To the questions of the OP, yes, people have from time to time over the course of my life commented on my being quiet. Some times I was also told to "shut up" or "keep it down" when being boisterous in my youth.
When an adult says this to another adult (me) I can now bear in mind that most people are sensors and about half of the population are extraverts (or favoring the extraverted side of ambiversion). Sensors often talk about concrete things in the environment. Sometimes this includes voicing observations about physical traits. "You're tall." "It's a cold one today." "Boy, you got here fast!" "You don't talk too much." The examples I have shared here are forms of small talk. Some people like to use small talk to put others at ease. Some do it as a way to get know someone better. Some do it because...they just think they should.
Then there are the extraverts. They interact with the objective world, the external world. Observation is a form of input. Talking is a form of output. Put together there is an interaction. This external interaction is a real preference and perhaps a legitimate need. When they choose not to engage others by talking, they are engaging the objective world in some other way, doing something observable. Seeing someone who appears to be disengaged from the objective world (in this case by choosing not to talk to others)--a state that they less prefer to be in--can be misconstrued as being in a bad state of mind.
Also consider that though we are able to consider these personality related differences, few people in the real world (the people who would likely say to us, "You're pretty quiet.") have considered this, understand cognitive preference differences, or have ever considered that other people think differently than they do.
So, some possible choices that I might consider in responding to that include:
- <head nod>, possibly with accompanying <shoulder shrug>
- "I don't really have anything to say right now."
- "Was there something that you wanted me to talk to you about?" [to better known acquaintances, friends, or family]
- "Yes, that's pretty true. I happen to be an introvert." [if I thought I might be able to segue into a personality theory conversation]
- "Thank you for noticing. There are far too many people who talk just to hear themselves speak, aren't there?" [if I had a burr up my butt or perceive the comment as a negative critique]
- "The world is filled with superfluous noise and sonic clutter, so much so that it is hard to hear oneself think at times. I'm doing my part to cut down the noise and help people hear their own thoughts." [if I had 2 burrs up my butt]
When I first joined PerC I had been learning about typology extensively through viewing interaction videos on You Tube created by pneumocepter. [She took her videos down in December of 2013.
] She is an INFJ who works in a lab as a microbiologist. One of her last videos, a shorty, was her relating a conversation with a coworker that began with, "You're pretty quiet, aren't you?" She used it to discuss briefly personality type preference.
So for me it is fairly context driven and mood inspired how I perceive/welcome such a comment and then how I reply. I am most offended by the psychological community who hold to the Extraversion/Introversion spectrum in the manner used in the Big 5/OCEAN/SLOAN, namely that Introversion is bad/unhealthy, Extraversion is good/healthy. That mode of thought emanating from people who spend time contemplating such things makes me angry.:angry:
EDIT: Oooo! I just thought of another response. Get the person's e-mail address (if the relationship is appropriate for that) and e-mail a link to this PerC thread!
Which is why I fluidly flip between INFP and ENFP.
Have you ever insulted someone by being quiet?
I got told once by family I rarely see that I was too quiet that it was rude, it was like I was keeping secrets and was up to no good. As far as I was aware I was listening to my family conversing at the dinner table with nothing productive to add to the conversation.
Being called mysterious is both an insult and a compliment.
Why do people assume you are hiding something when you don't speak?
An insult implies violation of a social more. It seems that different cultures were colliding. For example, consider one difference between dining in the US vs. dining in Japan. In Japan in restaurants when one is ready to place an order (so I have been told) one calls out loud for the server to come over. That action done in an American restaurant would be seen as rude, obnoxious, pretentious, and disruptive to the dining experience. In Japan it helps the server to serve you. In America it pisses off other patrons and the server.
Why the one and not the other? It seems to me that one could justify either manner of interaction. It all comes down to adherence to commonly accepted ways of interaction. It is what is expected. So my hunch is that whatever cultural context that distant relative came from, table talk was an expectation and possibly even taught to children as part of etiquette and decorum. [Mind you, I don't agree that it should be considered such. I only hold that it is possible that some culture may consider it as such.
But, no, I have never to my recollection been told that my being quiet was rude with one exception. I have been taught that it is rude not to answer somebody when being directly addressed, generally in answering a question posed specifically to me.
Regarding your question, "Why do people assume you are hiding something when you don't speak?", I might offer of my own inner workings that in most cases I am
hiding something. I don't think out loud (for the most part, and certainly not typically in the presence of others). I am not often in a Zen-like meditative state watching thoughts, emotions, etc
., drift by. I'm usually churning out something, ruminating on my failings and weaknesses, considering implications of what is being discussed in a conversation, considering what the MBTI types of the individuals are, making evaluations of like/dislike over what others are wearing, considering what I have to do later in the day, coming up with a song that ties into the theme of the conversation and listening to it play in my mind, perhaps toying with some lewd and lecherous thought, etc
. The truth is that such a statement would be factual if directed at me. I am up to something. Generally it's none of anybody else's business. If part of it does become appropriate and applicable to that other person, then I would share it when ready to.