were all at a wedding last month and half our table were +1s who didn’t know us and one of them said something like “well this is quiet and awkward” and then the team started in on their random facts thing and it totally broke the ice and we had a great evening. It could have easily doubled down on the awkwardness but somehow everyone finds some way to respond in that scenario.

    Reply
  50. LeisureSuitLarry

    My strategy may not work for all, but it’s done the trick for me over the course of 20+ years in the workforce. I’m not Mr. Chit-chat, so I tend to be very quiet at work. When I do have something to say – out loud, writing is a different matter entirely – I tend to use short sentences that are to the point or loaded with sarcasm and/or jokes.

    If someone were to say to me “LeisureSuitLarry, you’re too quiet,” I would most likely reply with a shrug and grunt and go back to what I was doing. If I said anything it would probably be along the lines of “I didn’t have anything to say.” If it were someone that had been doing a lot of talking, it might be something like “you were talking enough for both of us.” I’d make that one into a joke so it doesn’t sound so harsh. A reasonably quick wit can get you out of a lot of tricky social situations. But again, your mileage may vary.

    Reply
  51. Caaan Do!

    This one resonates with me as I’m also a naturally quiet person until I’ve sussed out the culture/task at hand to gain the confidence to join in properly. For me, the initial quietness also comes with an annoying side effect of a constant internal monologue of ‘oh man, I’m not saying anything, they must be thinking badly of me because I’m being boring, think of something to say, literally anything, argh my mind is blank!’, which is fun times. I’ve found (YMMV of course) that even just nodding and making agreement-type ‘mmm’ or ‘mmm?’ noises while coworkers talk does wonders for making them feel like you’re interacting with them, with minimal social effort on your part. They feel like they’re being listened to, I’m joining in the conversation in a way that doesn’t highlight how shy I’m feeling, it’s win-win!

    Of course, if you get a similarly shy coworker trying to make stilted conversation while you try and reciprocate, that’s a whole other kettle of fish…

    Reply
  52. techwr1ter

    Oof, I could have written this same letter. I’ve heard this my entire life, in every grade of school, and in every job.

    The question, “Does this make me a less valuable employee?” is a sad one to me. (Not saying you’re sad, OP, but that it’s sad you have to ask this.) I wish “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” by Susan Cain could be required reading for everyone. She talks about what introverts bring to the business table, and how those strengths and skills are often overlooked or undervalued. She also talks about how some cultures revere quieter people over more gregarious ones.

    Really, the “You’re so quiet” comment says more about the person saying it than about you.

    A couple jobs ago, a co-worker confronted me agressively about my quietness. I was sitting at an outdoor cafe table with my manager, and he approached with his lunch and sat down with us. He was new to our team at that point, and we hadn’t interacted yet beyond being introduced once. I said hello, and he immediately said, “Why are you always sitting over there not saying anything? You never say anything!!!” This was in almost an angry voice. I was pretty shocked and didn’t know how to respond. I’ve encountered this type of person before. At a job before that, I had a co-worker shake his head at me, and say, “I don’t get you. You’re so quiet. You don’t know how to live life.” I have never figured out what angers this type of person so much about quieter people (and it does seem like anger). I don’t think the problem is me, but being quiet appears to be some sort of trigger for this type of person.

    The biggest problem for me has been how to respond to “You’re so quiet!” I like some of the scripts in the comments above, especially “I try.” :D

    Reply
  53. Lone Rhino

    Download R2D2 or Chewbacca sounds to your phone. When someone comments on your quietness, smile and play one of these sounds.

    Reply
  54. art.the.nerd

    > Someone (who usually has worked with me for long enough to know me) will say something like, “You’re always so quiet! I never know you’re in here”

    What’s wrong with a response like

    “You’re always so noisy! I always know you’re in here.”

    Or, you could a little less belligerent and say

    “Yes, and I like it quiet.”

    Reply
  55. Anon4dis

    I have never related to a question so much; this describes my entire life up to this point. For me, the problem really started in school and I learned how to deal with it by the time I was an adult.

    I categorize the “you’re so quiet/you should talk more” comments under the category of comments that are not malicious in intent but still very ignorant. People think they are being encouraging or personable, but they are making people feel self-conscious about their natural behavior/personalities. Like Alison pointed out, no one tells loud people “you’re so loud!”, but I’m sure if people did they would feel self-conscious too.

    Personally, I notice the problem went away when I started becoming more friendly without necessarily becoming less quiet. I also happen to work in a job that appeals to introverts, so I’m now part of the majority where I’m not the weird one anymore.

    Reply
  56. Willow

    Toastmasters helps. I used to be very quiet and have been doing Toastmasters for 6 years. While I will still always be an introvert biologically, I can at least talk in front of groups now and look people in the eye at interviews.

    Reply
    1. David St. Hubbins

      It doesn’t sound like the OP is uncomfortable talking in front of people (“When I know the culture/project really well, I have no problem contributing my own thoughts and ideas, and actually enjoy leading a team once I’m confident in my own knowledge of the project.”)
      She just prefers to hang back and observe before getting involved in things.

      Reply
  57. Stellaaaaa

    It’s not always about the amount of words spoken. People who have warm, charismatic personalities are often perceived as being chatty because they’re easy to connect with when they do speak. They make other people feel listened to. They’re “credited” for the conversation even if they didn’t speak. On the other hand, when I’ve considered people to be overly quiet, it usually meant that they didn’t engage much with the rest of the office. They may have said the same number of words as anyone else, but I felt ignored by them, or that they found me annoying or not worth noticing. “Quiet” is sometimes shorthand for “I can’t get a feel for her personality.” If management can’t get a handle on who you are as a person, that might make you a less essential member of your team.

