Prepackaged Responses To The Question “Why Are You So Quiet?”


Sometimes you’ll be at a party or some situation created for the purpose of facilitating social interaction and friendship, minding your own business, really; maybe laughing with a friend or interfacing calmly with a coworker, sipping a fine whiskey, perhaps, when some thoughtless ruffian materializes out of the festive haze and demands: “Why are you so quiet?” It disturbs you. The question, has, in fact, always disturbed you, and so here are some prepackaged answers you might consider memorizing so that, when queried once more about your “silence,” you’ve actually got something substantial to say.

”[Defensive tone/ body language/ facial expression] Uh… huh? I’m talking, I’m not being quiet… I’m sitting here talking… I’m talking right now. [Glare.]”

Admittedly, this is probably the prepackaged response you currently use, and it really does nothing good for you. In essence the response would represent you losing given the unlikely scenario in which someone were to conceive of a conversation as a small-scale battle for supremacy [1]. I know, what an unlikely idea, right? Anyway, this response would symbolize a loss in the theoretical status conflict due to the fact that your somewhat butthurt-seeming defensiveness implies that you feel you’ve been caught doing something bad. People don’t act defensive when they’re unashamed of what’s under question. Implying that you’ve been caught doing something bad represents that you’ve just bought into the questioner’s seeming-assumption that what you’re doing is bad, which makes the interaction more about focusing on how you’re bad rather than anything about being quiet. So, basically, responding this way is not advised.

”Oh actually I’m just high. [Grin.]”

This canned response will make you come off looking either funny or weird – funny if the questioner thinks the fact that you’re high is totally hilarious, weird if she gets the impression that you’re one of those people who gets weird when they get high; one of those people who gets high and goes to the corner and fidgets and responds to people in a strange non sequitur-ish manner that only seems funny to them but is incomprehensible to the non-high people around them. Regardless, I think this response successfully deflects the shame-for-being-quiet spotlight from you by way of your simple, reasonable justification. However, the response has an extremely short shelf-life, expiring after two – three, at the most – uses, before people begin to think you’re just a dumbass stoner, and, as previously mentioned, may just make your interrogator think you’re a freak.

”Because I choose to be.”

An alternative to this response which basically carries the same meaning is “Because I like to listen.” Both represent ‘owning’ the quiet image, which immediately communicate or bend the metaphysics to include the now-facts that a) you’re secure, b) you Know What You’re Doing, c) you’re not being shamed, d) you aren’t lacking, and e) you don’t need the questioner’s approval. These responses also implicitly make a sort value judgment on the questioner, one that says “You are loud, and loud people don’t listen.” All these factors combined seem to indicate a victory on your part, if we are again to consider the interaction more of a conversational joust than an earnest attempt to get to know each other. However, the victory is largely dependent on the questioner’s response to your response. If the questioner shoots back, “Well, why do you choose to be quiet?” you run the risk of looking like a haughty, better-than-thou asshole, so, you know, formulate that response wisely.

”Why do you think I’m quiet?”

Can’t tell if this is a really great response or one that might further implicate the so-called quiet person as ‘bad’ or to-be-ashamed because she’s quiet. At first glance it seems sort of perfect, because it immediately deflects the spotlight – which the questioner had so forcefully focused on the so-called quiet person – back on the questioner, and it’s done with a question that requires a just-as-abstract, multi-faceted explanation as the initial question (I imagine the questioner having to respond, “Uh, well, that one time you didn’t say hi to me and you looked upset, and then at Dave’s you uh…). The interrogator’s response to your response also runs the risk of sounding entirely nit-picky, sort of obsessive and like the interrogator’s actually focusing a little bit too much on you and your behavior [1]. Anyway, if the questioner responds in such a manner, then you have indeed ‘won,’ if we are to consider such an interaction to represent more of a minor squabble for hierarchical rank than a genuine attempt at positive social bonding. However, if the questioner responds with something like “Because, uh, you’re so quiet? [Laughs maniacally, looking for and perhaps receiving approval from others in the ‘circle’],” the spotlight has thus been deflected once again to you, and you may have just dug yourself into a pretty deep hole, here.

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image – Ian Sane