I'm a man of few words, very introverted, and prefer to work in silence where possible (my own silence, music is a must have but I normally wear headphones to avoid bothering others).

It's not that I don't like people, I get along well with just about everyone and enjoy making others laugh where possible. However, I am definitely the type of person who will not say anything unless it contributes something of value to a conversation/meeting or is a safe bet to get a laugh. I have managed to go weeks without saying anything at work beyond the friendly "Good Morning / Good night" on my way in or out every day.

In a relatively talkative office with regular meetings, it can appear as though I am rude or not engaged in the business even though I am. What can I do, besides fundamentally changing who I am as a person, to appear less distant in social/work situations?

  • 21
    Being quiet's rude? I always thought Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt.
    – Xen2050
    Aug 21, 2017 at 8:20
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    I don't want to post an answer since I think NVZ's answer is better than anything I can post, but I just want to say that notwithstanding the answer, going weeks at work (full-time, right?) without saying a word besides good morning/good night might not give a great impression. It wouldn't make you appear rude, but it would inevitably make people feel distanced from you, at least until and unless they have a chance to know you better. If you can crack a joke or ask/say some interesting about some piece of news every few days, it might help.
    – user541686
    Aug 22, 2017 at 7:45

5 Answers 5


I'm very much like you. I don't talk unless I have to. My words are scarce.

It's safe to assume that you're doing okay so far and that people aren't considering you as a rude employee.

What would make you actually appear rude is if you give curt or one-word responses to people trying to make small talk. That is, if a coworker comes to you saying "How are you doing?", don't just throw at them an "I'm fine." reply, but be more welcoming, as in "I'm fine, thank you, and how are you?" with a smile.

And such little things can add up to maintaining an image for you that shows that you are a good person but simply doesn't talk much unless talked to.

As an aside, I would recommend actually trying to have some occasional chats with at least a few of your coworkers. Socialising is not just for you to have fun, it is also to create a network of people you can reach out to later on when you might need their company.

The more bridges you build, the better.

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    Great answer. I used to be just as the OP described, so I might add that in group settings when you don't feel like talking, do your best to appear interested in the conversation taking place: make appropriate facial expressions, make eye contact, and remember things about people for future conversations. I have found that this goes a long way toward being more likable. I agree with the aside, and would add that in my experience the more you do it the easier it gets, to have little chats. Before long they might turn into big chats, and then you have some sturdy bridges. Aug 22, 2017 at 1:32
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    Thank you. I wish more people realized this. Paragraph 3 sentence 1 needs to be framed.
    – user541686
    Aug 22, 2017 at 7:40

As someone who has exactly the same outlook, here are my top three tips for appearing quiet, but friendly:

Maintain a small repertoire of information about co-workers

One fact per person is OK, 2 or 3 for serious contacts. When someone asks you how you are, respond with something like "Fine thanks. I hope your sister is feeling better." Then nod through the (usually) short reply. It's especially effective in the case of family sickness, they will appreciate you remembered.

Use headphones to ignore what you want, be extra attentive when you don't.

Sitting in the middle of plenty of office gossip, you hear very little and can ignore the rest. When people do bother you, it will tend to be for a valid reason so before talking to them turn the music off/remove the headphones and turn and face them before speaking. If you give them your full attention when they need it, they won't mind when you don't.

Make a joke of it

For example, recently colleagues had a meeting in a room further away to normal. When they came and explained they had been moved rooms (I hadn't even noticed they had gone) my response was "Sorry, I'll keep the noise down in future so you don't have to move away"

It lets them know that you know that they know. If it's clear you are comfortable enough with your quietness to make jokes about it, they won't feel uncomfortable on your behalf, or feel the need to involve you in things you may not want to be. Good co-workers don't want anyone to feel left out, but if it is clear you are happy left alone and won't feel aggrieved most will be equally happy to accommodate you without a problem.

In other words:

  • Show you care a little
  • Don't be unhelpful
  • Make it clear you are happy being quiet

And you will have problems rarely if ever.


