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Miss Manners: Why do people pester me because I’m shy?

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Dear Miss Manners: I’ve always had difficulty with making conversation and verbalizing my ideas. Even though I’ve worked in a management position in a professional office, chatting just doesn’t come easy to me. It has been suggested that I might have Asperger’s.

More times than I can remember, I've been told “You're so quiet!” — either alone or in the presence of a group. Since I'm not good at conversing, being put in the position of having to defend myself via conversation is extremely frustrating and embarrassing. It seems like any response I give comes out as defensive and unkind, or else it just fuels further discussion. This may entertain those around me, but makes me feel even more awkward.

I've often wondered why people feel the need to point out that I'm quiet. It certainly isn't an icebreaker, and although some people don't mind joking about their own weaknesses, it seems rude to pester someone who doesn't find it humorous. Most people don't struggle with conversation to the degree that I do, so they don't understand that I'm just not good at it.

Everyone has weaknesses, though. Some people aren't good at math, for instance, and they struggle with tasks like making change. I don't understand this because I am good at math, but I would never think of teasing someone about it or pointing it out. That would be unkind, if not rude.

Is it rude to pester a shy person about being quiet?

Yes, and it is even ruder to bestow an amateur diagnosis on someone.

With all the chatterers in the world, Miss Manners would think people should be grateful to encounter someone who doesn't try to dominate every conversation. Good listeners are rare and should be cherished.

Here is what you could say when challenged: “Well, I know all about me, so I'm more interested in hearing about you.”

Dear Miss Manners: I’m having a 50th birthday party at a restaurant and can’t afford to pay for everyone’s meal. How do I make it clear I’m NOT paying for food and drinks without being rude? I really just want to share a meal with my friends, but can’t afford to pay for everyone.

When people tell Miss Manners that they cannot afford to do something, she is prepared to sympathize. But sympathy is not what they are after. They plan to do it anyway, and expect her to endorse a scheme to make other people pay the bills.

You are not “throwing a party” if you are charging those who may attend. They are not “guests” if you are not offering them hospitality.

If the idea is just to share a meal with your friends, can you not find a way to do this — perhaps a party at home — that you can afford? If you insist on going to that restaurant, you should at least warn others by saying something like, “I’m planning to treat myself to a birthday meal there and would be pleased if you want to show up.”

New Miss Manners columns are posted Monday through Saturday on You can send questions to Miss Manners at her website, You can also follow her @RealMissManners.

©2022, by Judith Martin