    Try asking people questions and then practice active listening. You won’t have to talk much, but you’ll be participating in conversations. Make yourself a part of the office landscape that isn’t easily replaceable.

    Reply
  58. Free Meerkats

    When deeply engrossed, I’ll turn off my radio and get quiet. If I’m not using the computer, I’m pretty much silent. I once had a coworker start to set the alarm while I was busy writing a new ordinance. I do most of my first drafts with pen and paper, so no keyboard noise, and I was working late that day.

    Reply
  59. alrightythen

    This is absolutely something I could have written myself! I get this at work a lot. I work in a department where there are 12 men and one other female besides myself. Not that it really matters, but a lot of their conversations are topics where I don’t have much (if anything) to contribute. They always comment how quiet I am, and one has even gone so far to make this running joke that I actually must be a psychopath. *shrugs*

    In reality, I love chatting. My friends/family and the coworkers I have become more close to can attest to this.

    It’s still weird that people feel the need to comment on it. Like, wow your shirt is SO blue.

    Reply
  60. Analytical teapot engineer

    I get that a lot at my workplace, too. There seems to be a few categories of interactions that come up. I’m still seen as quiet, but now it is mostly just because you can’t hear me talking from the other side of the building :)
    1- Loud, aggressive folks interrupted and talked over me, saying what I was trying to say, so I had nothing to add, thus being “too quiet.” I had to learn to “talk like a talk radio host” and not let others interrupt. That was really hard. Totally counter to my personality, but necessary to work well with other personalities.
    2- I am private and don’t want to share too many details about my life. I am much younger than most coworkers and try to avoid giving them reasons to compare me to their kids. Having a few general topics helped with the social chats.
    3- I didn’t have many opportunities to collaborate, though I kept working on expanding the intersectionality of my work. For example, at first my work optimizing the surface area to volume of teapots was isolated, but eventually I got the ceramic glaze folks to see how my work reduced their costs and we work together more, and I’m starting to get the package design folks to work with me on reducing materials. My boss still thinks I should collaborate more with the folks choosing tea blends and processing orders, but we really don’t have any reason to collaborate.

    Reply
  61. Birdbrain

    Douglas Adams riffs on the whole “stating the obvious just to make conversation” thing in “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”:

    “One of the things Ford had always found hardest to understand about humans was their habit of continually stating and repeating the very very obvious, as in ‘It’s a nice day’, ‘You’re very tall’, or ‘You seem to have fallen down a thirty-foot well, are you alright?’ At first Ford had formed a theory to account for this strange behaviour. If human beings don’t keep exercising their lips, he thought, their mouths probably seize up. After a few months’ consideration and observation, he abandoned this theory in favour of a new one. If they don’t keep exercising their lips, he thought, their brains start working.”

    This is a thing people do and it’s not usually meant to be a judgment, but it’s totally fine to change the subject at work.

    Reply
  62. Anna

    Ah the tall comment. I get those (I’m a 5’10 lady). Anyways, I would say in response, “Yup, I’m pretty quiet.” And let it be just that. I do know sometimes where you are sitting and who you are sitting by can make all the difference in the world for conversation. Is there a lot of talking around you? It does help to chime in occasionally but for what it’s worth, I think it’s acceptable that some people are just quieter than others.

    Reply
  63. Some1

    I stay away from my work chat, because there’s a bully that’s returned, and no one sees when his putting me down, then he complained about me. I just want to be left alone, and they all love him, so no point. Guys have there cliche and I’m tired of fighting just to be pushed down.

    Reply
  64. Asfsdf

    It’s more important than ever to be super social. Seriously the people I know who struggle with finding jobs after graduation are not the Bro/frat/sorority types who partied too much and skipped classes. Instead they the nerdy, quiet introverted types who have good but not perfect transcripts/work experience history.

    Reply
  65. Beautiful, talented, brilliant, powerful musk ox

    “You’re quiet” gets the biggest dang eye roll from me for SO many reasons. I’ve had it said to me at work, but no one in their right mind would say it in a social situation, because I’m a bit shy but with MY people, I’m not. I make some conversation at work and am generally friendly with those around me, but I don’t consider work a social club, nor do I want to participate in all the gossip and stuff. Somehow that gets me slapped with the descriptor of “quiet” in certain environments.

    One thing I don’t suggest: responding to “you’re so quiet” with “well, not with people I’m comfortable with.” Not that I know this from personal experience or anything.

    Reply
  66. Laura

    I really wish people would stop using the word ‘degrading’ like this. It’s much too strong for the context. Just say ‘putting me down’ or ‘critical’ or anything else on that level. But really, telling you you’re a bit quiet cannot possibly be described as ‘degrading’!

    Reply
  67. DDES

    seems like bullying to me. they are as much at fault, if not more, than you are. they’re essentially saying “we dont know how to act around you!” or “we don’t like you this way, change since we hate it!” it’s a lack of finesse on their part.

    i often find people who say this are pretty impatient, or don’t know how to overcome it, since they change you instead of themselves.

    Reply
  68. bopper

    Also it can be “You must be an introvert! I am an extrovert and don’t understand people that don’t talk!”

    Reply

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