I don't think you need to do anything.

You don't give any indication that your coworkers actually think this of you, so I think you may be concerned when it's unwarranted.

I work in an office hallway (in the US) with about 30 occupants. I'm at the front desk and see everyone coming into the area so I say "hi" and "bye" to just about everyone multiple times per day. Some of the people in the hallway are very chatty and love to talk about work or the stuff going on in their personal lives... others I just see come and go and never talk to them at all - some of them don't even say "bye" at the end of the day. I accept that's how they are and don't pry unless I need to ask them about something. Not being talkative doesn't imply that you're not engaged in your work.

The important way you show to your coworkers that you're engaged is by actually doing your work and being responsive when they need your assistance. If they message or email you and you respond quickly and helpfully with a friendly tone, you're going to be appreciated and no one will think you're being rude or disconnected.

Where you run into problems is when you respond to their requests dismissively or slowly. So, unless you're hearing people complain that you're not pulling your weight, I think you should just keep trucking along.

If you're really concerned that your coworkers think you're rude for not interacting with them more, I recommend that you talk to someone in the office who you're comfortable asking about this and see if they think this is the case or if they've heard anyone say anything of the sort.


What can I do to appear less distant in work situations?

Be professional, that's enough in most cases.

  • Do a good job.
  • Be helpful to others.
  • Be nice and polite.
  • Answer quickly (or let them know why you can't and how long before you can do it).

You can find great advices, and some other POV, just check some Q/A on The WorkPlace, like concentrating on work or be friendly with colleagues, or search the site over there.

What can I do to appear less distant in social situations at work?

You say you care, but feel like people don't perceive it.

I would say that action speaks louder than words.

According to many articles 1 2 3, small gifts help and strengthen bonds in the workplace. I'm not talking about spending a lot of money here. Rather making small steps towards your colleagues. With little reasonable efforts, you make people happy. If that's what you want. And you don't need to change yourself as a person. Once in a while, do something like:

  • Be amongst the 1st to send a congratulations email (birthday / anniversary / birth / vacation...).
  • Make a nice card to your colleague(s) to celebrate anything nice that happened to the team.
  • Be the one that brings some homemade cookies (or just buy some if you don't bake).
  • Be the one that sometimes asks for a quick after-work drink.

Anything that will make your colleagues gather together. Even once a month is enough, it shows them that you care, even if you don't say it all the time. I was doing that once in a while, and just to make sure, used to mention: Guess who? from the one that never talks in the office :)


It may help to be a bit more (physically) expressive.

You can do things like - nodding at someone whose point you agree with, making eye contact, contemplative movements of eyebrows or mouth, little swirls or gestures with one's hands - from reflecting mood or opinion to gesturing with your music, or smiling at someone or waving to them when passing by or when catching someone's eye - and thus interact a touch more without saying a word. Showing an expressive demeanor helps people know you're listening, or engaged, or just friendly, without your having to say a word.

If you're sitting quietly with a calm face, they don't know what you're thinking, if you are aloof or unhappy or just not paying attention. If you are a bit in motion, and signalling that you're paying attention and reacting to what others are saying in meetings - then anyone looking can see you're engaged with the discussion even if you don't end up saying anything. If you're sitting with headphones, but occasionally look up and around, smile at people, or wave, and other such nonverbal interactions - it lets them know you are still interested in what's going on around you, and you are willing to interact with people even if you tend to be quiet. It lets your silence be a personal trait instead of anything with greater meaning.

You can play a bit to figure out what sorts of gestures fit your personality and style - you don't need to use all the gestures I mention, or become wildly expressive on a nonverbal level if that doesn't suit you. Adding even one or two small things to your repertoire may be enough to set your colleagues at ease.

I tend to go quiet sometimes, for various reasons, and there were times where I would go a week or more without saying anything. I picked up these kinds of gestures to deal with people then because with them I could still interact and not be rude... well enough that some people apparently didn't even notice I hadn't said a word, since I was communicating without it.

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