I am an INTJ and pretty far on the scale of introversion.

I am frequently approached by others to either ask questions or obtain my help. I do enjoy helping others, particularly with computers or electronics questions. Not infrequently, I am asked for my opinion in the course of offering assistance. This usually has one of two outcomes:

  1. I think for several seconds trying to craft an answer that will be inoffensive, and the other person gets uncomfortable with the long pause.
  2. I respond with my honest opinion, not expecting a problem. And the other party calls me elitist or acts as if I was condescending.


At the local hackerspace, someone has an Arduino project that I help them with. They are then pleased that their gadget they made using a $10 computer board works. They ask me "Don't you think arduinos are great?" I answered, "No, not really. I would rather build a micro than buy one." The response was "Well, I guess you think my project is pretty stupid." I didn't and was very surprised to get this reaction.

An extroverted friend of mine is very involved in maker fair events and has asked me a couple of times to attend, which I declined. He then asks why. I am not really interested in going and say so. Another why query results. It takes me several seconds to respond, because I am thinking about why.

In the course of that time I remember:

  1. People asking me to help them come up with a new idea for what to build for a maker fair and thinking internally "That guy is building something to impress people instead of for the thrill of making something.
  2. People at the hackerspace broke tools because they did not have what they needed to do a job properly, but were nevertheless determined to get something done in time for a maker fair. No more than 10 seconds pass without my answering and he says, "Never mind the question, you elitist!"

Same guy sends me a link to a video where Adam Savage toured the makerspace at MIT. URL:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RaHMDNf56W4

He then bitterly complains about the professor at MIT being condescending to Adam Savage. He seemed very surprised that I did not think the prof was condescending. I told him my take was he probably was really enthusiastic that someone was interested in what he was working on instead of their eyes glazing over with boredom, and as result wanted to share what he knew. He rolls his eyes and said, "I should have expected that from you."

I am asked for help with a computer problem and invite this person to my apartment. As soon as they walk in the door they see that the living room is dominated by bookshelves, shelves of tools and parts and a couple of workbenches. She comments, "I see where you work, but where do you live?" I reply, "What are you talking about?" She replies, "Never mind"

Edit to narrrow focus and clarfiy due to comments: I am often genuinely puzzled by other peoples reactions to me. I do not feel like I am a snob, and am surprised that this was mentioned in the comments. What I am hoping for in an answer is to get a response that helps me: A) Better understand some of the confusing responses I receive. B) Have some idea how to behave a little differently to get along with others better. The first answer has already given me a helpful start in mentioning empathy. Eg. It did not occur to me that I was raining on the arduino guys enthusiasm.

  • 4
    Welcome to interpersonal skills, you've got the right idea in regards to the premise of your question, but as it stands it's a little too broad. Unfortunately, there isn't a one size fits all response to these types of scenarios. Was there one, in particular, you had in mind? Also, culture matters. Where are you from? this will direct answerers in the right direction in regards to the response. Aug 24 '17 at 16:14
  • Just to mention, 10 seconds is quite a long time to wait in a face to face conversation.
    – cHao
    Aug 24 '17 at 16:14
  • Is your core question about avoiding the intellectual snob label?
    – apaul
    Aug 24 '17 at 16:20
  • 1
    This question, if broken down into parts, is already answered here, sort of. Please have a look at our top voted questions. Some of it will be applicable here. If you need a specific answer, please clarify. I don't see a specific question in this. (P.S. I think I'm INTJ as well. Nice to meet you.)
    – NVZ
    Aug 24 '17 at 16:26

There are several factors at work here, not just introversion. One is relatively easy.

When you get asked a question where you anticipate a person will have to wait for a response, warn them. Say something along the lines of, "Let me think about that for a minute." If they are getting antsy, just say, "Still thinking. Won't be long." This will only work, though, if it's a question that actually requires thought. Most probably don't. Many questions are social, not technical:

An extroverted friend... involved in maker fair events... asked me... to attend, which I declined. He then asks why. I am not really interested in going and say so. Another why query results. It takes me several seconds to respond, because I am thinking about why.

You don't really need to go over all the reasons you don't like going. You can just repeat some version of your first (and true) response:

The fairs are fine, but I like (x) better.

Not everybody is entitled to your thought processes.

Social questions usually ask for support of some kind. If you agree, great. If you don't agree, try answering with a positive alternative. That requires empathy (having a sense of how the other person will feel in response to your question.) For example:

"Don't you think arduinos are great?" (Parallel: Isn't it beautiful outside today?)

Instead of shutting down his enthusiasm (because that's what your answer did), try to validate his feeling of enthusiasm as well.

This was fun and I enjoyed doing it with you, but in general, I like building them more. (Parallel: Yes, but thunderstorms are my thing.)

Like the above, humor is social.

"I see where you work, but where do you live?" I reply, "What are you talking about?" She replies, "Never mind"

I think that was a joke. People don't like to explain their jokes that fell flat.

So I don't think this is just a matter of introversion. I think it's also a matter of expression of empathy.


I also sometimes take a long time to formulate a response to questions. The key here is to show that you heard the question, are thinking of a response, and are not ignoring them. I communicate this using several methods. I sometimes change my facial expression into something that looks like I'm concentrating. Sometimes I'll say "thats a good question: let me think" (it doesnt matter if it is a good question; they will accept the compliment). The key is to give a sign that you arent ignoring people, people dont like being ignored.

One tool that I've seen people in similar situations use is to practice responses to questions. Right down some questions that youve been asked before that have given you some trouble. Then spend as much time as you like formulating a response. Try to find some common phrases that you can use in response to various categories of questions. Try to notice common themes. Answering questions is a skill like any other; you need practice.

(If you have questions about how to respond to a specific question, then you need to ask a question specifically about that specific question.)

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.